When you line up at the start of any race—whether it’s a small neighborhood event or a World Marathon Major—chances are, you’ll see “super shoes” on a whole bunch of feet. These carbon-plated, cushioned trainers help you pick up the pace by boosting energy return, and they simply make racing a whole lot of fun.Most running shoe brands now have their own version of them, and when I learned Under Armour was entering the fray with its new Flow Velociti Elite, I was eager to give them a try. I tested out a sample pair for SELF’s 2023 Sneaker Awards—and ended up enjoying them so much that I laced them up for the first 10K I’ve raced in several years. Here are my thoughts on the shoe.Who it’s forThe Flow Velociti Elite is a racing shoe, made specifically for runners who are looking to push the pace at longer distances, like half marathons or marathons. Basically, if you’re looking for a PR, you’d gravitate to this kind of shoe.Christa SgobbaOut of the boxI have to admit: When I opened up the box and took out these shoes, my first thought was skepticism. The shoes looked so pretty that I was afraid they were going to be more about appearance than function. They’re a beautiful seafoam green color (with popping lime accents) with an almost dainty, see-through mesh upper that looks very cool. Appearance-wise, they looked more like a traditional running shoe—they lacked the super high stack height and futuristic details of other super shoes I’ve tried. Plus, they felt super light (weighing 7.5 oz).Christa SgobbaFit and FeelI tried these in my normal street shoe size, and they fit fine. Normally I go up half a size in running shoes (to allow for movement and slight swelling with activity), but I still had a little extra room at the top, so these might run a bit big. The shoe also has a streamlined, svelte look, and runs a bit narrow in the toe box. While I was okay with my normal shoe size, I think a half size up could have also worked, too (especially for runs longer than an hour).The shoe laces up securely (no heel slippage!) and the padded tongue and heel add a little extra TLC. For super shoes, they didn’t feel overly cushiony—they’re definitely more of a firm support—but they sure did feel light. It got me excited to take them out for a fast run and put their speed chops to the test.
There’s nothing quite like a run in nature: trees around you, a fresh breeze in the air, dirt at your feet, and maybe even a stream burbling in the distance. But getting into trail running can feel intimidating—especially if you don’t have the right gear to get started.Enter: The Lululemon Blissfeel Trail, the brand’s first off-road shoe that was designed to help ease runners onto those peaceful paths. As part of SELF’s 2023 Sneaker Awards, I tested out a pair to see just how well it handles trickier terrain.Who it’s forThe Blissfeel Trail is an everyday trail running shoe, or more accurately, a “road to trail” sneaker, as the company describes it. That means that it’s rugged enough to protect your feet on uneven ground, but not so bulky that it can’t go on the pavement, too. To me, the shoe is for runners who want to give trails a try, but probably aren’t going to jump into really intense ones right off the bat.Christa SgobbaOut of the boxThe “road to trail” aspect was strong when unboxing these: Aside from the lugged outsole on the bottom (which helps provide traction) and little more hardiness along the upper, the shoes look a lot like a regular running shoe—there’s no high ankle support or laceless fastening that you see with some trail-specific models. I’ve tried trail shoes with both those features in the past, and they bring sort of an…intense feel to them that I think might be a little off-putting to those dipping their feet into a new kind of run.Fit and FeelLike all Lululemon sneakers, the Blissfeel Trail was designed specifically for a woman’s foot, and that may be why I was able to wear my usual street shoe size instead of going up a half size, like I normally do with running shoes.When I tried these on, the shoe really hugged the curves of my foot, giving it more of a streamlined look than I expected with a trail shoe. My foot felt cradled and supported, and although I wouldn’t call it cushiony, it definitely felt comfortable. To me, it was a welcome relief from some trail shoes, which can just feel like a lot as soon as you slip them on.
I’m a sucker for a two-strap comfort sandal, whether I’m running errands, going for a casual stroll, or just puttering around the house. In fact, outside of when I’m doing something more active, I’m rarely caught in anything but my Birkenstock Arizonas.Then, when SELF’s 2023 Sneaker Awards came around, I had the opportunity to test a sample of the Merrell Hut Ulta Wrap, a sandal similar in style to my Birkenstocks, but waterproof and with more cushion. As a big fan of water sports, I’m always excited to try out new pool and beach-friendly options, so I was intrigued by this new product. I slipped on a pair to see if they could earn a regular spot in my footwear rotation.Who it’s forThis sandal is made for people who want a convenient, waterproof recovery shoe. For example, if you’re someone like me who loves to swim laps, this is the perfect pair to wear to and from the pool. It’s also a great option if comfort is key for you: Merrell is known for durable, comfy shoes, and the Hut Ultra Wrap Sandal takes it a step further with the inclusion of two different types of foam for cushioning and support.Out of the boxMy first impression of the shoe was that it seemed like the epitome of the ugly-chic trend. I tried a pair in the Burlwood colorway, a pretty neutral pink and beige combination (which actually doesn’t particularly remind me of burl). “They’re so ugly and cute at the same time,” I slacked my colleagues upon receiving the sandals. I meant it as a high compliment.Fit and feelThere’s a whole lot of foam in the Hut Ultra Wrap, which makes for a very lightweight shoe. Its adjustable straps allow you to customize the fit to the right width for you, and they were sturdy enough so my feet felt secure and stable when I walked in them.Sarah YalowitzOn my activityI first wore the Merrell Hut Ultra Wraps to the pool, where I spent the afternoon with a friend. We went from there to an art studio-warming party nearby, and I ended up wearing the sandals for the rest of the evening. The shoes were great at the pool; they were easy to slip in and out of, and dried quickly even after I took a shower in them. Later, at the party, I stood around socializing in them for several hours and felt comfortable the entire time.After that night, I wore them countless times to the pool and the beach. These sandals provide an extremely comfortable cushion, and no matter how much water splashed onto them on the pool deck, they didn’t remain soaked. Another thing I loved about these shoes is that they were sturdy enough to drive in—my previous go-to waterproof sandals were not.I did take the Hut Ultra Wraps on a 15-minute walk from my house to a nearby restaurant one evening, and that was a step too far. They don’t have quite enough support for that kind of a stroll. (Luckily, I got a ride home that evening.) I decided that as amazing as these sandals are, they’re best used for recovery or more chill days rather than being more active.The bottom lineI love these sandals. They are the perfect recovery shoe for anything water-related, and I actually enjoy them so much that I find myself using them on dry land almost as much. The Merrell Hut Ultra Wraps have replaced my flimsy flip-flops, and my feet are so much happier for it. If you’re in the market for a sturdy, comfortable recovery sandal, I can’t recommend these enough. While they’re not supportive enough to wear during higher intensity activity, they’re great for pretty much everything else.
Christa SgobbaOn the runBecause these shoes are for everyday miles, I took them on normal-day runs for me: They ranged from 30 minutes to one hour, and the majority took place on pavement and sidewalks. I tried them during both an easy pace and a moderately challenging one.My overarching takeaway? I felt a lot more bounce and responsiveness than I had expected, especially from a really cushioned shoe, and it made picking up the pace to tempo feel really smooth and natural.It was also more stable than I expected: I used the previous iteration of the Nike Invincible as a long run shoe when training for a half marathon last year, and I noticed some lateral instability, especially on longer distances—which contributed to some lower-leg discomfort. Thanks to the slightly wider midsole on the 3s, though, I didn’t notice as much side-to-side extra motion (or resulting aches and pains). That extra stability boost, along with its comfy cushioning, makes the Invincible 3 a really great contender for longer miles.One slight snag: During my first couple runs, I noticed some heel slippage at the beginning of my route. I had to stop to retighten the laces, but after I did, I stayed secure. Once I learned to tie them with a little more oomph, I stopped having to adjust them mid-run.Bottom lineI really enjoyed running in the Invincible 2, but I remember thinking at the time, if only these had more stability. The new Invincible 3 improved on that, making the shoe a hard one to beat, in my opinion, for those everyday miles or even ones that are a little quicker. They’re a pair I find myself reaching for when the going gets long or my legs need a little more TLC—or, to be honest, when I just want something a little more fun, with a little more pop, than my other everyday shoes.