Thursday, April 2, 2015

Skechers Performance GoRun4 Review

One of the perks of working a part-time job as a running retailer is that I get to know a lot of product reps.  When one of those reps is friend in your running community, all the better.  Lately, I've had the opportunity to run in a few Skechers Performance running shoes: the GoRun Ultra enhanced cushion trainer, the GoRun4 lightweitht trainer, and the GoMeb3 racing flat.  The GoRun Ultra is a soft, hybrid-lugged shoe that's extremely comfortable for long runs, recovery days, or general day-usage.  The GoRun4 is really more my speed as a trainer, and it deserves an in-depth review.  Given the shoe's versatility, I also will describe it in comparison to the GoMeb3.
 Full Disclosure, the GRU and the GM3 were sample pairs on extended loan from my local running Performance Rep.  The GR4 was a personal purchase from Skechers Performance.

Out of the box (looks and specs):
The most striking thing about the GR4 upon taking it out of the box was its weight.  Skechers Performance (SP) gives a weight of 7.8oz for a men's size 9 (I wear 9.5), but I think they feel lighter.  More on that in a bit.  The indicated heel-to-toe drop is 4mm without the removable sock-liner, and 8mm with the sock-liner.  If you prefer to train in lightweight performance shoes like the Saucony Kinvara or New Balance 890, this shoe is in your wheelhouse.  SP also offers the GR4 in a wide array of colorways.  I opted for the blue/gray/black option, and I think the shoe looks badass.
On the foot (fit and feel):
Even before you put the GR4 on your foot, you can tell that the material on the upper is going to be soft and forgiving.  SP uses a one-piece, nearly seamless upper that disappears on foot.  The sock-liner is removable for a higher volume fit, or to feel more of the road.  Since the upper is so forgiving, and the last of the shoe provides ample room, I chose to keep the sock-liner in the shoe for my runs.  That being said, the comfortable upper allows for pretty much unrestricted sock-free wear, so the Sockless Runner doesn't have to be an impostor.  The heel cup is soft, pliable, and non-restrictive, and there is a recess cut into the fabric of the heel collar for quick, pull-on convenience.  As far as step-in comfort, this shoe rivals the Pearl Izumi Road N1, the UnderArmour SpeedForm Gemini, and the Saucony Zealot ISO-fit.  Lots have companies have been experimenting with innovations in midsole technology and geometry, but the latest shoe tech trends seem to have been focused on making plush, comfy uppers.  With the GR4, Skechers Performance is right up there with the top brands on that front.
On the road (ride and performance).
One thing a lot of GR4 runners notice is that it rides a bit firmer than it looks.  In this way, it's similar to the Pearl Izumi Road N1.  However, like the N1, the firm-ish ride is also incredibly smooth.  Personally, in a performance trainer, I would take firm and smooth over cushy and soft any day.
Part of the smoothness of the ride comes from SP's proprietary M-strike technology, which both favors and rewards an efficient, midfoot strike.  The midsole contains two densities of Resolyte (SP's memory-foam-like, durable midsole compound), so the different color sole in the midfoot is a bit more responsive and more prominent.  While this prominence is less noticeable than it has been in previous versions of the GoRun, it's more apparent than it is in the GoMeb3 racer.  The bottom of the shoe comprises mostly exposed midsole, which keeps the weight down and contributes to the silky ride, but there are strategically placed rubber outsole pods to provide some road traction and extra proprioception.  The combination of the plush upper and the smooth-riding midsole really makes the GR4 disappear on your feet during the run, especially on hilly terrain.  Thus, the weight and offset mentioned above aren't features I take much notice of.  The way the weight is distributed throughout the transition, the shoe feels much lighter than it is.  In fact, it feels lighter than the GoMeb3.
Best uses (for me):
I've taken the GR4 on several runs, including medium long runs (10-12 miles), tempo intervals, and easy base days.  These runs have been mostly on rolling road routes, with a few miles here and there on minimally technical trails.  While the shoe is very versatile, it really shines when you pick up the pace.  The GR4 is a great choice for tempo runs, hill repeats, and longer races (15k-marathon).  I got to race the very hilly Ellerbe Marathon in the GoMeb3, and had great success.  However, at virtually the same weight, and with a smoother (in my opinion) ride, I think I would choose the GR4 over the GM3 for another hilly marathon.  I prefer something a little more featherweight and firm than the GR4 for 5k/10k races, but most people would really enjoy the GoRun4 as a 5k racer.  In fact, my friend and fellow Reckless Running brand ambassador Bobby Aswell has had a lot of recent success with the GR4 as his 5k racer lately, and he runs 50+ races a year.
Final thought
At $100, and with a lot of distinctive features that set it apart from other performance trainers, the Skechers Performance GoRun4 is worth a look for efficient runners or those who might want a fast-day shoe.  Bottom line, this shoe is legit.  Skechers Performance flexes its running tech muscles with this one, and based on how the GoRun has evolved over its first 4 versions, the brand shows its willingness to adapt and improve to the needs and wants of the running base.  Great shoe!

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