Upper: Lightweight Mesh
Outsole: UltraCush™ Lite 3D
In mid-2017, Vans dropped the original UltraRange silhouette with a specific goal in mind – to create a new sneaker with the functionality needed for different terrains: city streets, boardwalks, mountain paths. The original was aimed at delivering a comfortable sneaker, which still had the traditional Vans aesthetic from toe to heel.
Not only did Vans meet the challenge of delivering their set goals for the ultimate adventurer, but also created new sneaker technologies it could use within additional Vans silhouettes to offer the same levels of comfort.
A few weeks back, Vans once again pushed the envelope of what it means to deliver a truly functional shoe for all conditions, whether you’re working in harsh conditions, or doing a 50-50 grind on some street corner. The release of the Vans UltraRange 3D is one such silhouette.
Design and Quality
From a design point of you, the UltraRange 3D silhouette is the most distinct from the range of sneakers within the Vans portfolio. That said, it still keeps the underlying elements and design features that make it unmistakably Vans. This is most noted by the Vans iconic “jazz stripe” across the side panel.
The version I received for review is the Black and Asphalt colourway, which is an all-over dark colour theme. This as opposed to the Navy Blue colourway that has the white stripe across the panel, which stands out a lot more. Upon unboxing the sneaker, not knowing about the additional colourway, I was struck by the sleeker and more streamlined version of the sneaker.
The cool thing about it is that you’re still able to view the full detailing with the distinction between the Black and Asphalt colours.
The design of the sneaker is built entirely for purpose, with each element and material choice complimenting one another to provide the most sophisticated Vans silhouette to date. For starters, the upper is constructed from a breathable and lightweight mesh, which has additional pockets across the upper for extra airflow to the inner sock (more on this later) to form a dual layered silhouette. The layout of the pockets ties in with the “jazz stripe” that runs from the mid to the heel, and doesn’t break the overall design flow.
In addition to allowing the extra airflow, the pockets also create more flex for the upper. This makes it a lot tougher as a whole, allowing users to bend, stretch, and flex their shoes however they choose without having to worry about the wear and tear on those typically sensitive areas around the toe. The toughness is extended to the rear with its radial heel design to increase stability in stride.
All these elements are brought together with a Rapidweld stitchless construction, adding to the steps already taken to provide maximum comfort during flex for high-abrasion areas. That said, the shoe isn’t fully ruggedised, so be careful of dropping any heavy objects on your foot.
Performance and Comfort
The cool thing about Vans is that it’s not restrictive to your environment. Having started out as a rugged alternative to the Nike and adidas sneakers of the day, Vans garnered a following from the skater community who required strength from their shoes, especially in the toe and heel regions, which often take most of the load during such high-intensity sport.
Simply by looking at the silhouette, you’ll note there’s quite a lot going on in terms of the design and build quality. In addition to this, there’s still a lot that remains beneath the surface. This includes the co-moulded UltraCush™ Lite 3D outsole, which is an enhancement over the technology on the original UltraRange silhouette.
The outsole forms the basis of the UltraRange 3D in that it provides the additional versatility required by its wearers for superior grip. A long way from the old school waffle rubber of yesteryear.
What I found most noticeable is how well the sneakers grip, in almost all situations. In fact, I would suggest that it feels more grippy under foot when worn through moist surfaces, as if the rubber reacts to the moisture for the additional grip. If ever you wanted peace of mind for traction for any outdoor activity, this is definitely it.
The UltraCush™ Lite 3D technology is blended with the UltraCush™ Lite, three-density foam. This reinforces the soft, cushioned fit for wearers. The really awesome feature about the merging technologies is that it’s all wrapped up in a sock-like inner.
Not only do you have the benefit of easily slipping into the shoe, for on-the-go wear, but the inner foam cushioning provides a snug fit thanks to the LuxLiner™ technology. This provides a near perfect fit for any foot, without the annoyance of having it pressed against your foot causing discomfort during longer periods in use. As a result of this, the silhouette doesn’t include the conventional lip, and it doesn’t have to. In fact, there isn’t much of a need for the laces either, which are there simply for stylistic purposes rather than any function.
Unlike the Slip-On silhouette, the UltraRange 3D offers a whole more support, which provides an ease of mind when moving, heavy lifting, or even skating.
All well said and done, but how does it feel? As I’ve already alluded to, the Vans design team carefully crafted the silhouette with the utmost precision for high-intensity usage. And you can feel the difference.
While the silhouette is lightweight, it also provides support and comfort you won’t get with many others sneakers. Walking is not that different from running, or any other activities for that matter. The difference is that the harder you push your UltraRange 3D, the more you feel the sneaker performing what it’s supposed to be doing.
When jumping or pushing down on the sneaker, you can feel the additional support from the soles of the shoes. When you’re walking in rough terrain, you can feel the extra grip going to work. From almost all angles, the sneaker is a sheer workhorse.
The Vans UltraRange 3D was labelled as Vans’ most technological advanced sneaker to date – and I can easily understand why.
Not only do you have the base Vans look, but the design has been enhanced to perform at the highest levels without giving away too much in terms of its looks, which is often the case for outdoor sneakers.
At a recommended retail price of R1,999, while not inexpensive, the silhouette isn’t over-priced either, and fits in with retail pricing across the range, even when compared against other high-end silhouettes from other brands.
For more images from Vans UltraRange 3D shoot, check it out here.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the experience with the Vans silhouette as much as I did, having the preconception that it’s solely for the hardcore skaters out there. But, having spent time with sneakers over a few weeks, I learned to appreciate all the finer details that the UltraRange 3D provides, both in terms of comfort, as well as functionality.