NASA, Bras, and Under Armour — What It Is
The inspiration for the SpeedForm originated many moons ago — more than 50 years to be exact — when International Latex Corporation (now called Playtex) won a contract to develop the Apollo Spacesuit. At the time, the company was known for body-shaping girdles and form-fitting brassieres. While other spacesuit prototypes fit the 1960s cyborg aesthetic, they were uncomfortable, heavy, and cumbersome. So they developed a more comfortable suit straight out of their bra-making factory, and in 1969, Neil Armstrong made his small step/giant leap wearing a Playtex suit.
Not nearly as many moons ago — two years, to be exact — UA’s creative director Kevin Fallon read the book “Spacesuit Fashioning Apollo.” If a bra factory can whip up a spacesuit, he thought, could the same thinking make an impact in footwear? After a lengthy R&D process, Under Armour created the SpeedForm, the first running shoe produced in an intimate apparel factory.
Sockless and Seamless — Why It Matters
Though early prototypes were less than impressive — one resembled a water shoe, and another looked more like a bedroom slipper than an athletic shoe — Speedform’s final product is bright, compact, and outrageously comfortable (but more on that in a second).
The SpeedForm is all about the seamless heal cup and molded toes. While running shoes typically have flat pieces of material stitched or bonded together, this shoe is virtually seamless, with materials overlaid and ultrasonically bonded (a way of joining materials by way of pressure rather than say, nuts, bolts, needles or thread). “It feels flatter,” Fallon says. “You don’t feel raw edges inside the shoe and it’s not stitched in a way that you have to put a sock liner in there to hide ugly things where it’s glued in.”
While the Speedform can be worn with socks, Under Armour encourages runners to try them barefoot. The toe portion of the shoe is sort of like a glove inside of a mitten. The shoe doesn’t compartmentalize the toes like Vibram FiveFingers (one shoe that’s been at the forefront of the barefoot running craze) but instead serves as an anatomic guide. The message: If the shoe fits better, you’ll perform better.Hands On
When I tried the SpeedForms out, I genuinely loved how they felt. These bright (we’re talking radioactive) shoes felt nothing like my Asics. They felt sort of wobbly when I walked on the gym floor, but once the treadmill was up to speed, the unstable feeling practically vanished. The shoes were much less cumbersome than my running shoes that are touted for being light. I chose to go sockless, per Fallon’s suggestion, and I really liked it. The material was super breathable, and I had no irritation at all (though I’ve only logged a few miles in them). Would I wear them again? Definitely only to run, and only if I was mentally prepared for gawking eyes.
Are They Legit?
Yes, but only for running. The Speedforms are nothing like conventional sneakers, and not everyone will like them. One super important detail about the SpeedForm: They’re not built to ever set foot on a basketball court (or for any lateral training at all, for that matter). The current version of the SpeedForm was created for a neutral runner (meaning the foot doesn't under or over pronate), and not for super long distances.
The 6-ounce shoe is essentially a hybrid between a racing flat and a neutral training shoe, but UA has plans to grow the product line with a stability shoe and options for customization in the future. More colors are in the pipeline for a new model available next Spring, but it’s unclear if demand for the shoe will taper out in the coming months (some sizes and colors have already sold out). SpeedForms are available in select running specialty stores for $119.99.
Have you tried out SpeedForms? What did you think? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.