Under Armour’s new HOVR Smart Shoe

Monday, January 29, 2018

A new connected shoe from Under Armour will let users track their runs without having to charge third-party devices or remember to hit start in a workout app.

This new line of sneaker, which includes the HOVR Phantom that Under Armour compares to a luxury car and the HOVR Sonic that it compares to a sleeker sports car, has a high-tech textile design with polymer-based cushions that redirect energy upon impact. Company executives say it gives users a zero-gravity feel.

But a more interesting aspect of these shoes, which are set to hit store shelves on Feb. 1, is a lightweight chip built into the thickest part of the right-shoe midsole with an accelerometer, which automatically detects when a user has started to run and tracks a number of key running metrics.

In what Under Armour is calling the “untethered experience,” the shoes will automatically track distance, stride length and cadence, even if the runner doesn’t bring a phone with them. The data will be stored on the shoe until it can sync to Under Armour’s MapMyRun app via Bluetooth when the runner returns home.

As part of the “tethered experience,” the sneakers will sync with the phone’s GPS to additionally capture real-time location, pace and elevation gains. Users can also connect to the app third-party devices, such as Fitbit, Garmin or Apple Watch, to incorporate metrics the shoes can’t track, such as heart rate.

Company executives say they’re hoping these shoes remove some of the friction that can often hinder the tracking of a workout, such as remembering to charge a device, put it on, or hit start ahead of a run.

“The more you have to charge, the higher likeliness you won’t pick it up again,” Jim Mollica, Under Armour’s senior VP of global consumer engagement and digital marketing, said in a meeting with SportTechie. “The sensors elevate this to a whole new level. These are just shoes, but we have a much better ability to impact your performance.”

Under Armour is banking on the digital fitness community that these fitness apps have created to drive demand for its products. Under Armour’s apparel sales declined by 8 percent last quarter, though footwear sales were up 2 percent and connected technology sales, while just a small portion of its overall business, climbed 16 percent.