Thursday, November 23, 2017

Skechers GORun Ultra – first impressions

As someone who doesn’t tend to run more than a half marathon, I feel a little bit fraudulent reviewing a training shoe with the word ‘Ultra’ in its name! But with 150km under the soles, I can at least give a perspective of how the GORun Ultra from Skechers compares both to the other shoes in the Skechers range as well as other high mileage shoes.

What is the Ultra?

It’s an interesting question and one worth asking, because in truth the Skechers GORun Ultra strikes me as several shoes in one. Compared to pretty much every other shoe in the Skechers range, it’s a much heavier (OK let's define 'heavy' - 9.5oz for Size 9 - similar to Nike Lunarglides) and more built-up shoe, very obviously designed for high mileage. Turn the shoe over and, compared again to other Skechers shoes, the tread pattern is very aggressive, a real departure from the normal tread pattern on Skechers’ road-biased shoes.

Which suggests that the Ultra is really a high mileage trail shoe. But as we’ll see, I think that actually sells the shoe a little short.

First Impressions

GORun UltraAs I’ve said, compared to the super GORuns or even the slightly heavier GORun Rides, the Ultra is both heavier still and more built up. Cosmetically, it’s probably the Skechers shoe that is most resembles your average shoe from the big-brand manufacturers. Putting it on for the first time and just standing there, it reminded me of my old Nike Lunarglide shoes. Not a bad thing, but very different to what I’ve become used to from Skechers.

Take even just a few steps, though, and it becomes obvious that the Ultra is less like the Lunarglide than I at first thought. The Ultra is much more cushioned. Quite how they’ve built so much cushioning into the package is beyond me.

According to Skechers, the Ultra was conceived in response to customers who valued the cushioning offered by long-distance trail shoes such as Hokas, but who wanted a shoe that was both more durable and better value for money.

With the insole in place, there is an 8mm heel drop, 4mm without. I haven’t actually run without the insoles yet, but the 8mm drop feels just fine (note to self, try without).

Running

The Ultra is super-comfy, even by Skechers’ already high standards. The ankle/heel collar is especially comfortable. Taking them out for a run for the first time confirmed just how much extra cushioning there is in the Ultra; you really do feel the extra bounce. But somehow the ground feel is still pretty good, especially when you leave the tarmac for the trails. Let’s be honest, you’re not as ‘connected’ to the ground as you are in something like the GORuns or GOBionic Trails, but most people wouldn’t run 20km day-in day-out on stony trails in the GORuns!

And while the aggressive tread is actually pretty forgiving on tarmac, it really comes into its own when the going gets mucky. It’s a true multi-terrain shoe. You can’t get away from the fact that the Ultras weigh noticeably more than pretty much any other shoe in the Skechers range – certainly any shoe I’ve tried, anyway. Switching from the Ultras to the GORun Ride3s was like slipping on a pair of racing flats!

But that’s the price you pay for the significant additional cushioning and comfort provided by the Ultras (which, to be frank, are still lighter than your average high mileage wellies).

Downsides

Is the Ultra perfect for all conditions? No. There are times when it’s not the perfect choice. For off-road races that shorter than a true ‘Ultra’, you might find the extra weight is worth it for training, but on race day I’d still go with the GOBionic Trails. Similarly, I’d chose the Trails for a wet and mucky run – the lighter upper materials are simply better at dispersing any water ingress. The heavier (and more cushioned) upper material of the Ultra tends to hold the water more.

I do have to quickly bemoan the lack of a LOUD colour scheme in the new shoes. It seems Skechers are shying away from the previously ‘loud and proud’ trainer colour schemes, with my new shoes arriving in a subdued grey/orange colourway. Actually it’s a good colour for mucky trainers, but I can’t help wishing they did a luminous yellow or dayglo orange option! Just my 2p.

Conclusion

As someone who does the majority of their running off-road, I have found myself wearing the Ultras more and more often. They’re just so comfy that for long steady runs I think they’re hard to beat. I freely admit my footfall isn’t the best and I’m still a little heavy on my feet – and that makes the Ultra a great choice for high mileage runs. For tempo runs and speed work, I would still turn to my GOBionic Trails.  If I was doing my long runs exclusively on tarmac, I'd probably choose the GORun Ride3s. But for mixed terrain or if budget only allows one pair, the Ultras make a compelling case. 

Let’s put things into context. The Skechers GORun Ultra is a little heavy and bulky; but it is supremely comfortable, has great traction off-road and is the kind of shoe you could wear for long runs for consecutive days. If you’re planning on going long, or are struggling with soreness after your long runs at the moment, they are well worth a look.  I've done 150km in them in five weeks or so; I see many more to come. 

Check out the shoes here:  http://www.skechers.co.uk/style/53915/skechers-gorun-ultra/rdlm