I’ve been a wear tester for Skechers long to know that they prefer to evolve their tech, vs going in radical new directions. They tend to look at the market and think “how can we improve what’s out there” vs “let’s make a sharkskin running shoe with reverse drop and put a wood sole on it”.
Anyhow, at first blush the GoRun Ultra (or GRU), seems to be something of a “me-too” entry into what is being called the “maximalist” shoe category. Shoes in this category have huge stack heights, not a ton of support, and low drops. HOKA ONE ONE was the innovator, and many others have stepped in.
Except that one run in the GRU will convince you they’re onto something a bit different.
Yes, the shoe has an unusually high stack height for a shoe in the “GoRun” series, 23mm in the forefoot and 27mm in the back, but for a shoe in this new max cushion category that is actually quite low (HOKA shoes delve into the mid 30mm range). The drop is 4mm without the sock liner and 8 with it, though you will almost certainly use the sock liner as the interior isn’t really comfortable without it. I’d love if they included a totally flat liner as well as the 4mm drop version.
The biggest difference that you’ll get is in ground feel. One of the most common comments of a lot of the max shoes is that they feel like running on marshmallows or balloons, and while I might not go quite that far, they do have a unique way of disassociating you with the terrain you’re going over. One might say that’s the point of suspension, but here I’d disagree. Suspension needs to absorb the bumps but also stay well grounded, and this is where the GRU absolutely rocks it. The MStrike sole is firmer than anything in HOKA’s arsenal, and the lugs are incredibly aggressive. They dig and claw and grab whatever is under you. To make up for the firmness, Skechers added a couple ingenious furrows which allow the shoe to bend natural through your gait. They allow you to sense the trail underneath you without banging up your foot.
Awesome on the trail, but how about the road? Actually, not bad. Quite good in fact. I ran the recent Shamrock’n 1/2 marathon in my GoRun Ultras and they performed admirably. In fact, a few sections had me forced onto gravel and some wet, slippery mud and where others skidded around, I had unlimited grip. Awesome!
The slightly lower stack height has the additional benefit of lightening the shoe to under 10oz. For something with this much suspension, that is fairly amazing. In some instances, however, I did find that the lower stack height did allow rocks to slightly come up through the sole. I’m guessing they were sharp and hitting right in one of the furrows. It was rare and something I would absolutely live with. A rock plate is something they might consider, but not at the cost of too much additional weight or loss of ground feel.
One very odd thing about this shoe is the way they built the tongue. Since it is a trail shoe, they wanted to keep rocks and dirt out, so the tongue is essentially an extension of the material at the forefoot, with a small elastic side piece. And I mean small. The tongue basically doesn’t move, and there’s not a ton of stretch to get your foot in. Keep in mind that I have a high instep so I noticed this more than the average person. You get used to it, and it is very good at keeping stuff out, but it definitely takes a bit of transition to feel comfortable getting in and out of the shoe.
Finally, and this is the dagger, the shoe costs just $80. You could buy two GRUs for the price one one HOKA Stinson Trail. That’s a hell of a deal.
Bottom line, I have to say that Skechers built themselves a winner here. A true road to trail shoe that can hold up to Ultra distances, has great grip and comfort and doesn’t force you to take a second mortgage out on the house to afford it.
Skechers GoRun Ultra
Score: 9/10 RAWRS (Fantastic for mid to long distances on light to heavy trail conditions)
High: Good cushion, great grip, nice last shape
Low: Tongue is a bit weird, lower stack can allow some rocks to come up, doesn’t make you look like you’re on the moon
Full disclosure: I am a wear tester for Skechers and they send me both wear samples and released shoes for testing and review. The GoRun Ultra referenced in this review was provided to me free of charge to try out.