It’s still a mysterious sort of development. We know what a spine is, but the Under Armour Spine is still a curious sort, right? Well, it’s not all that curious once you really step in it and I, along with other guests, was fortunate enough to get a complimentary pair from Under Armour when I attended the Spine premiere event.
I was impressed right away, and gave those impressions a very public viewing, however, I continued to spend more time in the shoe and eventually put the Spine to the test, receiving a pretty good idea of what the shoe is beyond its own unique aesthetic characteristics.
Basically, the Spine technology itself is a kind of structured dual-density cushioning chassis, and it’s a bit unique for what it is. Some may look at it and see a kind of Nike Lunarlon similarity, and while that’s not totally off-base, the two don’t exactly match up in function. Basically, the inner foam is of UA’s Micro G variety and is contained by a super dense (but lightweight) carrier foam midsole/outsole that allows for durability on ground contact, but is soft enough to encourage flexibility, and it dramatically reduces the need for true rubber for the outsole, which is minimally utilized in the outsole.
My impressions of the RPM are pretty straight up – it’s a fairly strong running shoe, and for all of its pizzazz, it’s pretty utilitarian and conventional-feeling, in a good way. In other words, the technology is engineered chiefly for a specific purpose and doesn’t feel contrived at all – it literally feels like it was adapted for running, which I can appreciate. It’s comfortable, and the chassis is light, particularly considering its build. It’s supportive, and the chassis definitely did its job in my evaluation, providing medial and lateral support on my landings.
Its most distinguished characteristic? The shoe totally excels at transition and shock absorption – not in that super-dynamic kind of way, but in a very low-key kind of way. The transition of the shoe is so smooth, you may not even realize it unless you are really thinking about how it feels, and I think that’s the major strength of the RPM. The chassis is flat with wide sipes that serves two specific purposes that I found – one being that the flat last makes full contact with the ground and the other being that the sipes make transition in runs in the shoe that are as full and pure as possible, because of how the chassis is engineered to propel the foot forward.
The cushioning is good, but not great, at least by comparison to other UA running models, like the Micro G Split and the Charge RC, which are both shoes whose Micro G foams are snappy, or springy; I’m thinking that the Spine chassis prevents the RPM from achieving that same kind of snap from the foam, but again, the structure of the shoe serves another purpose. Still, the RPM’s Micro G, though not terribly dynamic, is plush while the foot is static, but is firm when running motion, which is likely from the density of the chassis itself.
With all of that said, the RPM, while a very solid performer, does have some room to improve, and that’s encouraging for the technology itself. One aspect of the RPM that I felt could use some refinement was the particular kind of 4D Foam sockliner that is utilized in the shoe; it is an insole with a very smooth, but slick, top lining that compromised my own foot security in the shoe. I would have preferred the textured 4D sockliner of the Charge RC (which gripped to my foot) to the selection provided for the RPM, but that can be remedied with a substitution. Also, I mentioned how the RPM isn’t as dynamic a runner by comparison to past UA models, and while knowing that is a slight disappointment, it doesn’t take away the fact that the RPM is a comfortable, efficient, and very competent performance shoe. In some ways, the RPM is better than its relatives, for the simple fact that it’s purposely made to push the runner forward. Its ventilation is top-notch and the support is high-quality as well – it’s just an all-around good shoe.
Sandy Dover is a feature writer and published author, multi-platform consultant, and media producer whose work has been prominently featured and published by Robert Atwan’s “America Now”, Yahoo!, SLAM, ESPN, and STACK. Known primarily for his NBA commentary, he is also noted as an expert in sports product evaluation, footwear and apparel analysis, and in fitness & training as a journalist and consultant. You can find and contact Sandy via his website at about.me/SandyDover.