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Review: Under Armour Shadow Elite 2

Ian Ebbs

Nike. adidas. Puma. Nike. adidas. Puma. Sometimes it does seem like there’s not much of a choice really when it comes to the leading football boots. But when you have New Balance producing the likes of Furon and Tekela, and Skechers bannering the SKX-01 and Razor, things can get pretty much exciting!

And excited I am to try out and review another alternative to the Big 3 silos, which is the Under Armour Shadow Elite 2. I know, I know. Under Armour has been a hit or a miss with football boots. And with the recent departure of their biggest (and perhaps sole) superstar in Trent Alexander-Arnold, things look rather bleak. But hey, I don’t think it hurts to test out their latest silo and see if it can generate some buzz behind the Under Armour brand again.

Boot Composition

So first things first, let’s see the tech and features that comprise the Under Armour Shadow Elite 2. What we have is a knit-based one-piece upper using UA’s IntelliKnit, its answer to the likes of Nike Flyknit, adidas Primeknit and Puma Evoknit. Name-wise I like how IntelliKnit suggests that it knows when to stretch things out and where to put more structure.

We see then that IntelliKnit is overlaid by two layers of thin Exomesh (named after the texturing of the coating on the sides of the boot). One layer arches around the sides and flows around the forefoot as a lip. The other essentially covers the toe box and then glides to the lateral and medial edges. Supposed to be striking elements, rubber Eyestay pods are actually positioned on the central lacing system.

Internally you get the UA Charged Cushioning for the insole, an internal heel cup and a suede heel padding. And when you flip the boot check under the hood, UA brings us a full-length carbon fibre soleplate that is then dominated by a bladed stud configuration.

I believe the most exciting part of the Shadow Elite 2 is the soleplate, actually. We’ve been clamouring for Nike to bring back carbon fibre outsoles, so I think Under Armour scored plus points simply by addressing that demand. Knitted boots are nothing new, so at first it may seem that Shadow Elite 2 as something less remarkable. However, with the big brands going back to synthetic (and leaving just a few full knitted options like the Nike Phantom Luna/GX 2), I would characterise the entry of UA’s Shadow Elite 2 and its IntelliKnit as proper timing. Only a handful so far has tried to fill the knitted void (e.g. NB Furon and Tekela, Skechers SKX-01), and for that I see Shadow as giving that needed variety in this category.

IntelliKnit, Exomesh and Eyestay

I can say that IntelliKnit is elastic on the tongue and significantly less stretchy for the rest of the upper. Given the formation of the Exomesh overlay, most of the knit above the boot is exposed. Now to the touch, I feel that IntelliKnit is more dense than the proprietary knit of the leading brands. If you like a knitted football boot t offer more richness as far as the material goes, I’m pretty sure you’re going to feel at home with Shadow Elite.

What I find pleasantly surprising is that Shadow Elite 2 does not have the backing of an internal liner, meaning that what you see is definitely what you get for your foot. So rest assured that the richness of IntelliKnit is there to warmly hug your foot in its entirety. A lot of the knitted boots from the leading brands kind of defeats their own purpose because of the knitted upper simply wraps around another material.

That leaves all the work to the Exomesh in adding more structure to the boot. I was initially worried that Exomesh might be too rigid in its place that it might negatively affect how the upper shapes and wraps around my foot. Thankfully, I find that Exomesh does its job, and does it perfectly! The upper still wraps around my foot nice and tight once the laces are tied in, and then, as if acting like a seatbelt, Exomesh is there to maintain the structural integrity of the boot. I can sense that it definitely aids in lockdown as well, not to mention the lateral stability and responsiveness that prevent you from slipping internally in your own boot when you make cuts and multi-directional change of movements. There’s just this little pinch I have observed on the intersection point of the Exomesh overlays that I supposed just need some break-in time to address.

Another benefit that I experienced with Exomesh is that it causes additional friction to prevent the ball from sleeking away. I wouldn’t say that it is Gripknit and Strikeskin-like in terms of ball grip, but it does offer enough that will help maintain your touch even in wet conditions. Speaking of wet conditions, it’s easy for me to imagine the Shadow suffering a bit much because of how easily the exposed IntelliKnit can get soaked up. Sure, other boots get wet and soaked. But this is where I perceive the lack of internal liner as a disadvantage. Plus when I wore and tied the laces in, I noticed that the elastic tongue has holes on it. Great for breathability, not so much for rain.

One last thing about the upper components. I don’t think Eyestay is there primarily for striking. UA might have ribbed it and made it out of rubber, but Eyestay for me is less of a striking element and more of a lacing system reinforcement to prevent lace holes from ripping apart.

Carbon Fibre Soleplate and the Blades

UA might have scored points on nostalgia by bringing back carbon fibre as a soleplate material, but it will only be a hit if it performs well. And perform well it does! It ticks all the boxes of my checklist for great soleplate attributes. Stable yet torsionally movable? Check. Functional forefoot flex? Check. Responsive snapback? 100%! Other people might automatically think of speed when having a snappy tooling. My thoughts though include visualising the bounce that the snap gives when your duelling with someone for that header, or when you’re doing that acrobatic save as a goal keeper.

If we can just see each step on a microscale, I am certain that the bladed stud configuration would slice through the natural firm ground with ease. And with good surface depth, the carbon fibre helps prevent any stud pressure from piercing up every now and then. I did find the unusual formation of the heel blades off-putting, but ultimately it did not affect how aggressive Shadow is in terms of traction.

Which is the reason why I find the Shadow Elite 2 on AG as a case-to-case basis. If the depth is enough, then perhaps Shadow Elite 2 might be playable. But if your synthetic pitch is the older, more shallow earlier generations, I might think twice before suiting up with the Shadow Elite 2.

Fit and Feel

As for the shape of Shadow Elite 2, it noticeably slims down a bit around the midfoot and rounds up on the forefoot. Simply put, I find this particularly suiting narrow to standard-width feet players such as myself. Players with above-average width may still enjoy the Shadow precisely because of how elastic the collar opening and the tongue are, perhaps with just minimal break-in time required to make the Exomesh feel less restrictive. But if you have a boulder for a feet, I suggest you recommend a wide variation from UA or simply look at wide boot options.

I don’t think any of today’s boots are heavy in the strictest sense, but weighing at 237 grams at a size 9.5 US, it certainly one of those that weighs up the most especially when compared to speed boots. Nonetheless, it’s still a lightweight boot that is easy on the feet.

Because of its knitted nature, I sensed that there is less power transferred from boot to ball during strikes relative to the more solid vibe of synthetic boots.

I like how there is a bit more insole cushioning in the Shadow than other leading football boots. It vibes well with the comfort levels of the rich knitted upper, and whatever minimal bounce it generates will only complement the snap back of the outsole. With the laces tied tight, the upper moulds around the foot really well, Exomesh secures everything in place and the heel cup and suede heel liner ensure the heel is part of that lockdown.

Versus the Shadow Pro 1

Did you happen to buy the first Shadow and were now thinking of making the switch to Shadow Elite 2? I suggest you do it now! Whereas in Shadow 1 IntelliKnit and Exomesh form a two-layered one-piece upper to create a boot that is really excellent in lockdown and responsiveness, Shadow 2 masterfully rearranges the setup of the two tech features. This results in huge improvements in comfort and fit without sacrificing much in lockdown and responsiveness. I understand colourways play a bigger role in determining whether a boot looks good or not so much, but the changes applied in Shadow 2 resulted in the silo having a much more modern (and more appealing, I might add) appearance.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I view the UA Shadow Elite 2 as a solid boot option in general. And with the Big 3 reigniting the influx of synthetic boots, Shadow 2 value proposition as a knitted football boot significantly increases. It is not outside the realm of possibility for one knitted boot shopper to be looking at UA Shadow Elite 2 together with the NB Furon and Tekela plus the Skechers SKX-01, instead of the boots from the Swoosh, the Stripes and the Formstrip. The only thing that I think might hold back Shadow Elite 2 is the price. Given the brand’s footing in the football boot industry, I think the best approach for them (and by extension, for Shadow Elite 2) is to provide on-par features and benefits at a extremely competitive price-point. This will truly turn heads around and reevaluate the majority’s inclination to simply shop for a pair of either a Nike, adidas or Puma football boot.

Author

Ian Ebbs

Founder of FootballBoots.co.uk back in 2010, Ian went on to create and host their YouTube channel which now has 1.5million subscribers and over 300 million views, he also hosts their podcast which you can find on Spotify. Taking his over fifteen year experience in the football industry, Ian wrote the book: How To Choose Your Boots (find it on Amazon) where he looks to help footballers of all levels find their perfect pair.