Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Skechers Performance Go Run Forza 4 Multi Tester Review: A Tale of Two Densities

Article by John Tribbia, Michael Ellenberger, and Sam Winebaum


Skechers Go Run Forza 4 Hyper ($145)

Stats

 Official Weight: men's 9.0 oz  / 255 g (US9) /  women's 7.1 oz / 201g (US7)

  Samples 8.75 oz:/  248 g (US8.5)

Stack Height: Total: 26mm /32mm, midsole and outsole: 17mm/23mm

6mm offset

Men's available now at Running Warehouse here, women's later in April. $145


Introduction

Sam: The Forza is Skechers' offering in the stability/support category. Basically the medial “support” side has a firmer UltraFlight foam which is wider at the rear tapering gradually in wedge fashion to the lateral side where it is about an inch wide underfoot at the forefoot and more vertical. The lateral side is Skechers wonderful HyperBurst. The green showing below and above is UltraFlight, the white Hyper Burst.

The result is a very different shoe and ride from most Skechers yet one thing is clear at 9.0 oz, they are very, very light weight for a highly cushioned support/stability shoe. In fact they come in at 0.3 oz lighter than the Ride 8, a more neutral trainer with the Forza having 1mm more stack front and back. 


The upper is a mono mesh and polyester. They are shod with a full coverage Goodyear rubber outsole which works in combination with the midsole for decoupling and providing a snappy single, fairly forward flex point (once broken in), something the Ride 8 lacks for me.


John: I was excited at the chance to test the Forza 4. I don’t have much history with Skechers aside from running in the Road Max 4 and the Speed TRL. What I do love about all the Skechers shoes I have tested are the comfortable uppers. What I love about the Forza 4 is the firm, smooth ride, that provides great stability in a lightweight package. When I put these on out of the box, I noticed the firm footbed and soft engineered mesh upper. The shoe rolls well from heel-to-toe and feels light and nimble.


Michael: Though I’ve been enamored with Skechers offers in the past 24 months or so, this is my first foray into the Forza line. Beefy and stable (perhaps overly so), this fourth iteration of the Forza line (formally, the Skechers Performance Forza 4 Hyper) includes not only Skechers’ signature Hyperburst, but some UltraFlight midsole material to boot. It’s big, it’s chunky, it’s… corduroy-patterned...? Anyway, I covered 50 miles - including some down near marathon pace - in the Forza 4, and can’t wait to talk about it.


Pros:

Sam: Very stable on downhills and firmer on the medial side without overdoing it with a post feel or rails. 

Not an overbearing stability shoe, neutral runners can also enjoy

Very light for a highly cushioned stability/support oriented shoe

Responsive firmer rear feel with decent flexibility and decoupling once broken in

John/Sam: Stable and smooth transitioning ride, flat laces, comfortable upper, well structured foot security, lightweight

Michael: Fun ride; Hyperburst makes it responsive enough; funky styling


Cons:

Sam: Loud outsole, some break in required. Could use a touch more heel decoupling 

John: Firm even after break-in period, dampened response

Michael/Sam: Too firm - especially out of the box; UltraFlight medial side could be less dramatic as close in feel to a post; 

Michael: hard to get snug; uncomfortable at slower paces.

Tester Profiles

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 

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 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

John: When I put these on, I noticed the stability right away. Walking around, I could also feel firmness in the forefoot and a smooth transition from heel-to-toe. Even though the initial feel of the cushion is hard, there was a notable - and almost immediate - softening after 30 minutes (~4 miles) into my first run. Overall, the Forza has a very secure fit in the heel and across the midfoot laces. The shoe has a very light feeling and they are really stable too. The Forza fits true to size. It is reasonably roomy enough in the toe box and the perfect length for my 9.0 size foot. The upper is non-abrasive on the inside, comfortable, with good foothold.


Michael: As with John (and I presume nearly every runner trying these on), the first thing you are going to notice is that medial support. It’s firm. But the Forza 4 isn’t just laterally firm at first-test, it’s also pretty rigidly platformed back-to-front, something that gave me pause when wearing them around my home. Fortunately (at least for me), that general clunkiness ran itself out when moving through a pretty minimal break-in period. That’s not to say the shoe isn’t rigid, of course; laterally it’s largely inflexible and even running front-to-back, it’s not a shoe that can roll a great deal. Still, knowing that initial stiffness passes should ease some concerned minds (as mine) when trying the Forza 4. 


Sam: a relatively roomy well held fit. True to size. The mono mesh polyester mesh is not the softest but does its job well.  The upper reminds of a more symmetric take on Skechers abstract Zebrafage prototype colors. As the others have said this is a shoe that requires some break-in. They were stiff, loud and quite ponderous for the first six or so miles, but once they got some flex, noticeably improved in transitions and toe off. 


Upper

John: The upper is engineered mesh with taped overlay atop the eyelets for extra cinching security. It has a very sleek and fast look, feel, and has a really cool fluorescent yellow/green and black colorway. The tongue is minimal and stays in optimal position while laces are kept high up on the shoe with a top lace loop hole. I love that attention to detail. The upper is soft on the skin and is more substantial than a sock-like upper of Skechers Max Road 4. 


Michael: I’ll say it - I dig the aesthetics of the Forza 4. It’s not the most handsome shoe on the market, or even in Skechers’s lineup (and is doubtfully one I’d choose to wear casually), but as a pure running shoe, I appreciate that it’s unique and relatively fun. 


Looks aside, the upper here is different from what’s offered on Skechers’s racing options (a thin, mono mesh plastic-y upper that is light and water resistant) or their knit offerings, like the GoRun 7+ Hyper. Instead, we get this engineered mono mesh polyester combination that’s firmer than a knit but not quite plastic like the racers. It’s nice - not my favorite upper composition ever, to be sure, but adequate. 


The primary issue I have is that the lacing is hard to get right - there just aren’t enough eyelets, and they’re spread slightly too far apart, to give me adequate lockdown. I didn’t have any irritation due to heel slippage, but I did notice it, and after a hard 15 mile run in these, I noticed my achilles and calves were more sore than the otherwise would be, which I attribute to having to manage this instability due to lockdown. I’ve added a photo, just comparing the two most recent shoes I have been testing - the Forza 4 and the Cumulus 22. The Cumulus has some flaws in the lockdown, to be sure, but note how for each set of eyelets (denoted with a red number), the laces actually cross each other twice. Not so on the Forza - and you can feel it. Look how much more snug you can get the ASICS - I shoe that I actually think is imperfect in that regard - compared to the Forza 4.


Oh, and they also stained my white socks - not the entire shoe. Just the topmost part of the tongue. Hmph. Wear black socks if you’re running in the Forza 4, unless you want a rectangular imprint stained into your footwear.

Sam: The others have described the upper well, I have a slightly wider left foot than right (a bit exaggerated in the camera angle above) and had zero issues with lock down with either foot  but it must be said this is a roomy upper with, unlike some Skechers such as Ride 8, not as much stretch/compression. The wide flat laces and lightly padded tongue, never budged due to the tongue's wrapping shape and lace loop tying together the lacing and upper allowing for a variety of foot shapes to be locked down. This said very narrow feet may struggle. 


The reflective accents on the rear pull, front of shoe, and I think also in laces are commendable.


Midsole

Basically the medial “support” side has a firmer green UltraFlight foam, wider at the rear tapering gradually in wedge fashion to the lateral side with the Ultra Flight about an inch wide across the bottom at the forefoot and more vertical. The lateral side is Skechers' wonderful HyperBurst. The green showing below and above is UltraFlight, the white Hyper Burst.

Sam: The lateral side Hyperburst is the same firmness as the Razor 3 with the medial Ultra Flight about 10 points on the scale firmer so quite firm. I am kind of amazed that the dense Ultra Flight is not heavier as, recall, this shoe weighs a mere 9 oz.


On the run the support features delivered by the UltraFlight are felt just in front of the heel and while still supportive there is no feeling of a firm block or brick under the arch. I do wish for a bit more of heel crash pad to help me roll past that first sense of support (which is welcome) a little faster particularly at slower paces where there is somewhat of a sensation of jarring abruptness on landing. This mostly goes away as the pace picks up with the sensation there turning into one of sudden and effective response and pop, if yes still on the firmer side, but not a bounce. All of this said there is plenty of cushion . The rear stability is notable on downhills, rock solid and well directed.

Michael: Ah, the Forza 4 midsole, or perhaps what we may call “A Tale of Two Densities.” Yes, the Forza sports both Hyperburst - Skechers’ poppy, light, and quite responsive material alongside UltraFlight, which here is a denser, firmer material, and lines the medial side. Here’s the thing - you’ll notice it. In some ways, it almost feels like two shoes being squeezed together down the centerline - one, a springy, responsive trainer; the other, a firm, stable workhorse. 


That duality is both good and bad; it means that you do get benefits from the Hyperburst material - making this a pretty lively and usable trainer for runners of all gaits. But it also means that, especially before they’re sufficiently broken in, the Forza feels clunky and sort of overly rigid, especially on the medial side.


That said, there is some method to the madness, and the result is a firm, stable ride from the Forza 4. I tend to wear neutral trainers, but I don’t mind working in a mild stability shoe, especially for easier runs. And while I ended up covering some fast miles in these, too, I think the added medial posting really did help, especially when my legs were fatigued after 15+ miles of asphalt pounding. Like the Nike Infinity React, you’ll know the structure is there - but it’s appreciated.


John: The Forza brings a lightweight and stable one-two punch with Hyperburst and UltraFlight materials, respectively. Like Michael said above, the Forza has a very stable feel thanks to the UltraFlight material that offers medial side posting. I found the combination to be very effective at creating a stable and structured ride that absorbed shock on the flats as well as downhills. But I was underwhelmed with the rebound and bounce for such a lightweight shoe. As I picked up the pace in these shoes, my legs at 5:20 pace felt like they had another gear but I felt like the shoes overly dampened the needed response to go any faster. I compare that feeling to wearing a parachute and trying to run against the resistance. In terms of durability, I have already put ~75 miles on these and the cushion has a lot of life left. 


Outsole

Sam: Initially, until they got some flex, the outsole was slappy loud but now, while not silent., is far quieter. In my experience, noisy outsole primarily come from a combination of stiffness and extensive front rubber coverage, Finally here, a well decoupled outsole with a nice rocker from Skechers in a bigger stack stiffer full rubber coverage shoe that also delivers snappy decent flexibility once broken in. What a contrast with the stiffness many miles in of the Ride’s cross bars which led me to struggle at fast paces as it also lacks a more pronounced rocker as the Forza has. I do wish the heel had a crash pad separation or more of a rocker/ bevel on the lateral side to help with the roll off the heel given the firm medial side. 

Michael: I didn’t notice any noise issue in my pair (though, running through the city, it can be harder to pick up these nuances). Instead, I was overall pleasantly surprised with the outsole of the Forza - it is well-covered in Goodyear-marked rubber, but flexible enough that I didn’t feel that it was a contributing factor to the clunkiness. 

John: The outsole uses Goodyear rubber that covers the perimeter of the sole, which provides a solid and broad surface for the shoe to connect with the road. The forefoot of the outsole has a more grooved pattern that provides some traction for pushing off. Overall, the outsole is not excessive and clunky, rather it is minimally constructed and offers the durability of road tested rubber from Goodyear. With 75 or so miles on the shoe, I am impressed with how little wear there is (see photo below).


Ride

Sam: Rough first few miles, loud, slappy, firm and stiff on flats and uphills. After 6 miles things changed a lot. Great on downhills, very stable, very well cushioned with a lot of response and firmer rebound as the pace picks up. Faster miles better miles in this shoe but to a point as it is not an uptempo design, despite the low weight, for me. Recovery miles when new were ponderous, slappy, and dull but after break in improved a great deal. More rocker, easier transition and easier toe off for sure than Ride 8 from the well segmented and decoupled outsole. It is a stable shoe that likes to go fast.


John: As Sam mentions, the ride isn’t great at first blush. However, there is an immediate inflection point of change after a short break-in period. The ride changes from stiff and encumbered to smooth, fast, and stable. I find this carries over at fast or slower speeds. The Forza is lightweight and feels fast through the transition with a pronounced rocker. The entire midsole is thick, which provides a firm, cushioned, and very stable ride, which I found to be perfect for heel striking (especially downhill) and midfoot striking. While the transition is easy and quick, I found the response and rebound to be lackluster. As I mentioned in the midsole section, it is almost as if I want to take the shoe an extra gear faster, but it just can’t go.


Michael: Similar story regarding the break-in here, though I come down somewhere in-between Sam and John’s impressions. I’ll agree entirely that it takes a few miles to even these out and remove that binary “medial side-lateral side” split. Once that’s gone, I found the shoe relatively dull at slower and recovery paces (like Sam), but surprisingly lively at quicker paces (like John). In fact, whereas I had expected a shoe like the Saucony Endorphin Shift to really have range - and came away slightly disappointed when pushing it in a workout - I never felt like the Forza was holding me back, even when I ran a 15 mile tempo around the (empty!) Chicago streets. Indeed, I think the stability elements that are so noticeable at slower paces actually get out of the way at faster paces, and I ended up enjoying the shoe more at 5:20 pace than 7:20 pace. Still, I could do with a little less on the medial side, and I think a slightly softer and less rigid composition (along with lacing tweaks) in the Forza 5 might make this the ultimate lightweight stability trainer - a crown the DS-Trainer has long held.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Let’s not forget this is a stability/support type shoe and all three of us generally prefer neutral shoes so my evaluation tries to bridge personal preferences and the shoe’s purpose. 


First, Forza 4 is very light for a stability type shoe. In our comparisons below you will see competitors such as the Arahi and Infinity React are close to an ounce heavier with similar cushion stack. While light, Forza 4 provides that medial support without a sudden post feel or awkward to transition rails such as in the Infinity, Brooks support shoes or Altra’s. 


As a neutral runner I did notice a general medial firmness but it was well distributed. While this support is not bouncy or soft it has a responsive snappy rebound off the heel at faster paces and especially downhills while of course being very stable. 


I wish for a slightly softer medial UltraFlight foam, a rethinking of the heel decoupling and crash pad to make it flow a little easier at slower paces. The break in may turn some off but it is mere miles. This said it  is when trying on that decisions are made, sometimes prematurely, as could be the case here


The Forza is a great choice for those seeking pronation support who are tired of heavy, overbuilt models with that sharp firm post feel or who don’t care for the higher up stiffness in transitions I find with rails. 


It is also a valuable addition to a Skechers rotation where, to be frank, other models are focused on fast more than daily training, expect the stiff Ride 8 which I don't care for as much as I do the Forza,

For more neutral runners if you prefer a firmer stable ride but one that is still very well cushioned for those easy days when you don’t want to think about form and staying stable Forza 4 can work very well for that, and in the same vein, also for those long hard workouts to keep you aligned and tracking when tiring.

Sam’s Score: 8.9 / 10

Ride: 8.9 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 8.5 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)


John: Are you a runner who needs a lightweight, everyday trainer that can hold up to long miles and provides overpronation control? The Skechers Forza 4 is a comfortably fitting shoe with the versatility for slow and up to threshold paces. More to the point, it has a comfortable upper, feels secure when running at varied paces, provides a smooth and structured ride, but requires a little break-in out of the box. What’s more, I kept thinking about how great this Forza would be on the trails with the Speed TRL outsole - it has a durable upper, wide base with stability, and light. Any chance that is in the cards Skechers??

John’s Score: 9.1 /10

Ride: 8.5 (fun shoe with structured ride, but points off for lower energy return at high cadence)

Fit: 9.5 (true to size and comfortable all around)

Value: 9 (I think ~400 to 500 miles seems possible with the Goodyear outsole and durable mesh upper)

Style: 9.5 (anything fluorescent is good for me!) 

Traction: 9.5 (Goodyear rubber)

Weight: 9 (not a lightweight racer, but amazing weight for a pronation control trainer)


Michael: I tipped my hand a little in the “Ride” section, above, but I think ultimately the Forza 4 is just a few tweaks away from being a superb trainer - and is, for now, a thoroughly decent one. Through my first 50 miles or so, I’ve seen this trainer transition from a real clunker into a feasible everyday stability shoe, but an imperfect one. Yes, it requires some break-in and yes, that’s a bit of a frustration, but it’s ultimately the difficult upper and clunky-when-slow ride that holds this one back. It’s unfortunate, too, because the Forza 4 has flashes of brilliance - the Hyperburst gives it some real pop without sacrificing stability on the midsole, and the outsole (while perhaps loud) is going to last. It’s just not quite there - here’s to hoping the Forza 5 is.

Michael’s Score: 8.3/10

WATCH OUR YOU TUBE VIDEO REVIEW HERE

Comparisons 

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Skechers GoRun Forza 3 

We did not test the Forza 3 but based on stats it was 0.2 oz heavier, had a tri density Flight Gen midsole and a more monolithic rubber outsole 


Skechers GoRun Ride 8 Hyper (RTR Review)

The Ride 8 has an all Hyperburst midsole and a different geometry and outsole layout with 1mm less outsole midsole stack yet it ends up weighing 0.3 oz more.

Ride is clearly softer feeling at the rear than Forza. I found the Forza far more responsive with a snappy toe off from the distinct flex point the Ride lacks. The Ride runs a bit better slowly, especially if you prefer a softer heel, with Forza clearly more agile and faster as the pace picks up whereas I found the Ride got ponderous and hard to pop due to its stiffness at faster paces.

The Forza has a slightly roomier less compressive feeling toe box.  I was true to size in both but find the Forza roomier if not quite as soft on the foot, Overall I much prefer the Forza and wish Ride had its smoother transitioning geometry and outsole to create an all HyperBurst heavier duty trainer that moves along as well as Forza.


Skechers GoRun 7+ Hyper (RTR Review)

Michael: The GoRun 7+ Hyper is a more stripped down, racier offering in the Skechers Performance lineup, and it makes for a great shoe. Of course, it also makes for a light shoe - and one with nonexistent posting. No, if you need more than light stability, the 7+ Hyper probably isn’t for you (though the upper does provide some medial lockdown) - but it is a great raining and workout companion to the Forza, and a great representation of what Hyperburst can do, when mixed with the right shoe! 


The following 3 shoes are all compared in the article here at the links below

Saucony Guide 13 (RTR Review)

The heavier Guide takes a different approach to support with a medial side plate. It does not transition as easily as a result and while overall the midsole is softer, the Guide’s plate is more noticed than Forza medial firmer Ultra Flight Foam


ASICS GT 2000  8 (RTR Review)

Sam: An old school posted stability shoe, its post really the whole rear of the shoe is firmer than Forza’s medial side, close to brick hard. It has a very nice more agile toe off but the Forza is smoother, more cushioned, weighs 1.3 oz less and overall is a better choice 


Hoka Arahi 4 (RTR Review)

Sam: The closest stability/support comparison to the Forza. Both share a dual density firmer medial side midsole non posted approach. The Arahi weighs 0.8 oz more with almost the same stack height on a broader on the ground platform. Its medial support side is softer. I found it not nearly as fast or as responsive and agile a trainer as Forza but somewhat more softly cushioned.


Nike Infinity React (RTR Review)

Sam: Nike’s new stability entry is softer for sure than Forza as it is a single slab of React.It uses the inherent stability of its broad platform plus long medial and lateral side rails for support focused on the knees and not so much for pronation. It has about the same stack height as Forza but comes in 0.7 oz heavier. While I prefer the Infinity’s softer ride for general training, its rails are too long, especially on the lateral side, and interfere somewhat with my transitions. If I really needed medial pronation support I would lean Forza. 


ASICS DS-Trainer 24 (RTR Review)

Michael: I’m a generation behind on the DS-Trainer, but I understand the DST25 to present only minimal changes, so latest-and-greatest runners, read on: this is a pretty close call. I was not enamored by the DS Trainer’s upper at review, though as I continued to put miles on it afterwards, I did find it molded slightly more to my foot shape. What’s more, while the DST didn’t bring anything new to the table in the midsole (in fact, it added weight over the 23rd version coming in at the same weight as the more cushioned Forza), I quite liked the responsive feel and get-up-and-go attitude. That makes this a close call. If you prefer a knit upper, then the ASICS will be a great choice. Heavier runners may appreciate the cushion of the Forza. I think both shoes need work to reach perfection - though these are my top 2 stability shoes, for the time being.


Ravenna 10 (RTR Review)

Michael: The Brooks Ravenna 10 was one of my most disappointing shoes of 2019, and while I scored it higher than the Forza 4, I’ve tried and refined my scoring methodology since then… either way, I won’t mince words: the Forza 4 is a considerably better shoe than the Ravenna 10. Where the Ravenna excelled was a comfortable (if dated) upper and a guide rail system that gave you stability without you knowing it. The same can’t be said here - you’ll notice the posting! - but you’ll also appreciate the Hyperburst-fueled ride and responsive performance. The Forza isn’t perfect - but it is superior to the R10.


Nike Odyssey React  (RTR Review)

Michael: The Odyssey React is phased out in favor of its Infinity cousin, but that’s fine by me - the Forza 4, flawed as it may be, is a superior shoe. I found the Odyssey React to be overly narrow and not as springy as its “Epic” brother, and the removal of Flyknit was a dealbreaker.

Sam: Narrow with a very low toe box and somewhat stifling upper, and firmer, the Odyssey is lighter but that’s about it. If you need some support go Forza.


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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