Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Skechers GoBionic Trail Review

I first wrote about the Skechers GoBionic Trail in September 2013 and has clocked about 200++km with it running in the trails over the past 12 weeks or so, it is fitting that I should share, or rather post a full report on how the shoe is holding up until today. 
The reason for delay is unfortunately commitment to work and also the opportunity to review other Skechers such as the NiteOwl (in GoRunRide2) and the new GoRun3, which is more relevant for general runners.
close up of the 4-way mesh
The GoBionicTrail or GBT in short (in this blog, not officially by Skechers) is a replacement to the GoTrail (GT) that has served me really well. In case you miss this gem of a trail shoe, read them here.
To reiterate, the GBT is NOT an "upgraded" version of GoTrail, in fact, it's a brand new trail shoe as the design and features were totally different from GT.
GoBionicTrail in Orange.
GoTrail in Blue
The Soul of the Shoe is the Sole
With a trail shoe, what is important first and foremost is the GRIP. A pretty trail shoe with minimal or suspicious grip is like using a working leather shoe walking on newly polished floor. In short, it is disaster waiting to happen. I have great experience with GT with it clocking really high-mileage and the grip deteriorating only perhaps by 20% compared to new with the last run I did with it
And i am not expecting the GoBionicTrail to be any less.
A fast comparison of the sole between GBT and GT showed two unconventional pattern - one resembling a rubber-like football studs (GT) and the other makes you wonder if there will be sufficient grip (GBT) due to no-Chevron like lugs (directional lugs)
GBT's sole. Non-directional lugs. 
GT with the stud-like pattern known as Pods
Chevron is a red-indian word for a V-shaped object. Notably on the military rank up till Staff Sargent. A famous brand uses this (lug shape) approach in their sole to provide grip.
Familiar? Taken from this website
Question remained unknown to many that has not tried the GT or GBT about the ability of the sole to bring you through the trails. Bear in mind though, many trail shoes are designed and created NOT for tropical weather and ground. Those of you regular in the trails will know that the silt and clay, added with sand and grits will render your expensive trail shoe useless once it is water and dirt-logged. In 2012, I wrote an guide on buying a pair of trail shoes. If you interested, click here to read more.
Most important factor for a pair of good trail shoe in this region is the ability to "Self-Clean" aka the lugs is aggressive that it allow stuck mud/grit/dirt to expel itself as you run, thus preventing any of them getting stuck between the sole, adding on more weight and making every steps afterwards to have lesser grip. 
Into The Trail!

I run with this shoe without socks as I've grown accustomed to be as minimalist as possible. The only time i wore the socks was the second time when there was a hot-spot and I wasn't sure if it is the shoe or the feet. Turned out, it was just a transient period of "breaking" in and since the second run, no such issues anymore. The video above was the first use experience running it in Kiara down TnT - a nice 200m downhill with elevation loss about 100m. That is a 45 degree descent if you are wondering. Looking back at the video, i felt the "speed" of things going around and i must say I am pretty glad the shoe provided those grips when it mattered most (like jumping over ledges and making a sharp turn at switchbacks).
Pushing through the trail
Being in the "Bionic" range would meant the shoe is built to be a minimalist in spirit. Flatter profile and more real ground feel. 
From experience, I realised that the "ride" height is important. Much injury has been (previously) sustained by wearing a higher-drop trail shoe where it raise up the ground feel and make landing a bit un-stable. The GT and subsequently GBT, offer better grounded stable ride, which in return helped with performance in the trail run. 
How It Is So Far
200++km clocked. Technically at it's 50% lifespan if I were to benchmark it against GoTrail. Surprised by how the shoe still hold up being soaked in rain, 
Traction:
if GoTrail was awesome, GBT is superb. No complains here as the shoe go where i point my toes to. Landing, bouncing off and taking off were pure joy.
Feeling at home
Fitting: 
Snug with more room for the toes to splay, essentially lending more balance upon landing.
Cushioning:
Despite being a minimalist, the cushioning is more than sufficient. The thinner sole was great for me though i know my teammate Jun Shen commented that the GoTrail was more "minimalist" feel for him. Wait for his write up for more details. 
Speed.
Protection:
If you are worried about the sole being thin and jagged rocks or thorns could puncture the sole and thus, injuring your feet, the GBT comes with Stone Shield built between the sole and the insole. I've ran with this shoe covering pretty much any terrains you can think off in the trails and if there is anything that was sharp, jagged or dangerous, the GBT already protected my feet. Here is an evidence of (what i believe) a sharp edge biting into the heel during one of the more aggressive run I had. I say aggressive as I usually run down hill at 3:30 to 4:30 pace, and if that is fast on tarmac, it is amplified in the trail with quick decision needed when landing.
The bike at rear
My last run with the shoe was last Saturday. It also marked the shoe passing the 200km point and I thought it will be interesting to compare the shoe again after the distance. To start with, the appearance of the shoe is still....same. Bear in mind i wash this shoe as it i gets sweat logged every time i hit the trail. That's an average of 15 wash or once a week!
Doesn't looked "aged"
 The tell tale sign of wear and tear (meaning I've been utilising it) is at the sole. Noticed the fine grain of sand and silt from Kiara? These will kill any good trail shoes on the long run by being micro-abrasive. 
Love and Abuse
Looking closer on the sole will tell you despite clocking in the distance, the sole is still holding up. The Resalyte material is really hardly despite the "softness" and how thin it came with the shoe. This is abuse in the trail that kept the shoe grip very much the same from day-1.
A closer look
I could not find any other area of wear other than at the fold of the shoe's tongue. As it's made from a single piece leather material sewn onto fabric (which actually help making it comfy and light), it sort of have abrasive marks at the stitching fold. No big issue actually. Just to highlight.
wear at tongue
Other than that, the other area of wear and tear is the back of the heel (at the sole) per the photo above, which I believe was the result of landing on a sharp/jagged edge rock. 
Looked new!
Bottomline:
If you are looking for a pair of trail shoe and get worried about what and how, or if it is too expensive or otherwise, this could be a good start with the pricing about right. Many trail shoes cost about 30% more than this and they serve the same function in the trail. Gear wise and reliability, if you run the trail as much as I do, or more often, you are likely already cycled through a few brands and landed on one that you swear by. 

No hard and fast rule here - but if your trail shoe cost almost double of the GoBionicTrail, perhaps, this is a good training shoe and you can save the expensive pair for races. I do run in my heavier Brooks Cascadia 5 from time to time as a mean to add on more weight and give the leg some extra work.

If you are a beginner and wonder if trail is what you like (or otherwise), get yourself a pair of discounted/on sale/past seasoned trail shoe and see if you like the dirt (and awesome nature). But if you have only budget to get ONE pair...this is a good choice.

The Pros
For the price tag, you get a legit performance trail shoe that is light and fast. Question remains how confident are you charging downhill and how fast can you push yourself up those hills. The sure grip takes the "if" away as you wonder to leap off the ledges or walk down. There wasn't hesitation on my side when I run the trails when things happen in split second. Those of you running in the trail with me will know what sort of trail-runner I am in Kiara.  

The Cons
The Agion treatment to prevent smelly shoe worked until about a month ago when the shoe saw great difficulty in drying under the relentless rainy weather with no sunshine. Either that or i have really smelly feet. My wife ain't complaining (about my feet), so I guess I've over-washed the treatment away. No amount of treatment will last weekly sweat-drenching and water dipping (never with soap, just spray clean with water, brush off the sole and drip dry under shade, the lower humidity during hot weather will help dry them - fast!).
The Deal (on how to get this free!)
Remember this post from my blog yesterday? Have you consider joining the competition?

Lastly....
Enjoy the short video below of me running down part of Dirty Deeds, a short 400m downhill over elevation loss of about 80m before it joins up with Snake and Ladder. 

Note: This pair of Skechers GoBionic Trail is sponsored by Skechers Malaysia via collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia Athletes program. Thank you Skechers Malaysia and 2ndSkin! This pair of GoBionic Trail retail for RM369 (Women) and RM399 (Men) and is available at all Skechers store.

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