Monday, January 27, 2020

Skechers GOTrail

If you’re like me and are lucky enough to live in an area where the best running is off-road, then you’re going to need a good pair of trail running shoes (especially if you live in the UK, where ‘Summer’ seems to mean cold, wet and windy days!).

The GOTrails are the second shoe I’ve tested from the Performance Division at Skechers (you can read my initial review of the GORun2 shoe here).  The GOTrail is, as the name implies, designed to be a slightly more rugged shoe designed for off-road running.  As such, it has a different upper construction, a tougher and more rugged sole and a bit more support in the heel area.

First impressions

When the GOTRail first arrived, it reminded me a little of the booties you sometimes wear when scuba diving.  Although there’s a technical name for the upper (GODri, if you were wondering!), it looks like neoprene. I have to admit I wasn’t 100% sold on the looks of the shoe (the more Skechers shoes I see, the more I realize they are very much like Marmite – love or hate the colourways!) but the electric blue colour scheme has grown on me over time.

The sole maintains some of the design cues from the GORun shoes (with circular treads) but the sole material is noticeably tougher and designed for the rigours of running over rocks and uneven surfaces.  That said, there is still a good level of flexibility in the sole.

Sliding the shoe on, one of the benefits of the GODri upper becomes immediately obvious. These shoes just ‘fit’. The feel against the foot is great; similar to the GORun2s albeit with a little more ‘substance’.  While there is more support than on the GORun2 shoes, I think you’d still describe the GOTrail as a neutral shoe.

Heading out

One of my complaints about previous trail running shoes I’ve owned (Adidas XT, Saucony Kinvara TR) is that they’ve left my feet and ankles quite sore at the end of a run, especially if I’ve been running on hard-packed trails rather than wet, soggy, forgiving surfaces.  I held the same concerns as I headed out for the first time in the GOTrails, especially as I have to run about 1km on tarmac before hitting the trails.  It had been dry all week so the trail was bone dry (and arguably on such days I would happily have run the trail in the GORides, although perhaps not the GORun2s).

Although the weight difference between the GORun2 and GOTrail is commendably low, you definitely do notice that you are running in a shoe with a little more bulk to it (“bulk” here is a very relative term, compared to 95% of running shoes, the GOTRail is still very light!) but it’s comfortable and the 4mm heel drop (the same as the GORun2) means that you don’t have to adapt your running style to the different shoe.

Onto the trail and the GOTrail felt great; enough feedback through the sole to have confidence but not so much that running over stones and undulating surfaces is uncomfortable.  The aggressive sole provides good traction without feeling overly harsh.

Returning home, my ankles didn’t hurt in the way they had with previous shoes. There were some stones collected in the sole treads, but it was nothing serious and a quick wipe with a cloth had the shoes looking like new again.

When it gets mucky

One of the bizarre elements of testing off-road shoes is that you’re actually pleased when it rains constantly for two days and you get a chance to test the shoes on water-logged trails!  This is where the GOTRails really came into their own. The traction in the mucky stuff was as good as could have been hoped for and the reasoning behind the choice of material for the uppers became apparent.

I kid you not when I say these are the driest shoes I’ve ever worn!  OK, so I wasn’t wading knee deep through rivers and streams (I’m not sure there are any running shoes that could cope with that?!), but despite slogging through mud and splashing through puddles for the best part of 90 minutes, on returning home my feet were the driest part of me! It seems the GODri material really does live up to its name.  That ability to keep your feet dry not only makes the whole run more pleasurable (or should that be bearable?!) but means that your feet are in better shape for the next run session.

That upper also has the benefit of being easy to clean and the shoes dried out quickly in the airing cupboard.

The final word

Like the GORun2s, I think Skechers has another winner on its hands with the GOTrail. It has a lot going for it – secure fit, good traction, excellent water repellency and long-run comfort.  I’m probably only up to 50-60 miles on the shoe so far, but the signs of wear and tear are minimal.  My gut feel is that these are shoes that will last you a good amount of time.

One thing you simply can’t overlook with Skechers is the price. At just over £70 in the UK, these shoes are very competitively priced.  For that, you get a very well-made shoe with just about as many technical features as you could hope for.

As with the GORun2 shoes, I have become a fan of the GOTrail. For the sorts of tracks I run on, they are near-ideal – aggressive enough to provide all the traction and support I need, but not overbuilt to the point where they are uncomfortable or force me to change my running style.  They really come into their own when the tracks get soft and mucky, but are also supple enough to run for periods on tarmac and not leave your feet sore after high mileage on dry or rocky trails.

There is a GOBionic Trail shoe coming to the UK at some point this year, which I’m excited to get my hands on as I have a hunch they may just be the perfect shoe for the sorts of hard-packed trails I prefer to train on; but for when it gets wet, cold and mucky I’ll be reaching for the GOTrails!