An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Awesome shoes! Skechers Go Bionic Trail

I've been testing running shoes for Skechers for a a little over a year now. It all started with a review I posted about the Go Run, a shoe that I purchased after hearing some buzz about them from a couple blogs -- I tried them on at a Skechers store and was very impressed. After responding to a posting on Runblogger about being a wear tester, I was contacted by a representative from the company. I've worn several different models, seen them go through a metamorphosis, and have seen several of my suggestions incorporated in follow-on iterations. It's been a very interesting process, and the feel I've gotten with it is like working with a small, nimble company, but with big corporate backing.

Up-front disclaimer: I got these pre-rpoduction shoes free of charge from Skechers, and I am not in any way paid to write positive reviews of their products. I run in the shoes and provide feedback to the design team. I am constrained by non-disclosure agreements to not write about or release information on any of the models I test until I am given the green light to do so by Skechers. With that said...

The first group of shoes I received included the Go Bionic, a lightweight trainer/racing flat with excellent flexibility, zero drop from heel to forefoot, and lots of interior forefoot room. Of the shoes that were sent that day, it was my favorite. My only regret was that I was recovering from a running injury at the time and had to wait to run in them!

I don't remember the exact date I received the Skechers Go Bionic Trail (some time around the end of October or first of November last fall), but my first reaction was, "Don't change anything!" They were that good. They instantly became the favorite shoes in my rotation, and so far I have about 140 miles on them, a mix of about 70% gravel roads, 10% dirt/grass, and 20% pavement, based on my weekday runs at lunchtime.

I'll admit that I was initially skeptical about the idea of a Go Bionic Trail -- the Go Bionic midsole/outsole material is quite soft and flexible, and the tread pattern tends to pick up rocks when worn off-road. The softness of the material means good cushion, but also not much in the way of protection from terrain. The Trail version of the Go Bionic addresses all of these concerns and then some.

The midsole is a solid piece, without the "pods" of the Go Bionic, so picking up rocks is a non-issue. The tread pattern is a medium shallow block array, providing very good grip on muddy surfaces. In the forefoot, there is a buried rock plate which provides protection from stones and debris. Even with this plate, the shoe keeps good ground feel and flexibility. I expected to feel some extra stiffness in the forefoot that might affect my stride, but the shoe feels about as flexible at the Go Run on the road or trail. And I found myself in rocky areas in which I would normally slow down and pick my way through, just blasting through with almost-wreckless abandon.

There's a slight wrap of the sole material around the front of the shoe to act as a bumper for toe strikes. Also zero drop (though the insole is reported to make it a 4mm drop, I don't feel a difference), the entire midsole and outsole make a very good platform for a natural stride. The rocker of the Go Run is nearly absent, and is slightly less than the Go Bionic.

The Trail version is built on the same last as the original Go Bionic, with a nicely snug heel and instep, and plentiful space in the forefoot. No toe squeezing going on here.

The upper of the Go Bionic Trail is a flexible neoprene-like material which is textured for a rugged look. As flexible as the material is, I expected it to allow my foot to wallow around. This is not the case, however; it simply moves with my foot. The tongue is of the same material, with a stiffer piece at the top (initial versions had a very stiff material there, and was my one suggested change; the second iteration of the shoe went with a softer material at the top of the tongue -- a good move making a great shoe even better), and is sewn in throughout the lacing area, protecting against debris entering the shoe.

Like the Go Run and the Go Bionic, there is nothing in the way of a heel counter in this shoe -- a feature I heartily support. Nothing is making your foot do something it shouldn't. The collar is flexible and soft.

With all this going for it, it remains light -- almost as light as the Go Bionic.

Pete Larson from Runblogger had written a passing comment about this shoe (though he was constrained by the same non-disclosure agreements as I) that it had become his favorite shoe, and unlike any other he'd worn, he found himself looking for excuses to go run in them. While I haven't been looking for e
xcuses to run in them (I've found myself somewhat fragile for mileage, and so have stayed with a schedule that keeps me healthy) I find that I keep coming back to them after trying one of the others in my rotation.

In the miles that I've put on these shoes, they've worn very well -- the uppers look perfect still, and there's only one place on the sole that shows any appreciable wear -- right under the base of my little toe (head of the 5th metatarsal), where my foot makes initial contact with the ground.

The market release is set for mid June, so look for them at your local Skechers store and online.

[Note -- Photos are of the pre-production samples I received in 2012, and taken on 5/6/2013, with 140 miles on them, and right after a 4.6 mile run.]


Daryl Reed said...

Been a huge skecher's fan since the first go run shoe. The thing that works best for me is the soft heel counters. I have had a previous achillers insertion surgery. Got my bionic trails last week and flat out love them, but they were just a little loose when the insert was removed. Liking the zero drop option, I took the insert out of a pair of wore out go rides that I had. Perfect. I try and run mostly trails, but time and work make for a couple of short road runs durring the week. Think they will hold up well sprinkling in a few road miles a week?

brider (aka David) said...

Hey Daryl,
Sure, they'll survive some road mileage just fine. The soles are similar in material to the Go Run. Like you, I felt a little too much room, mostly in the mid foot, when taking out the insole to get to zero drop. I had another pair of flat insoles which I substituted, and that worked perfectly.

Anonymous said...

The wife and me just got the shoe from Skechers Malaysia for reveiw over here and so far I'm simply loving in in the one run I've done in it so far.

I've the same issues about the looseness of the shoe without the insoles. I had to use thicker socks to get them to be snug. The wife just switched her insoles with her Bionic Ride and they seemed to be just fine. I might just do that too.

Taking them out for test session number 2 this weekend but right now, I'm simply loving the shoe, a huge improvement from the GOtrail.