Monday, January 27, 2020

Skechers GOBionic Trail

Yup; it’s the time of the year when runs start to get cold, wet and - if like me you live in a rural setting - pretty darned mucky! So with that in mind I thought this would be a good time to take a look at Skechers’ GOBionic Trail shoes.

The GOBionic Trails replace Skechers previous GORun Trail shoes (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and feature a slightly different approach, more akin to the GOBionic run shoes the firm introduced a while back. The idea of the GOBionic Trails is that they offer a ‘barefoot feel’ but with the obvious weather and sole protection you’d expect from a shoe designed for off-road runs.

GOBionic TrailOne particularly neat feature of the GOBionic Trails is that they can be worn with or without the supplied insoles. With the insole in place, there is a 4mm heel-to-toe drop (in line with other shoes in the Skechers range); but remove the insole and the shoe becomes zero-drop - ideal for all you beardy barefoot running types (that’s just the mental image that comes to mind whenever I hear the phrase ‘barefoot running’!).

Look and feel

Let’s start with weight. For trail shoes, the Skechers GOBionic Trails are light; really light! We’ve gotten used to lightweight shoes from Skechers and these certainly don’t disappoint. Not only do they feel light in the hand, they’re barely-noticeable on the foot. They feel much more like the road-biased GORuns and GORun Rides than the old Trails did.

And as we’ve also come to expect from Skechers, they’re bright, really bright! The orange colourway I received won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but personally I love them. I even like the little details such as the glow-in-the-dark decals on the sides of the shoes - particularly fun on night-time off-road runs in the dark!

Whereas the material on the outgoing Skechers trail shoes looked like neoprene, the material on the GOBionic Trails appears more ‘conventional’ and is supple where it needs to be, around the toe box. In really wet and mucky runs, the shoe doesn’t quite keep the elements out as well as the older model, but any water that gets in also gets out again very quickly and despite several runs in serious downpours, I never felt the shoes get too ‘squidgy’ (it’s a technical term!). A sewn-in tongue helps general weatherproofing.

It’s worth noting also that they scrub up really easily after a muddy run. You won’t dull that lovely orange colour in a hurry! (other colours are available!).

Performance

The treads on the sole are quite different to the old model - and dare I say it, more conventional. The good news is that in most conditions, the new shoe surpasses the outgoing model in terms of traction and comfort. As you’d expect from a trail shoe, you wouldn’t want to run too many miles on tarmac (the ride would best be described as ‘firm’), but once off-road the sole demonstrates both surprising suppleness on dry trails and good traction in the wet.

There is a small caveat here. I’d say the old shoes probably had slightly better traction in really extreme situations - I’m talking ankle deep in wet mud (think running a trail after a hundred horses and mountain bikes have already churned the trail up). Here, the GOBionics do slip a little and you do need to take care to have your foot landing underneath you so as not to risk slipping. But to be honest, the GOBionic out-performs the old shoe in all other conditions, so overall I’d say it’s a net win.

Despite their firmish ride, the GOBionic Trails are also fairly forgiving. At the end of a hard 20km trail run when fatigue leads to poor form, they don’t punish you as you fall into heel-striking tendencies.

I’ve had my GOBionic Trails a few months now and I have to say I love them. They’ve stood up well to both high mileage and really crappy conditions. They have the comfort I’ve become used to from Skechers as well as the lightness. It’s really difficult to see why people still run in big heavy shoes when ones like this are available!

Summary

In all but the nastiest of conditions - from dry rocky summer trails to wet winter slogs - the GOBionic Trail is a great shoe, light, comfortable and reliable. Only when the going gets REALLY mucky does the less-than-super-aggressive sole lose traction. And considering that 90% of runs are in less extreme conditions, I think it’s a worthwhile compromise.

Compared to trail shoes I've worn from Adidas and Saucony, the Skechers GOBionic Trails are lighter, more comfortable, more weatherproof and just as durable.  They should definitely be on your short-list. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Very comfortable
  • Good weatherproofing

Cons:

  • Traction isn't best in very gloopy conditions
  • Trendy laces need double-tieing
  • Not as insulated as some