It is hard to really put an exact time on when it happened, but Puma really kicked it up a notch in the running shoe space with the Hybrid midsole tech in H2 2018, when the first Hybrid midsole shoe, the Hybrid Runner Unrest arrived in stores. And 2019 was spent building on that, and rightly so. One of the outcomes from it is the Puma Hybrid Astro One8, which is priced at around Rs 8,799 and happily undercuts a lot of the new Adidas Pulseboost shoes—the shoes are priced around Rs 14,999. Let us not get bogged down by why Adidas found it prudent to confuse users with another “boost” when it already has Pureboost, Ultraboost and something known as Alphaboost—I really do not care how they differ from each other to be honest, but potential buyers confused with that web of intrigue can do well to turn their attention to the fantastic Puma Hybrid Astro One8. And save some money in the process.
Let me first start with what the Hybrid midsole is all about, and what it brings to the table. Puma’s Hybrid of the Ignite foam and the NRGY beads have proved, time and again, to be quite underrated. Sitting under your foot is a dual-layer midsole that offers a good amount of energy return as you run, but still retains a good amount of cushioning. It has stood the test of time as well. Since launch, I have regular worn the Puma Hybrid Runner Unrest, and a year and a bit more later, they still feel as supple and response as day 1. The NRGY beads are made of cushioned polyurethane foam, and apart from increasing the tech quotient, they add to the visual appeal too. These run the full length of the shoe, from heel to toe, and you’ll really notice the extra cushioning these offer on a hard surface.
This has a 12mm heel to toe drop (also known as offset) which you might take a couple of runs to get used to. The Hybrid Astro One8, unlike its sibling the Puma Hybrid Speed Orbiter doesn’t get PROPLATE, which is integrated within this midsole to provide that pushes your toe forward during foot transition. Instead, there is ProFoam, which is another layer in the midsole that helps with responsiveness.
The Netfit upper of the Hybrid Astro One8 still makes a lot of sense in running shoes. It is a sort of a netted mesh insert that that allows you to alter the lacing according to the sort of tucked-in feeling and support you want for your foot. Some of the options include the standard lacing method which will be ideal for most runners. For the more discerning, you can alter this for more support around the medial arch—some runners also use insoles which are designed to provide the same support. If you like it a bit more relaxed, you can take a wider line with the lacing for better breathability and more space for the foot inside the cockpit. Equally, if you prefer to have the shoe as an extension of the foot, you might want to compact things a bit so that the shoe adjusts the foot’s contours.
With everything going on beneath your foot, what Puma has managed is deliver a very responsive yet comfortable midsole. You’ll realise this the moment you slip your foot inside the Puma Hybrid Astro One8. There is that genuinely good amount of cushioning available, but it is at no point erring on the side of being too absorbing—there is a good amount of feedback as you run. But the feet feels less stressed and the calf muscles are more relaxed because of the very good shock absorption that the beads manage, which instead they turn into energy that assists your forward movements. There is a heel cage that adds further support. Flip the shoe over, and there is a split outsole design which adds to the flexibility and also allows for a rather elaborate tread pattern that really helps with the grip all through.
In terms of the aesthetics, the Puma Hybrid Astro One8 does very well. It is a visual delight, to be honest. You have a whole mix of colours, materials and finishes going on with the upper, but at no point does it feel cluttered or overwhelming. Instead, it all just comes together to look very good visually. And no, it has no elements which look like your editor has annotated something on a PDF file for further corrections or explanations—looking at you, the very unimaginatively named Adidas Ultraboost 19 or the Ultraboost 20.
The only real drawback of the really complex midsole and the Hybrid foam is that the Hybrid Astro One8 isn’t exactly the lightest shoe around. It tips the scales around 360 grams, which isn’t exactly a lot more than the Adidas Pulseboost HD which tips the scales around 340 grams. But at least with the Hybrid Astro One8, you are getting genuine smartness beneath your foot.
At this price, it really is hard to argue with what the Puma Hybrid Astro One8 offers. As a running shoe, it is punching much above what its price tag may indicate. And as we have established, it has more style and tech quotient than a lot of its rivals. If I may say so, the Puma Hybrid Astro One8, all things considered, is just a step behind the new Nike React Infinity Run (that’s priced around Rs 13,995) in terms of the tech and the experience. And the fact that it is priced as such, everything just falls into place.