Skechers GOBionic Trail Review


A while back, I was able to help facilitate getting a bunch of Skechers GOBionic Trail shoes into the hands of Trail Animal Running Club members.  As it turns out, there was a pair for me in the shipment as well, a fact I was not aware of until just recently when I re-examined the sizes I had left.  Not being one to let a good shoe sit around gathering dust, I wanted to get in them immediately and see what they had to offer, first on a 6 mile treadmill run to break them in, and then on a 10 mile tempo run on the streets of Boston, knowing that there were bound to be some icy spots on the road and that the cold weather would give me a good indication of the kind of protection afforded by the shoes.  If all you have time to do is read this paragraph, I’ll jump to the punch line: These shoes are awesome and should be very high on your list of shoes to consider.  For those who have some more time to spare, I’ll keep going with some more details.

If you’re a shoe geek, you’ve probably noticed a huge uptick in the number of reviews of Skechers running shoes on running blogs, the overwhelming majority of which have been positive.  In fact, according to a survey on the venerable blog, Runblogger, the GOrun was voted readers’ second favorite shoe of the year and the brand Skechers came in third most popular, not a small feat at all.  The GOBionic Trail, which I’m just going to refer to as the “Trail” from here on out, is the line’s entry into the trail running market.  Here are the features of the Trail, according to the Skechers website:

Details:

  • GObionic engineering uses nature and organic inspired design for a more natural movement
  • Watershed Mesh drains moisture quickly in wet conditions
  • Lightweight Rock Diffusion Plate disperses pressure to protect against rough terrain
  • Resagrip outsole is a proprietary durable, lightweight and flexible compound with traction control
  • Engineered to promote a midfoot strike
  • Decoupled geometric lugs on outsole elevate flexibility and grip
  • Breathable stretch mesh supports in extreme environments
  • 2 in 1 custom fit – wear with insole for a 4mm heel drop plus enhanced cushioning and protection, or remove the insole for a zero-drop barefoot-like experience
  • Ortholite integrated anti-microbial sockliner helps inhibit odor

Construction

  • Ultra lightweight mesh and synthetic upper
  • Lace up front
  • Smooth comfortable interior for barefoot wear
  • Weight: 8 oz. per shoe in a men’s size 9

But details are just details and runs are runs.  And runs are what put details to the test, so let’s get to the wear testing.  Out of the box, these are some fine looking kicks:

IMG_0563

You may notice some scuffing on the toe in the picture above.  I assure you, the shoes don’t come that way.  I picked up the scuffing by catching my toe on a lip of sidewalk, which then sent me a-tumblin’ to the ground.  I’m not sure I’d recommend doing this, if you can avoid it, but that’s just me.  Here, you can see Watershed Mesh in some detail.  The temperature for the run was roughly 20 degrees but the mesh kept my feet comfortable without overheating.

IMG_0565

And, finally, the outsole of the shoe.

IMG_0567

The first thing you’ll notice when you slip on the Trails is their weight, or lack thereof.  These shoes are light, with an upper that you’ll barely notice.  The toe box is on the wide side, which is great for me as, even though I don’t wear wide widths normally, I do have a wider forefoot.  The wide toe box allows for a natural splaying of the toes upon impact, which will keep your feet feeling good throughout the run.  Even my wife, who does wear wide sizes, finds these comfortable.  One surprise of the shoe was that I REALLY liked the lacing system.  I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but the system allowed me to get a good fit without any hot spots on the top of my foot, which is all you can really ask for from your laces.  Trying to avoid hyperbole, these shoes really do feel like an extension of your foot, rather than a heavy addition.  The 4mm drop is a large part of this feeling, as is the lack of a heel counter and extreme flexibility of the shoe.  In fact, let’s take a look at that flexibility, courtesy of my first ever attempts at a GIF (apparently you have to click them to make them work).

Bionic Gif

Compare to the Brooks Cascadia, which I also happen to love, it’s just a different shoe.

Cascadia Flexibility

If that extremely scientific demonstration doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

The run upon which this review is largely based was a 10 mile tempo run, consisting of 2 miles warm-up, 6 miles up-tempo, and 2 miles cool-down, giving me a chance to see how the Trails perform at different paces.  Some shoes I’ve found, like Hokas, are alright at slower paces but suffer at speed.  Others are great for racing but I wouldn’t put in substantial miles on them.  The Trails excel over distance, at speed.  At one point I even remarked to my running buddy that these are the kind of shoes that get me into trouble during a workout as they just feel like they want to go fast, encouraging me to exceed the pace I probably should be running.  All the same, this led to a fantastic run at a great pace during the tempo portion.  During the slower miles the Trails felt cushioned without losing groundfeel.

Returning to the 4mm heel-toe drop mentioned earlier, it bears mentioning that this kind of drop takes some getting used to.  Even though I do a fair amount of running in the Brooks PureCadence, which also has a 4mm drop, the Trails felt flatter and my achilles/calves definitely noticed it the next day.  This could be partially attributable to the lighter weight of the Trails compared to the Cadences (8.4 oz compared to 9.3) or the relative lack of structure to the upper compared to Cadence.  Either way, I wouldn’t recommend just jumping right into the Trails for all your miles, or any more minimalist type of shoe for that matter, without some period of acclimation.  Start by using them for targeted workouts as you build up strength and then go all-out as you see fit.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned actual “trails” when it comes to reviewing the Trails.  While I do enjoy a good trail run, I won’t be returning to them until after the spring thaw this year so I can’t give any opinion as to how they will perform on-trail.  What I can say is that the Trails perform remarkably well on the wintry roads of Boston and even felt comfortable on a treadmill.  Should I get the chance in the near future to take the Trails off-road, I will be sure to post an update.

That’s all for now, folks, keep up the good training!

Disclosure: I received these shoes for review purposes from Skechers Performance Division and was in no way compensated for this review.  All opinions are mine and mine alone.

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    Great review! I have been noticing more reviews popping up on sketchers running shoes. I need to try these out myself! I was going to get the nike terra kiger for bad weather but the price on these may be too good to pass up.

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