TAYLOR: Here’s a relevant topic. Candy. We’re all doing it. Some of us are even jacking it from our child’s Halloween collection when they are defenselessly asleep. You’ve combed through the variety, picked out all but two of your third favorite candies hoping they won’t notice (They will — they most certainly will).
The shoe and candy worlds can easily find intersections. Both make my mouth water. Adidas Terrex’s newest Agravic Ultra provoked the same bodily response as a Reese’s Pumpkin. I saw it. I wanted to taste it. So, I did what I always do when I want something — bother our editor Robbe about it!
We BITR trail crew were delighted (and surprised) with the recent Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra this past spring. It’s a lightweight, durable, snappy little trail shoe. The consensus was that it was a massive step in the right direction for Adidas, and we agreed more underfoot wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Sure enough, the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra lands on my doorstep a few months later. It has a very similar formula but adds the Agravic tag to it. Simply put, the Agravic line is a simple nod to Adidas Terrex’s awesome efforts at creating earth-friendly materials from recycled ocean-laden plastics. You see this in the upper here.
The Agravic Ultra also came through with a lot more underfoot, as we hoped. Not only is there more midsole, but there’s also a full-length carbon fiber plate. That makes this shoe the third trail shoe that we have tested, along with The North Face Flight Vectiv and Speedland SL:PDX.
My intrigue factor was hella-high for this one. Here we go!
MATT: Earlier this Spring, I, too, had the pleasure of testing the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra and was blown away by its performance. At the time, the Adidas trail line had faded off my radar, and when I hit the trails for my first run in that shoe, I couldn’t believe how great all around it was.
Fast forward to the fall, and the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra has arrived. At first glance, I hoped that if Adidas took all that it did right with the Terrex Speed Ultra and then layered in the added support and cushion needed for those super long days, we would have an Ultra distance star on our hands!
My first glance out of the box was promising. The Agravic Ultra certainly has a thicker midsole, and the upper looks and feels much more firm than the Terrex Speed Ultra. While Adidas unveiled some really cool colorways with the Speed Ultra, the Agravic arrived in a much more toned down, yet classic, black & red vibe.
Add the intrigue of a full-length carbon plate, and I was stoked to hit some dirt and put these shoes to the test!
TAYLOR: There’s a range of benefits to high-stack shoes in the trail world. Many aim to give wearers both cushion for comfort and some element of protection. The Agravic Ultra (AU) swings pretty far toward the protective side, being that this is “made for mountain trails.” As a whole package, it reminds me most of the Brooks Cascadia 16, but it is more capable over faster and on technical terrain.
By far, the most intriguing part of the Agravic Ultra (AU) is what’s going on underfoot. It’s a little more complex than most trail shoes. The AU utilizes multiple foams, rockered formation, and the coveted TPE bio-based plate (made of 90% renewable carbon fiber).
The underfoot feel lands somewhere in the range of “month-old starburst” on a density scale of marshmallow to jawbreaker. It’s pretty stiff, folks — but it’s not a bad thing for the trails! The AU runs pleasantly at a variety of speeds on and off-trail. A small portion of the midsole recipe is Adidas Boost. Those with past experience in Adidas road shoes know what I’m talking about. This foam, on its own, is very lively and soft. There’s a section under the forefoot (see the white part) and a slight heel wedge for extra cushion in these high-impact areas. Lightstrike foam takes up the majority of the share, though. It’s a more protective and durable foam with a medium/firm feel. Because of the high-stack (38 mm heel to 30 mm toe includes outsole — 8 mm drop), the AU takes on more of the latter and feels like a shield against the terrain. If you’re looking for zero ground feel and all the protection, keep this one on your radar.
Most of the rockered shoes available have a softer, bouncier underfoot feel. Here, the AU is a very firm and somewhat unique ride. As you would expect, there is still a smooth transition between contact and toe-off; it just doesn’t have the same rebound quality as some others. For a shoe that’s meant more for rugged terrain, that’s just fine!
This is also where TPE bio-based plate serves a few purposes. It is most similar to the Flight Vectiv‘s use of the carbon plate, where it runs the entire length of the shoe. I felt the rigidity of the plate and how it seamlessly added moderate stability while running. It also helps keep the rocker shape and thus benefits from the geometry. Protection is very much a purpose too. Are you catching a theme here? It’s lighter and more durable than the classic rock plate, with all the same benefits. It might be a stretch to say that the plate adds any propulsion, but the combination of light rigidity and curvature of the outsole creates a smooth ride.
Let me take a swig of water after that rant.
Continental rubber and 4mm chevron lugs add yet another layer of, you guessed it, protection! It’s a dang durable rubber and gripped everything I experienced promisingly — loose gravel, buffed trails, forest floor, rocky, rooty, and some moisture-laden areas.
A really promising aspect of the AU is that the upper is very secure along with the ride itself. It made running on faster terrain and moderately technical terrain a breeze! The upper runs along the stiff side as it is made of recycled ocean plastics (kudos Adidas). It keeps its form really well and wraps the average size foot nicely. A solid heel cup anchors the foot. A slimmish midfoot keeps that trend going all the way into the toe box, which actually widens a little! Yes, you heard that right — an Adidas with a decently wide toe box! It’s a great combo for a trail shoe slated for the technical ultra distances.
I’d liken the fit to a much stiffer version of what you’d get with the Salomon Ultra Glide or a slightly more forgiving version on the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300. All are some of the best high-stack options for technical trail.
One other bonus is that this shoe will last and last and last. I’d be comfortable to say you could get 500-700 miles out of these things.
MATT: The Agravic Ultra ties a lot of great Adidas qualities into the design. The biggest theme from a positive perspective can be summed up in a couple of words: Secure, stable, safe — Let me explain.
The upper, while relatively rigid in construction, provides a very stable and secure fit. While I found the fit to be so stiff that entry into the shoe was a bit of an aerobic effort itself, the foot settles in nicely with a tapered type fit accentuated by a locked-in heel and a toe box that is quite roomy and comfortable.
The outsole consists of Continental rubber with 4mm lugs that seem to be a great match for any terrain conditions you want to throw at it. Like with the Terrex Speed Ultras, the grip is top-notch, and you feel very stable in wet and dry conditions.
The carbon fiber plate is another addition to the Agravic’s arsenal of protection. While the ride is quite stiff, you can feel the added stability that the plate provides, especially when carving through windy stretches of single track or when picking the perfect line dodging roots and rocks.
This is a shoe that can take a beating and not come out any worse for the wear. I would not see the outsole or upper materials breaking down quickly, so this will undoubtedly be a shoe that has a long shelf life in your rotation.Shop Terrex Agravic Ultra – Men Shop Terrex Agravic Ultra – Women
TAYLOR: There’s a flip side to doing one thing very well. It makes proficiently doing anything else a challenge. If you didn’t catch it in the previous section, the AU is fortified. Sadly, comfort is what’s sacrificed. I’m having flashbacks to reviewing the Inov-8 Trailfly because both shoes have the same basic approach — go heavy on the protective components to go long.
I typically really enjoy firm midsoles, but enjoy would be a stretch for this one. I do have an appreciation for the protection it offers, don’t get me wrong. There is just A LOT going on, and I think the combo of a bunch of Lightstrike and firm plate makes this too challenging of a ride to consider for any super long-distance races, as it is slated. The lack of any palpable underfoot cushioning alone will make this a tough one on the legs.
Add to the previous fact that the collar was very stiff and abrasive, and this is looking like a well-intentioned shoe with some things to work on. The upper is also noticeably warm.
Oh, and 12.5 ounces for a men’s 10.5….that weighs enough to potentially deter anyone looking for a viable ultra-distance shoe. For perspective, one of the shoes we were most disappointed with (Endorphin Trail) weighed in at 12.1 ounces. Brooks Cascadia 16 weighed the same. The Salomon Ultra Glide comes in at a slim 10.7 ounces. Most other ultra-oriented shoes come in the 11-ounce range. And, well, we won’t even talk about the Trailfly’s weight.
What “upsets” me most about this shoe is that there are easy fixes to make it a very good shoe! Soften up or slim down the midsole to give a little more comfortable ride and cushion. Switch up the proportions of Boost to Ligthstrike, and I would almost guarantee that the carbon plate would be even more helpful per stride — if you put the dang thing in there, use it for what it’s worth! If the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra will weigh in the 12’s for my size, add some comfort measures to make up for it.
There you have it. I’ll step down from my soapbox now.
MATT: So this shoe is a workhorse…and you will feel safe and secure on most any terrain.
You know what else is safe and secure? A tank.
At nearly 12.5 ounces, this is a husky boy. That is easily 1.5 more than most competitors and in the league of models like the Saucony Endorphin Trail (company you should not strive to keep). So it’s heavy, and unlike some other shoes on the heavier side, you can feel it.
Combine the weight with the extreme stiffness of the ride, and the shoe provides almost zero ground feel.
I typically lean towards a more firm ride on the trails, but I also need to feel some connection with the ground. That is totally lost here as you feel like a tank just rolling across the trail. This is a shame because the inclusion of the carbon plate almost feels lost.
While secure and stable, the upper features an oddly high-cut ankle and heel cuff that tended to rub right under my ankle bone and on my Achilles. I wore high-cut socks that minimized the rubbing, but I could still feel it and can only imagine what kind of damage it could do on bare skin.
I mentioned above that the rigidity of the upper made it quite tricky on initial foot entry. This is not an exaggeration when I say it took me a good couple of minutes of loosening/undoing laces and stretching the upper before I could get my feet in.
Finally, while it didn’t cause me any performance issues during my runs, there are three cut-out areas on the shoe outsole (one large and two small). These notches tended to pick up stones and debris and have them wedged in. I can imagine this could lead to some annoying situations where shedding excess debris becomes challenging.Shop Terrex Agravic Ultra – Men Shop Terrex Agravic Ultra – Women
TAYLOR: I hope this is a first stab at the Agravic Ultra. I love the idea of it! I really do! It just needs to tone it down a bit and add some comfort aspects for the long haul.
Some great things are that it has a great overall fit. The AU is one of the nimblest high-stack shoes on the market. The AU also has a ride that you’d hope for. It’s a smooth-rolling, well-protected shoe on just about any terrain.
Overall, the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra is just a little too rough around the edges. For every positive point, there seems to be at least one other that’s counteracting it. A lot of protection is offered but almost zero frills in the comfort department. There are eco-friendly materials but they may score a bogey in performance.
I would take the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra out in the mountains, for sure! An ultra-distance day might prove a little too much to handle though.
MATT: I wanted to love the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra, as the Terrex Speed had me reeled in fully, but there were just too many problematic features in this first edition of the shoe. It felt like the shoe had a bit of an identity crisis, not knowing if it wanted to be a stable, secure ultra distance ride or a high-performance, agile racing machine.
Unfortunately, by combining the underlying traits, you end up with an uninspiring result.
I believe that Adidas has the vision and has identified the proper need that the Agravic Ultra could address, but I think they need to peel back some of the layers of complexity they threw at this shoe. They should start by looking at everything they did well with the Terrex Ultra Speed and then build on to the critical additions needed to address the longevity and added stability.
I’m hoping to see a much improved 2.0 version this time next year, accompanied by a much more positive review.
You can pick up the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra for $160 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Terrex Agravic Ultra – Men Shop Terrex Agravic Ultra – Women