When I first started running in Skechers brand shoes, I expected commentary. Unfortunately, over time, Skechers has built up a somewhat negative reputation when it comes to fitness footwear. As my trainer, the princess of push-ups the queen of cleans, the Sac Fitness Fairy once said “Skechers? Yeah, I’ve heard of them. My kid wears them, they’re very colorful. Wait, you’re running in them?”
So it was with great surprise that I opened the box with my GoBionic running shoes in it and found… a running shoe. The next surprise I had was picking one of the shoes up. No exaggeration I seriously did a double take. These were LIGHT. Ridiculously light. Yet, the build quality was solid.
Backing up here, let’s talk about what Skechers is doing in running and why I like it. When you look at a Skechers running shoe, you’ll find that the sole is not built like your “standard” shoe. There’s a nice padding built right under the midfoot. There’s padding in the heel for sure, but it is obvious that these are built for midfoot striking. One thing they have also done with the “GoBionic” sub-brand of their shoes is to break up the sole into strike points underneath the various bones of the foot, allowing your foot to move and flex with the terrain. In those points that get the most wear, the rubber is a hard, black type. In other areas it is soft and light.
The GoBionic is built as a road shoe, but works fairly well in light trail conditions. One very important thing to note is that between the sole blocks there is almost nothing separating you from road debris. I got the shock of a lifetime when a nice big sharp rock slid up between the blocks and poked me in the foot. Ouch! Now, granted, had I hit it with that amount of force in my barefoot gloves I would have probably been out for a week with a bruised foot, instead of just jumping around cursing for five minutes. Having said that, mud, rocks and other junk can and will slot themselves up between the GoBionic blocks in the bottom of the shoe, so you’re probably better off sticking to road and light trail conditions.
One warning, if you are running in a pair of super supportive motion control shoes right now, you are in for a world of shock if you put these on. I normally run in “barefoot” shoes, and these provide exactly the same amount of movement and flex underfoot, meaning that if your feet are not built up and strong, you might have a bad time at first. These are zero-drop shoes. Take it easy and transition into it. Keep in mind also that this means there is absolutely no arch whatsoever in this shoe. None. It hearkens back to the days of the racing flat. I love this, as this is my preferred shoe type, but again if you’re not used to this you will definitely want to build into it. Your feet will thank you in the long run. (GET IT? LONG RU… aww forget it)
The biggest difference between these and my barefoot shoes is the level of padding and protection. These have just enough to take the edge off of nasty rocks and roots without feeling sloppy underfoot, and still actually provide nice feedback. Sorry to gush, but I adore the sole. If I could glue it to my foot I probably would.
Moving upwards, Skechers has done a fantastic job moving well past its old reputation to build a solid, well built and attractive shoe. A friend and super duper ultra/tri/marathon runner said it best when she exclaimed “THOSE ARE SKECHERS!?” Yes, they are indeed.
The uppers are a combination of mesh and man-made leather products, well stitched and comfortable. One issue I’ve had, however, is the tongue. If you like a well padded tongue (as I do) you’re plum out of luck. The tongue on the GoBionic is barely there, a thin piece of leatherette keeping the laces off your instep. Care is recommended when lacing up, if you go too tight you can definitely feel it. Is it terrible? Nah. But I personally would have preferred a bit more padding there.
The heel counter is soft and comfortable, as is the collar, though not to the point where it couldn’t be improved further. This shoe has an obvious “we did this to save weight” feel to it in a number of places, but it is also done in a way that doesn’t feel cheap. Bike riders will know what I mean, think of these the same way you think about that carbon/ti saddle of yours. Yeah, there’s more comfortable saddles out there but the trade-off in weight is worth getting used to.
Still, I’m no thin tiny guy by any means. I don’t think I ever will be, even a fit panther is still a panther, so an ounce here or there isn’t going to be a big deal for me. On a personal level I would have preferred a touch more comfort in the upper in exchange for a bit more weight. Don’t touch that sole though!
Overall the Skechers GoBionic is a fantastic shoe and should be a wake-up to the industry and to runners everywhere that there’s a new player in town. For a guy my size this shoe is a fantastic speed shoe, and I’ve taken it out to 10 mile distances without any issues. For someone 40 or 50lbs lighter this could almost be their “do everything” shoe (we’ll have to wait for a full blown “trail” version though). If you’ve written Skechers off as a joke, a niche colorful and slightly wacky product that doesn’t have any fitness cred, look again. Skechers is serious about running, serious about fitness and serious about making a name for themselves in the industry.
Cost: $54.97 – $125.98 (depending on color)
Score: 9/10 RAWRS (Almost perfect, I use them daily, you should get a pair)
High: Light, comfortable, zero drop with cushion
Low: Not much tongue, stuff comes up between sole blocks
Full disclosure: I am a “wear tester” for Skechers, meaning that they provide me with “test mule” shoes occasionally and I go out, bang on them, and give them feedback on comfort, durability and performance. Occasionally they will send me a pair of shoes to use day-to-day for running. I am not sponsored by Skechers and have not received any monetary compensation for my relationship with them, or this review.