Sunday, August 27, 2017

Skechers GOrun Ultra Road 2 Review

I have approached the maximalist shoe trend with caution.  While I will admit that I have some minimalist tendencies (recovering minimalist shoe person) there are some potential biomechanical issues with many max cushion shoes that I have seen come to light.  A lack of flexibility, decreased foot proprioception, decreased shock attenuation at the ankle (which could be a good or bad thing depending on the condition).  That all changed when I got my hands on a pair of Skechers GOrun Ultra Road 2.  Although this is a maximalist shoe based on stack height, the Ultra Road 2 is different.

Sole/Ride

Despite the extra cushioning, the GRUR2 is light at 8.6 ounces (in my size 10), has a 4mm drop and is firmer than most maximalist shoes.  This combination makes the shoe versatile, able to handle long and uptempo miles alike.  I have used this shoe for up to 18 mile long runs as well as fast cross country style tempo runs and intervals.  Despite the lighter weight, there is a great deal of cushioning in this shoe.  This protects the legs during long miles on a variety of terrain.  Unlike other maximalist shoes, the cushioning is firmer, which makes the ride more stable.   


I would compare the ride quality to the original Hoka Clifton 1 and 2 but firmer.  The essence is there (lighter weight, 4mm drop) especially with how this shoe responds to speed work (just watched a Cal Coast teammate crush an 8 mile tempo in in the 5:20 per mile range in these).  The GOrun Ultra Road 2 does have a rockered sole like most maximalist shoes.  However it is somewhat less aggressive than other maximalist shoes due to the improved forefoot flexibility.  


Unlike other maximalist shoes, the forefoot is actually decently flexible.  This is due to the inclusion of several forefoot flex grooves that really help smooth out the transition over the forefoot.  During testing these were not there and made the shoe very stiff like other maximalist shoes.  With the improved flexibility, forward momentum is maintained.  There is still some toe-spring to smooth out the ride, but the flex grooves help the toes get some movement (not excessive) to keep you going forward.  


Upper/Fit

A common issue with certain maximalist shoes is that they tend to run either too narrow or too wide.  The GOknit upper of the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road 2 is snug but flexible.  The overall fit is fairly normal but like all Skechers Performance shoes there is a slightly more anatomic last without being clown like.  There is decent room in the forefoot as the GOknit upper stretches well with the foot.   Although the knit initially felt a little snug, the shoe broke in and fit my foot nicely.  The midfoot is slightly wider and those with narrow feet may need to snug the laces down quite a bit.  The heel is does not have this issue as much and that may be due to the extra upper cushioning.  There is a very mild heel counter, but due to the upper cushion I have not had any issues with or even noticed it (I had to double check that there actually was one writing this review).


The upper is similar to the other GOknit uppers seen in other Skechers shoes except a little softer and slightly thicker.  I have not had any hot spot issues even while running sockless in this shoe.  The only issue is that the shoe can get a bit warm during extremely hot days, but that has not been a major issue.


Thoughts as a DPT

I have discussed before the importance of flex grooves in the forefoot of shoes.  While I understand those with joint issues in the metatarsal joints, taking that away modifies the forefoot rocker of the foot.  This is very important to help with the transition over the toes and the proper engagement of the calf muscles.  I understand why maximalist shoe companies put so much toe spring in their shoes in order to compensate for the lack of flexibility due to the thick midsoles.  It is nice to see a maximalist shoe with some degree of forefoot flexibility not only to better match the foot but also to maintain forward momentum during the gait cycle.  For more information on this, see my post on toe spring (HERE) and rockered shoes (HERE).

Final version vs a tester pair.  Notice the flex grooves on the left shoe verses a lack of flex grooves in the forefoot on the shoe on the right.  

The wider base of this shoe makes the GOrun Ultra Road 2 inherently stable without using typical methods of arch support.  The firmer ride adds to that stability and makes the shoe both protective and responsive.  Most maximalist shoes end up being very soft and unstable.  Although they feel protective, most of them end up either slowing many runners down because their muscles must work harder to stabilize their body or because more cushioning means a heavier shoe.  Neither of these are the case with the GOrun Ultra Road 2.  The firmer ride is still very protective, but provides enough stability that most people will be able to focus on speed instead of compensating for an unstable ride.  


Conclusion

The GOrun Ultra Road 2 has been a bit of a maximalist gateway shoe for me.  I have expanded out a bit in the shoes I have worn recently including a few Hokas like the Arahi.  While I still have my doubts about excessively soft maximalist shoes, I think the market is moving toward firmer rides (the Clifton 4 being a great example) to attempt to offset decrease the loss of lower extremity proprioception.  The GOrun Ultra Road 2 is a major step in that direction but more so.  The lighter weight, flexible and firmer ride all contribute to a fantastic shoe.  The GOrun Ultra Road 2 is a great distance and uptempo shoe for those needing firmer cushioning that is well worth checking out.  

Thanks for reading and don't forget to tack on!

As always, my views are my own.  My blog should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care.  If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist.  If you are in the LA area, I will be taking clients for running evaluations in the future based on my Orthopedic Residency schedule. 

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Casa Colina Orthopedic Resident


***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  I put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 25 miles on racing flats.  Currently my pair of Skechers GOrun Ultra Road 2's have 184 miles on them.  A big thank you to Skechers Performance for sending these to me.  

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12 comments:

  1. After reading this I'd say the nearest competitor is the Saucony Zealot Iso 3. I've put 50 miles on my Zealots now and am very happy with them, can definitely recommend auditioning them if you are looking for a shoe of this ilk. Only downside Ive found is the heel collar is on the loose side which was significantly improved by lace locking (I don't normally have to do this)
    Just picked up a pair of GoMeb Razors which is my first foray into the world of Skechers, your reviews piqued my interest, have run Kinvaras for the last few years as my go to but fell out of love with the K7 and the K8 is just too much of a marshmallow. Currently rotating Zealot 3 and Fastwitch 8 but hoping the Razor will be that "swiss army knife" shoe like the K5 and K6 have been for me in the past

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    1. Thanks for commenting. Hope you enjoy the Razors. I love the Fastwitch 8 but have found the Zealot series and the recent kinvaras to be disappointing.

      -Dr. Matt Klein PT DPT

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    2. I can't comment on the first 2 versions of the zealot as I never ran them but apparently the 3 is a fairly significant revision, there is certainly very little carry over from the Z2. I got out in the razors this weekend and after just one 5 miler I already know they are the "kinvara killer" I was looking for, really wonderful shoe and I am looking forward to lacing them up again. I'm impressed enough that I'm going to give the GRUR2 a try once the zealots are trashed.

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    3. Yes the Zealot ISO 3 is a completely different and terrific shoe.

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  2. Hi Matt, love your blog!
    May I ask if you think nike zoom fly or skecher GRUR 2 will be suitable for a slow runner like me? My target to finish the coming marathon is 4.5 hours.

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    1. Hello. I think either option would be fine. Depends on how aggressive of a shoe you are going for. The Nike Zoom Fly is a fairly aggressive shoe with the plate. It may help you run faster, whereas the GRUR 2 should be more protective and easier on the legs. It depends on what shoes you have used in the past. Whatever those ones are I would stick to which shoe is most similar.

      -Dr. Matt Klein PT, DPT

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  3. Nice review Matt. I am considering this Ultra 2 and the upcoming Forza 3 from Skechers as a replacement for my Hoka Bondi which is too mushy for my tastes. Rockered soles and stability help me get around an arthritic big toe. Does the flexibility of this shoe undermine the value of the rocker for someone like me?

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  4. Hey Stephen.

    There is still a decent amount of toe spring and protection in this shoe. I think you will still find that the rocker will help you with that arthritic big toe.

    Thanks for reading.

    -Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT

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  5. You say you find the GoRun Ultra Road-2 to be firmer and less cushioned than "other maximalist shoes". Could you list these shoes? The main reason I wear the Skechers Ultra Road-1 and 2 is because they have the MOST functional cushion I can find. The higher stack Hokas all seem to be much firmer in recent years, negating the benefits of "maximum cushion" for people that want or need it. If there are other shoes with more cushion that I am not aware of, I'd like to find out more.

    The Ultra Road-2 is currently my favorite shoe! Fit, feel, and weight are great! Durability might be an issue, I have 170 miles in mine and they look like they only have another 100-150 left in them. I got 350+ out of the Ultra Road-1, not great for a high mileage road shoe. But if you can find them for under $50-75 like I did, the cost per mile is very good.

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    1. Hey Bill.

      I have found previous Hokas to be too soft for my taste. The new Clifton is a little different but like you said, I prefer the "functional" cushioning of the Ultra Road 2. There is a similar amount of material there, but it does not seem to compress as much. This has the double duty of being firmer for stability (my biggest knock against most maximalist shoes) while still having material there to assist with shock absorption.

      But you are correct. I have had the opportunity to try many more Hokas recently and sounds like they have listened and firmed up their shoes. They still run a bit narrow in that toebox though.

      Stay tuned for the Ultra Road 3.... I have high hopes that the introduction of FLIGHT GEN will allow for them to put more rubber on the outsole without making the shoe too heavy.

      Thanks for reading.

      -Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT

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    2. Matt, I prefer a cushioned shoe, I don't hold anything against those who prefer a non-cushioned ("responsive") shoe. Reading other comments, I may have stumbled upon a minimalist conclave, with someone complaining that Kinvaras are too mushy! LOL!
      I have different needs. What are the shoes that you think are softer than the Ultra Road-2? I find the UR2 to be a good amount of cushioning I like for long runs, but just barely. I also have the GoRun5, and they are OK for up to 5-6 miles for me, but are noticeably harsh and uncomfortable regarding cushioning; for me.
      Personally, I don't think Hoka "listened" to anyone regarding the amount of cushion, because there is a large outcry that they have abandoned their initial cushioned format and went hard, leaving many of us scrambling around to find cushioned replacements (which led me to the original Ultra Road-1). Hoka may have listened about the too narrow lasts, because most of their newer shoes are nearly normal width, although they are still narrower than other shoes in general. Stack height is not a good measure of cushion; all Hoka needed to do was keep their original compound and reduce the stack height by half to make a "normal" shoe, but they chose to keep the 30-40mm stack and make the midsoles hard for some reason. My Stinson ATR-3s may as well have been Cascadias, very disappointing.

      If you could list the more cushioned shoes for me, that would be great. Reading your reviews, I trust your judgement.
      Thanks!

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  6. Hi Matt,

    Do you think the Forza 3 and Ultra R2 would compliment each other nicely? The F3 for faster work and marathon and the R2 for recovery and relaxed long runs?

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