Friday, August 16, 2019

Skechers Performance GOrun Max Road 4 Hyper Multi Tester Review

Article by Jeff Beck, Derek Li, Peter Stuart, Hope Wilkes, and Sam Winebaum

Skechers Performance GOrun Max Road 4 Hyper ($125)


Introduction
Sam: The Max Road 4 Hyper is Skechers most cushioned Hyper Burst foam equipped shoe to date. With a midsole outsole stack height of 28mm heel, 22 mm forefoot, 37/31 including board and sockliner and a 6mm drop it is clearly a maximal shoe yet with a weight of 8.4 oz it is remarkably light.  
The process for creating Hyper Burst foam also found in the GOrun 7, Speed Elite, and likely soon other Skechers is described by them as follows:


"HYPER BURST™ is a new midsole foam technology that is completely different than any foam Skechers Performance™ has ever created.  A “super critical™” foam, the new and innovative mechanical foaming process creates thousands of spherically-shaped cells in a very tight format. This closed-cell structure creates a midsole material that is the lightest and most resilient that Skechers Performance™ has ever made.

Hyper Burst™ is created by saturating a solid piece of EVA with CO2 that has been heated and pressurized into a super critical fluid state. After saturation, the CO2 returns to its normal gas state, creating thousands of bubble-like cell structures trapped within the midsole, making it lighter and more resilient than EVA manufactured using conventional chemical blowing agents."


Looking closely at the Max Road 4 midsole one can actually see the cells which have the appearance of a much finer more consistent than usual white foam packing block you might see protecting electronics or other fragile items, whereas with a conventional EVA molded midsole one sees a denser material and no apparent cells. And as for the smile factor Hyper Burst offers a ride which is consistent in feel, springy, and stable.

Finished with a stretch knit upper the Max Road 4 differs from the currently available Razor 3 Hyper in having a podular mid foot to toe off outsole with extensive heel rubber instead of a flatter “patch” oriented outsole, more stack height, and a compression knit upper instead of a non stretch monofilament type upper. The podular outsole, Hyper Burst midsole, and knit upper are shared as general concepts with the recently released Run 7 but make no mistake about it the compression knit upper in the Max Road 4 is far more supportive than the Run 7 as it is knit in a 3D fashion for support.
I was fortunate enough to participate in wear testing the Max Road 4 Hyper over the last year or so, testing over a dozen different versions.  Other than the shoes and the opportunity to contribute to the development, I was in no other way compensated by Skechers. As with almost all, if not all Skechers Performance shoes I have wear tested, my first pair’s midsole and outsole geometry and basic upper design and materials did not change during the process. The changes were to how the shoe fits, the knit design (density, fit, volume) , the internal overlays and padding as well as the outsole firmness.  


Hope: Sam delivered the goods on the technical specs of the Max Road 4! It certainly has some of the ingredients for greatness. The question is, does it work? 

Pros:
Derek/Sam/Hope/Jeff: springy lively ride, good rockered transition
Peter/Sam/Hope/Jeff: comes alive when you speed up. 
Peter/Hope/Jeff: FUN!, great at all paces, 
Jeff: Upper fits well, and stretches in the right places


Cons:
Derek/Hope: upper does not breathe well for me
Peter/Hope: Upper issues, ankle irritation, some slipping
Sam: Actually not as much fun or easy (awkward mid foot transition to run slow as faster. Not a great recovery shoe despite stack.
Hope: Hate to say it, but these are visually not my cup of tea — there are far better looking running shoes out there, and better looking Skechers; outsole durability is poor; midsole pods bottom out.
Jeff: 200% failure rate (double blister on every single run) due to partial midsole collapse


Tester Profiles
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.
Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less.  Jeff runs 30 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in North Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39 both he is working to demolish with help from his coach Dave Ames.
Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.

Stats
Official Weight:: 8.4oz  /238 g men's / (US9)  / women's 6.8 oz/ 193 g (US8)
Samples: 
8.25 oz / 234 g men's  (US8.5)
left 8.54oz / 242g, right 8.78oz / 249g (US9.5)
left 7.65 oz / 216 g;  right 7.69 oz / 218 g (US W9.5)
left 9.1 oz / 257 g; right 9.4 oz / 266 g (US M10.5)
Midsole/Outsole Stack Height: 
28mm heel, 22 mm forefoot,  6mm offset (37mm/31mm including board and sockliner)
Available around September 5th from Skechers Performance, a week or so later elsewhere


First Impressions and Fit:
Peter: First run and second run were totally different “first” impressions on this one. On the first run I struggled with the ‘Max’ ness of the shoe. Too much. Felt mushy and weird and hot and blah. I took them out this morning expecting the same and had a totally different experience: They felt cushioned but lively and easy to push through gait. They were a ton of fun and gripped the road like a demon. So first impressions are mixed, but I really liked them this morning. The good news is that the fit feels WAY more dialed in than the GoRun 7. The knit upper is far more supportive and works with the midsole to create a nice solid feeling shoe. True to size for me. 


Derek: My first impression of the shoe was very good. The initial step in feel and lace up was very comfortable and snug in all the right places. Fit was true to size and overall shoe volume was about right. The overall fit was more snug and performance oriented than the 2 previous iterations of the GoRun Ultra Road series. Aesthetics-wise, it was nice. I liked that it wasn’t too flashy and could easily double up as a daily commute type shoe if one were so inclined. 


Hope: Step-in comfort is nice, but the fit is far from performance-oriented: weak hold in the midfoot and heel. The lace loops are largely ineffective at achieving a snug fit, they just let the laces get tighter without affecting how the shoe hugs my feet. Given all of this, I would say that the MR4H feels like it fits about half a size too big.


Jeff: My first impression was very positive - Skechers finally did it. They stuffed enough Hyperburst under the foot to make me happy, and the upper fits well. Toe box is somewhere between adequate and good, and lengthwise I have nearly a full thumb’s width; ideal because this shoe is meant for big runs that lead to foot swelling. The fit true-to-size perfectly for me.


Sam: As I wear tested the Max Road I was very familiar with the fit. Skechers worked very hard to get a good lockdown with the compression knit, a challenging proposition with knits, and succeeds here for me.  The density of the knit at mid foot especially at lace up were tweaked over multiple versions. The result is a decently secure more comfort oriented fit in a knit upper. I was true to size with no issues. One thing remained constant as the fit was worked on, the Hyper Burst feel was fantastic.


Upper
Peter: I’m less and less of a fan of knit uppers the more I run in them. Bring back mesh! Bring back mesh! That said, this one holds the foot really well. The high collar in back of the ankle rubbed pretty badly, so I’d be careful to wear socks that rise above the stretchy heel collar. Other than that, the fit is good and the lacing is easy to dial in. As it’s a bootie there’s no real tongue, so be careful not to lace too tight, but I’ve had no slippage issues. After many runs, the ankle hasn’t been re-irritated. I’m still sliding a bit towards the front of the shoe--causing some slight toe irritation. I do wish it was cooler (temperature), but it’s not the least breathable shoe I have. When they dial the uppers in over this hyperburst it’s going to be insane. 


Derek: Even though this is a knitted upper, the way the  knitting was done, it certainly doesn’t feel like a regular knit upper like you would have found on eg Razor 1 or GoMeb Speed 4. I could tell that a lot of effort was put into improving the structure of the upper so it would be more rigid while retaining the knit aesthetic. The toe box seems deliberately low in height (it has a perfectly fine width) to get that lock down feel without having to do much in terms of lacing tension. 

The heel cup area is heavily reinforced and stiffened up, and this prevented the ankle opening from being too loose, something that I suspect they learnt in the development of the GoRun 7. Overall, I think it was a good effort to make this knit upper work but at the same time, I kind of felt like they could have just gone with a regular mesh upper. 

One big downside of this upper for me is that it does not breathe well for me. I will go more into this in the Ride discussion. Something about the knitting, and maybe the heat trapping properties of the HyperBurst midsole conspired to create a lot of heat build-up in the shoe. Eventually it led to the development of random hotspots despite experimenting with different sock liners and sock combinations. 


Hope: I’m with Peter and Derek -- I would much rather see a mesh upper on this shoe. Summer was an unfortunate time to be testing a shoe with such a dense, heat-trapping knit upper. I developed blisters just behind the balls of my feet early on in a long run which I attribute to the baggy fit of the upper and its propensity to retain sweat. An insole swap (away from the included molded EVA insole to a floppy Ortholite-like insole from another brand) and thicker socks seemed to resolve that problem. I experienced rubbing on my achilles tendon like Peter described just once and only on one side. I think the collar (which is a bit loose) folded over slightly, causing it to rub my ankle continuously over the course of a run. I think the upper has a lot more in common with the Nike Flyknit Chukka of several years ago: the tall, somewhat blunted toe looks more like an ultralight lifestyle boot than a performance running shoe to me. Sadly unlike the Flyknit Chukka, the MR4H is really unattractive in the speckled black and pink colorway I received.
Jeff: I’m the weirdo of this group and didn’t have any heat issues with the Max Road. I would agree though, an engineered mesh upper would be preferable over the knit, but the knit isn’t bad. It has some stretch in the right places, and not much where you don’t want much (a big step up from the GOrun 7 Hyper’s upper), so that’s great. I have a slightly higher volume foot, which may be why mine are locked down so well without much tinkering with lacing or insole replacement.
Sam: The compression knit upper features varying densities. Denser 3D knit combined with underlays provides the mid foot and lace up area plenty of support while a more open knit pattern at the toe provides room and breathability. 
There is some stiffener at the toe box bumper and along the front sides.  The stout heel counter and high stretch knit collar locks the foot just fine for me if on the more comfort side than performance side as say the Razor 3 upper provides with its more monofilament type mesh. I found the upper decently breathable for a knit upper in heat and humidity  but summer and knits are not the best match.  


Midsole
Derek: This is where all the magic happens for this shoe. There is a lot of stack as one would expect for a maximalist offering, and the HyperBurst does not disappoint. It’s a firmer bounce than previous versions of the GoRun Ultra, but not necessarily in a bad way as it feels less energy sapping when you want to pick up the pace.


Peter: As I mentioned above, the first run in these was weird and mushy for me, but all subsequent runs have been really fun. I think it takes a minute to get used to the wealth of midsole directly under the arch. If that’s where you land it can feel like a pretty big squish. When you land just a bit forward things change considerably. Hyper Foam is light and very bouncy. I’ve found it to be especially lively when I pick up the pace. I think they also transition pretty well if you land farther back. The Hyper material is different in the way many other companies try to convince you that their midsoles are different. They are boostier than boost, ever-runnier than everrun, cloudier than On. The midsole is most reminiscent of the vaporfly. It’s a very different shoe than the Vaporfly, but their are similarities in feel. 


Hope: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: HyperBurst is the real deal. Boost paved the way for modern energy-returning midsole compounds and Skechers has nearly perfected it in Hyperburst. It’s magically light and feels bouncy yet directed for me at all paces, even late-run shuffles in the punishing summer heat. 

However, the further I’ve gotten in my testing (I have somewhere between 50-60 miles on my pair), the more I’ve noticed the midsole pods bottoming out. I’m not the most gazelle-like runner around, but I’m probably a lot lighter than most people who wear a US W9.5 given my short stature, so I’m perplexed by the wear I’m seeing on the midsole foam around each outsole piece. The midsole is collapsing around the outsole rubber under my weight and is making contact with the pavement. This isn’t something I noticed with other HyperBurst midsoles, so I expect it has something to do with how the MR4H’s taller midsole and tall pods spring back (or incompletely springs back) between strides.
Jeff: The midsole is both the best and worst part of this shoe for me. They say don’t meet your heroes, and now I get it. I’ve logged 32 miles in the Max Road 4 across five different runs, and every single run resulted in matching pinch blisters on the underside of my small toes. 

During the first three runs I was sure that the ample sized toe box was shrinking under dynamic use, but during over the course of a long conversation with Sam, it became evident that the midsole was actually the culprit. I know that sounds crazy, but here goes. My combination of a midfoot strike paired with my supination (and probably my 5’11” 200 pound frame factors in as well) led to me effectively bottoming out the pods/columns that make up the midsole. Sam and I compared pictures of the bottoms of our shoes, which had the same amount of miles, and the wear patterns were drastically different. 

My pair has lots of dirt, scuffing, and wear in between the rubber outsole pods, his had zero (see photos below in Outsole). So while the shoe is incredibly comfortable to run in, it doesn’t have enough structural rigidity for me. My third run was a 17 mile early morning venture that gave me the worst blisters of my life - they started at mile 3. I knew there was a high likelihood this would happen, so I wore my thinnest socks, lubed up my toes with Squirrels Nut Butter, and it didn’t matter. When the midsole collapses down it forces the toes into places they shouldn’t be, and after a few miles of that blisters are going to happen. Which is heartbreaking, because this shoe is an absolute joy to run in. I wanted to keep running in this shoe to see if things improved, but with a marathon and three 50k’s on the horizon before this winter’s 50 mile, purposely giving myself massive pinch blisters seemed like an exercise in self-mutilation than anything.


Sam: Hyper Burst foam is magical in its feel and performance in the Max Road 4. Here we have a midsole outsole stack height of 28mm heel, 22 mm forefoot, 37/31 including board and sockliner and a 6mm drop so maximal grade cushion in a shoe weighing a mere 8.4 oz.  Yet the cushion from the foam is in no way mushy or overly soft. Very lively with a zingy feel and no sense of lateral deflections of the foam itself, the deflection of the geometry of the pods up front from what I can tell was a different story for some of us. The heel area with its copious outsole coverage is notably stable with no sense of bottoming out as I felt in the Razor 3 with its thin rubber. 
This said, and as noted by others, the podular geometry at the forefoot clearly is very soft as a system, especially at the edges. See how much deeper the grooves are and how much more elevated the pods are in the Max Road (bottom) compared to the Run 7 in the photo above. When I press the lugs at the edges of both I clearly compress and bottom out the Max Road at the edges whereas with the Run 7 compresses far less. If you are heavier land and push hard at the front of soles or their edges I can well see the issues some saw occurring with blisters and heat at the ball of the foot which I think has less to do with heat and more to do with friction as the midsole compresses differentially at specific pods.  I had no such issues. 


Run slow they are so so as the mid foot feels high and the pods somewhat in the way. As pace picks up and for me that was sub 9:10, the midsole comes alive. All that front compression of the pods gives back on toe off with a very notable rebound from the characteristics of Hyper Burst including those "bubble like cell structures". And Max Road has flexible forefoot, at least as flexible as the lower stack GO Run 7 due to the deep flex grooves. There is absolutely no plate here but as Peter says above I felt definite shades of the Vaporfly up front. I think instead of a plate meeting the road and launching here the compression of the Hyper Burst and those high pods compressing way down towards the pavement and then springing back gives a somewhat similar if softer propulsive effect. A very neat and noticeable feeling. Note though that even when the pods were compressed I never lacked for forefoot cushion. The Run 7 with its lower stack and less prominent pods feels firmer and less dynamic.


Outsole

Derek: As far as I can tell the outsole material and design is very similar to that of the GoRun 7. Grip is generally adequate for road surfaces and pavement but I wouldn’t expect it to do great off-road. The outsole rubber is actually quite durable with hardly any signs of wear after 60 miles for me. 

Peter: Grippy and enough rubber that they’re going to last a nice, long time.

Hope: As Peter said above, the MR4H grips like a demon. However, I noticed some seriously accelerated wear. I’m not normally super hard on shoes, but two of the outsole pods started peeling off on my pair. 
I’m hopeful that this was just a glue failure in extremely high temperatures (I ran in the MR4H on blacktop on a day when the air temperature was in the mid 90s, so the asphalt was doubtless much hotter than that), so I’d like to give the outsole the benefit of the doubt. I haven’t noticed any performance differences from the worn and peeling outsole, but it still bears noting.


Jeff: As far as grip goes, the shoe gets top marks. Unfortunately, the segmented outsole definitely contributes to the structural issue fatal flaw. Also, I’m with Hope as far as durability goes. 
I haven’t had any peeling, but some of the rubber shows a lot more wear than the mileage they’ve seen, and the Hyperburst surrounding a number of the pods is already very weathered. Perhaps it’s like the Epic React, and early wear is exaggerated to then level off, but at least early on the outsole wears quickly.
Sam: I particularly appreciate the rear rubber coverage here. It is firm enough and extensive and does the job of stabilizing the rear of the shoe very well. As discussed, the prominent front pods will either work magnificently for you, they did for me, or won’t as some of our testers found with accelerated early wear and potentially contributing to the ball of the foot heat and blister issues.  
Above mine at 30 plus miles showing not much wear to speak off and very little scuffing of the Hyper Burst midsole. I must not be compressing the lugs as far down as some of my fellow reviewers given my definite more heel striking type gait?

Ride
Sam: The ride is springy and very well cushioned. The stability for such a big stack light shoe with a knit upper is more than adequate. 

The Max gets noticeably more dynamic on toe off at faster paces, almost shockingly so as there is no plate. The Hyper Burst foam and pillared pods really come to life when pressed leading to an increased sense of front rebound the faster the pace. For some to much concentrated pressure, runner weight or pressure at the front of shoe edges seems to lead to issues but so far not for me as more of a heel striker at 165 lbs with not much knee lift.  

While a maximal type shoe, its sweet spot for me so far has been tempo pace running. I have been very pleasantly surprised by the pace of final miles during my progression runs. At slower “jogging/recovery” paces I note some difficulty getting off the mid foot M-Strike area and the front pods feel a bit soft and in the way.
Derek: The ride is one of a springy directed feel similar in some respects to e.g. Nike Epic React. It’s not the super soft and bouncy feel of its predecessor, the GoRun Ultra R2. In fact, I find the ride quite different. It’s still a very cushioned ride but in summary, there is more stability and ground feel. This actually makes the shoe more versatile and more accommodating to different paces. The ride is smoothest when adopting a mid foot strike running style and going at a moderate pace for me. At slower paces, the low drop seems to slow things down and I find it harder to keep things turning over. 

The biggest issue I had with this shoe was actually with the upper. The shoe feels warm for some reason, and even though I tried different sockliner and sock combinations, I never quite managed to get around the issue. It’s not quite Odyssey React warm, but definitely warmer than e.g. Pegasus Turbo v1 for me. For this reason, I could never get past 10 miles in the shoe. Usually by 7 miles, hot spots would build up in random places, most prominently under the ball of the foot or just behind it, and I would notice it on every step. This really distracted me from an otherwise very nice riding shoe. I would try to loosen the lacing to get more airflow in the shoe, but this results on some rubbing on the inside of the 1st met-head on both feet. Lace it tighter and the whole foot would cook by 15 minutes into the run. I should point out that I run in warm and humid conditions (mid 80s and 80+% humidity). As a side note, I had an almost similar issue with the GoRun 7, which makes me think that perhaps it is simply that the crystalline version of HyperBurst just does not dissipate heat well underfoot. If you look at the Razor 3, there is a very perforated sockliner in there. 

As another side note, the HyperBurst in the Razor 3 has a generally different appearance to the HyperBurst in the GoRun 7 and Max Road 4, with the latter having a more crystalline appearance. More than that, the compressibility of the HyperBurst in the Razor 3 is significantly more than that seen in the MaxRoad 4 and GoRun 7. All this rambling is to say that if you enjoy the Razor 3, and I know a lot of people do, do not expect the MaxRoad to be a maximalist extension of the Razor. It is, however, a maximalist extension of the GoRun 7. So if the GoRun 7 works well for you, then the MaxRoad 4 will be an excellent long mileage trainer for you.


Peter: It took a minute to figure out how to work with the Max Road 4 Hyper, but once I figured it out it’s been a standout shoe for me. I agree with Sam--it’s surprisingly fun at tempo. It’s a little counterintuitive--due to the high stack--but it’s true. I think it will be a great marathon shoe for many people. I like it a lot at all paces, but when I pick up pace late in a run, it’s just dreamy--snaps like a Vaporfly, stings like an adios. Well, not quite, but it’s way faster than you’d think. 


Hope: The guys basically covered my exact thoughts. I can look past the MR4H’s upper issues because the ride is dreamy: not just snappy and directed at all paces (especially good at tempo and above, somewhat less dynamic at slower paces), but also super fun! It’s definitely closer to a maximal version of the GR7H (same outsole tooling, a very similar upper) than the R3. I don’t consider the MR4H a particularly stable shoe given the knit upper and the high stack height. In trying to do a quick direction change at the turnaround point in a recent long run (“quick” being a relative term -- I was moving at LSR pace which for me that day was in the high 9:00s) I felt my foot go far over the edge of the midsole, nearly causing me to roll my ankle. Have you ever tried to play basketball in shoes not expressly built for basketball? This is what that felt like. The knit isn’t enough to keep my feet contained over the midsole. Add to that a tall midsole and you’ve got a shoe I will unequivocally recommend as road-only -- these aren’t stable enough for trail use.
Jeff: This shoe may be the best riding shoe I’ve ever run in. And I have 70 miles in a pair of Vaporfly Next%. It is so bouncy and comfortable, if the shoe didn’t actively harm me I’d be logging virtually all of my runs in it. When you pick up the pace it isn’t quite as bouncy, but still feels great - my second run in the Max Road was a tempo run, and three fast miles flew by (if it wasn’t for the blister pain on literally every step). My final run in these was a hail mary effort - pull the insole altogether and hope that the extra room would solve the problem. Luckily, the insole is very thin, and the ride really doesn’t change much with the insole out, unfortunately it didn’t solve my issue, and right around mile three blisters were already forming. I ducked into the house, did a NASCAR pit stop throwing on the first pair of shoes I grabbed (Vaporfly 4% Flyknit) to finish the final two miles of the run. Shockingly, the VF FK felt somewhat dull after running in the Max Road 4 Hyper, and I don’t know of a higher compliment I can give to a shoe.


Conclusions and Recommendations
Derek: The shoe has a cushioned and mildly bouncy ride, with good stability for its stack height. The shoe fits true to size and is right in the middle of the road in terms of shoe volume across the board. My main issue with the shoe is the heat build-up, and while it is unlikely to be an issue for most people who do not run in warm conditions, this is something that people would want to be aware of if they run in warm and humid conditions. Also, the shoe midsole has the same compressibility as the GoRun 7 but not the Razor 3, so bear that in mind in terms of expectations. 
Derek’s Score: 8.5 / 10
Ride 40% 9, Fit 40% 8, Value 10% 8.5. Style 10% 8.5


Peter: An overall terrific shoe from Skechers Performance. A great training partner for the Razor 3. This shoe will appeal to anyone who likes to log long miles but doesn’t want to feel beat up. The ride is cushioned and lively and the Max Road Hyper loves to settle into a speedy pace too. The upper has room for improvement for sure. I’m hoping the days of knit uppers will soon be behind us. This midsole is the real deal though and the upper works, and is totally worth getting used to. I haven’t had problems with the upper since the first run, but I would love to see this shoe with a mesh upper. 
Peter’s Score: 9/10
This shoe is so fun to run in. Dial the upper in and it will be damn near perfect. 


Hope: If Skechers put a secure-fitting upper on the MR4H, they’d be incredible. As they are now, they’re worth trying because the ride is so sublime. With a release just in time for fall racing season, runners in cooler climates should enjoy these provided they can get the upper fit dialed in right. I’d be curious to check out a US W9 pair to see if they fit more precisely than the US W9.5 (my usual size) I received. I’m making my own rules and not grading on style here because the style is really not great, but the substance *is* great -- HyperBurst is a delight to run in. I could’ve quit running in these a while ago since I knew what I thought of them and had enough info for the review, but I’ve kept them in my rotation because although they’re flawed, they’re still really good. Don’t sleep on the S!
Hope’s Score: 8.1/10
Ride 45% 10, Fit 45% 6, Value 10% 9 


Jeff: Simultaneously the best and possibly worst shoe I’ve ever run in. I’ve never run in a shoe that felt so bouncy in a fun way, and I’ve never run in a shoe that guaranteed blisters in the first three miles. Perhaps if I landed on my heels, or pronated instead of supinated, I wouldn’t have the issues that I do, but I can’t deal with that many hypotheticals. I hope they work for you better than they did for me, because when they weren’t actively causing pain they were a joy to run in. The upper could use some work, but for me it’s all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic if the midsole isn’t reinforced in some manner for the next iteration.
Jeff’s Score: 8.1/10
Ride 50% 10, Fit 30% 5 Value 15% 8 Style 5% 7


Sam: As they have been doing every year Skechers ups their game with ever lighter more dynamic midsole foams delivering great rides. The Max Road 4 has a wonderful springy and directed ride which gets liviler the faster you go, unusual for what is a truly maximal cushioned shoe. Hyper Burst’s unique characteristics deliver not only a dynamic ride but at a very light  8.4 oz / 238 g shoe with a massive all in stack height of 37mm heel / 31 mm forefoot. Something had to give… as some of our testers found out and while I had no blister or heat issues caution is advised based on runner weight and foot strike and toe off type. It seems Skechers could have made the front pods less prominent, potentially trading for some shoe additional weight and likely also not quite as dynamic a ride to allow the shoe to work for more runners. The compression knit upper is fine, comfortable and supportive but I would prefer mesh.  
Sam’s Score: 9.3 / 10
-0.3 for prefer mesh to knit for a more dialed in fit and a cooler foot.
-0.3 for somewhat ponderous soft feeling slow pace performance limiting versatility for me.
-0.1 for lack of reflectivity. 
While not part of my personal scoring it is sad the Max Road may not work for more runners based on my fellow testers results as it is such a fantastic ride.
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Comparisons
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Please list your  size for the comparison shoe and touch on relative fit for each,


Nike Epic React (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both the MaxRoad and the Epic React. I chose this comparison because the midsole rides seem to have a fairly close feel in terms of compression and bounce. Neither are crazy bouncy or soft, and neither feel particularly unstable despite having relatively high stack. For me, the MaxRoad is a warmer shoe, but fits with a higher volume and slightly wider toe box. The MaxRoad also has better grip on wet surfaces. Overall, I think the Epic React does better if you want to pick up the pace, as it feels like it has a higher drop and faster transition. That said I think the MaxRoad 4 generally fits most people better in terms of shoe volume. 
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): Echoing Derek, I think the ER and ER2 are better for all-out speed given their superior stability and snugger fit. I think the MR4H midsole is a bit more special given its high cushioning to weight ratio, but I’ll give NIke the nod since the ER and ER2 are both essentially perfect shoes.
Sam: I find the Epic React’s ride boring, dull and muted  in comparison and its upper while improved in v2 not very comfortable as it is snug and low volume. True to size in both but barely fit in Epic React at mid foot.


Skechers GoRun Ultra R2 (RTR Review)
Derek: The GRUR2 was one of my favourite easy run and long run trainers. It had a very dynamic and bouncy ride but was let down somewhat by an overly high volume fit that lacked a bit of the performance feel. In the MaxRoad 4, I was hoping for the same softness but with even more rebound since HyperBurst seemed to be more bouncy than FlightGen / 5Gen. It turned out not to be the case, as Skechers opted to firm up the midsole a little so there would be less bottoming out for the shoe, but the MaxRoad is still a very fine maximalist shoe, just not the very soft shoe that the GRUR and GRUR2 (or indeed the GRR7) were known to be. This is something important to bear in mind before you go ahead and purchase the MaxRoad 4. Whether this change is good or bad depends on how you liked the GRUR2. If the GRUR2 was excessively soft and unstable for you then the MaxRoad solves a lot of those issues, otherwise you may find that the MaxRoad is not quite the superior replacement you hoped it would be. 


New Balance 1080v9 (RTR Review)
Derek: The MaxRoad is definitely softer and bouncier and more forgiving than the 1080v9 but the latter has the faster transition courtesy of the more rockered outsole and definitely better grip courtesy of the full coverage outsole rubber. Where the MaxRoad wins out is when you need to up the pace. The 1080v9 is a heavy shoe by my standards and it’s harder to get things going in this shoe, whereas the MaxRoad handles pace changes more easily. 
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): The 1080v9 suffers from a bit of heel slip that was easily correctable via heel lock lacing. It boasts an irritation-free upper, durable full-coverage outsole, and a surprisingly bouncy ride. If you’re going long and want fresh legs I’d pick the lighter MR4H, but for everything else I’d pick the 1080v9.
Jeff (both fit true-to-size 10.5): I have the same heel slip issue in the New Balance Hope has (and also corrected with a runner’s loop), but that issue pales in comparison to my Max Road issues. The 1080v9 is heavier and not nearly as bouncy to run in, but it’s my pick for not causing blisters.


New Balance FuelCell Propel (RTR Review)
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): The FuelCell Propel has one of the best uppers New Balance has produced in years. Fits great and looks slick (although I didn’t love the colors on my pair) -- this is what all bootie construction uppers should aspire to emulate. That said, even with the upper issues, I prefer the snappier, lighter underfoot feel of the MR4H. The FuelCell Propel felt a bit too mushy for my taste.
Sam: Both shoes have lively rebound but are very different in ride feel. The Propel is noticeably bouncy while the Max Road is springy. I prefer the Propel roomy and more secure upper over the compression knit in the Max Road. On balance a slight nod to the Max Road. True to size in both if roomy in both.


Hoka One One Clifton 6  (RTR Review)
Peter: While the Clifton 6 is the most enjoyable Clifton in years, I still prefer the lively ride of the Max Hyper Road. It’s returns a bit more energy than the Clifton.
Hope (US M8 and US W9.5, both true to size): The Clifton 6 was a no-go for me because the bucket seat midsole chewed up my arches, but it did have nice energy return and surprising responsiveness given its stack height. Still gotta go with the MR4H for its design that’s friendlier for more foot shapes.  
Sam: Lots of cushion stiffer and not nearly as lively the Clifton 6 is boring in comparison. Both are tough to run slower for me. True to size in both. 


Hoka Rincon One One (RTR Review)
Peter: The Max is cushier, springer and fun. I love the upper of the rincon and they are, for sure, my favorite Hokas, but I still have more fun running in the Max Road 4 Hyper. 
Jeff (both fit true-to-size 10.5): I agree wholeheartedly with Peter, the Max Road is cushier, springier, and more fun, and I absolutely love the way the Rincon rides. But the Rincon doesn’t hate me the same way the Max Road does, so I’d take Rincon without a second’s hesitation.
Sam: Agree with Peter and Jeff, the Max Road is way more fun to run with Rincon admirable light cushion to weight ratio achieved with a not particularly springy more standard EVA. True to size in both. Prefer the more performance much lighter upper of the Rincon.


Skechers GOrun 7 (RTR Review)
Derek: The GoRun 7 is basically a stripped down version of the MaxRoad to me, with some differences in the upper. I should point out that I had some hotspot issues with the GR7 as well, though not quite in the same places. Ironically, I was able to use the GR7 up to18 miles vs just 10 miles in the MaxRoad from a comfort perspective. These 2 shoes really complement each other ride wise, and I think if you can get them to fit comfortably, they will make for a terrific training package to go with the Razor 3 or upcoming Speed Elite for race options. I would say GR7 for shorter and faster runs, and MaxRoad for the longer stuff. 
Hope (US W9.5 very roomy, but true to size in length): I agree with everything Derek said. I like the GR7H better for its somewhat more breathable upper, but ideally these shoes complement each other as part of a multi-shoe rotation.
Jeff (both true-to-size 10.5): I agree with Derek and Hope, it is very easy to see the similarities in these two shoes. The Max Road upper fit is much more dialed in, but the GR7H midsole is less fun to run in. If you aren’t a midfoot striking supinator, take the Max Road.


Skechers GOrun Ride 7 (RTR Review)
Derek: The GRR7 is a softer shoe with a little more bottoming out. I prefer the upper of the GRR7. Even though it wasn’t anything very flashy and wasn’t particularly well ventilated, the shoe never caused any hot spots or fit issues for me. The MaxRoad feels noticeably more cushioned with less ground feel. The outsole of the MaxRoad also offers better grip compared to that of the GRR7. The MaxRoad seems to do better at faster paces than the GRR7, which I think still excels best as a recovery shoe. 
Sam: I concur with Derek. I had issues with the front stability of the Ride 7 which despite the huge pods of the Max Road I don’t have with it. Credit to the stable yet springy characteristics of Hyper Burst.  True to size in both but prefer the extra room of the Max Road upper. 


Topo Athletic Phantom (RTR Review)
Jeff: (both fit true-to-size 10.5): The only shoe that’s even remotely close to the Max Road’s super cushioned ride, the Phantom has a much more dialed in upper fit. Unfortunately, it’s level of soft and super cushioned feels more sluggish, ideal for super easy recovery runs only, while the Max Road works for easy runs, long runs, or even speedwork. Max Road easily.
Sam: Concur 100% with Jeff. True to size in both.


Altra Torin 4 Plush (RTR Review)
Jeff: (both fit true-to-size 10.5): As soft and *ahem* plush the Torin is, the Max Road 4 makes it feel like a racer flat by comparison. The Altra upper is decidedly better though (and how many times can you write that?), by holding the foot and being more breathable. Ignoring my blister issue, I’d take the Max Road, it runs more fun at every level.
Sam: Plush is a nice comfy cushy couch with power reclining adjustments. Max Road is a great sports car which may or may not stay on the road for you. True to size in both and agree with Jeff on the Plush upper. 


Altra Paradigm 4.5 (RTR Review)
Jeff (both fit true-to-size 10.5): Another well cushioned and high stack shoe, the Paradigm 4.5 upper wins by a country mile, but the Hyperburst of the Max Road is in a whole different league. Max Road wins.


New Balance Fresh Foam More  (RTR Review)
Jeff (both fit true-to-size 10.5): Probably the closest comparison for me to the Max Road 4, the Fresh Foam More offers a massive stack that also holds up well at faster speeds. But it doesn’t ride nearly as fun as the Max Road 4, though its upper is much more traditional and accommodating (with the exception of the reinforcement pods around the heel collar). Max Road 4 for the win.
The Max Road 4 Hyper will be available early to mid Sept. 2019

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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16 comments:

geomaz said...

Hello RoadTrailRun team!

Thank you very much for your very nice review!

I would like to ask you about the stack high, besides the different drop is it similar to the previus maxroad2 ? And although the hyper burst is lighter than flyght gen ,why they have similar weight? Is someone of the two a fuster shoe or more cushioned?

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Geomaz,
Thanks for your kind words and question.
The Ultra Road 2 had a stack of: 34mm in the heel and 30mm in the forefoot. (including sockliner)
The Max Road 4 has a stack of 37/31 including board and sockliner
So yes it has 3mm more at the heel and 1mm more at the forefoot with the drop all in changing to 6mm. Hyper Burst is lighter and there is more cushion and stack. I have the Max Road 4 at 8.4 oz vs. Ultra Road 2 at 8.6 oz so a slight drop in weight.
Sam, Editor

Unknown said...

I'd been waiting for these in the hope they would be my shoe for my final long runs and autumn marathon but I'm not sure they'll be the solution now after hearing about Jeff's blisters. I've recently started running in the Go Run 7 Hyper and have have had some minor blister issues with those after about 8 miles (although my most recent 12 miler was blister free albeit with some soreness). I also seem to be in a minority of one in that I don't find Hyperburst that bouncy or responsive. I might go down the NB route instead with either the 1080 or Propel.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the review. Is the weight with or without the sockliner?
If I will run without sockliner, should I get half size down? GRR7 size 9 is a little too loose without sockliner. Sketcher gorun maxtrail 5 8.5 is decent except midfoot in vertical direction, a bit tight.
Also, will the outsole and stack ok for railtrail with loose dirt and small gravels?
Thanks again.

rms said...

The peeling of the outsole pods after, what, 50miles? is a complete and unequivocal Failure. Why did the reviewer give these an 8/10 after that occurred?

Sam Winebaum said...

Weight is with sockliner. You should be able get away with half size down without sockliner. Without sockliner there is not a smooth continuous fabric below. The “board” has holes and some texture to it but appears to be OK to run on. Small gravel dirt should be OK but expect some wear of exposed midsole areas wrapping the rubber surfaces of the pods.
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Reply from Hope (reviewer):
Thanks for your question. I felt like the run I did immediately before the outsole pod failure was more like a torture test and not a realistic representation of how the shoe would behave under normal use, so I disregarded that experience when tallying up the final score. Running over brand new blacktop (extra dark so it captures more of the sun’s rays, extra sticky, and extra hot that particular day — mid-90s and sunny) could plausibly cause a failure in a lot of well-built shoes. It only happened on one shoe, so I chalked it up to a fluke. Hope

Jeff said...

Unknown,

Don't let my use case get in the way - I really think I'm the confluence of a few factors that lead to the shoe failure. I land midfoot and supinate, and while I'm no NFL linebacker, at 200 pounds I'm heavier than many runners. Even though the shoe literally caused pain, it was fun to run in, and is absolutely worth the try. If it doesn't work for you, you'll know right away, but if it does - you've got yourself one of the most fun to run shoes ever made. It crushes me that this shoe doesn't work for me, because I'd been on the edge of my seat for months, and it delivers every bit of the springy cush that it looks like it'll have. Unfortunately my feet and these shoes just aren't friends, but likely yours will be.

Hope that helps!

geomaz said...

sam can you please give us a comparison between maxroad 4 and hoka carbon X ?

Which is more fun to run, has the smoothest and plush ride.

Do you believe they are similar cusioned? Fast? Stable?

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Is there something called gorun Ride 8 hyper this year, !lighter and more stable than maxroad 5?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Yes a GOrun Ride 8 Hyper is coming sometime this fall. See our IG post here for pics and also info on Speed TRL Hyper: https://www.instagram.com/p/By6mxwMHxle/
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Geomaz,
The Max Road is plusher and overall more cushioned. The Carbon X is more stable and responsive. It is also completely stiff whereas the Max Road is very flexible. They have very different rides with the Carbon X flatter feeling and the Max Road smoother but less stable, more natural running if you will. What works for you now in this type of more cushioned shoe?
Sam, Editor

geomaz said...

Sam thank you very much for your answers!

Now my maximal shoes are the skechers maxroad 2 and 3 (...very similar shouses those two, I dont know why they changed the name...). Also I run with the paradigm 4 and the nike zoom flyflyknit (..which by the way is more maximal than the others!).

I think that personaly I prefer a softer-cushy ride shoe ( it more frendly to my feet the maxroad 2-3 or even the zoom fly than the altra duo f.e)

I will be waiting also for your review on the vaporfly next%, as I am willing to buy a shoe for marathon and one for multiple running/training paces.

amadeus303 said...

Great and thorough review (as usual)! Unfortunately, I'm a bit down after reading it as the Maxroad 3 was a great long run / recovery shoe for me...and this new iteration seems like it might not be such a great fit, no pun intended.

Out of some of the recent max cushion shoes you guys have reviewed, does one compare more favorably to the Maxroad 2/3? Would the Rincon be a better option? Wait for the Ride 8 Hyper?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Amadeus,
Like just about any shoe and especially shoes that push the envelope of performance and cushion at very light weight as Max Road 4 does it may or may not work for you. I did not run the Max Road 3 but did the 2 and this shoe is way way more fun to run and way faster and more dynamic while super cushioned. If you are not on the heavier side and or do not strike very hard forefoot or supinate dramatically it can work. It certainly does for me.
Sam, Editor

amadeus303 said...

Thanks a lot Sam...that helps a lot!