Answering the Call
The female athlete’s demands are unique, and Under Armour is leaning into the challenge to ensure she has the footwearshe needs to perform at the highest level. Under Armour is debuting the UA HOVR™ Breakthru, the brand’s first basketball shoe developed and tailored specifically with the female basketball player in mind.
The Breakthru was a collaboration across several Under Armour teams who helped bring the shoe to life. During the development process, they combined their expertise, leveraged their personal experiences, and consulted a number of rising and established women hoopers eager to create footwear to support their play and drive performance.
You could say the UA HOVR Breakthru was developed for women, by women.
The Perfect Fit
The design process began in the fall of 2019. From the beginning, the team wanted to produce a new and autonomous silhouette—not an iteration of an existing men’s shoe. They tipped things off by partnering with the UA biomechanics team and evaluating what makes the woman’s foot unique. Among many other distinctions, her foot is typically narrower across the ball and heel, higher in the arch and lower in the midfoot. It generally has a shorter ankle height and a smaller instep circumference. While more flexible, it also has more sensory receptors.
All of these are critical insights when thinking through what a woman needs for running, cutting, jumping, landing, lunging and pivoting. Basketball moves, her way. “Research and collaboration were big parts of our design process. The particulars of a woman’s foot, especially athletes with specific on-court performance needs, are critical when developing a shoe like the UA HOVR Breakthru. We spent a lot of time analyzing how to best support her shape and structure, her movement, her pressure points. During this process, we came up with an entirely new last and designed the Breakthru from the inside out.”- Jessie Benjamin, Sr. Footwear Designer at Under Armour
The Perfect Feel
With these physiological considerations in mind, the team engineered a new woman’s last—or mechanical mold—used to create the shoe’s shape. And while they accounted for the foot, they remained focused on the player. Sasha Chaplin, a former collegiate basketball player herself, helped conduct a number of wear tests with local high school and college programs, including University of Maryland, Baltimore County and St. Francis Academy in Baltimore.
The focus group of athletes shared more than what worked on the court and what didn’t. They shared what felt right and what didn’t. They talked about hoops culture. They gushed about who they follow at the next level and what kinds of moves they wanted to emulate or create. Finally, they not only shared their preferences around style and color, but also what the categories meant to them and to the game.
The discussions became as much about the experience than anything else; important sources of raw and emotive data and anecdotes for the design team to learn from and carefully consider.“Stepping into this project, I had both insight and a vested interest in the issues women basketball players face when it comes to footwear. And, with the way the game continues to evolve, the things this next generation of players are doing on the court, we really challenged ourselves to lean in and understand what was most important to them—from performance to fit to look and feel.”- Sasha Chaplin, Associate Product Line Management, Footwear at Under Armour
This research didn’t lead to one conclusion. It led to many. The design team needed to consider the anatomy of the woman’s foot. She was more sensitive in certain areas, but needed more support in others. They also needed to consider the evolving flow behind the game. It was becoming increasingly positionless. She was quicker up and down the court and as such, taking up less time in the air. She needed to be able to play freely and perform without restriction.
Building around the new last, the team delivered a fast, light shoe that blended the right dimensions with durability, stability and style. The UA HOVR Breakthru features:
- Thoughtful dimensions, including a specially curved collar construction
- Soft, yet double-layered heel for extra durability and support
- Premium dual density molded sockliner
- Cables for extra structure and optimal flexibility
- Tongue webbing for ease of entry
- Overall trend-right aesthetic with strategic color applications
That last part was something that continued to come up in athlete discussions. New, interesting colorways that reflected her uniqueness.
“Across the board, color and style are priorities for our athletes. They take pride in what they wear, and they are each unique with their own sense of self-expression. Our color strategy with the UA HOVR Breakthru celebrates Under Armour’s custom and signature color, Beta. We used this color in bold application for the first colorway of the shoe as an unapologetic statement to showcase speed, agility, and lightness. Regardless of gender, Beta is representative of the luminous spirit of a phenomenal athlete on the court.”- Shaneika Warden, Senior Color Design Manager, Footwear at Under Armour
The Way Forward
In addition to chalk talks with local squads, the design team also consulted the Chinese national women’s 3×3 team on the project, who visited the UA Baltimore and Portland campuses in January 2020. Fresh off of victory, the players were happy to provide feedback about their priorities and personal insights around fit, comfort and customization—especially around their style of play.
As they move forward, Sasha, Jessie and Shaneika have the opportunity to consult another trio of impressive women from within the UA family. WNBA rookies Bella Alarie, Kaila Charles and Tyasha Harris—some of the brand’s most recent signees—will help ensure the product satisfies the demands of competition at the highest level. Throughout the 2020 season, they’ve provided feedback, suggestions, and of course, unique colorway requests around the UA HOVR Breakthru. They’ll continue to provide these insights as part of their relationship with the brand, and as UA continues to deepen its investment in women’s sports.
Because this doesn’t stop with women’s basketball. The UA HOVR Breakthru is one of many innovations Under Armour has planned in its growing efforts to facilitate her journey on and off the court, field and turf.
The UA HOVR Breakthru releases in North America for $110 in North America via Dick’s Sporting Goods, UA.com, and UA Brand Houses in Boston and Chicago on September 17.
UA HOVR™ Breakthru Product DNA
- Fit for You – Engineered to respond to the structure of a woman’s foot for more agility, better fit, and lasting comfort
- Explosive Energy – UA HOVR™ cushioning eliminates impact and returns energy with every move for an explosive performance
- Control Your Court – Multi-directional organic herringbone traction pattern provides the ultimate grip and traction on the court