Friday, March 11, 2016

Shoe Review: Skechers GoRun Ultra Road

The GoRun Ultra Road out of the box.
 Usually, I like to do shoe reviews after I've put about 50 miles on the shoes.  That's enough time to get to know the shoe for better or worse, but it's still well within the"sweet spot" of the shoe's lifespan.  I never got around to reviewing the Skechers GoRun Ultra Road at the 50-mile mark because I was too busy in the middle of my training for a PR marathon.  Now, months later, I've put nearly 300 miles on the GoRun Ultra Road (GRUR), but this review will be surprisingly similar to it would have been at the 50-mile mark.  That at least should tell you something about the shoe's longevity.
For Q4 2015 and Q1 2016, Skechers Performance has expanded and diverged the maximalist GoRun Ultra line to include the road specific GRUR reviewed here and the GoTrail Ultra 3 (notice the name change).  This allows for the GRUR to stack up more directly against other maximalist road running shoes from Hoka OneOne or Altra.  However, the GRUR should be seen as an animal all its own, and not just a spec-for-spec contender against any one particular model.
Fit and Comfort
The GoRun Ultra R features a Fitknit upper with synthetic overlays.  The Fitknit on the GRUR is very comfortable and allows for some popping color, but it's a more coarse knit than Nike Flyknit; more like adidas Primeknit, but with a more structured feel.  So, for a knit upper, I would say the GRUR has a fairly high volume fit, which is useful for a high-mileage trainer.  The coarseness of the knit also allows for plenty of breathability between the threads.
The sockliner is perforated, which is impossible to notice while wearing the shoe, but this helps with the GRUR's unique method of moisture management.  The midsole is also perforated, but rather than there being gaps on the bottom of the shoe that let water in from underfoot, the drainage holes are on the side of the ample stack height, letting water roll out like a fancy mini-golf trap-door obstacle.  My feet have not gotten wet in the GRUR from simply running on wet roads.
This perforated sockliner lets moisture out of the shoe.

The drainage ports in the midsole of the GRUR.  You can get a good view of the texture of the knit upper in this photo too.
Midsole, Outsole, and Ride
What defines the Skechers GoRun Ultra line is the high, maximal stack height (26mm toe, 30mm heel) combined with the proprietary M-Strike midsole profile.  Many other maximalist shoes make use of similarly practical rocker shapes, such as the Altra Olympus and Paradigm, and all of the oversized or ultra-sized Hoka models, but the Resolyte in the GRUR gives it a different feel underfoot.  It would be apples and oranges to compare the GRUR to the Hoka Bondi or Clifton because the Hoka CMEVA and the Skechers Resolyte are such different "flavors."  The Skechers GRUR is heavier than the Clifton, and about the same weight as the Bondi (10.3oz), but the responsive midsole is more reminiscent of Hoka's RMAT, which is used in the Conquest, Vanquish, and recently discontinued Huaka.  This responsive foam tends to "give back" a little, which is nice when you want to pick up the pace, even though you're probably not going to reach for the GRUR for your next fast 5k.
Another benefit of the--well, not firm, but less marshmallowy--foam is that the shoes have a much longer lifespan than any the CMEVA Hoka or earlier GRU models.  I don't run in the Paradigm, but I expect the GRUR to outlast those.  They are more responsive than my Altra Olympus (also near 300 miles), and I only attribute the Olympus' longevity to strategically placed outsole rubber.  By comparison, my Bondi 4s are very diminished in quality of ride, and my Cliftons were totally dead before 250 miles.  I'm a  straight-on, midfoot striker with high cadence (190+) who weights under 140 pounds, so it's not like I'm putting a lot of stress on these other shoes.  The GoRun Ultra Road just holds up better, even without much outsole to speak of.  Like other Skechers Performance trainers, the Resolyte acts as a midsol/outsole, and is a bit more built-up in the midfoot (M-Strike technology), but the only real "outsole" spots are the dot-shaped pods that allow for strategic ground feel and durability.  So even though the GRUR is a large shoe by most people's standards, it's not clunky.  If feel like I can run in my natural form in the GRUR, which I can't say for all maximalist shoes.
The underside of the GRUR practically new out of the box...
...and the same underside a few months later with 300 miles on them.  Other than some expected wear on the lateral edge (due to my midfoot striking), the show has held up very well.

The Skechers GoRun Ultra Road is a great choice for a high-mileage, maximalist trainer if you want something different--and more affordable--than your average Hoka.  It provides a small touch of springy response amid the soft, long-run catering shock absorption that has made the maximalist trend so popular.  The cushion compound is great for the many road-pounding miles logged while putting in base for your next marathon, or even racing road ultras in the 50-100 mile range (hence the name).  At $115, take a look at this shoe for your soft run alternatives.  Good show, Skechers Performance!

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