Monday, February 17, 2020

Skechers Performance Speed Elite Hyper Multi Tester Review: Name Earned!

Article by Jacob Brady, Derek Li, Michael Ellenberger and Sam Winebaum

Skechers Performance Speed Elite Hyper ($190)
Weight: 5.8 oz /164 g men's US 9 (verified with size 9 sample)
Stack Height 23mm heel / 19 mm forefoot (not including board and sockliner, 28/24 with),  4mm drop
Unisex sizing US8-US12. Whole sizes only.
Available now. $190

Jacob: The GOrun Speed Elite Hyper is Skechers carbon fiber infused polymer-plated racing flat that has been on the radar for a while, with prototypes (and roadtrailrun’s preview) circulating over a year ago and an initial release date of Fall 2019. 

The Hyper Burst midsole material used in the Speed Elite has been phenomenal across the Skechers Performance line, most famously in the Razor 3 and recently in the ultralight racing flat, the GOmeb Speed 6—it is lightweight and resilient with great energy return. 

Carbon plates, rockered geometry, and high rebound foams have become standard in top-tier racing shoes over the past year, and the Speed Elite represents Skechers first shoe in this realm. Unlike many modern plated racers which have huge slabs of soft foam (most famously the Nike Vaporfly series) the Speed Elite is relatively firm with a low (23/19)  stack height. It’s a modern version of a traditional racing flat: low, light, responsive, and designed for speed. 

Derek: I’ve been dreaming of trying the zebra shoe for over a year and now it’s finally here. Skechers’ answer to the carbon arms race and it is the real deal. Ever since Galen Rupp had a custom Vaporfly with a truncated carbon plate that only extends back to the midfoot, I’ve been wondering how that would change the ride and whether maybe we could get a softer heel while still preserving that forward roll. I still hold out hope for a limited release zebrafledge colorway but for now we will just have to make do with what is still the best looking racer of the year thus-far. 
Michael: This shoe is a looonngggg time coming. As Skechers Performance continues to craft class-leading trainers (including the GoRun 7+ Hyper and GoRun Ride 8)  and carbon plate-less racing flats such as GoRun Razor and mid foot only plated racers such as the Go Meb Speed 6, we have been dreaming of the day when the production model of that zebra-stripe racer - the Skechers Speed Elite Hyper - is finally real. Friends, that day has come. As if Skechers followed the Marvel’s Avengers model of hype-building, we were teased along the way with the allures of Hyper Burst, the refinements to uppers and fits, the snap of the Speed 6 until finally - finally! - we get the Speed Elite. Time to run. 

Sam: The Elite’s product brief was first to reduce weight as much as possible, wherever possible, while delivering the stiffest, most resilient ride possible. Lighter weight translates to running economy and efficiency.
I tested some early “Zebrafage” Skechers carbon plated prototypes and found them a very firm with a quite harsh ride, if a fast one, reminding me of a track spike with some cushioning. The prototype shoe shown above is dated January 2018 and was actually a plated variant of the Razor. That is how long it takes to iterate to a great shoe!

Too much carbon in a relatively low stack shoe at 23 mm / 19 mm is not necessarily a good thing for distance racing beyond the shortest of races. Skechers went to work to mellow the ride somewhat with Hyper in the midsole and substituting  a mid foot to forefoot carbon infused polymer winglet plate all to extend the shoe’s versatility while still focused on the lightest possible weight and Speed!  So how did they perform?

Jacob/Sam/Derek: Incredibly lightweight
Jacob/Sam/Derek: Well-sized, precise race fit
Jacob/Sam/Derek: Encourages a quick turnover—fast!
Sam:Lots of shoe for the weight
Sam: Soft enough heel, very dynamic snappy forefoot and toe off
Michael: Upper is an improvement even over the Speed 6, and is race-ready.
Michael: Hyperburst, as always, is the real deal.
Michael: Aggressive geometry makes this a capable shoe, 5K to marathon.

Jacob: At slow paces, not smoot, hard to run in
Jacob/Derek: Durability
Jacob: Limited versatility
Sam: a fairly firm ride for most for long racing. Add more stack and keep under 6.5 oz and I would be happier
Sam: Pricing at $190 
Michael: Versatility concerns - who wouldn’t say no to a little more Hyperburst?

Tester Profiles
Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He runs every day and averages 50 miles per week. Jacob recently ran a PR 2:51 marathon and just wrapped up his first season of ultra/trail running which included two 50km trail races and two mountain races.
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.
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 6-70 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile. 
Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 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.

First Impressions and Fit
Jacob: Finally, the Speed Elite! I had just wrapped up my testing for the New Balance FuelCell TC, a max cushioned carbon plated trainer/racer and recently raced in the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% for the first time, so I felt primed to test another race-ready carbon-plated shoe.

Upon unboxing, even stuffed with paper for support, the Speed Elite feels absurdly light. No doubt it will be the lightest shoe I own.  Popped them on the scale: my US Men’s size 12 came out at 190g—crazy. Not only is it the lightest but it’s the lightest by almost 40g, the second lightest being the NEXT% at 227g. I don’t have any true racing flats to compare to, so the difference is a bit more dramatic, but I do have over 20 running shoes.

It’s clear the Speed Elite is a dedicated racing flat. There’s no excess material anywhere—sleek and functional. It has a mid/low stack height with firm but energetic cushioning, a notable forefoot rocker, and feels extremely light on the foot. Sizing is perfect with a snug, race-ready fit—tight but not uncomfortable and an ideal length.  A seamless feel. 

Derek: Just taking it out of the box you immediately notice how light the shoe is. The fit seems completely different and wider than the Speed 6 across the entire length of the shoe (and this cannot be explained by the fact that I am using a US9.5 in the Speed 6 and US10 in the Speed Elite). I think even though I normally wear US9.5, the US10 fit in this shoe is just right for me, especially if I plan to use it for longer races, half marathon and up. Right now, I have just under a thumbs width in front of my toes and that’s how I like it for long distance racers. Just standing and rocking in the shoe, the underfoot feel is very different from the Speed 6. The shoe stands taller and the rocker is very pronounced under the forefoot. I think the plate really does a great job of lifting the shoe up here. 
Aesthetically, we kind of already knew what to expect from the photos online, but the thinness and translucency of the upper still is a sight to behold. Very polished finish all around. Early feedback on the zebra prototypes was that the shoe was on the firmer side, but honestly the underfoot feel is softer than I expected. Not ZoomX soft, but it reminds me a bit of that Triumph 17 underfoot feel. And yes, like Michael says, I am all for the unstructured heel counter. 
Michael: The most noticeable part of the Skechers Speed 6 Hyper - the immediate predecessor to the Speed Elite - was the hard plastic heel counter, requiring a herculean effort to put on the shoe. Slipping on the Speed Elite - and its flexible heel - was like breathing a sigh of relief. From there, it only got better. While the upper seems to be the same material as the Speed 6, it feels less plastic-y and bunched just after the laces, and more like one malleable sheet. Moreover, some toe overlays have been moved so that the entire toe box is more open. Crucially, the sizing here seems to be a drastic improvement over the Speed 6. My size 8, while snug, was expectedly snug and when (not if!) Skechers rolls out the half-sizes, I think we can comfortably say this fits true to size.

What else? Oh yeah, this shoe is light. The most compelling first impression I had - and I think you will too - is that this is a shoe built for speed. Skechers has the presentation down, here - strip off that medial “S,” and this could be a flat from any major manufacturer… but in 2020, that “S” is worth something. Skechers Performance is on their game!

Sam: The guys have said it, and I will say it again,  very light in hand at 5.8 oz /164 g in my US9 with noticeably more stack height at 23mm heel /19 mm forefoot than the typical race flat which often weighs more. The lightness combined with plate and Hyper Burst clearly converts to turnover and speed on the run with the “Speed Elite” branding definitely earned and not showy with subtle grays, black, and blues and lime creating deep visual interest that is not screamed as in say the Next% or the early Skechers Razor 3’s.. A classy, fast look and superb visual design. 
The feeling of lightness continues with the semi translucent mono mesh upper, a material also used with great and efficient effect in the trail race companion Speed TRL. While semi translucent and airy the upper has a semi rigid yet pliable (it, if you will, stands or holds on its own without any overlays even off the foot) and foot forming consistency which holds the foot very securely. As there are whole sizes only my pair was a half size up from my normal 8.5 and fit well with thicker socks and is decently roomy for a racing shoe with impeccable hold. If half sizes were available I would go to my true size. No heel counter here so it is a bit hard to pull on and do so carefully. 

Jacob: The Speed Elite upper uses the same very thin, seamless, translucent mono-mesh upper as found on the Speed 6 and Speed TRL. Unlike these two shoes, the Speed Elite does not have much structure in the heel. There is no heel counter, just a bit of padding around the heel collar.

The upper is static, lightly rigid, and holds its shape, but it is largely just the single layer of mesh and can be easily crushed down to the midsole by hand anywhere on the shoe. 
There are thin laminate underlays around the mid foot (further to the rear and slightly more substantial on the medial side than lateral side) to provide a bit of support and provide a locked-in fit without adding much weight or complexity. Sockliner is glued in and perforated, the blue opening above.

Keeping with the trimmed-down, no-unnecessary-weight design, the tongue and laces are thin. 
Though minimal, the tongue has enough padding though that I somewhat surprisingly haven’t had issues with lace bite. I experience a bit of tongue migration over the course of a run but I didn’t notice it until I finished and it doesn’t affect the fit/comfort. At the start of my first run I felt like the Speed Elite was uncomfortably narrow and too static, but after just a few miles they loosened up and then disappeared on my feet. They’re snug, secure, and sized well. A well thought-out race-weight upper without the fit/sizing issues Skechers was notorious for.
Derek: The upper is essentially the same as the Speed 6, minus the plastic external heel counter. I think they managed to take on some of the early feedback on the Speed 6, as the toe box volume feels a little higher as well. The rest is just excellent semi translucent ripstop-like material that does everything you would want from a racing upper. A no nonsense performance fit. I have zero issues with heel slippage in this shoe with a regular lacing style. It was easy to dial in the lace tension and get that snug midfoot lockdown. 

Michael: As mentioned above, the upper on the Speed Elite represents a direct refinement over the already compelling Speed 6 offering. There is almost nothing unnecessary here, and even the aesthetics that Skechers has been slapping across the lateral side for years - SPEED ELITE - doesn't look out of place. In fact, of all the carbon fiber racers, this is - by far! - my favorite, aesthetically (even so - please Skechers, please release a Zebra version! Even just for me!).
Improvements over the Speed 6 upper include at least the following: no hard plastic heel cup, no irritating big-toe overlays, improved lace and tongue setup, less bunched upper where the foot flexion occurs, and improved fit (more true to size). Like the GoRun 7+ iterating over the 7, the Speed Elite, even if a separate model, is a refinement of the Speed 6 at nearly every point I took issue with in the Speed 6. It’s perhaps not as svelte as Nike’s Flyknit or New Balance’s 5280 knit mesh, but it more than does the job. 
Sam:  The upper material is a  translucent mono mesh, a material also used with great and efficient effect in the trail race companion Speed TRL whose hold for such a light upper is shockingly good. So why not the same in a road race shoe!
Up close it looks like a net of different consistency threads in a very fine ripstop like pattern. While translucent and airy the upper is semi rigid yet pliable. It if you will, stands or holds up on its own without any overlays even off the foot with at the same time foot forming consistency which holds the foot very securely. The breathability and water draining should be excellent.

Sam: The Speed Elite features Skechers’ Hyper Burst midsole material.  Hyper is an EVA which is super critically infused with CO2 and Nitrogen to expand a much smaller EVA form into the final midsole which becomes a matrix with large resilient bubbles filled with CO2 with the cell structure leading to the lively, very light cushion, and durability. 

Within is a carbon fiber infused polymer 3D support and propulsion “system”. The material is a polymer mixed with tiny carbon fiber particles.  I say system as this is not a flat partial carbon plate as at the midfoot of the GoMeb Speed 6 or a full length curving or flat plate as in the Next%, Carbon X,  Brooks Hyperion Elite or even those early prototypes.
In the Speed Elite we have medial and lateral L shaped winglets on the outer walls (black in the photo above)  starting higher up at mid foot of low outer height for support and directional stability. They then extend growing in outer profile height while dropping lower towards the front and then shrink at toe off. By keeping the supports low and just at the outer edges, the foot feels like it can drive down towards the plate from mid foot  as between the plates and above at the forefoot we have softer Hyperburst. 

The profiles then reach across the whole forefoot in a double H shaped bridge at the ball of the foot to provide a stable and very energetic propulsion system up front. The double bars of the H give a touch more flex longitudinally  but there is no mistaking that to hand flex this is a very stiff shoe. 

Between the winglet plate and the outsole is an L shaped unformed EVA piece covering the Hyper Burst (approximately marked in pen on the soles below). 
This EVA layer is firmer than the Hyper Burst layer above it but is not a plate but more a skin which starts and extends further forward on the medial than lateral side. The purpose of this layer is to increase durability.  

The L shaped winglet walls are notable in that my foot feels well directed at mid foot after a decently soft landing then well supported and locked down to the toe off platform. My data indicates and I can feel more rapid cadence for equivalent faster type paces and my sense is also lower ground contact time as well.  

By using a carbon infused polymer, the Skechers system can be made in a 3D shape and  is still rigid and light but also has a bit more deflection and give than pure carbon, softening the feel and matching the Hyperburst feel just enough to largely eliminate the harsh stiff feel of a pure carbon plate in such a relatively low stack shoe.

At the heel, no plate just Hyperburst and outsole for a relatively soft landing for such a shoe with no rear carbon plate harshness in the mix.  To date, I have had none of the low heel feel of the Razor 3 with which it shares the exact same midsole stack height of 23mm heel / 19 mm forefoot, (both not including underfoot board and sockliner thickness). By way of comparison the Speed 6 has a 19mm heel /15 forefoot so a considerably lower stack.

Jacob: The Speed Elite uses Skechers Hyperburst midsole, a light, airy, and energetic critically-infused EVA with visible air bubbles. Hyperburst was seen on the Razor 3 in late 2018 and made its way onto nearly all of Skechers line throughout the following year. The Hyperburst in the Speed Elite is moderately firm and its feel is defined by the rockered, carbon-infused winglet plate in the forefoot. Unlike many plated shoes, the Speed Elite plate is thick on the outside edges and easily visible from outside the shoe. 

The Speed Elite midsole is firm to the touch and on the foot, but overall moderately cushioned. The forefoot is a bit firmer due to the plate, but the layer of foam above the plate is adequate and it never feels harsh or hard on the run. They also softened up considerably during my first run. The Speed Elite doesn’t feel like I shoe I’d want to run too far in—they’re definitely not a marathon racer for me. The foam is springy and snappy and the rolling-off-the-toe effect of the forefoot rocker is quite noticeable and defines the ride of the shoe.

Derek: This is where the magic happens. The winglet curved plate extends from the forefoot back to part of the midfoot. To reiterate, HyperBurst is an EVA super critically infused with CO2 and Nitrogen and is generally quite soft. In the Speed 6, the foam compresses quite a bit across the shoe. In the Speed Elite, even though the plate does not extend all the way back to the heel, the foam seems to prop up a little more and the rockered forefoot maintains its shape throughout the gait cycle. For me this is the biggest impact of the  plate in this shoe. It gives the natural bounce of the HyperBurst some direction - forwards!

Michael: Hyperburst has quickly and steadily risen to the top of the “best midsoles” list for me, and many other reviewers. It’s immensely dynamic - the gas infusion gives it an almost 3D-printed-like, intricate detail, and it’s impossibly light for as much cushion and push-back as it delivers. Truly, it’s like a trampoline - springly and responsive, without feeling like you’re stepping on a hard wedge (as can be the sensation for Boost, for example).
And yet, the Speed Elite has done something more - it’s added a carbon fiber infused polymer plate to the mix, detailed by the black on the edges of the shoe which is the actual plate. Hyperburst alone is springy, and Hyperburst with a carbon plate is springy…. Forwards! It really does feel like a natural extension of the technology, and a terrific use of both materials. Step forward at pace, and you’re instantly being sprung forwards.

Jacob: The Speed Elite outsole is composed of two thin pieces of Goodyear rubber and a significant amount of exposed Hyperburst. The rubber pieces are placed in the critical areas: one piece under the balls of the foot, extending to the big toe, and one piece under the outer heel. The pattern of the outsole is the same as the Speed 6 but the Speed Elite has much less outsole coverage. The focus here is entirely on weight savings and performance, not durability. 

The Goodyear rubber has noticeably great grip on dry asphalt and is ok on lightly dirty/sandy shoulders. I’ve had issues in wet conditions with the Razor 1 (pre-Goodyear), GOrun 5 (pre-Goodyear), and Speed TRL (with Goodyear; issues on roots/bridges), but the Speed Elite performed solidly on wet pavement, as long as it was clear of debris. Grip on wet sandy and slush is sketchy. Though feel and dry grip are good, given the amount of exposed Hyperburst I have durability concerns. With the wear I’ve seen already after only 15 miles I doubt they’ll last past the mid-100s for mileage. Thus, the Speed Elite will be a race-only shoe for many.

Derek: The outsole is very minimal in this shoe. I’m sure it’s all in the interest of weight savings. I think it could be an issue for people who naturally wear out the lateral forefoot rubber more, because that area is exposed foam. I personally have 2 guys in my training group who wear out the lateral forefoot more. Most people wear out the lateral heel more than the medial so heel rubber is less of an issue. Nevertheless, I think they could have gone with the same rubber coverage as the Speed 6, even at the expense of weight gain as it would extend the lifespan of the shoe considerably. Grip-wise, so far I haven’t noticed any ill effects of the exposed midsole, although I worry that exposed lateral midsole may compromise the shoe’s cornering ability at race efforts. 

Michael: The recent Skechers Speed 6 outsole was a terrific racing outsole: it wasn’t overdone or bulky, but provided enough grip for slick conditions and iffy turns. Skechers has scaled that back a little here, for a more stripped back (and presumably lighter) Speed Elite outsole, paired again with Goodyear rubber. Truthfully I did have some slipping, but on snow and ice that nearly any racing shoe would stutter on. On dry roads, of course, I had no issues. What does it mean? Just that I would hesitate to pull out the Speed Elite if you’re racing in the winter, or know a course to be particularly slick. I don’t think many are considering the Speed Elite for anything off-road, but if you are - look at the Speed TRL instead (RTR Review). 
Sam: The Goodyear rubber here provides great wet and dry grip in my testing including wet road paint. The only place it wasn’t ideal was on light sand  on wet pavement. Not surprising, as there is very little lug profile here. The rubber itself, as with other Skechers Goodyear outsoles, should prove durable but it is thin as befits a very light race focused shoe. ShoeGoo may be your friend here as I expect the rest of the shoe to long outlast the rubber coverage.

Jacob: I had high hopes for the ride Speed Elite. Hyper Burst has proven itself to be great in a low-stack speed shoe (Razor 3, Speed 6), and plates and rocker have taken over the racing category. 

I needed to put in some work for my first run so I could feel how they ran at speed, so I went for 3x10min threshold intervals (~5:40min/mi for me). While warming up at the start of the run, the Speed Elite felt stiff and awkward. I couldn’t find a form that felt smooth with them while running slow. At pace, the roughness went away and I ran the intervals solidly. They are low, stable, and quick to pop off the toe. However, I couldn’t just cruise without keeping my form clean--it wasn’t an effortless ride. My second test run involved shorter, faster (5:00min/mi) intervals. At this pace, the Speed Elite were smoother and more enjoyable because I could let them take me onto my toes and encourage me to turn over my legs quicker than I normally would without fatigue coming into play—they’re really fun to sprint in. Overall though, they don’t feel as special as I was hoping.

The Speed Elite wants to go fast and feels stable, agile, and encourages a quick turnover at speed. They are not soft or bouncy but have ample, well-distributed cushioning. The Speed Elite is not effortless to run in but effort-to-pace in them is good, so if you can get into the form they work best in and maintain that, you’ll be rewarded. The faster I run in them and the more midfoot I land, the less notable the geometry and plate is and the smoother they run. 

Michael: This is a fun, fast shoe. The moment you put it on, you want to get out there and turn over your legs. I tested it indoors and out, over my (somewhat lacking) all-out strides and some more moderate, tempo-level efforts. At both speeds, I found the Speed Elite under control and just plain snappy - in fact, despite my wish that this shoe was loaded out with more midsole (see below), I sort of appreciate the low-slung, more traditional flat-like mold of the Elite. Unlike the upcoming Nike AlphaFly - functionally the high-riding SUV of the racing game - the Speed Elite is a low-slung Ferrari. The promotion of turnover here (via the aggressive geometry and plate) means it may not be a marathon shoe for everyone, but I am confident it can at least be a half-marathon racer for all, and those with a forefoot strike should have no trouble covering 26.2.

The ride is what makes or breaks a shoe, of course, and when you’re coming for the VaporFly, as they say, “you best not miss.” The Speed Elite, if not a bullseye, at least makes solid contact. In fact, the area in which the Speed Elite lets me down most is simply that I wish there was more. The Speed Elite is not the lightest racing shoe around as-is, but Nike has shown us that PRs (and sub-2:00 marathons!) don’t turn on weight, but energy return. And while the Hyperburst midsole here has plenty of pop to it, I would love to see a Skechers Speed Elite Max (or Speed Elite+) that maxes out World Athletic’s 40mm stack height with layers and layers of the ‘Burst. 
Derek: The shoe feels best going fast. It doesn’t feel particularly special by carbon racer standards when you are going along at an easy-moderate pace, but the faster you go, the more you notice the forward roll and that familiar bounce under the forefoot. I am now in my 7th consecutive 90 mile week in the business end of a marathon build and some weeks are just grinding you down. I had a long tempo interval workout penciled for this week and I wasn’t sure I could hit the splits. I even had my Vaporfly’s prepped to step in just in case, but I had no issues and felt strong and easy the entire way with the Speed Elites. They are an amazing shoe. I should point out that the shoe does take a bit of a break-in. For me it took almost 6 miles before the forefoot developed that familiar softer bouncy feel so don’t be put off if you initially find that the shoe is a little dead in the forefoot like a Zoom Fly SP. It does wake up after a while, and in a really good way. I don’t know that I would take it all the way to the full marathon distance, but I would have no issues doing a half marathon in it. 
Sam: There is no question this is a racing ride. The heel is decently soft (no rear plate just Hyper Burst), the forefoot quite firm and very stable with the transitions very quick and the toe off dynamic and rapid. I noticed faster cadences than usual for up tempo runs at 179 for about 8 min pace vs usually 175 or so at that pace. The lightness of the shoe, in combination with the winglet plates, all contribute to a fast ride which is very stable and directed in the path of travel. I particularly noticed the effect of the front raised winglet side walls and H plate as there was a distinct sense of the ball of the foot planting securely within the “confines” of the walls, splaying out but never sloppily , and then rebounding to toe off. The L shaped EVA durability pieces just above the outsole at the ball of the foot combined with the plate amplified the stability and dynamism but for longer races for me anyway made for a bit firmer forefoot feel than I would prefer. As soon as the snow clears, and racing resumes, I will be choosing them for 5-10K races,    

Conclusions and Recommendations
Jacob: The Speed Elite is built for racing. It is trimmed-down and very lightweight with a well-sized, precise race fit, though durability and versatility suffer. It has a moderately firm, snappy, and propulsive ride that would work best for faster runners with a mid-to-forefoot strike over shorter distances (half marathon and below). 

I anticipate using the Speed Elite for short speed work once (e.g. track) every couple weeks, as well as for short races, 10k and below—I’m excited for my next opportunity to race them (I’m marathon training right now). Those who like traditional racing flats, generally land mid/forefoot, or prefer firm shoes could run the Speed Elite up to the marathon distance—it has the protection for it. I prefer the fatigue-reducing, effortless ride of a high-stack racer like Nike Vaporfly series for slower paces and where fatigue from the length of the race comes into play. I also can’t hit the paces or form the Speed Elite needs to run well after the 10k distance.

The Speed Elite is not an effortless-feeling cruiser like the Nike Vaporfly, Nike Zoom Fly, Hoka Carbon X, or NB FuelCell TC, and thus is not a direct competitor. Unlike these high-cushion shoes, the Speed Elite does not run smoothly at slower paces or with a heel strike and are too stiff for just chilling out. I’d best describe the Speed Elite as a modern version of a traditional racing flat. It has good pop, is super light, and runs fast well, but the ride doesn’t feel as special as I was hoping. I’d like to see a version with more foam underfoot to provide a bit more energy return as well as a more forgiving ride. 
Jacob’s Score: 8.52 / 10
Ride: 8.5 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 6.5 (15%) Style 9 (5%)

This shoe scores very highly for me and is my number one choice for races below the marathon at the moment. I really like how the shoe rolls at fast paces. Does it give you that extra efficiency? Who knows. I just know I feel fast and smooth in it. I put a relatively low score for value because I do have concerns about durability, and for that price tag, I would like to get a bit more mileage out of it. This shoe is a great option for neutral runners and especially people who liked the rockered feel of the older Zoom Fly series but felt the heel a bit too harsh. Now you get the softer HyperBurst heel but all the familiar forefoot rocker of the Zoom Fly 1/2/SP. 
Derek’s Score: 9.3 / 10
Ride 40% 9.5 Fit 40% 9.5 Value 10% 7.5 Style 10% 9.5

Michael: Skechers has scored a big win here, with a fast, flashy, and downright fun racing flat capable of 5K to marathon. Yes, the geometry here is aggressive, and yes, I dream of a “Max” edition with the full 40mm stack height of Hyper Burst. There’s always next year. But evaluating the product at hand, Skechers Performance has hit a definite home run. The Speed Elite is an elite racer, and Hyperburst paired with the carbon infused polymer plate is a match made in heaven. Skechers took their time with this one - but the wait was well worth it. 
Michael’s Score: 9.3 / 10

Sam: What can I say but Skechers has carved out a big win here in the no compromises, fast, and light next generation “race flat” game with a totally tricked out less than 6 oz / 170 g state of the art racer. It is aptly named that is for sure!  This is not a high stack maximal racer as the Vaporfly are, but an effective and fun to run reimagining of the race flat with more than ample cushion for no weight penalty due to Hyper, a highly propulsive plate system, and a wonderful comfortable and supportive upper. 

If “pillows for racing” aren’t for you yet you want a fast, relatively forgiving  (compared to old school flats) , far more dynamic rockered ride than flats provide, the Speed Elite is a great choice. There is a wonderful very tactile sensation of engagement with each stride in motion for fast running here.   For slow old Sam, unlike some of my much faster and younger colleagues, my race distance limit in them will be 10K and below but many will surely take them all the way to the marathon. 

It is admirable that Skechers got the Speed Elite to less than 6 oz but agreeing with Michael and Jacob adding a few more millimeters of Hyper and some more outsole bringing it in at around 6.5 oz, or just under the Next% weight, and still way below other next gen contenders, would extend its versatility and thus its value for yet more runners. 
Sam’s Score: 9.2  / 10
Ride: 8.75 (50%) Fit:10 (30%) Value: 8.5 (15%) Style 10 (5%)

 Watch Sam's First Run Impressions, Shoe Details, and Comparisons (9:13)

16 Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Skechers GOmeb Speed 6 Hyper (RTR Review)
19mm heel /15 mm forefoot stack so 4mm less front and back than Speed Elite with a mid foot only carbon plate

Derek: i wear US9.5 in the Speed 6 and US10 in the Speed Elite. They feel very different underfoot. The Speed 6 feels lower and is obviously more flexible but I also feel that the shoe is narrower. I like the Speed 6 for short intervals as the flexibility gives a more natural stride pattern, but for longer reps the carbon plate of the Speed Elite really helps. I also think the Speed 6 will be a more durable shoe because of the extra rubber coverage. 

Michael: I spent time comparing the two Skechers racers in my above review, and I think the Speed Elite is an improvement in almost every way (almost, because the durability of the Speed 6 does seem to beat that of the Elite, to the extent that matters). There isn’t really a distance I would race in the Speed 6 over the Elite, but those looking for a longer workout shoe might find more reprieve in the Speed 6 (that is, if I had a 20 mile workout, I may pull out the Speed 6 to save both my legs and my wallet). Sizing here is of course tricky, I have a 9.0 Speed 6 and an 8.0 Speed Elite that are almost exactly the same length.

Skechers Razor 3 Hyper (RTR Review)
Same 23mm heel /19 mm stack height as the Speed Elite but without any plates.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Razor 3 and US10 in the Speed Elite. The Razor 3 is the bouncier ride but that extra softness also hinders transition a little you are a big heel striker. The Speed Elite is an overall firmer shoe, but the carbon plate helps to enhance that forefoot rocker so you roll through the shoe a lot faster. From a performance perspective, the Speed Elite wins hands down. From a durability and versatility perspective, I think the Razor 3 is still tops. 
Sam: I’m a heel striker and Razor 3 gets lower at the heel for me when tired whereas the Speed Elite with its rocker and support allows me to transition much faster and keeps me off the heels longer. 

Skechers Go Run 7+ Hyper (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the GR7+ and US10 in the Speed Elite. Both have about the same amount of space in front of the toes. The GR7+ is actually closer to the Razor 3 in ride, being a softer bouncier shoe, and makes for a great trainer but probably not so great for fast workouts, which the Speed Elite will kill at. 
Michael: I disagree slightly with Derek, in that my size 8.0 Elites are noticeably tighter in the toe box than my 8.5 GR7+. I would likely trade up to an 8.5 Elite my usual size, if it existed. Even so, both work for their given jobs. In comparison, the 7+ is actually a bouncier ride than the Elite, but not necessarily a faster one - I think the midfoot plate of the Speed Elite just keeps you moving forward, whereas the 7+ rebounds the energy into your legs. I did some faster work in the 7+ without issue, but if you’re looking to race, the Speed Elite is a no-brainer. 

Brooks Hyperion Elite (RTR Initial Review)
Michael: I was fortunate enough to run several dozen miles in the Hyperion Elite and, man, this is a tough call. The Brooks, to me, is a more competent marathon flat, but I’d take the Speed Elite for a 5K/10K. It’s hard to suss out exactly, but I’ll do my best: the geometry of the Skechers feels more aggressive and slightly less forgiving than the Brooks. On the Hyperion Elite, even at slower paces or on downhills when trying to hold back, I didn’t feel the shoe working against me. With the Speed Elite, there’s a little more falling forward sensation, that keeps you on your toes. Competitive runners could use either of these in their arsenals; to the extent it matters, I had the choice between the two and used the Hyperion Elite for a long tempo workout, but plan on pulling out the Speed Elites for anything requiring faster (say, half-marathon pace and down) work.
Sam: I have also have done a few runs in the Hyperion Elite and agree with Michael assesment. The Hyperion has a denser cushion feel and more of it but is stiffer and flatter feeling with less of the rockered dynamism of the Speed Elite. While both are very stable, the consistent stability of the Hyperion back to front with its full carbon plate and relatively broad platform may make it a better choice for runners seeking a very light stability racer. It’s upper is fine but not the superb fitting and airy Speed Elite’s. You will pay a weight penalty of about an ounce and $60 more ($250 vs $190)  but will get more rubber coverage and more cushion with the Hyperion. 

Brooks Hyperion Tempo (RTR Initial Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Tempo and US10 in the Speed Elite. Both have about the same amount of space in front of the toes. The Tempo is a more flexible trainer with a subtle bounce to it most noticeable at moderate paces or faster, and has a ton of outsole coverage. The Speed Elite is lighter with a faster transition courtesy of its carbon plate, but has very little outsole coverage. I would not hesitate to use the Tempo for a 20-miler but I would worry about cushioning in the Speed Elite, especially at slower than race pace. It’s hard to make a decision on preference here. I kind of feel like I would not go with the Tempo for a race, even though it is plenty light, simply because there are so many good racers on the market now, and the Speed Elite is one of the best racers. 
Sam: Nothing very remarkable about the Tempo in comparison. I would not race it and I found its heel feel (likely all that rubber) ) quite firm in comparison to Speed Elite, especially in cold. A nice faster workout shoe but not a racer and as Derek says there are many such shoes. 

Nike Vaporfly NEXT%  (RTR Review)
Jacob: Both the NEXT% and Speed Elite are carbon-plated racing shoes with a rockered fore and good pop off the toe. Both have precise, snug race-fits but the NEXT% toe box is a bit wider and fits me better. The NEXT% is heavier but still very light and the weight comes from it being much higher stack and more durable. Relatedly the NEXT% is softer, more forgiving, more effortless to run in. The Speed Elite has a low-to-the-ground, more reactive and traditional ride. These are my current top two picks for racing: Speed Elite for 10k and below, NEXT% for everything above 10k. The choice also depends on ride preference. If you like the feel of a lower, traditional racing flat, the Speed Elite would be the pick. If you’re looking for an effortlessly-smooth cruiser, the NEXT% is the way to go.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Next% and US10 in the Speed Elite. I would definitely pick the Speed Elite for half marathon and shorter. The rocker is better in the Speed Elite but it has an overall firmer feel. The Next% has that extra softness that I like for the marathon distance.

Sam: The Next% is still my choice for above 10K and on the bubble between these two for 10K.  A touch heavier at 6.5 oz it has considerably more cushion. It’s rocker is effective but not as noticed and its ride is not as dynamic or as Jacob says “reactive” and tactile as the Speed Elite. 

Reebok Floatride Fast (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Reebok and US10 in the Speed Elite. With the proviso that the Fast causes me some aching with its midsole sidewall, I really really like the grip and durability of the Fast, but the ride is actually a bit dead for me, compared to the Speed Elite which still retains a bit of that forefoot bounce. No question I prefer the Speed Elite overall as a better racing flat for all distances. 
Sam: No midfoot issues for me and true to size. Fast is far more a trainer for me than racer and with its main PEBA midsole has a great ride somewhat deadened by its underfoot EVA as Derek says. At a mere 6.5 oz, so a bit more than a half ounce more than the Speed Elite it has plenty of durable outsole to go with its trainer grade cushion feel and a decent but not quite as refined upper. 

Reebok Floatride Fast Pro (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Reebok and US10 in the Speed Elite. The Fast Pro is still my favourite option for 3000/5000 races. It is the combination of light weight, bouncy ride and superb outsole grip that is still unbeatable at this time. The Speed Elite I think would be better for the 10K//21K distance and up. Both are pricey options though. 
Michael: These are both really terrific, class-leading flats - the Fast Pro excels in its weightlessness and durability, the Elite in its composition and midsole. I ran a huge half marathon PR in the Fast Pro, but my achilles and calves paid the price. While any fast effort can cause some discomfort, I think the Speed Elite will mitigate some of that with its greater stack height and overall support. For a 5K, it’s 100% Reebok; for a half, it’s 100% Skechers. At 10K or 10 miles, I think it will come down to the runner - more efficient runners may want to go with the Fast Pro, but there isn’t really a loser here. Two exceptionally great racers.
Sam: A great match-up of state of the art flats. The Fast Pro is amazingly light at less than 4 oz, so almost two ounces less than the Speed Elite and is no question my 5K or so race shoe and I raced them a hilly 5 miler with no issues. It has amazing substance and a “shocking” amount of cushion and is relatively shock free for such a light shoe but has less of it than the Speed Elite and it has no carbon or other plate for propulsion so really is a more traditional race flat perfected with state of the art materials at a lofty $250 price.  I would race further in the Speed Elite but not that much further. In the end unless you are a 5K “specialist” the Speed Elite is a better value and shoe.

New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo (RTR Review)
Jacob: Both shoes are similarly cushioned with a comparable stack height and level of ground-feel. The Tempo is more comfortable (plush heel, softer mesh), and spacious, as well as much more flexible as it is unplated and unrockered. The Tempo has a grippier, more comprehensive outsole, a more traditional ride, is heavier, and not intended for racing. Relatedly, it’s also $80 cheaper. The Speed Elite is a purpose-built racer being ultra-light, snugger-fitting (both true-to-size though), snappier with more rocker, and slimmed down. The Tempo is a good pick for a shorter run, uptempo trainer and its low price makes it much easier to add your quiver. However, it’s not a fast, modern racer and doesn’t compare to the Speed Elite in that realm. 

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon (RTR Review)
Jacob: Not a similar comparison here. The Beacon is a lightweight, medium stack, firm-but-cushioned trainer (with race ability) and the Speed Elite is a super-light, modern racing flat. The ride and usage of these shoes is very different: Speed Elite for racing, Beacon for daily runs.

Nike Zoom Streak (RTR Review)
Michael: I haven’t tested the Streak since the Streak 6 Flyknit, but I understand the shoe to be relatively unchanged since then (and seemingly in danger of being replaced altogether - sad!). Considering their generations - the Streak is a true old-school flat, to the Elite’s carbon-based profile - the two actually aren’t as different as you might expect. Both provide a relatively firm ride underfoot, and Nike has done well in keeping the Streak responsive. That said, the Hyper Burst midsole of the Skechers just elevates the energy return of the Elite such that you feel less fatigue on longer or more demanding runs, especially when running at a high efficiency. I would take the Speed Elite over the Streak, but they’re both more than accomplished racing flats, even when Nike’s big guns exist.
Sam: My memory is hazy.. But for sure I remember a few things about the Streaks. First the very firm dead heel ( if you are crazy enough, slow enough or tired enough to land on it ) which in the Speed Elite is much more forgiving Hyper Burst. Second a less propulsive non rockered toe off in the Streaks. Both are race flats with Speed Elite a far superior replacement in all respects. 

New Balance FuelCell Rebel (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Rebel and US10 in the Speed Elite. The Rebel is more flexible and has a more accommodating fit and it corners very very well, but the Speed Elite wins in terms of transition and ride. Overall I still put a lot of emphasis on ride quality so Speed Elite wins it. 

adidas adizero adios 5 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Adios 5 and US10 in the Speed Elite. The Adios 5 is still a more traditional feeling shoe, and loses out to the Elite both in terms of weight and rockered ride here. The main thing Adios wins at is outsole grip and durability. 

ASICS EvoRide (RTR Review)
Jacob: The EvoRide and Speed Elite are similar in level of cushioning, stack height, and high forefoot rocker. They EvoRide is heavier with a more accommodating, softer upper and overall a more forgiving ride. Both fit true to size and work best at faster paces. The Speed Elite is far lighter and race-focused while the EvoRide is an uptempo trainer; not as snappy or intended for racing. The EvoRide is more durable and versatile so is my pick as a trainer, but if you’re looking for a racer, the Speed Elite is the clear choice.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in the EvoRide and US10 in the Speed Elite. I don’t actually find the rides that similar. The Speed Elite’s rocker is more pronounced, but more importantly the Hyper Burst gives the shoe a bit more vibration dampening underfoot even though the EvoRide is much heavier. Even as a daily trainer I would choose the Speed Elite, if durability wasn’t an issue. 

New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)
Jacob: They’re both modern carbon-plated shoes, but have dramatically different rides. The TC is softer, higher stack, bouncier, more forgiving, more durable, and more versatile. The TC is a great (and fast) do-it-all long-run trainer/racer; its major weakness as a racer is its high weight. The Speed Elite is much, much lighter (118g lighter in my US M12), more rockered, and snappier. It’s a speed-only shoe. Both are true to size but the Speed Elite is narrower and snugger overall--a precision race fit--while the TC is accomodating and spacious (though still locked-in). I like the smooth ride of the TC a lot more and would choose it for everything except short speed/short races, but the choice really depends if you’re looking for a low race flat or a high-stack soft trainer/racer.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in the FuelCell TC and US10 in the Speed Elite. Both have about the same amount of space in front of the toes. The TC is a very soft and bouncy ride but transitions a bit slowly for me at faster paces. By contrast, the Speed Elite is a firmer ride with a prominent forefoot rocker and a very snappy transition. Very different shoes and I would say the TC is more of a daily trainer that would struggle with speed work, while the Speed Elite is a pure racer that would struggle with easy runs. 

Sam: Both are state of the art totally modern shoes with great midsoles and propulsive plated rides. As the guys say the TC is clearly more cushioned and bouncier, considerably more forgiving and 3 oz heavier, although that is not really noticed.  We have a joyously fun at most any pace but super fast TC ride vs. an all business go fast ride with the Elite. At about the same price, the TC is far more versatile as a trainer racer while the Speed Elite leans way more towards pure racer and speed. If you can swing it they would make a great pairing! 

Nike Zoom Fly SP
Derek: I wear US10 for both models. Both have very thin and flexible uppers but the Speed Elite has noticeably more volume especially in the toebox. Both have very prominent forefoot rockers, and I would say more so in the Speed Elite than the ZF SP. They actually have almost similar forefoot feel at fast paces, with the Speed Elite being slightly more bouncy and lively. The main difference is the Speed Elite has a much softer heel, almost similar to the Zoom Fly Flyknit’s React heel. Both are great shoes and it is hard to notice the price difference now that the SP is mostly on clearance. I think the ZF SP is a great training companion to the Speed Elite which then can be reserved for pure race efforts. 

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Anonymous said...

Hey guys, great review! I noticed that you mentioned the Hoka carbon x in the review but did not do a direct comparison below. Could you provide some insight on how the shoes compare and how the weight difference feels on foot?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Will add. Thanks for suggesting,
Very different rides. The X is considerably more cushioned especially at forefoot even with its plate with a broader more stable platform. It's ride is "flatter" in feel and less dynamic. It slots in as a long run faster trainer that can race vs. a more pure racer with the Speed Elite
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying! I just got the speed elites and I'm finding them a bit firm in the forefoot for my longer runs, I'm going to give the carbon x a try.