Saturday, July 01, 2017

Skechers Performance GORun Ultra Road 2 Review: The Bentley of Cushioned Trainers

Article by Peter Stuart and Sam Winebaum

Skechers Performance GORun Ultra R 2
Category: Light weight, highly cushioned trainer
Stack Height: 34mm in the heel and 30mm in the forefoot. (including sockliner)
Weight: 8.6 oz/244 grams for a men’s size 9.
MSRP: $115. Available July 2017
Photo: Skechers Performance
Peter: I was very fond of the Skechers GoRun Ultra Road 1 despite the fact that I should have despised it. It was heavy and I hate heavy shoes. It was cushy and I lean towards more minimal shoes. On paper it wasn’t a good shoe for me at all. Despite all of that, I enjoyed running in them. For easy and recovery runs it was a really enjoyable shoe.

This update makes it a KILLER shoe. Skechers GORun Ultra R 2 is nearly 2 ounces lighter, features a different outsole and is a lot of fun to run in.  
Sam: the R 2 defines a new standard in light, super cushioned, and lively trainers. Fast or slow the R2 is a delight to run if a bit stiff.

Left to Right; Skechers GO Run R2  version 1 through final prototype
Sam I participated in the wear testing of the Ultra R2  evaluating more than 4 different versions on the way to production. Skechers has done a fabulous job developing a very light shoe that fits well, is super cushioned and runs spritely with decent flex and great stability and this despite the massive 34 mm heel/30 mm forefoot overall stack.  
Per my Sam's Ratio of adding forefoot and heel stack and dividing by weight in ounces it has one of the highest ratio of cushion stack to weight I have ever measured at 7.44, very close to the original and for my tastes overly soft Hoka Clifton. Highly recommended as a light maxi cushioned shoe for all paces and distances.

UPPER
The upper is a “virtually seamless” flat knit material. It’s soft, holds the foot well and seems to be plenty ventilated. It is dense and quite warm.
Photo: Skechers Performance

Peter: In terms of appearance, they don’t have the sexy, silky appeal of the Nike Zoom Fly, and they still suffer from the usual Skechers graphic design issues. I think some of the Hoka shoes look great, but I’ve never found one I love running in. Skechers is the opposite. I really enjoy running in some of their shoes, but haven’t found one that’s great looking yet. Obviously this is a personal preference thing. I don’t love the logo, and I think the shoes could look sleeker. Once you get past that, the upper is terrific. There’s a “quick fit” tab on the back for quickly getting the shoe on and off, the ankle collar is nicely padded. The tongue feels good and they do a solid job of holding the foot. They fit true to size.
Sam: The upper is Skechers flat knit technology which eliminates the need for any overlays. The toe bumper is knit as well and infused with some stiffener.  And this upper works and most importantly fits very well. No overly snug areas anywhere, no loose areas, a consistent and smooth fit from heel to toe. During the testing the upper changed very little from the initial prototype as far as I was concerned. The midsole and outsole that is a different story...

MIDSOLE
Peter: The GoRun Ultra Road 1 had a dual density midsole with “impulse pillars” on the bottom of the shoe. They’ve ditched the dual density and bring on a single density 5GEN midsole with a nearly full-contact outsole.
Sam: The initial R2 prototype was very soft and flexible.  It felt like running in quick sand and I said so!  The next prototypes were considerably firmer and also very stiff, close to impossible to flex at all. Firmer I did not mind at all but the stiffness was a show stopper as although the shoe had a rocker profile it was cumbersome to toe off. The next prototypes and production brought into the picture a somewhat softer midsole of 5GEN and flex grooves across the forefoot midsole and outsole. Bingo!

The first version left was almost impossible to flex and hard to get off the toes. The final version is very decently flexible for such as a high stack shoe.
OUTSOLE

Photo: Skechers Performance
Peter:  The pillars are gone and in their place are a nice “full coverage parametric web” rubber outsole. There’s a hole cut out in the back third of the outsole which, I imagine, helps the shoe shave some weight. One of the things I really like about Skechers is that they don’t seem to be hamstrung by their own technology. A few years ago, they were firmly entrenched the m-strike and impulse pillar technologies, and they’re willing to let go of those in the pursuit of a better riding shoe. This is a huge strength, and I think it allows them to progress in a way that a Newton or even an Altra might not. The outsole here grips the road really well and delivers a very smooth transition through the gait cycle.

The heel rubber is thin but so far has had excellent durability. If need be Shoe Goo can be your friend  on such an outsole configuration.

The forefoot has three fairly shallow flex grooves in the outsole which also are depressed into the midsole.
Left: 1st version no Flex grooves
Right: Final version with 3 flex grooves in the outsole and into the midsole
Three cavities on each side of the midsole also facilitate flex and also help with drainage. Note also that the R2 has a considerable front rocker.
Peter: For a relatively soft shoe, there’s very little, if any, loss of energy at the forefoot.

RIDE
Peter: There’s no doubt about it, the GOrun Ultra R2  is a cushy shoe. It’s bouncy, light and doesn’t offer a ton of ground feel. What it does offer is a very smooth ride that feels both lively and protective. The surprise about this shoe is that it picks up to higher speeds really nicely. I found myself going much faster at the end of my runs in the GOrun Ultra R2 than I would have expected. The GOrun Ultra R2 s fluid at any speed (unlike the Zoom Fly which only feels really fluid to me in a narrow pace range). The ride is what I would hope Hoka’s or ON’s would feel like—but don’t.

Sam: I agree with Peter. This is one heck of a smooth and well cushioned ride that isn't afraid to pick up the pace or run slow without feeling unstable or overly soft. The R2 is very light on the foot for such a big stack and runs lighter than its weight. The underfoot feel reminds me of the Nike Zoom Fly, maybe a bit less speedy but more versatile not only for different paces but due to its wider heel landing for  heel strikers such as me whereas the Zoom Fly's heel had to be run "just right'.

RECCOMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
Sam: I think R2 is an excellent shoe for long runs at all paces except maybe all out.
Skechers worked very hard on this shoe and I was honored to participate in its development. The simple construction of a single density midsole and simple full contact outsole demonstrates great design.  They spared no expense in trying even slightly different midsole firmness foam and improving flexibility to get it right.

It could be improved by having a slightly lower forefoot stack and thus a bit higher drop than its current 4mm to improve road feel, toe off, and flexibility . Who says a 4mm drop is sacred.! I worry a bit about the thin outsole rubber but so far its durability has been excellent. The toe off despite the flexibility and rocker is a bit labored for me.

Their uppers are truly the class of knit uppers, all of a piece requiring no additional overlays or cords.. The advantages of knit uppers are their consistent feel and foot hold from heel to toe, less manufacturing waste and more consistency in production. The R2 clearly accomplishes all of these goals.
The R2 is clearly a strong alternative to the Hoka Clifton 4 as it is 0.75 oz lighter has a superior upper and a more energetic midsole that is more stable at the heel and livelier overall.

Peter: I highly recommend the Skechers Performance GOrun Ultra R2  It’s a terrific compliment to the lighter, faster GoRun 5 and the firmer Razor (RTR comparison review of both here). For easy days or days that you just don’t feel like getting beat up, they’re a terrific shoe. They run well at slow speeds and they pick up to speed nicely. I wouldn’t necessarily race in them, but I would wear them in pretty much any other situation. They strike a great balance of firmness and cushion.

Skechers is killing it this year. The Razor is a terrific tempo and race shoe and the GoRun 5 is super fun. Rounding your collection out with the GoRun Ultra Road 2 is a great idea. For me they nail the light/highly cushioned category in way that Hoka hints at but doesn’t quite achieve.

The Bentley reference, by the way, is that they are a plush looking shoe with lots of cushion that have a surprising amount of power under the hood.  Now if they could just make them look a little better…

Sam's Score: 9.8/10

-0.2 for transition to toe off awkwardness, stiffness and lack of road feel.  A slightly lower forefoot stack and as a result more overall heel toe drop leading to more feel and flexibility would improve the R 2.
Peter's Score: 9.8/10
It's hard to beat this shoe for recovery days and easy runs.
-.01 for slight mushiness. The shoe could maybe be a teeny, tiny bit firmer.
-.01 As usual, I wish they looked a little cooler.

COMPARISONS
Skechers  GOrun Ultra R2 vs. Hoka Clifton 4 (RTR review)
Sam: The R2 is clearly aimed dead on at the popular Clifton. While greatly improved, I still find the Clifton soft and its midsole less dynamic than R2. I still struggle with the not particularly stable and soft heel landing of the Clifton 4 although its firmer midsole is a great improvement. While stiffer, the transition and toe off in the Clifton at speed is slightly better. Clifton 4's new engineered mesh upper is a big improvement but is snugger it not always the right places and just not as refined as R2's knit.
Peter: No real contest here for me--especially running in the Clifton back-to-back with the GoRun R 2. In the Clifton I feel like I land on a huge arch section and have to work to get off of it. The ride is mushy and, as Sam says, unstable. The R 2 bounces through the stride and feels very relaxed at easy paces but gives a bit of energy back when I speed up.

Skechers GOrun Ultra R2 vs. Nike Zoom Fly (RTR review)
Sam: I see the Zoom Fly as the closest comparison. Their cushioning feel is very similar.  Only a fraction of an ounce lighter, the Zoom Fly does have a more dynamic toe off due to its stiff plate and lower forefoot stack but also is far less versatile at slower paces due to its pointed heel landing and overall stiffness. At $35 less and with for me a superior upper and more versatile geometry I would recommend the R2  before the Zoom Fly as a trainer for most. The Zoom Fly I would pick for marathon racing and tempo if your form is able to use the stiff plate effectively by driving forward and up with good knee lift and drive.
Peter: Sam, I think these are pretty different shoes. The Zoom Fly is SO FIRM. Stack heights are somewhat similar, but the Fly is much less forgiving. The firmness of the R 2 is somewhere between the Clifton and the Zoom Fly. Agree, this is a better all around trainer, but the Zoom fly is a faster shoe.

Skechers  GOrun Ultra R2 vs. Nike Pegasus 34 (RTR review)
Sam: The Peg is a more responsive traditional riding trainer and a heavier one by 1.5 oz. Its cushioning is firmer. It is easier to run fast for me, if as Peter says a bit more sluggishly so but is not nearly as forgiving on the legs.
Peter: I may actually prefer the ride of the R2 to the Pegasus!!! The Pegasus, in direct comparison, feels like it is a little more sluggish--especially in the roll through to toe off.

The Gorun Ultra R 2 is coming in July 2017

The Ultra was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.


Peter Stuart's Bio. My running career got off to a slow start…in high school I was told I ran like a race walker and was thus relegated to race walking on the track team. I got back into running about 15 years ago and then into triathlon. Triathlon really rekindled my love for running, so about two years ago I hired a coach and really focused on the half and full marathons.  I broke a bad habit of putting in tons of moderately hard miles (and no easy or hard ones) and after plateauing at 3:25 (with some disastrous marathons in there), this past year I brought my marathon under 3:00 and my half under 1:25. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a shoe problem.

Sam Winebaum's Bio. Sam is a 1:38 half marathoner on a good day and doesn't mind at all going into a new decade age group in 2017. He runs approximately 40 miles per week. He is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run and has been running for 45 years and has a very dated marathon PR of 2:28. Sam is also the Senior Contributing Editor for Wearable Fitness Technology and Music at Competitor Magazine.


Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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9 comments:

julius hernandez said...

How do you think this shoe compares to the hoka hupana? Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you.

sam winebaum said...

Hi Julius,
Thank you for writing
While about the same weight the Hupana being a bit lighter they run quite differently. The R2 is clearly more cushioned and stiffer and not quite as agile or bouncy. The Hupana is a livelier ride but for sure is not super cushioned as R 2 is. I would give a slight nod to the R 2 upper as it is a bit more accommodating yet still very well held foot.
Sam. Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run.! You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated.

julius hernandez said...

Thank you so much for the quick response I appreciate it.

Ryan Schneider said...

Hi Sam, thanks for the great review. Unless I'm reading it wrong, it sounds like the GORun Ultra R2 and Saucony Zealot ISO 3 are similar shoes ("flexible, soft, yet with good rebound", etc.). Do you feel that one shoe is superior to the other? Which do you prefer? Thanks!

Ryan

sam winebaum said...

Hi Ryan, Thanks for writing! The Zealot ISO 3 is definitely more flexible than R2 largely due to its lower stack and more deeply grooved midsole outsole. It is also for sure not the maxi cushion of the R2 while still being a softer shoe. The rebound is a bit different in that the Zealot is softer it seems in midsole foam with a firmer thicker outsole while the R2 is consistent in its firmness and rebound maybe a touch firmer foam with a thin outsole. A matter of taste. While Zealot has a very fine upper the R 2 upper gets the nod for me for its consistent hold. As I prefer less stack in my shoes than the R2 as a general rule and for versatility I would give the nod to the Zealot ISO 3.
Sam, Editor

Ryan Schneider said...

Thank you, Sam. Super helpful!

Best,

Ryan

Michael Avestro said...

Sam - I'm looking strictly for a long run / recovery run replacement shoe for my rotation and was looking at your comments about the Zealot ISO 3 and the R2. I understand your comments (and preferences) about the Zealot's versatility over the R2. If I'm looking strictly for a shoe for those LSD days, would you then recommend the R2 over the Zealot? For reference, the other shoes in my rotation are the Altra Escalante and the Skechers GoMeb Razor.

Love the reviews here - very insightful. Keep up the great work!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for reading and writing! I would recommend the R2 as a recovery long run shoe understanding that it is stiffer than the Zealot and also has less rubber so longevity may be a minus vs. Zealot.
Sam, Editor

Σπύρος said...

The problem with knit uppers is that they don't breathe as well as the usual mesh.