Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review Skechers GORun Ultra Road-Max Cushion with a Innovative Well Ventilated, Supportive Knit Upper

The Skechers GORun Ultra Road is a special shoe for special conditions: hot or wet weather and long miles on the road. According to Running Warehouse it weighs 10.4oz (295 grams) for a US size 9 M with a 32mm heel/ 27mm forefoot stack, a very respectable weight for such cushioning. Also available for women.  Unlike some previous Skechers the insole does not add 4mm of drop. Very fairly priced at $115 it is available now.  It fits me true to size, if a bit big.
Skechers GORun Ultra Road
Development Process
I was lucky to be involved in the wear testing for this shoe, testing multiple versions. From the basis of their very popular GoRun Ultra, a very flexible, light and well cushioned shoe with only midsole and no outsole Skechers saw and I did too, that many were running this fine shoe on the road and wearing them down fast (Our review of the GoRun Ultra 1 here) .
So a a road version was conceived but with a twist that the shoe would have as a focus very long hot weather races such as 135 mile Badwater and the 246km Spartathlon in Greece.
Through the process, I saw two constants: use of an innovative all knit, very breathable single layer upper and adding GOimpluse Sensor wear pads. What changed along the way was tweaking of the threads used in the knit upper, generally a bit softer, adjustments to the Goimpluse Sensors and their firmness, moving flex areas, and especially making the production version more cushioned with more stack height than the initial prototypes I tried.  More on this later but below a picture of the first prototype I ran and the production version.

Gray production version Left . Black 1st prototype Right  Note lower stack height of the Black
The Upper
I say The Upper as this is one heck of an innovative and fine upper. It is all knitted without seams, no liner except a small underlay between the last lace hole area and the midsole on both sides for support  and stability of the forefoot behind the ball of the foot. It can be run barefoot.  The knitting is variable in density throughout the upper to serve different purposes: breathability, support, wear areas, draining of water.  As Skechers puts it: 

"The inspiration for the Go Run Ultra Road came from Ultra runners who train and race during hot summer months, when comfort over an entire 135 mile race is critical.   We chose this knit technology specifically for the GRUR since we knew that through design, we could maximize air flow over the foot while providing necessary structure for distance running. " 

To illustrate the variable knit densities I lit the shoe from the inside in the photos below.

Illuminating the Skechers GORun Ultra Road Upper

Illuminating the Skechers GORun Ultra Road Upper

Unlike adidas Prime knit in the Ultra Boost (review here) or Nike Flyknit, the GoRun Ultra Road's upper is not stretchy. It is also less dense where breathability and draining is required yet the foot is still well supported by the rest of the knit structure. It is a roomy upper with plenty of overhead toe room. The heel is decently held but not quite as well as I would like likely due to a fairly wide foot entry collar.  Recalling the purpose of long hot road miles all that extra room is appropriate for swelling feet. The Ultra Road is supplied with 2 laces: a stretchy lace and a non stretch lace, nice touch for flexibility. I used the non stretch lace to get a better snugger fit and laced to the last hole. 

Midsole and Outsole
The 32mm heel/27mm forefoot stack sits somewhere between a Hoka Clifton 2 29/24  (review here) and Hoka Conquest 2 34/30.  The midsole is made of two layers: the white layer underfoot a relatively soft 40C hardness foam, with below a thinner layer of gray 55 C Skechers Resalyte foam. This is a maxi-cushioned shoe for sure.
Drain holes are placed on both sides towards the rear of the shoe with perforations at the rear of the insole as well.

Skechers GORun Ultra Road

The outsole Goimpulse Sensors are of two firmnesses. What I would call the "standard" 65C firmness in the heel as many shoe companies go with for wear and a relatively soft 50C  outsole in the forefoot for better flexibility. Wear so far has been excellent.
Skechers GORun Ultra Road

The forefoot feels great, soft,  flexible in the all right places and surprisingly responsive for such a thick cushion. Far less of that need to rock to move feeling of the Hokas. Feels like a normal shoe in terms of push off although highly cushioned.
Skechers GORun Ultra Road
The heel landing is a different story. Despite the firm rubber pods it is soft, too soft for me, a touch ponderous feeling especially at slow speeds and softer than the initial prototype which had less midsole height. I think this may be due to the following reasons: the pods are set inwards of the back of the shoe making the landing forces land first on the softer midsole below, the outsole does not cover the entire rear of the shoe and along with the bevel of the heel may contribute to this soft feeling as it did for me in the Clifton 1 (but less so in the Clifton 2 where the harder rubber seems to help put some pop in the heel area), and finally heel landers such as me may have difficulty getting "past" the somewhat higher M-Strike mid foot midsole height given the softness and the 4mm drop including insole, a change from prior Ultras where with included insole drop was 8mm. Another somewhat similar "ultra" shoe the adidas Ultra Boost has a nice fluid landing and roll forward due to its Torsion system with more heel toe drop.  All of this said, mid or forefoot strikers are likely to feel a different story, especially if they can quickly get on the M-Strike area in front of the heel. 

Ride and Recommendations
The Skechers GORun Ultra Road is a great alternative to the "H" brand's offerings or the adidas Ultra Boost for those seeking a highly cushioned road shoe at a a relatively low weight and at a very fair price. For me, as quite the heel striker,  its only achilles "heel" is the heel, very soft at slower paces with some effort to get forward to toe off, which once one is there, is fantastic for such a massive stack of cushion.  The innovative and highly breathable knit upper looks great and works as intended. Designed for long, hot or wet weather road runs and ultra races at slower paces, the Road Ultra fits that bill. Super comfortable to wear around they can also be a great recovery run shoe. 

The GORun Ultra Road was provided to RoadTrailRun at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
The GORun Ultra Road is available from Running Warehouse: Men's here Women's here. Purchases through these links help support RoadTrailRun. 

Running Warehouse has great customer service policies:

  • Free 2 Day Shipping and Return Shipping
  • 90 Days No Sweat Returns
  • $9.95 Overnight Shipping 1-4 Lbs


stevespeirs said...

Interesting idea to target long, hot weather events. I wonder how much demand there will be for the shoe?

Also, I tried clicking on the Men's link to Running Warehouse, but it just reloaded the shoe review page.

Sam Winebaum said...

Steve Peirs, thanks for calling my attention to the missing Running Warehouse links. Fixed. I think the long hot weather focus is a "statement" much as Hoka originally said they wanted to create a running shoe that functioned like a downhill full suspension mountain bike when running rough downhills, and they did. I am sure Ultra Road has been used for these long races. For the rest of us it is a fine option, to Hoka, for those seeking maxi cushion but with also great ventilation, at a very fair price. Competitor to shoes such as the Clifton and Bondi. Not a fast shoe for me.

stevespeirs said...

Price looks good. Just wish it was a bit lighter and more in line with the Clifton. Thanks for the reply!

Unknown said...

Nice review Sam. Just got the Clifton 2's.... damn these look tempting too :)

miki said...

Hi Sam

I'd like to share with you and your readers my experience with the Go Run Ultra Road.

I run only on pavements, about 50-60 miles a week. About 3 years ago I began sufferung pain in my right big toe, and the diagnosis was Hallux Limitus. The doctor recommended highly cushioned shoes and custom orthotics (I have high arches), so I began running in Hokas (Bondi, Stinson, and Huaka). They are great shoes, and were a big help, but somewhat narrow in the toe box.

Your review of the Skechers was very tempting, but I was worried that the infamous "hump" (the M-Strike), together with my orthotics, would aggravate my arches. After exchanging mails with you, in which you gave me very detailed analysis and advice, I bought a pair. I'm very glad to tell you, that your advice proved to be very accurate: the cushioning is great, the toe box width is fantastic (not too wide but enough room for the toes), and I don't even know the M-Strike is there. In short - following your advice has made my running enjoyable again.

Thanks again for your help. Looking forward to reading more of your reviews.


Unknown said...

What's the sizing like? I typically go up a half in most shoes (9.5 in the Launch, Launch 2 and Ghost 7). OTOH, the GR Ride 4 was perfect in a 9. And unfortunately, I can't use shoeftr anymore. Thanks!

Sam Winebaum said...

Bruce, I went true to size and due to the high volume, well held up by the knit found my true to size a bit roomy for my taste and certainly roomier than the Ghost 7 and Launch 2 both shoes I have run at true to size and found a bit snug but not overly so. Hope this helps. Thanks for reading! You can also find RoadTrailRun on Facebook and Twitter.

amadeus303 said...

Sam - can you compare this shoe to the "regular" GoRun 4 or GoRun Ride? This will be the first year I am tackling the marathon distance, and I'm looking for something with a bit more protection that still has reasonable flexibility (I know that's a bit of a paradox). The GoRun series (3 & 4) have been my go to race day shoes for all distances up to half mary's and HIMs. Is it somewhat accurate to say that the Ultra Road is *like* a heavily cushioned GoRun? For reference, I've found Hoka's to be way too stiff for my preferences. As someone that has suffered 5th metatarsal stress fractures and other foot injuries, Hoka's tend to aggravate my feet in all the wrong places due to their narrow mid and forefeet.

Thanks for your great detailed review!