Thursday, February 20, 2014

Skechers GoRunUltra Review Part 1

Skechers GoRunUltra (GRU) has been unboxed by me in this blog entry here. Head over for some photos of the shoes when it was still new and not used for any runs. Being the most cushioned Skechers to date, I was eager to try it out. Many of you would know that the GoRun3 score high on my list for a cushioned ride (for being a GoRun series). With this GRU in the shoerack, it is at least 65% more Resalyte cushioning compared to the GoRunRide series - and that simply meant more plush ride (my experience with GoRunRide is with the NiteOwl).
The Fitting
Upturned heel - M-Strike enabled. Midfoot strike for the win
It took me about 10minutes to decide if i want an US10 or US11. With some variation to the fitting of the Skechers shoe recently due to material upgrades and also more support overlay, size US11 was too large upfront for me and US10 was tight on the top of my leg. Knowing the insole to be thicker, I decided that I will run sockless and will experiment with different Skechers Go-series insole (from the thin GoBionic to the thickest GoRunUltra and GoRun3, which share the same insole profile). It wasn't a gamble I took, but an informed decision based on my knowledge of my feet. Good thing the GoRunUltra has wide toebox. US10 fitting allow me to put in 1-finger behind and still has about 1/2inches in the front. That sealed the deal.
GoLikeNeverBefore
First Feel
For my first test, I ran with the insole. This is 8mm drop setup. Putting on the GRU made me taller. It is a very conscious kind-of-tall as I've been wearing flats over the past 13-months. The claimed additional Resalyte (which is memory foam) felt great under the feet as it provided the claimed cushioning. Toes were cleared from the front of the feet and the fitting without socks were great. I did not need to loosen the laces more than I thought I should. The shoe upper was snug. If there was a thing, it was how the left side felt funny - as if there was a lump/bump somewhere on the heel. I removed the insole and check - none. Maybe I've became the case of "princess and the pea" after all these Skechers-pampering.
From (car) door to Tarmac
The chance for me to take the shoe for a run came when I need to send the kids to Sunday school. With about 50mins to spare (have to give myself some leeway in case the class finishes a bit earlier than expected), I will have to cover as much distances as I possibly could. More so, it was my BRICK Sunday - having cycled on the trainer for a full-hour before the kids woke up. 
Kicking the feet up high to recover faster for the next feet stride
I started near the old Muhibbah Restaurant in TTDI (Rahim Kajai) and begin to run towards Jalan Datuk Sulaiman via Burhanuddin Helmi. First 500m felt great with the shoe being very eager to bounce with every step. It is as if it has a life of it's own. Sort of like the Newton Third Law of motion. 
In Lembah Kiara
I turn left and head towards Rasta and turn right into Jalan Datuk Sulaiman (JDS). Ran the short slope up and the shoe did not sink under sprinting up the hill towards rich man area of Changkat Datuk Sulaiman. I then turn right and ran along JDS6 and turn into Lembah Kiara Park next to Kiara View Condo. I wanted to see how the shoe sole will react to smoother park pavement that can be slippery sometimes.
The shoe sounded "squishy" and I suspected it was the aggressive lugs and progressive flexibility coming into play.
Downhill and caught myself heel striking to control the speed of descent
Sprinted up the slope and charged downhill towards the smaller loop in the park. The shoe went where I pointed it and took in all the bumps in form of sand, gravel, stones i stepped on. Yes, the Park is under renovation and it wasn't hard to step on something not meant to be there. 
"offroad" by the side of the park pavement
I then transitioned into the grassy area next to the pavement. The squishy sound disappeared. I then ran on the pavement again and it came back. Confirmed my initial thoughts that the aggressive sole contributed to the sound. No issues with this actually. Just personal observation as I want to run like a (silent) Ninja.
Into Kiara Trails!
Running from tarmac to trail was an easy transition for me. Made even better with the GRU. I was apprehensive. What if the sole fail to do what it's supposed to do and I go tumbling all over, hurting myself or getting the protruding peg-marker by JLN poking through me as I fall and die a horrible death?
Dry trail made the surface trickier as the sand grains made the surface slippery
OK, that is just the drama part of me. Kiara is safe really. Monitor lizards and Python usually will run and slither away when they sense human presences. Back to the trail!
I took the Office and Overtime loop. a short 1.2 to 1.3km run through fast switchbacks and faster flat trails. Good mix of sudden drop and downhills, coupled with the need to quickly jump over a few slopes. As i gain more confidence about 100m into the Office, i knew I can push it a bit more. My usual "time trail" to cover the Office and Overtime is about 7.5minutes, which meant I will run it between 5:00 and 6:00 pace. That Sunday, with the GRU, it was done the same way. 
Skimping over loose rocks
The thick sole and the Rigid Resagrip played it's part well. Stones and protrusion on the ground was felt, but minimally when compared to GoBionicTrail. Do bear in mind that GBT is an out and out trail shoes with a stoneguard/kevlar-like insert between the sole for protection and dispersion of shock/sharp edges. 
Photos taken with JVC Adixxion XA2. 60fps burst photo!
Running in the trail brings the kids out of me. For that short distance, I felt the rush and the GRU just keep bringing it on. The bounces of the GRU and it provides good feedback and surefooting. Did I feel the bumps and stones? It did despite it being 8mm drop. I am now wondering what 4mm would feel like. It could be a full trail run with GRU soon!
Was I flying?
Checking for heel strikes - none. :D

More of this on 4mm, i promise!
The trail portion ends as I exit the park connector and I headed back to my car (and kids) via Jalan Abang Haji Openg, then the Bike route along Jalan Datuk Sulaiman. It is back to the tarmac and that allowed additional information on how the shoe felt after about 6km of mix surfaces.
Underutilised bike route of Taman Tun

Hot weather of February
The GRU did not give me any hotspot or blister. With every Skechers I own, I am more confident with the fitting and running without the socks. Either my feet has gotten used to the shoe, or callouses has form at those usual hotspot (wide feet curse). The initial thoughts that the tongue is thicker and thus hinder breathability did not show in the short 8km run. I believe a longer run using this would be able to show how the GRU will provide continuous cushioning and responsiveness. 
Lift your legs up when running!

Last 200m

Thumbs up!
Hope this review on 8mm, without socks help you to have a virtual feel of what this shoe offer. For me, it is still too early to conclude. I intend to run it without insole and sockless, in the trail. It will be interesting to feel if this will be a good potential shoe for my upcoming Sabah Adventure Challenge and Xterra.
Later!
This will not be the only review for GRU. Stay tuned, more to come as I put different combination to work. 
Verdict After First Run
- Cushioned without feeling heavy
- Initial thoughts that 8mm may be too high. I ran with full 8mm and it was good.
- Sure-footed grip.
- Very responsive and flexible outsole.
- Noticeable squishy noise on tarmac. May go away after breaking in past 50km?
- Capable of speed. Sustained a good 5:00 tempo pace on average and registered the usual 4:30pace for 2km on slopes. Question is : How fast can you hold?
- Truly a Door-To-Trail shoe. Or Trail-To-Door. This shoe is dual-purpose in a large (no pun intended) sense.
- Forgiving on those hard downhill. I hammered downhill on the park pavement and had to apply (heel) brakes to slow down. 

Note: This pair of Skechers GoRunUltra is sponsored by Skechers Malaysia via collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia Athletes program. Thank you Skechers Malaysia and 2ndSkin! This pair is retails for RM419 (men) and RM399 (women) in Peninsular Malaysia and has been made available in all stores since February 16, 2014. Opinion in this write up is my own and not influenced by Skechers Malaysia or 2ndSkin program.

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