It's been a while since I have written a product review of any kind and I've certainly tried a lot of new (and some not so new) products since my last blog post about running related products. Today, I am writing about one of the running shoes in my current rotation, another spin of the "never ending quest for the perfect running shoe carousel". The Skechers GOrun Ultra. This will be the first in a series of three shoe reviews. I call this the trail & road running shoe review in the space of shoes with maximum cushioning or "Hoka vs. Altra vs. Skechers".
There were a couple of reasons I opted to give these shoes a try. First, they came highly recommended from a couple of local ultra and long distance runners (both male and female), whom I look up to as a runner. Second, because of the sheer number of shoes I've gone through in said "quest", I appreciated the fact that these shoes were listed with an MSRP of only $80 USD. Skechers has since raised the MSRP to $90 USD, which I have never seen done before for a shoe that has barely been in the market and has not had had any upgrades to justify its price increase. I can only speculate that it is due to the strong demand this shoe has seen since its introduction just a couple of months ago.
I received my very own pair of GOrun Ultra men's running shoes in a size 10.5 just directly from the manufacturer's online store just a couple of days prior to the 2014 Mountain Mist 50K, a technically challenging trail ultra marathon. I had found a 20% off and free shipping coupon that made this a very economical purchase, to say the least. As is typical for me, I decided to try these shoes on race day. It's just something I do and I justify it by something I read online stating that "breaking in" new running shoes is no longer necessary due to the materials and manufacturing methods used today. More importantly, there is no better feeling than slipping on a brand spanking new pair of running shoes on race day morning. It somehow gives me a boost of self confidence and that extra boost coupled with a good training base (if I happened to train) makes for a great race.
I have attempted to summarize some of the product details provided by the manufacturer. The Skechers GOrun Ultra shoes come with an enhanced Resalyte cushioning midsole and a more rigid Resagrip outsole. According to various internet sources, Resalyte is an injection molded compound and Resagrip is a hardened version of Resalyte, but I am not going to be discussing different compounds and their chemical structures. This review will focus solely on my experience of running in these shoes. The manufacturer's description goes on to state that the GOrun Ultra shoes come with aggressive traction control GOimpulse sensors on the outsole to allow for superior control on any terrain. The shoes weigh in at 8.7 oz for a men's size 9 and a 4mm or 8 mm heel drop without or with optional insole, respectively. 4-way stretch on side panels adds comfort in a shoe that promotes a midfoot strike.
My first impression of the shoes straight out of the box? These shoes don't look like they are anywhere nearly as cushioned as the Hokas. But looks can be deceiving. While I didn't measure the stack height or the thickness of the midsole, I did notice upon further inspection that the top half of the midsole was the same color oas the upper of the shoe, thereby giving the impression that the height of the shoe is half of its actual height. It makes the shoe look less...uhm...Hokaish.
My second thought was just how light this shoe actually felt. It felt a lot less clunky than the last pair of Hokas when I pulled them out of their box. When I put them on my feet on race day, they felt great. The upper was soft and felt just right all around my foot. Having had serious reconstructive surgery in my left ankle (peroneus brevis tendon and sheath), I am acutely aware of any shoes that rise too high on the outside ankle bone. This was not the case in the GRUs. When I took off running, I noticed the springiness in the shoe, it felt like I had extra bounce in my step, it felt great. I kept running. 3 to 4 hours into my run, I started to pay closer attention to how my feet and legs felt. My limbs were starting to wear from the run, so if there were any issues with this shoe, they would start to appear soon. While the shoe continued to perform very well, I did notice on the more technical terrain sections, that the thing that makes these shoes great, the soft midsole, also presented a small issue on more technical terrain. I started to feel extremely pointy rocks in the bottom of my feet and that is not something someone with the occassional mild case of Morton's Neuroma wants. While the GRU is marketed as a long distance road AND trail shoe, I do believe it would benefit from an actual rock plate of sorts to minimize the impact on a runners feet on extremely technical terrain.
Overall, the shoes felt very stable on my feet. Only a prolonged side sloped section of trail started to give me the feeling of the sole of the shoe physically sliding sideways under my foot. Again, I believe this to be the result of the extremely soft midsole that provides such a soft ride overall. It is a trade-off I am willing to make at this point, but it is something I would want addressed in future models.
I also noticed that while the toebox didn't look any wider or roomier than other running shoes, I did not end up with any black toenails in my last two ultra marathon events, which is a clear indication to me that this shoe does indeed have a wider/larger toebox...which is a very good thing!
Overall, I give this show very high ratings for short and long distance runs, both on the road and on trails, but there is definitely room for improvement. First, a rock plate and a slighly firmer midsole might provide the protection and stability needed on any terrain, no matter how technical the surface. A firmer midsole might also extend the overall life of these shoes, which I currently would not expect to last anywhere near 400 miles, which shouldn't be expected for a shoe at this price point anyway. Second, I did end up with a small worn spot on the upper of my left running shoe, which initially only looked like a light abrasion in the shoe upper. However, the following run this tiny spot turned into a 2 inch gash in the upper (hard to see, but visible in picture above). No, I did not clip a rock or a root to cause this. But even with this experience, I still went ahead and purchased another pair to replace these. However, I did send my pair of used GRUs to the Skechers QA department in hopes that it will allow them to continue to improve the upper....and hopefully provide a replacement;-)