Friday, November 4, 2011

The Skechers Field Test

Meb Keflezighi wins the San Jose Half 
Marathon in the Skechers GOrun
When it was announced on August 1, 2011 that former Olympic Silver Medalist and 2009 New York Marathon champion, Meb Keflezighi, had signed a shoe deal with with California-based Skechers, I, and many other running fans were intrigued. A few weeks went by and when I was on my annual running vacation to Boone, NC, I decided to send an email to the publicity team at Skechers and see if they were interested in a review of their running shoe line.

Surprisingly, I got an email back within 10 minutes. After a few conversations, a new pair of the Skechers ProSpeed were on my doorstep a week later. Unfortunately, before I could get to my test drive, I was injured. Fast forward a month, I was healed up and ready to go for a spin in the new kicks. Here are my thoughts:

Colorful Skechers boxes
Skechers ProSpeed
Presentation: At first glance, the box makes some pretty aggressive claims, but upon further review, they're pretty harmless. The box says the ProSpeed "promotes mid-foot strike" and also that running "strengthens muscles, increases calorie burn and builds endurance." Fair enough. As you can see, the boxes are pretty detailed, and the inside has more information as well.

Fit: This was my biggest question. How would the ProSpeed fit compared to standard running shoes? The shoe definitely sits up a little bit. It also has an interesting hollow gap underneath the arch. So how does it feel? It feel like a support shoe with an arch-cupping orthotic. It's a snug fit and has a nice locking tongue. My only issue is how high you seem to sit up, but that's part of the goal with the way it promotes your foot to land forward.

Run: Considering my first run in a month was in the ProSpeed, I was a little worried, but they actually felt pretty good! I wore the ProSpeed for two weeks straight and did runs ranging from 3 miles to 10 miles with good results. I hit the roads and the trails, equally, with no signs of distress on the shoes. Post-run strides felt springiy and my legs had good life at the end of long runs. The only con was that it does indeed promote mid-foot strike, which left me with sore achilles. Nothing some eccentric heel drops couldn't fix though. If you are already a mid foot striker, you will likely have no issues, but I tend to hit the heel a little more than I like.

I'm obviously fascinated with the minimalist line.
From left to right, Nike Free, New Balance Minimus,
Skechers GOrun, Brooks Green Silence
Skechers GOrun
Presentation: Like the ProSpeed, the GOrun box is pretty fascinating. The claims are "ultra-lightweight, Resalyte custhioning, integrated OrthoLite insole, GOimpulse sensors, and mid-foot strike." The GOrun is Skechers foray into the minimalist movement and is doubling as their racing flat. Meb did mention on Twitter that his GOrun's have been customized, as I assume is the same with any shoe company and their sponsored athletes. I know David Oliver has custom spikes that Nike doesn't sell, so this is nothing new. I would be interested to know what his mods are though!

Bottom of the GOrun's
Fit: The fit is pretty snug on the GOrun. I found them to run a little big, but they are nice and snug through the forefoot (thanks to locking tongue). The heel fit is similar to other minimal shoes. That being a little loose to along the foot to move. I have the Nike Free 3.2's, the New Balance Minimus Roads, two pair of the Brooks Green Silence (that I train and race in) and a pair of the Brooks Pure (Project) Cadence, that I run in as well, so I am pretty accustomed to the ins and outs of this kind of shoe. The GOrun has some similarities to all of them and is a little meatier in the midfoot, which lends it to go as a racing flat and not just a minimalist shoe.

Run: What sets the GOrun apart from other minimalist shoes is the thicker sole. I did a three mile fartlek on the track with them, with a few miles warmup, drills (A-skips, karaokes, high knees, butt kicks) and then cooled down a few miles on the grass and was very happy with the results. There is a little responsiveness to the GOrun that isn't there in other minimalist shoes. I know Meb has had some say in the design of the shoe, so more than likely, this was his input. The shoe breathes well and doesn't move much once you start running. Judging by the initial feedback I have received on this shoe, people are very interested, so feel free to email me directly for more specific information about the fit and run of the shoe. Addendum: The GOrun is as comfortable shoe as I have ever worn when going sock-less and running on grass/wood chips. It always is easy to get dog crap off of if you find yourself stepping in it!

For more information on the GOrun, go to the Skechers site here and via a nice YouTube piece here.

Final Thoughts on Skechers Running Shoes: It's a good start. Are the ProSpeed and the GOrun going to start taking market share from Nike, Brooks, Asics, New Balance and Mizuno? Probably not just yet, but lets hope their commitment is long enough to see some improvement in product development. The GOrun specifically is a nice shoe, and I imagine they'll only get better with Meb's input. Their stock is up and they had a nice article on MarketWatch today about their journey into the crowded running shoe market.

Meb Keflezighi won the San Jose Half Marathon in the GOrun and will be running the New York City Marathon this weekend in them as well. If he can make some noise near the front, like he did with his win in 2009, it will provide a great deal of awareness for the brand. As he gets older and away from competing, hopefully he'll really dig into the development of the shoes, as it seems like he's already involved on that front.

Also, more sponsorship for athletes is a good thing, so lets hope that Skechers will continue with that commitment!

Can't find Skechers at your local running store? Buy them (at a discount) at here!

Check out my review of Meb Keflezighi's book, "Run to Overcome," here

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