Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Skechers GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra

GoRun Ultra

GoRun Ride 3
Through a referral from Pete Larson at RunBlogger I was recently introduced to Skechers. They sent me the  GoRun Ultra, a cushioned trail runner also suitable for roads and GoRun Ride 3, a light weight trainer. Disclosure: The Ultras and GoRun Ride 3 were provided to me free of charge for the purpose of the review.

OK, you might snicker a bit Skechers, right. Well hang on a moment. As a bit of a run shoe snob, I have been watching with growing interest what they have been up to. Skechers over the last few years has built a Performance Division and a line of trail and road shoes the right way:
  • They have a free reign to innovate from the parent company
  • Top notch designs that make no outlandish claims and use innovative light materials
  • Signed America's top current marathoner the venerable Meb Keflezghi(4th at the last Olympic Marathon in his Skechers)... after Nike let the "old guy" go.
  • Provide value with reasonably priced top level shoes. The 2 models reviewed retail for $80.
  • A commitment to be nimble, to rapidly respond to the consumer ( check out their response to questions online), and to iterate shoes rapidly through feedback from on the run testing with a variety of runners, a crowd sourcing of design improvements  As a shoe geek I know this is true from the many comments on line from non star runners who have been involved in this process. In fact, they are also going to let me join the new product testing fun and my initial feedback has been responded to by their VP Technical Development. 
  • A goal to "make the most enjoyable shoes possible", above all else.
The Results/The Shoes
After all that what really counts is where the rubber or foam hits the road. As part of this review I was able to interview the Skechers VP Performance Division Technical Development to get insights into the design philosophy and the how's and why's of what I felt while running in GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra.

GoRun Ride 3
The Ride 3 is a  8.4 oz M9, 6.5 oz W7 road trainer with a 4mm heel toe drop w/o sock liner and 8mm with sock liner inserted. Midsole stack height without insole is 13mm forefoot, 19mm mid foot, 17 mm heel. Retail $80.
GoRun Ride 3
GoRun Ultra
The Ultra is a M9  9.1 oz, W7 7.1 oz, 4 mm drop  trail and road trainer with a 4mm heel toe drop w/o sock liner or 8mm with sock liner inserted. Midsole stack height without insole is 23mm forefoot, 30 mm mid foot, 27 mm heel. Retail $80.
GoRun Ultra
Common Shared Themes & Differences 

Upper and Fit:
While the materials vary a bit, both shoes have a very comfortable easy to lace hold on the mid foot area. I usually fuss a lot getting the right lacing pressure but with both shoes the upper wraps smoothly from toe to lace tie. I think this is part due to the use of a non stretch nylon on the sides of the upper up to the lace eyelets on either side, sidewalls if you will, that maintain the foot on the midsole and direct the stride in the direction of travel. Both shoes have a very soft stretchy mesh on top of the toes forward of the last laces, far to soft for an entire forefoot but just right to allow the foot to splay in the wide toe box and due to the sidewalls of non stretch material without the sloppiness of the hold of the foot to midsole I find in shoes such as Kinvara.

The Ultra has a conventional heel counter to provide more stability on off counter trails. The Ride 3 has no heel counter at all just a bit of a rise of the midsole to wrap the heel. I was concerned about this but don't miss the heel counter at all. Additionally, the tongue is part of the upper on the Ultra, similar in construction to the adidas energy boost. This helps the whole upper to come together over the foot, keeps the tongue from sliding to the lateral side and help prevents dirt and debris from sneaking in.

Interestingly in this day and age of welded, taped upper construction the uppers on both are stitched with substantial overlays that seemingly do not create a weight penalty or a fit problem. It's all a very careful balance of design, materials, and construction that comes together "seamlessly" in my view.
Both fit me true to my size 8.5, maybe a bit big especially on the Ultra.

Midsole and Outsole: 
Essentially the midsole is the outsole on both shoes.
GoRun Ride 3 Outsole
The Ride 3 has some small circular rubber outsole wear patches, the Ultra none.
GoRun Ultra Outsole

Skechers believes that large harder rubber outsoles patches or lugs can interfere with the stride's natural state and can cause pressure points as would have the inclusion of a rock plate on the Ultra. Instead both shoes have round pods with Ultra also  having triangular lugs around the outside perimeter. I have found the ride incredibly smooth and quiet in both shoes. I never felt I was landing on a particular pod even on the deep pods and lugs of the Ultra.

The geometry of both is what Skechers calls convex leading to a mild rocker. This means that while the heel/toe drop without the insole is 4mm the midsole is actually 2-3mm higher under the midfoot at what Skechers calls the M-Strike. This similar to what Pearl Izumi does with their E:Motion line but in the case of Skechers they do not rely on a gap under the toe area to create the rocker effect or have a steep slope up of the forefoot as Hoka does. Think of this rocker as at the top of the midsole level and not at the outsole level, a key difference from the other two "rockers". The higher mid foot is not noticeable standing.

Both shoes are finished with insole fabric under where one typically finds an insole/sockliner. They are also supplied with a conventional molded sock liner. . I have not tried to run barefoot in either shoe. This means the runner can chose to go without the insole for a 4 mm drop shoe or use the insole to add a net of 4mm of drop or a total of 8mm heel to toe and a bit more cushioning and stability. The sock liner is 3mm thick at the toe and 7mm thick at the heel. A nice touch to provide such drop flexibility. All my runs have been with the sock liner in as I prefer a 6-8 mm drop shoe

GoRun Ultra Midsole
I was concerned that New England rocky,  rooty trails might be painful in the Ultra given the lack of either a rock plate or an outer sole per say but this has not been the case. The advantage of this design along with deep lugs and grooves in the Ultra midsole is that the front of the shoe is flexible and agile while also being more than adequately cushioned and stable for all but the most technical trails. It turns out the gray midsole material the Resagrip is quite dense, maybe close to the density of  Pearl Izumi's overly firm (in my view)  midsole, but in the Ultra the firm midsole/outsole close to the ground is overlaid with a softer midsole material, the black material in the picture,. This material also serves as a bumper to hold the foot onto the footbed on twisty surfaces, a bit of a less extreme version of Hoka's "bucket seat". I think the bumper could be a touch more accentuated or the upper wrap a bit more under the forefoot for a bit more forefoot hold on very technical trails.

The Ultra had great grip on snow, leaves, and rock. And then miracle of miracles, on the road it is as smooth and "lug and slap free" as any road shoe with a very cushioned yet not mushy ride.

I am a bit concerned by long term wear of the soft outsole in road usage, one lug at the heel is wearing fast. Skechers suggests that the natural pattern of my stride asks for this pod to wear faster until I achieve a balance. I have seen accelerated wear in other shoes in particular places on the outsole then far less after a certain mileage. Like any design choice, the decision to not have hard rubber wear areas is a fine balance of feel, weight, and longevity. For now I am going with it.

The Ride has a single density midsole, in my view close in firmness to that of the Kinvara but softer than E:Motions but with a far more stable landing and takeoff due to the combination of supportive upper,wide stance, and rounded tightly spaced pods instead of sharp angled soft lugs. The circular pods are not noticeable when running. I have taken runs as long as 12 miles in the Ride with no unusual leg pains and certainly no blisters.

Time to Run and Conclusions

To date I have 35 152 miles of trail and road in the Ultra and 20 miles of road in the Ride 3. I have a hard time selecting which to run roads in: the smooth cushioned yet flexible Ultra or the faster sure footed Ride. It has been very cold here in NH , 15 F and below but I have been pleased that the midsoles do not seem to get as hard as most in these temperatures.

One thing is for sure the trail Ultra with its great cushioning, light weight, and flexibility. It runs as well as any road trainer or even light weight trainer. Very, very versatile addition to my rotation and one that has quickly replaced the adidas energy boost and Hoka Rapa Nui as my long run shoe on any surface. My only concern is outsole durability but keep in mind the price is also right for the Ultra, $80. Given that the Ultra is only 0.6 oz heavier than the Ride, and well under 10oz, such a combination of cushion and light weight is very appealing for not only trail Ultras but as a marathon shoe for a hilly course. Clearly a worthy competitor to Hoka in the very cushioned category, without the "clown shoe" look. The Ultra is also competition to the slightly heavier but far stiffer adidas energy boost that has been my favorite road shoe this year due to the boost material.

The Ride 3 is a solid lighter weight trainer with a great smooth feel. Its strong points are more than adequate cushioning,light weight, and great value. I will certainly be considering it for my Boston this spring as well as for races 10K and up.

All in all I am very impressed with Skechers Performance Division shoes and can't wait for more innovation and tuning of the products as time goes on.

Another review of the Ultra by Nate Sanel over on Runblogger. Has more photographs than mine and is well done and complete.

You can support my blog by purchasing the Skechers reviewed at the links below.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground SG - Castleberg Outdoors Review

Castleberg Outdoors in the UK has just posted a video review of S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground. I first saw and posted about  this deeply lugged version of the Sense at this past summer's Outdoor Retailer. Looks like a great choice for snow and mud running.

Castleberg is saying they will have limited stock in January. I have ordered from Castleberg in the past and it has been a smooth and fairly reasonably priced way to buy product not yet available in the US. Not sure yet if US retailers will have January stock but suspect some may.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Canadian Running Magazine: Great Sneak Peak of 2014 Running Shoes from The Running Event

Through a tip from Patrick over on the Running Geeks Facebook group I see Canadian Running has a great preview, with pictures, of 2014 run shoes.

Source: Canadian Running Magazine http://runningmagazine.ca/a-sneak-peak-at-2014-shoes/

The trend seems to be towards more cushion a la Hoka with Brooks Pure Flow, Pearl Izumi N2 Trail, and NF Hybrid Trail Road all appearing to show more stack height.

Adidas is moving all its running shoes to Boost material. I have reviewed the original Energy Boost here and Adios Boost here and they are fabulous shoes in large part due to their innovative midsoles. The Boston and Glide Boosts look particularly good with the Glide Boost appearing to dispense with the EVA/Boost sandwich of the first version just now coming on sale.

Skechers, an up and coming performance brand, is showing a road trail hybrid version of their Ultra. I am running in the trail Ultra and finding it a strong performer on the road, as is. Review soon.

New Balance is showing a trail version of its Fresh Foam for this summer. I got a sneak peak this summer of the road version here that looked particularly neat which should be out this spring.

Altra is showing a very stripped down racing flat and a super cushioned zero drop shoe.

No pictures of upcoming Hokas. but over on another Running Geeks post I saw 2 new models the Clifton and Huaki for later in 2014, both under 10 oz size 9 US, a first for Hoka. They appear to be using the sole geometry of the soon to launch Conquest, preview here.

You can see the gallery over at Canadian Running here

Monday, December 02, 2013

Winter Gift Guide for Runners

OrangeMud Transition and Seat Wrap
Every runner can use one of these handy quick change and car seat cover OrangeMud Transition Wraps. Super soft terry towel material.  I love mine, review here. MSRP $39.95. While you are at Orange Mud check out there HydraQuiver no bounce bottle pack reviewed here.

OrangeMud Transition Wrap

Helly Hansen Warm
I received a free sample Helly Hansen Warm top at Outdoor Retailer last year and it was my go to run and ski top in the heart of last winter.
Helly Hansen Warm Odin Top
Helly Hansen has created a 2 layer fabric of hollow fabric Lifa polypropylene on the inside and merino wool on the outside with no sense that there are actually two layers. The inner layer keeps you dry and the outer wool layer keeps you warm and evaporates the moisture.  Even on relatively warm days it stayed comforatable The poly pro, unlike the Lifa of old is very stink proof. Available in many styles for men and women. Fits snug. MSRP $100.

Wool Cap
When it is not to cold for a full hat but cool enough to want to keep the head warm there is nothing like a wool cycling cap. I have the Ibex Muni Reflective Cap, $45. Made of a thin felted wool, including the brim, it provides good wind protection and wicks very well. The brim also shields a bit from winter sun. Style is a bit less run and a bit more urban cool.
Ibex Muni Reflective Cap

WildThings Custom Made to Order Jackets
Create a truly unique gift. I just posted about these custom made to order jackets for men and women at very reasonable prices. Pick fabric, colors (for shell, zippers, liner, cuffs, pockets) , add features such as hood or pocket, personalize all for $229 for the Insulight model.  Order by Dec.6 and receive in 14 days. Made in the USA.

WildThings Made to Order Jackets

UltrAspire Spry Vest
Give a gift of safety with the UltraViz Spry Race Vest, review here. High visibility and just enough carrying capacity for everyday longer runs. MSRP $55.
UltraSpire Ultra Viz Spry

Ashmei Socks and Merino Sweatshirt Full Zip Hoody

Finally some "luxe" run items where incredible quality, unique modern design, and innovative materials all come together. Ashmei is a UK company producing run clothing and accessories from "bespoke" materials, mostly merino and merino carbon blend fabrics unique and thus, bespoke or custom to Ashmei in Brit speak.

I got a 3 pack (approx. $54)  of the Trail Run socks at a review discount earlier this year. They also have a road run lighter weight models as well as short versions of both.
Ashmei Trail Socks
I have run in the socks as well as worn them literally every day use since then. They are wearing better and feel better than any sock I have ever had and have had no blisters or damp feet  and this in varied conditions from heat to cold. The Carbon fibers help move moisture better than any other element.

I also have their Merino Sweatshirt.
Ashmei Merino Sweatshirt
This $163 approx. full zip hooded sweatshirt has proved incredible versatile in varying conditions. A bit heavier than a tech shirt with a bit of stretch, smooth on the outside and a with a bit of texture to the inside,  it features a great hood, both thumb holes and a built in mitts, a hip pocket that holds a iPhone 5 with rear cord port, cord holder by the neck, small ipod or gel pocket in the rear and gripper silicone tape along the hem. Modern styling and available in men's and women's versions.
Ashmei ships to the US.