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I was skeptical when adidas announced the Ultra Boost was the "greatest running sneaker ever" in January 2015. It's not that I wasn't a fan of Boost technology — I helped vote the adidas Pure Boost as the best sneaker of 2014 and had run in sneakers that used the cushioning system in the past — but adidas was in desperate need of sales and this claim struck me as a marketing ploy, rather than an honest statement. The brand was coming up on the release of its first collection with Kanye West, and nothing else seemed more important than what he could do for the company.
adidas may have created a better woven material in Primeknit than Nike's Flyknit.
That's how I felt until I actually put a pair of Ultra Boosts on my feet. At that moment, I didn't need any rapper co-sign to prove to me that adidas was onto something. By the time that Kanye decided to wear the Ultra Boost — first at New York Fashion Week and then during two performances last weekend — I already held a firm conviction that I was wearing the best new sneaker of 2015.
For the sake of full disclosure and honest journalism, I didn't pay a cent for Ultra Boosts that I own. They're not cheap, with a retail price of $180, but are worth every penny. From the second I laced them up, I knew something was different about them from the Boost predecessors. It's hyperbole to say this, but I've never worn a more comfortable sneaker. The Primeknit upper fits snug but not too tight, and the midsole, which is comprised solely of Boost, is much softer than one would expect. I've even started to think that adidas may have created a better woven material in Primeknit than Nike's Flyknit. To express that is heresy, I know, but we have to base our opinions off of things we've experienced. And to me, my Ultra Boosts are a lot better than any Flyknit model I've ever worn. That's a fact I can't deny, and it had nothing to do with what Kanye currently has in his sneaker rotation.
It's more than just comfort with the Ultra Boost, though. When you have a pair on your feet and look down, you instantly notice how on-point they look. Which surprised me, because the biggest complaint I heard about the Ultra Boost was that the first colorway released — the one I own that's mostly black with a white midsole and a hit of purple and gold — was deemed ugly because of the purple on the heel. This line of thinking is insane to me.
Adidas was set to launch one of its most important silhouettes in a long time, and the brand needed a color scheme that would be memorable. Wishing the brand had opted for all-black or all-white color options to launch its flagship running sneaker would assure that adidas was scared to make a splash in a market that it desperately needed to gain traction in. The all-white version of Ultra Boost is great, but wanting another colorless pair of sneakers isn't what this model is about.
In a recent interview with Turnschuh TV, Ben Herath, the chief designer behind the Ultra Boost, said, "This is to showcase the best of what we can do. The best in running experience. The best in design. The best in execution. The best in production. To do that, we had to go outside of our industry and see what all these other industries are doing and bring them back into this shoe."
To do such a thing, adidas added 20 percent more Boost to the sole of the Ultra Boost, but it also went to great lengths to execute the minor design details, like the Ultra Boost logo on the heel. Inspired by Germany's Autobahn and the German-made cars that zip up and down it at high speeds, the "Ultra Boost" text was applied by the same people who put lettering on the rear of luxury automobiles. Which is too cool of a concept all together. If that doesn't get you geeked on the Ultra Boost, I don't know what will.
And if your answer is, well, "If Kanye wears them..." then there's no point of being into sneakers at all. A brand could do anything amazing, and you wouldn't care. Kanye could wear a flimsy, thin-soled pair of canvas sneakers and people would still flock to them — ignoring everything great that's going on in the sneaker world.
If that's the case, maybe they do need Kanye to lead them to the greatness that adidas has captured in the Ultra Boost. It just means that adidas is going to need Kanye to wear a lot more different sneakers to get the public excited about them. For those in the know, it's frustrating that it takes this type of viral marketing for a sneaker to catch on (and eventually sell out).
Even Action Bronson thinks the Ultra Boost is "the greatest sneaker ever made." Coming from a guy who once proclaimed his "love affair with other shoes other than New Balance is over," it's a strong statement.
It would be nice to see a quality shoe catch on because it's excellent, and not because a celebrity blindly led them to the light.
Matt Welty is a news editor at Complex. You can follow him on Twitter here.