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Trail Running Shoes • January 5, 2024

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra: Buckle Up and Blast Off

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - feature

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What You Need To Know

Weight

9.5 oz. (270 g) for a US M9,

8.1 oz. (230 g) for a US W7

Stack Height / Drop

38 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

Best For

Race day on trails

Key Features

Dual-layer Lighstrike Pro midsole, Peba EnergyRods, Continental rubber outsole, sawtooth laces, woven upper, aggressive rocker geometry

On The Run
Lightning fast on varied terrain Responsive, yet stable Feels like the first true racer for trails So-so security in the heel
Price & Availability

$220, April 15

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - new pair

If nothing else, it’s a beautiful shoe

Introduction to the Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra

ROBBE: Back in my younger years (i.e. two years ago), when I rolled my ankles twice a year instead of every other month, I loved taking some risks on the trails. After all, what’s more fun than bombing a downhill in the first days of spring, surrounded by blossoming green growth on all sides? It’s a lush rush, especially if you’re a city dweller surrounded by pavement or concrete on most days.

One of the very best trail shoes to rip around with over the past couple years was the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra, which you may very well confuse with the shoe in this review: the Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra. But hey, it wouldn’t be an Adidas shoe without a convoluted name; that’s how you know it’s authentic.

In any case, that shoe– with a two-part Boost and Lightstrike midsole– was fast and fun, even if it was a bit squirrely with its super slim platform. At the time, our trail team enjoyed it so much that we gave it our honorable mention for Best Race Day shoe in our end-of-year awards.

But that was three years ago and its been mostly radio silence from Adidas Terrex since then. If I’m being honest, since that time, Adidas Terrex has released more tanks than the Allied Forces on D-Day. Shoes like the Agravic Pro, Agravic Ultra, and Agravic Flow 2 were absurdly overbuilt; in short, they were better positioned in the REI backwoods of heavy hikers.

What we’re saying is this: the Terrex Speed Ultra was the only Adidas trail shoe we’d actually run in.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - through log

Fast and fun on both road and trails

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - continental outsole

Longer 3 mm lugs on outer rim of the outsole

Granted, the past few years were a transition time for Adidas. Boost had once been its baby, but babies grow up to be pimply-faced teenagers who want nothing to do with you. They don’t want to be around you and you don’t want to be around them. Lightstrike was the middle child and fairly obstinate. And then there was the golden child in Lightstrike Pro, which we’d put at the top of our will. 

Found in the Adizero line of road gems like the Takumi Sen and Adios Pro, Lightstrike Pro is bouncy-yet-responsive, cushioned-but-not-soft, making it a perfect candidate for racing on trails. It first made a trail appearance in 2022, the same year Adidas Terrex pro Ruth Croft won Western States in a prototype of this shoe, the third fastest time in the event. That same year, Tom Evans would podium at UTMB Mont Blanc in the shoe, and in 2023 he would win Western States with the fourth-fastest time ever. That’s a pretty solid track record.

So of course, I – as a very average runner whose only commonality with Ruth Croft and Tom Evans is interviewing both of them for our podcast – was very excited to try the shoe.

But first, let me lay out the basics.

Listen to our Interview with Ruth Croft Listen to our Interview with Tom Evans

Coming in at $220, this is the most premium trail shoe from Adidas Terrex. It is primarily designed for faster efforts and race days, as evidenced by the extreme rocker design and the elevated components within the shoe. First, there’s the woven upper made from a lightweight and breathable mesh, with a gusseted tongue for midfoot support. Sawtooth race laces provide a snug lockdown.

Then there’s the four-pronged Peba EnergyRods combined with two heel prongs for a wishbone-like design. Sandwiched around the rods is a dual layer Lightstrike Pro midsole, the same bouncy stuff found in the Adizero line of premium race day shoes. The whole thing is finished off with a full Continental rubber outsole with 2.5 mm center lugs and 3 mm edge lugs.

All that sounds great, but is it a real trail racer, or just another swing and miss at translating speed to the trails? Let’s find out.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - dark through log

Woven upper is snug and secure

What We Like About the Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra

ROBBE: I always start out with looks, and– as you can see from the above photos– this shoe pops. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for Nike Trail colorways and designs, but there is something bold and beautiful about the in-your-face simplicity of the Agravic Speed Ultra. I mean, the confidence in this shoe’s identity is such that the word ‘Adidas’ is nowhere to be found. Even the three stripes are tucked away on the medial side of the shoe.

Moving onto the materials, the woven mesh upper is lightweight and form fitting, but still has a tactile feel that provides both protection and durability. It’s not stiff, but it’s not flimsy and it still provides solid breathability without acting as a screen door for dirt. Lockdown is snug. Like, really snug. Not painful, but very similar to shoes like the Takumi Sen. From the midfoot on, nothing is moving in this shoe. Other trail racing shoes like the Nike Ultrafly have too much room in the upper, rendering it sloppy on uneven terrain. That’s not the case with the Agravic Speed Ultra.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - in puddle
Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - two shoes on log

Nike perfected the sawtooth style laces in the Vaporfly and Alphafly, and anyone is wise to copy that design, which Adidas Terrex does here. The design holds better than any other lace, and it’s 100% the right choice for this shoe. Never had any issues with them coming untied.

Underfoot, the Lightstrike Pro midsole is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve tried any other shoes in the Adizero line. And by that, I mean it’s really good.

But first, let me bring it back.

Over the past five years, every brand has released its own version of a super shoe for the road. Meaning, a race day marathon shoe with a bouncy Peba-like foam and carbon plated or carbon-rodded system for stabilization and propulsion. As you can imagine, even trail dirtbags want the fun stuff, so those same brands with separate trail lines have attempted to translate that race day performance from road to trail.

The results have been mediocre, at best, in a one-to-one comparison to their road counterparts. Sometimes they’re super fun, but also super sketchy thanks to the instability of the midsole foam (Saucony Endorphin Edge). Sometimes they’re really comfortable but just feel a little lacking in the race department thanks to the weight and too much room in the upper (Nike Ultrafly). Sometimes, they work quite well but still don’t meet that same elite level of performance found on the roads (Hoka Tecton X).

The Agravic Speed Ultra may be the first to crack the code.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - tom evans western states

Tom Evans’ game-used pair from the 2024 Western States

I’m going to get back to the midsole and the ride, but I first want to mention the most obvious aspect of the shoe: the extreme (and I mean that in a capital ‘X’ kind of way) rocker geometry. According to Adidas Terrex, it’s designed for “dynamic forefoot running,” and, well, they’re not wrong. 

The rocker (combined with the 8 mm drop) gives you a quick turnover, putting you into your next step before you know it. On roads or gravel or groomed trails, the rocker and midsole combination make this feel like– you guessed it– a real race shoe. It’s legitimately fast.

Of course, part of that fast feeling also comes from the Lightstrike Pro midsole. Lightstrike Pro doesn’t embrace the same bouncy softness of ZoomX or pure springiness of PWRRUN PB, but rather falls somewhere in between. It’s bouncy, but with a firmer durometer that still allows for a degree of ground feel. In short, it’s the perfect foam for trails.

On actual trails, it’s stable enough that you don’t feel like you’re wobbling all over the place, a problem we’ve had in other trail racing options. In fact, it’s surprisingly stable for a 38 mm stack height, which is aided in part by the EnergyRod design which has been adapted for trails. Unlike the version found in road running models like the Takumi Sen and Adios Pro, there are only 4 prongs, and they are spaced out towards the lateral and medial sides in order to increase stability. Those forefoot prongs are attached to the heel in a wishbone design, allowing for greater adaptability.

Point is, there was a ton of thought that went into the design of this shoe to make it a true racer for the trails.

Over the course of my testing I took the shoe on a 13-mile run of mixed terrain from the Pennsylvania portion of the AT to gravel park trails to road, as well as a 12-mile run on a mix of Maryland trails and fire roads.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - energyrods

EnergyRods 2.0 spaced for more support on the sides

The shoe shines in almost any scenario. It feels nimble, lightweight, and quick, especially on roads where it just flies. And yet, the underfoot protection is more than sufficient. My legs felt great after both runs and they were my two longest training runs since my New York City Marathon cycle back in mid-October. It feels like a blend of the Takumi Sen and Adios Pro 3 (which kind of makes sense since the stack height falls between the two), but in a trail package with an extreme rocker. If you’ve run in either of those shoes, you know that’s a high compliment.

This shoe has obviously proved its mettle on courses like Western States and UTMB, and I think it’d do equally well in something like the JFK 50 Miler. In fact, this is probably the perfect shoe for that course, as you wouldn’t have to switch into a race shoe on the C&O Canal portion.  

Lastly, the full Continental rubber outsole on the shoe provides solid traction. No issues on rocks and creek crossings and felt as grippy as I wanted it to be. I really appreciate that the shoe has elongated lugs around the perimeter (3 mm), while keeping it shorter (2.5 mm) in the places where they’re not as necessary. It’s a good way to keep weight down without sacrificing performance. That said, if you’re on a really sloppy course, you may want to look for something with more aggressive traction.

What We Don’t Like About the Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra

ROBBE: It’s the same old song, but Adidas uppers are notoriously difficult to dial in. And whenever you do finally get a good lockdown, it almost invariably feels too tight. It’s both a good and a bad thing, but this upper is a straight-up glove with little flex. I know I referenced the ride of the Takumi Sen, but the upper fit is quite similar as well, including the heel lockdown issues. If you need more toe room in a shoe, may I interest you in the Topo Athletic MTN Racer?

Because of that severe rocker, it’s difficult to dial in the heel fit. I didn’t experience slippage per se, but it didn’t feel super locked in. That’s remedied by the fact that everything from the midfoot on doesn’t move, but it’s also not ideal. You’ll also get some collar gaping, meaning that dust and debris will get into this shoe. 

While the midsole foam is surprisingly stable for such a high stack height, the overall stability of the shoe can be challenging on uneven terrain. On really rocky terrain, it’s pretty treacherous, but you’d be dumb to run in this shoe in that situation unless you love breaking your ankles Misery-style.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - one shoe on log

Severe rocker allows for a bit of instability in the heel

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - against moss stump

Again, the Pennsylvania AT isn’t exactly the use-case for this shoe, but when you’re landing on softball-sized rocks, the narrow throat combined with the rocker makes the shoe feel like it’s in a continual state of tightrope walking, but if there were multiple tightropes on every side of the platform. So yeah… maybe just use a different shoe for that type of “running,” which is really just speed hiking anyway. On everything else (which is mostly everything else), the shoe is great.

If you’re running in muddy or sloppy conditions, the lug depth is fairly minimal, so you may want to opt for something else.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra - medial side

Medial side of the shoe

Final Thoughts on the Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra

ROBBE: It’s been a long time coming, but the wait was worth it. The Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra is a true trail racer that matches the performance of its road counterparts. Adidas took the proven technologies in its Adizero line and adjusted them properly for trail racing, which– in our opinion– is the first time its successfully been executed.

At $220, it undercuts both the Nike Ultrafly ($260) and the upcoming Hoka Tecton X 3 ($275), making it a must-have for anyone looking to get the most out of their trail race. We expect to see the shoe on plenty of podiums in the coming year.

You can pick up the Adidas Agravic Terrex Speed Ultra on April 15, 2024, for $220 at the shop links below.

Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.

3
Comments

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Michal says:

    Rob, you’ve written “Adidas took the proven technologies in its Adizero line and adjusted them properly for trail racing, which– in our opinion– is the first time its successfully been executed”. What about New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trail? It is great shoe for trail racing, which is confirmed by many opinions in the internet. But it looks like you do not agree with that?

    1. Robbe says:

      Actually a good point, and I should’ve referenced that shoe. My sizing was off in the SC Trail so I only did one long run in them. They’re pretty solid in the racing department as well, but didn’t feel it was quite to the level of road. I feel that the Speed Ultra’s rocker gives it that extra edge.

  2. nate c. says:

    It’s worth checking out Brett and Finn’s review of the New Balance FC SC Trail on their “Conversational Pace” YouTube channel.

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Robbe Reddinger
Senior Editor
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.

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7.5

Fav. Distance

13.1

PRs
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    Marathon
  • 1:30

    Half-Marathon
  • 40:36

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  • 19:17

    5K
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