Shoe: Y-3 Sport Approach Boost (Reflective-Black)
Release: April 2016
Price $455 retail ($318 on sale), from Y-3.com
The Sport Approach Boost is a mid-top technical runner by Y-3, the undying collaboration between German sporting giant adidas and Japanese design legend Yohji Yamamoto. Partners since 2002, Yamamoto’s work with adidas has produced some of the most iconic designer sneakers of this era – most notably, the Qasa High. While Y-3 bills itself as “designer sportswear,” the brand’s less-than-functional avant garde tailoring (and Paris Fashion Week runway shows) has traditionally signaled just which half of that equation mattered more. Champion sprinters may wear Nike’s high fashion collabs to the Olympic trials, but it’s hard to imagine those same world-class athletes competing in Qasa’s – or for that matter, one of Y-3’s garments.
Perhaps sensing this divergence from its sporting roots, the brand made headlines last April with a proposition as bold as its sneakers: for the first time, Y-3 would design activewear. Under the sub-brand “Y-3 Sport”, Yohji’s team would apply their design talents to clothes designed for function. The label’s tagline, “The Future of Sportswear” reflects this renewed emphasis on serving the athlete.
Initial reaction, however, was critical. On the surface, Y-3 Sport appeared tone-deaf: who would wear $300 tights to the gym, let alone buy them? Yet, as with all things Yohji, that first glance disgust would develop into can’t-look-away desire. After only two seasons on the market, Y-3 Sport is selling through online. And, as also with all things Yohji, the highlight of this Y-3 collection is the shoes.
To begin, a quote:
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”
Whether he knew it or not, John Greenleaf Whittier was describing the winding saga of the adidas Ultra Boost Mid. After years of speculation, a late 2016 KITH collab unveiled the final shape of adidas’ mid-top sportswear flagship. Reactions were mixed; mine wasn’t. In my opinion, out of all the possible forms it could have taken, the amorphous hump shown to the world this December may have been, to quote Whittier, “the saddest.” KITH hype aside, the distended, bulbous, uncaged pudding loosely named “Ultra Boost” was an unfitting successor to the sleek, sexy, biomorphic runner from which it borrowed loose chromosomes.
Especially when it might have been a Sport Approach.
Simply put, this shoe – the crown jewel of the Y-3 Sport line – is the Boost shoe that Boost fans have been waiting for. Sleek silhouette? Check. Stealth fighter aesthetics? Check. Huge Boost sole? One final, luxurious check.
While I’ve intentionally watched the rise (and fall) of Boost lifestyle shoes like the NMD from the sidelines, seeing the Sport Approach Boost just once last spring was enough for me to rush the field. Well, sort of – in reality, I bookmarked the Y-3 web store and started saving my pennies. Eight months (and one 30% off sale) later, it is the first non-distance running Boost shoe I’ve ever bought.
It is also across-the-board immaculate.
First, let’s talk comfort. There’s a big ‘ol hunk of Boost foam under each foot, so I’ll take the liberty of skipping the “pillowy/cozy/like walking on clouds” redundancies and pare it back to this: the Y-3 Sport Approach Boost feels how walking should have always felt. The Boost cushion is both lavish and responsive, and with a structured Primeknit sock liner locking your ankle in, everything south of your kneecap will feel – and move – as one effortless whole. It’s pretty cool.
Second, there’s the styling. In my opinion, the Sport Approach Boost is beyond gorgeous. Starting from the top, the orthogonal bicolor Primeknit checks all the boxes – architectural, understated, and positively functional in both form (“locking your ankle in”) and material (those silver strands? 3M Reflective.)
This pattern bleeds onto the lower down the back of the shoe, adding reflective accents the length of the rear AND a tasteful transition between the busy upper and matte black lower. Notice how both materials seams and the Three Stripes branding are approximately the same angle as the strands of the knit upper? It’s the little things.
Speaking of little things, the real beauty of the Approach Boost is revealed through its details, and the way they reinterpret present concepts of shoe design. The minimalist lacing system, back/front sock tabs, and strategically-perforated upper are, in my opinion, a “future of sportswear” approach to the classic elements of a low-top mesh running shoe.
And here’s the kicker: the Approach Boost is a wearable shoe! I rock it with sweats, joggers, or shorts for more “athleisure” specific looks, but have even styled it well with pinrolled jeans and a long-sleeve tee. For some reason, the problems I had styling the Nike Lunar Flyknit Chukka (another techy mid-top – read my review here) just aren’t present here. Maybe it’s the monochrome colorway; maybe it’s Maybelline. Regardless, this is a surprisingly versatile shoe. It’s no Greats Royale-esque “daily driver,” but I’ll be damned if this shoe doesn’t give my Flyknit Racer a run for its money.
Third, the grand finale – Mr. Whittier, bring it on home.
While I love the shoe as a sum of its parts, the real X factor for me is that this is the Ultra Boost Mid that “might have been.” Like reality TV talent show winners, you love this shoe because it represents realized potential. Sure, the sticker price puts it firmly above anything sporting, but bah gawd does it belong there. There’s even a Continental road-run outsole – the same exact one from the mainline Ultra Boost! Compared to its Nike Running contemporaries (Gyakusou LunarEpic, etc.), the Sport Approach Boost has sacrificed some marathon performance for style. That being said: buy the shoe. In every single facet, the Y-3 Sport Approach Boost is the best techy mid-top that adidas Group GmbH produces right now.
The Y-3 Sport Approach Boost (reviewed here in Reflective Black) is the Jon Snow of the Ultra Boost line: handsome, hardy, and by any fair measure, the rightful successor. If this is truly “the future of sportswear,” consider me chuffed.