DISCLOSURE: The review shoes were sent by Adidas South Africa and not returned.
One can argue that in the past, advances in upper, midsole and outsole technology might have improved the running experience in general, but were ultimately responsible for only marginal performance increases.
That is until 31 January 2020, when World Athletics announced an amended rule governing competition shoes. Sole thickness was raised to 40mm, while it was also stipulated that shoes must not contain more than one rigid embedded plate or blade. If records weren’t falling before then, they certainly did so now, and it’s difficult to find big races where one of the so-called super-shoes do not place in the top three.
While Nike was very much in command at the start, the rest of the running brands have caught up and are running at a comfortable pace alongside. Which brings us to Adidas’ Adizero Adios Pro 3 running shoe.
When the Adios Pro 3 were delivered, I wondered how much of a difference to performance a super-shoe can actually make. It turns out a lot. Really a lot.
Trimming the fat
Adidas has trimmed all the excess off the Adizero Adios Pro 3’s uppers, leaving a highly breathable plastic mesh with a small amount of padding around the Achilles area.
At 240g per shoe (size 10), you are looking at very little weight on your feet. There’s no padded tongue, no heel cage or actually any type of substantial heel support, and no sock-lined inner. This is not a shoe built with comfort in mind; it’s there to win races, not walk through the mall.
While not a direct super-shoe comparison but to give an indication of how light this is, the built-for-speed UA Flow Velocity Wind 2 (review) designed without an outsole weighs 272g (size 10), a substantial 30g more than the Adios Pro 3.
All this is done to push as much into the midsole as possible, with Adidas effectively employing its Lightstrike Pro cushioning and a set of Energyrods. There’s a dual layer of this cushioning in here, each thick enough to have served as a midsole in earlier shoes.
Between these layers you’ll find Energyrods 2.0, actual thin carbon rods which can be seen in the cut-away of the bottom layer of cushioning. While not a carbon plate per se, these carbon rods perform in unison to provide a massive kick on lift-off, in unison with the energy return from the midsole.
My 93kg frame felt fully supported; it had to thanks to this 39.5 mm chunk of midsole to support the heel (the shoe has a low 6.5mm drop).
Finally, rounding off the Adios Pro 3 is a thin layer of Continental rubber as the outsole. It doesn’t look like any outsole you’ve seen in the past, basically smooth with little in terms of traction. It does stick to the road, but I wish I could have tried this on a wet surface.
The thin spread of outsole certainly makes the case that these shoes should be considered race day shoes and not regular trainers to up your mileage. I’m not totally convinced of this since the outsole did not wear as much as I expected it to during the review period. But if there is one thing that’s certain, it’s that the Adizero Adios Pro 3 is the shoe you want to lace up for race day, whether that’s for 10km, 21km or 42km, or more.
Running up that hill
It truly is a strange experience running in the Adios Pro 3, at least at first. Slip them on and you’ll think you are wearing platforms. You are definitely running higher and it might take a few kilos to get used to this, but it didn’t take long for the Adios Pro 3 to win me over.
With the Adios Pro 3 I ran not only easier, but quicker. The hill I start my runs with suddenly didn’t leave me out of breath on top; I had energy left after distances that usually drained me; I started to notice a few more PRs on Strava for certain sections of my runs.
The Adios Pro 3 might not have the relaxed comfort that certain shoes provide (Puma’s Magnify Nitro for example), but they certainly work for longer, slower runs, meaning they are not only for speed, threshold or race day runs. However, I also noticed that I did not want to run with them every day, preferring a few other shoes on rotation throughout the week.
It wasn’t all moonshine and roses though. The padding around the Achilles seems efficient but I did not risk running with thin socks. While the laces lock in place very effectively, it’s a bit difficult to pull them loose around the top. There were also a couple of incidents where I felt the bottom of the laces pestering the top of my foot.
Finally, as one can expect, the Adios Pro 3 is road running only and you do not want to take these off-road, not even for a bit, they are just too high to be stable.
It’s the shoes, dummy
All these are small sacrifices in the grand scheme of things, since the Adizero Adios Pro 3 is built for speed over longer distances. And the proof is in the pudding, with the Adios Pro 3 consistently spotted in the top three of major marathons, usually alongside the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Asics Metaspeed Sky+.
My initial scepticism over the abilities of the Adizero Adios Pro 3 was soon replaced by another concern. Wearing these, I realised that the calculations I usually make around my fitness level and time performance had to change, since my overall improvements were not due to an increase in VO2 Max or any other type of running metric. It was due to the shoes.
The Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 running shoes retail for R4 500, which is actually a bit cheaper than its direct super-shoe competitors.