Friday, March 20, 2020

Skechers Performance Go Run Horizon Vanish Multi Tester Review: A Flat Out, Minimalist, No Apologies $100 Race Flat

Article by Joost de Raeymaeker, Ryan Eiler, and Michael Ellenberger

Skechers Performance Horizon Vanish ($100)
Weight:: men's 5.2 oz / (US9)  / women's / (US8)
Samples: Joost (US9.5) - 153g/5.4oz
Stack Height: 19mm heel, 15mm forefoot, 4mm drop
Available now including Running Warehouse here. $100

Michael: Light and fast; sharp looking; Hyperburst-less midsole is still compelling; price!
Joost: Fun shoe to run fast, easy to pick up the pace; light; looks
Ryan: Price, low inertia/snappy turnover 

Michael: Heel drop-off is severe; sizing wonks; stiff upper at toe
Joost: Probably not the right shoe for severe heel strikers, Skechers uppers haven’t been on par with some of the other brands.
Ryan: Toe box fit, sizing

Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to welcome Joost de Raeymaeker to the RTR team. He is one of the world’s top over 50 marathoners with two Marathon Majors age group victories in 2019.

Tester Profiles
Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 Marathon Majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. His Strava is here:
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile. 
Ryan: A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.
Ryan decided to forego his Wall Street job to be a gear junkie, and is currently the fledgling entrepreneur behind his company, Bridger Helmets.  Most days, you'll find him loping along the Charles River in Boston.  Of all the places he's run, Central Park NYC and the New Hampshire coast top his list.

Michael: When you think Skechers Performance in 2020, you probably think of Hyperburst. And why not? Their flagship midsole - a poppy, nitrogen-infused compound that’s springy and durable - is worked into the branding of their uptempo trainer, the GoRun 7+ Hyper, their mid-tier racing flat, the GoMeb Speed 6 Hyper, and their (terrific) flagship, the Speed Elite Hyper. So in 2020, it’s strange to see Skechers roll out a brand new, sub-5 ounce racer… without Hyperburst. Is it sacrilege? Is it corner cutting? Fortunately not - setting aside some quirks that will be addressed below, the Skechers Performance Horizon Vanish is a top-notch racing flat at a rock-bottom price, and should become many runners’ go-to workout flat - even if they’ve bought into the carbon revolution.

Joost: I was equally surprised to find a different foam on this shoe, since Hyperburst is clearly one of the better ones out there right now, but the weight of the UltraFlight foam, coupled with the fact that it feels quite lively on running fast, makes up for that fact. On top of that, there’s quite a generous amount of it for a racing flat. I would argue that at this price point, it’s one of the best offerings if you want to go fast. I could easily pick up the pace to just under 3mins/km in them for some fast repeats, and judging from my Stryd data, it is very economical in doing so, actually beating my pair of Vaporfly for short fast distances in terms of efficiency. I would definitely give them a go for a 5k race or so. I don’t know if I’ve gotten used to the Skechers uppers with lots of text and patterns on them, but these actually look very nice as well.

Ryan: My initial reaction was to question why Skechers spent time and money to build a shoe they didn’t need.  However, it eventually became clear to me that there is in fact a place in their lineup for this shoe. It serves as a no-nonsense, budget-friendly racing flat that achieves what it set out to do: look flashy, and go fast.  Think of it as a modern riff on an old school racing flat -- it has a slightly larger dose of foam underfoot, and an evolved upper, but ultimately it’s only focus is to avoid being your excuse for missing a 5k PR.

First Impressions and Fit
Michael: Undoubtedly, many first impressions will be simple - these look awesome. And indeed, the Horizon Vanish is one of the most distinctive and sharp-looking flats available today, with a striking white midsole and a creative, flag-inspired upper, it looks like nothing else on the market (though it’s not dissimilar from the infamous Mizuno Wave Universe 5 - one of the most striking flats ever!). Unfortunately, I had to go up a half size in the Horizon Vanish, and I suspect many runners will need to do the same - not only was the shoe short, the upper is also noticeably firm around the big toe (more on that later), which adds to the discomfort. Still, once properly sized, the Horizon Vanish feels like you would imagine - extremely light and race-ready. Let’s run!

Joost: I’ve had to size up in the Razor 3 and the Speed Elite Hyper, while my GoRun Ride 7 is actually a little on the large side at 9.5. I chose my usual 9.5 in this shoe. It’s on the short side, but not too short for a racing flat. 

Ryan: Their appearance leaves no guesswork as to what they’re intended to do.  These are unambiguously meant for short, ‘on the clock’ workouts or races. The upper isn’t the usual offering of curvaceous seams and elegant lamination; it’s a look-at-me, graphical ripstop material which would be at home at a Formula 1 race.  They’re so light that for a split second, I was actually convinced that the box left on my porch was empty. Upon lace-up, they feel so light as to be inspiring, although I did notice that my big toe was immediately bumping up against the reinforced toe box.

Michael: The upper is going to be the first thing you notice on this shoe - it’s so visually striking, I imagine a lot of runners will be pulling these off the wall (or the virtual wall) just to find out what the Horizon Vanish is all about. The material here is very similar to that on both the Speed 6 and Speed Elite; it’s a plastic-y mesh that is definitely light, but does tend to be overly harsh, especially around the front toe box. 
In fact, as with the Speed 6, Skechers adds an additional overlay right at the front toe, which increases the likelihood of irritation (a significant issue in my true-to-size pair, and still noticeable in my half-size up). Removing that overlay - or taking the drastic step of cutting out the upper around the big toe! - would be a major step in making this a more accessible shoe for our wide-footed friends. Sizing and toe quirks aside, the upper does a great job in doing what it sets out to do - it’s light and airy, and relatively breathable.
Joost: My problem with the faster Skechers models has been that the uppers are a couple of millimeters too narrow on the medial side, so my big toe rubs against the upper or the edge of the midsole. In the original Razor:3 I had (US9.5), this happened with my right big toe, and in the Speed Elite Hyper (US10), it happens with my left big toe, making for some interesting blood blisters on the side of that toe. It probably wouldn’t come to that if I trained in cooler weather, but the tropical African climate where I live gets my feet soaking wet after about 15k, and unless I use generous amounts of Vaseline, I end up with another painful toe. The Horizon Vanish is just a little on the narrow side, and I can feel my big toe rubbing when I walk in them, but when running, it’s actually ok. 

Ryan: Skechers may have modeled this upper after a Times Square billboard.  The ripstop material shows off some splashy graphics and will garner attention, whether you like it or not.   Despite the material being so thin that I can read the text on my socks, it has no stretch at all, which can feel a bit harsh after a few miles.  It also doesn’t breathe like mesh, but they aren’t designed to be on your feet for all that long anyway.
As for the fit, I agree with both Michael and Joost here.  Unfortunately, the predominant experience for me was some medial-side rubbing on my big toe.  It seems like the upper just isn’t shaped quite right, as this is the only shoe I can remember having given me this issue.  Luckily, it’s not severe enough to be debilitating, and for shorter efforts it probably won’t be a problem for most people.
The heel counter is very unstructured, but has a strip of padding wrapping around the achilles which seems to aid lockdown.  The lower part of the heel tended to crumple for me on toe-off, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, but rather an example of how much weight shaving is happening here.  The tongue and laces are very minimal, but presented no problems for me.
Overall, it provides fairly solid securement, while (big toe aside) feeling barely there, as a racing shoe should.

Michael: As noted in my introduction, Skechers does not pack the Horizon Vanish with its high-end Hyper Burst midsole, but instead with “Ultra Flight” material. How does it fare? I’ll say this - it’s noticeably not Hyperburst (it’s missing some of that signature bounce, and even in manipulating it when not running, it has a different tactile feel), but it’s still more than adequate. In making tradeoffs, I think Skechers has reached a fair compromise here - allowing for a pretty healthy portion (in stack height, specifically) of the Ultra Flight without giving up precious ounces. In that regard, I think Skechers has struck a terrific balance here.

Speaking of balance - there’s something really odd about the balance (or midsole shaping) of the Horizon Vanish, and I can’t quite pin it. This is not a major issue when running (though I suppose it could be, for heel strikers) - when you’re standing or walking in the shoe, there is a noticeable “drop-off” when striking with the heel. That is, if you stand, and rock backwards, you almost feel like you’re going to tip over - the midsole cuts right off. This isn’t something I would detract from in my overall review score - it didn’t have an effect on my running - but it’s something you may want to test out when you’re trying this shoe on in-store.

Joost: Completely agree with Michael. A generous amount of midsole, bouncy enough, but decidedly weird when walking around in them. I also suspect that heel strikers might choose to try these out before deciding, since overcoming the rocker might feel awkward or cost you a lot of energy.

Ryan: I’m guessing that Skechers dug straight into their lighter-is-better including material cost bag when designing the midsole on this one.  To that end, they’ve succeeded, and while the pleasant rebound of Hyperburst isn’t here, there’s still some cushion without adding a single gram of weight.  However, the result is a simple, ‘go fast and go home’ type of ride. There’s also an exaggerated amount of rocker at the heel, curving up and toward the lateral side of the shoe.  This is a bit overdone in my opinion, as I can tip my toe 45 degrees upward, and the rear of the outsole is still flat on the ground. I know some people who are heel strikers, but not like that.  This shoe works well when you’re clipping off intervals at 5-10k speeds, but it certainly won’t win any points for refinement or sophistication.  It’s minimalist, without apologies.

Michael: Not a ton to discuss here, but I’ll do my best - like the GoRun 7+ Hyper, the Horizon Vanish has an outsole made up of “pods” (my term, not Skechers’s), that are durable without costing extra weight. Also labeled across the outsole is “M-Strike,” signifying Skechers’s use of their signature geometry in this shoe as well. What does it all mean? I had no issues with the Horizon Vanish - as with most Skechers models using this similar outsole configuration - even on the last few slick winter days (hopefully!) of the season.
Joost: The “pods” do their job of cutting down overall weight, offering decent traction on the road, while also still allowing a decent amount of feedback. I could definitely feel little stones, without any discomfort, though.

Ryan:  Clearly another prioritization of weight minimization over all else here.  The segmented islands of rubber underfoot aren’t all that noticeable, but they also don’t really help to make for a stable ride.  They are placed (mostly) symmetrically from heel to toe, but I wish they had been more strategic about this, since a natural foot strike isn’t at all this symmetric.  Despite the scarcity of rubber, I didn’t have any issues with traction during speed workouts. There’s really not a whole lot of outsole to talk about here! 

Michael: I’ve set up that the Horizon Vanish is bringing a midsole other than their Hyper Burst to the table, but how does it feel while running? Well, I’m happy to say it’s not markedly different from Hyperburst (though it is different enough to be, well, different!). The Ultra Flight cushioning is light (duh) and slightly less dense than Hyperburst, and feels a little less springy underfoot. Still, it provides enough pop to get you moving, and is anchored especially by just… being light. We tend to forget it, in the generation of space-age foams and carbon plates, but a lighter shoe is inherently easier to pick-up and put-down, which can promote a quick turnover and allow for a more efficient gait. Here, I think Skechers has again split the difference - supplying a midsole that has some definite responsiveness, while still getting out of your way and being just… light! In that way, the Horizon Vanish feels more like a track spike or classic road racing flat (think Nike Streak XC or LT) than like the Speed Elite or even Speed 6 - but at a price that makes it almost a no brainer. 

Joost: This is definitely a shoe to pick up the pace and forget it’s on your feet. In a couple of strides, you can be at top speed and back again. There’s a definite racing flat feel to it, while still offering a good amount of cushioning. I would definitely pick up this one instead of an Adidas Adios or a Nike Zoom Streak for up tempo training or shorter races. Michael said it and my Stryd numbers confirm it: this shoe has a very efficient gait. For those who use Stryd, at around 3min/km, my FP ratio (Form Power/Total Power, to determine how much power you “waste”) is a very nice 0.17, something even the Vaporfly can’t match.

Ryan:  Frills or flourishes geared toward comfort are not what this kit is about.  The most noticeable ride characteristic is the lack of inertia, which the laws of running physics reward handsomely when trying to set personal bests.  There is still enough foam to provide some forgiveness and rebound, but the level of road feel is on par with most stripped down racing flats. The slightly rockered shape of the midsole made mid to forefoot transition smooth, but you’re on your own when it comes to stability and toe-off, with the lack of structural bells and whistles here.  For short bouts of speedwork, the lack of weight puts that extra bit of wind in the sails, but for longer runs at tempo, I started to notice some muscle fatigue from the harshness of the ride. I think Skechers have achieved the ride they intended this shoe to have.

Michael: The real key to this flat is one thing that doesn’t always get discussed in our reviews: the price. The Horizon Vanish is a good flat. A really good flat, even! But at $100, the Horizon Vanish is a flat-out awesome flat. Why? Because it’s competent enough that those who just want something fast for race day (without dropping Alpha Fly dollars) can use without issue, and it’s something that those who only race in the Vaporfly (or Speed Elite, or Endorphin Pro, etc.) can use as a flat for longer workouts, so they don’t need to wear down their $250 racing machines. I think most competitive (and striving-to-be-competitive!) runners can find a place for this flat in their arsenal, even though its imperfect. This is one of the great buys available on the running market today - just make sure you can nail the sizing, and fast miles are coming your way!
Michael’s Score: 8.9/10

Joost: Nothing to add here. At the price point, they are a no-brainer for those looking to add a fast shoe to their rotation.
Joost’s Score: 8.9/10

Ryan:  If you want a minimalist, no-frills, and affordable racing flat, this may be your ticket.  Most of the miles these shoes will cover will be on the clock -- folks ripping tempo workouts, or trying to run a respectable 5k.  They may not be the best flat out there right now, but good luck finding another reputable short distance racer for $100.  There are some potential fit issues, especially with the narrow toe box, but when you dare to go check whether your speed work is paying off, these are certainly worth considering.
Ryan’s Score: 8.1/10 - Loses points for crude, irregular upper; Shines on price, as well as no-apologies, high efficiency design with a touch of midsole comfort.

Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Hoka One One Evo Rehi (RTR Review)
Michael: This is the shoe I immediately thought of when trying the Horizon Vanish, because it’s another stripped-down, lightweight, ready-to-go racer. I like the upper on the Evo Rehi better - it’s lighter and stretchier, and the entire shoe is extremely drainable - but I think the Horizon Vanish is overall a better racer. Plus, even though the Hoka is “only” $140, the significant price jump is a hard one to make. For your non-carbon racer, take the Skechers.

Skechers GoMeb Speed 6 Hyper (RTR Review)
Michael: The GoMeb Speed 6 Hyper doesn’t have a carbon plate, but it does have an injected Pebax mid foot plate that gives it a definitive “pop” with the toe-off. Frustratingly, the Speed 6 is also hard to size correctly and (like the Horizon Vanish) is a little more built-up around the toe than I’d prefer. Even so, it’s a quality flat, and this is a tough call. I think the Horizon Vanish could, despite its weight, fare a little better over longer races than the Speed 6, just due to its geometry (and again, at a lower price, the Horizon Vanish is an even easier buy).

Skechers Speed Elite Hyper (RTR Review)
Michael: These are great companion flats - the Speed Elite for racing, and the Horizon Vanish for workouts. Choosing between the two, it’s not much of a comparison; the Speed Elite Hyper is an undoubtedly better shoe, with a snappy midsole and carbon plate. What does the Horizon Vanish have going for it? The price at $90 less (duh!), the weight, and the fact that its durability looks to be a little better, based on its midsole and outsole construction (though it remains to be seen). If you have the cash, go for the Speed Elite Hyper - but don’t overlook the guy on the starting line next to you with the Horizon Vanish.
Joost: Definitely a different feel to these. For longer races, I would use the Speed Elite, but for shorter ones and faster training, the Horizon Vanish would be my choice.

Nike Zoom Streak 6 and Flyknit (RTR Review)
Joost: This was my favorite racing flat for a long time. I’ve had numerous pairs of the Zoom Streak 6 as well as the Flyknit, and once in a while I take out one of my two remaining pairs out for a spin to feel the ground and pick up the pace in one of the snappiest shoes I’ve ever run in. I even ran a reasonably fast (2:35) marathon in a pair of slightly small Streak 6 a couple of years ago, which cost me a big toe nail. After getting a foot injury, I’m unable to wear them for too many runs or long intensive runs without getting my feet completely battered. All this to say that the Skechers Horizon Vanish has the feel of a racing flat, although slightly less traditional, a little more cushioned, but with a good ground feel, a fast turnover (if you don’t strike too far back on your heel) and could easily take the place of the Streak in my rotation, because it spares my feet just that little more. I would say they are a great racing "flat" choice for slightly older legs and feet.
Ryan: I think Joost’s comment about these being ‘less traditional’ racing flats is a great way of describing these.  My Nike Flyknits have a drastically different feel in the upper, which is no surprise, given the radically different construction and materials used.  But the Flyknit is also several ounces heavier, and cannot compete when it comes to providing an effortless turnover. The Flyknit feels more refined, however I do appreciate the extra cushion that the Horizon Vanish provides.
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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amadeus303 said...

Can you guys compare this to the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro? It seems to me that it may be the only other racing flat that approaches these silly levels of weight (sans the old Mizuno Wave Universes). I absolutely love the Pro, but I only break it out for racing due to durability concerns. This Skechers sounds like a great shoe to do my track work and race sims.

brian said...

How does it compare to the Atreyu shoe?

Michael said...

Sorry, all - wrote a big post, and then my laptop crashed. Slightly truncated - feel free to follow up.

@Amadeus - The Reebok is basically an all-around better shoe, but the Horizon Vanish does a decent job "mimicking" the RFP at a much lower price. The Pebax midsole of the Reebok gives it a real "pop" sensation while still allowing it to be hyper-lite and taking away too much cushioning. The Horizon Vanish doesn't have quite the same responsiveness, but is light enough to handle most fast workouts that you'd be taking the Reebok on, anyway. I'd size .5 up in the Skechers from the Run Fast Pro.

@Brian - Another comparison I should have added. The Atryu is a little softer, but a little less responsive than the Skechers (which, as above, is even less responsive than something like the Run Fast Pro). It's my general idea that once you get into a shoe this light, you don't necessarily "need" responsive midsoles or carbon fiber plates because your foot strike (especially when running fast) can pick-up and put-down light shoes so quickly, there's no extra "propulsion" needed. Obviously shoes that do add something - Reebok Run Fast Pro, New Balance FC5280 - are then a step above. The upper in the Atreyu is way, way better than the Skechers, too. Skechers may win on durability (but Atreyu is setting up some recycling program, so maybe moot). Considering $75 vs. $100, I'd take the Atreyu (but realistically... I'd take both!).

amadeus303 said...

Thanks Michael - that's really helpful... sounds like it'd be the perfect shoe for my workouts, and it allows me to keep the RFP for race day only...but now you reminded me of the Atreyu as well, ha! One of them will end up in my quiver. Cheers mate!