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.


HS said...

You had me at "snickers at skechers." Great write-up. Thanks

Anonymous said...

After reading your and Nate's reviews I am going to give the Ultra a try for my next trail shoe purchase. Sounds like a great design.

Nick Bradley said...

Great review Sam! Definitely giving these a go. I've got three ultra races in the first half of next year so these could be just the ticket.

Anonymous said...

I am currently running in the Go Run 2 and the Go Run Ride 2, and I love them both. I've run trails in both of them, but when I saw the Ultra I had to order it for trails. Since both the GR2 and the GRR2 are both 4mm drop shoes (with the sockliner), I'll probably pull the sockliner out of the Ultra for a 4mm drop experience. Really looking forward to receiving the Ultra!

Sam Winebaum said...

Anonymous, I think taking out the sock liner will make the Ultra's roomier so if you have a standard shoe size that is on the border of being big for you and/or have a narrow foot you might consider half a size down or somewhat thicker socks. I ran in a medium weight trail sock in my true to size 8.5 Ultra and they were perfect on the road and for my taste a bit roomy for rougher trails. If your purpose is Ultra length runs then swelling will likely fill them to size.

Anonymous said...

How does the GoRun Ultra cushioning compare to the Hoka Bondi and Rapa Nui? Are they ok for road use or designed for trail use? Thanks.

Sam Winebaum said...

GoRun Ultra is excellent on the road. Lug/Pods not noticeable at all for me. No slapping as no rock plats and midsole is really the outsole. Depending on how you "scuff" as you run you may see more rapid wear in places but Skechers said and I am tending to agree that one will wear "into" those spots. As far as trail performance great on moderate trails I have run so far. If you are agile, not me, should be good on more technical trails.The forefoot upper support is a bit light but that is also what makes it such a flexible shoe and great on the road.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the reply. As for the cushioning, do they come close to the cushioning of the Hoka shoes?

Sam Winebaum said...

Cushion is fairly close to the Rapa Nui, the more minimal Hoka. Not as mushy.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, do you think that GRR3 is for mild pronator (normal arch) foot?

Sam Winebaum said...

There is no posting or plastic pronation support. In my view most mild pronators don't really need it and are better off in a neutral shoe. My only concern might be the upper holding up as the foot collapses inward over time but here I see the GRR 3 have a approx 1" band of overlay along the lower medial side which I think is intended to help stabilize the upper. The M Strike area under the midfoot is a bit higher than the heel and may also help.

Brad said...

The Go Run Ultra seems to run about a 1/2 size large, even with the insole included. I typically wear a size 10.5, but needed to go with a size 10 in the GRU. That being said, the size 10 in the GRU fits me perfectly. Can you tell me if sizing in the GRR3 is the same? Should I plan to go down 1/2 size, like I needed to in the Ultra? Thanks Sam!

Sam Winebaum said...

Brad, I am true to size in both the Ultra and Ride 3 with Ultra feeling like it has a bit more volume. I do find the Ultra not so much to large in the toe box but a bit to unstructured upfront when combined with softish outsole/midsole for rougher trails. Fine on the road. Keep in mind that both have relatively wide toe boxes plus the stretchy mesh so the foot can splay.

Steve B. said...

Enjoyed your review Sam. I have close to 100 miles on my first pair of Ultras and love them. I have tried almost every cushioned shoe available and I would choose these over shoes twice the price. I too noticed early signs of wear on the very back lugs of the heel. I thought it might just be me dragging my heels, good to hear this is normal. I thought about getting a pair of GRR 3's thinking they might be more durable but after reading your review I believe I'll stick with the Ultras.

steve said...

49.99 at the Park City outlets tonight! Got the blue/yellow ones. Nice to find these over there. They didn't have the Ultra though.

Unknown said...

Hi Sam,
I am a heavy guy (23)+ lb, and a beginner runner, training for my first 5K/10K.
I'm considering buying one of the 3 Go Runs (GR3/GRR3/GRU3). I'm attracted to the bare foot concept, but have been experiencing some mild shin splits on my more intense workouts. I primarily run on roads.
Which would you suggest? Would appreciate your advise here!

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Rahul,
Shin splints very common for beginning runners and for all when you change surfaces, type of terrain, or increase mileage and intensity. Go easy and increase gradually. The near barefoot thing very over rated for most, IMO. We were not born to run barefoot on the road! I mix lightly cushioned with heavily cushioned depending on workout. What shoes are you running in now? Skechers currently available are mostly quite soft. Of the ones out there now the GRR3 or the new GR4 might be the best choices for roads. GRU 1 has no hard rubber patches and might wear quickly. Skechers will have new models which will address the wear and softness issues but not sure when they will ship.You might also consider adidas energy boost. Version 1, half size up on sale at a bunch of places. Not barefoot but extra cushion might help with shin splints. Also Hoka Huaka, low drop 2-4mm firmly cushioned so supportive but still a Hoka so road shock attenuated. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

hi sam,

what do you make of the statements a couple of places that the ultra has a 14mm heel-toe drop with the insole? does this seem remotely true to you? would be 10 without, but i think the shoe would be too loose on me then, though i could use a flat insole from another shoe. would you compare the feel of any of the goruns to kinvara, which i've found too mushy/sloppy?

btw, ultra on sale today on amazon for $52 minus 30% if you spend $100.


Sam Winebaum said...

I have not seen the 14mm drop cited for the Ultra. It does not feel like it has such a drop. It certainly runs as if lower. Not only the drop but the soft pliable midsole as outsole certainly does not give the sense one is on a steeply ramped platform. The upper is quite snug fitting, especially in the forefoot, snugger than the GR Ride 3. This said I found the fairly minimal upper and the soft midsole better on the road than on trails and especially rougher trails.

Anonymous said...

thanks. so the problem with trails was mainly getting bruised or stabbed by sharp rocks etc.?

have you also run in the gorun 3 in addition to these two?

Sam Winebaum said...

The GRU was not the best for me on rougher trails, too pliable and the upper not quite supportive enough especially on side hill angles. On smooth trails ( minimal rocks and roots) just fine.