Sunday, September 15, 2013

Skechers GObionic Trail: Initial Review

I've always been a huge fan of the Skechers GObionic. I've tried on the entire Skechers GOseries running shoes (and loved everyone of them) but the Skechers GObionic has always found a special place in my heart. Which was why when I first heard about the Skechers GObionic Trail months ago, my heart skipped a few beats.

My interest in trail (and ultra) running has been gaining momentum and I've been grabbing every opportunity to run the trails whenever it presented itself. I'll be honest, I was never a trail junkie until a few people I know 'poisoned' me (the culprits know who they are) and the Skechers GOtrail was my first ever trail shoe.


So when Skechers Malaysia sent me a text to say that the Skechers GObionic Trail was here, I was overjoyed, ecstatic even, seeing as how the wife had her pair for wear-testing two days earlier and I could only look on in envy. But not anymore. Now I have my own pair to play with!

The Skechers GObionic Trail is the second attempt by Skechers in producing a trail shoe. While the original GOtrail was a pretty good trail shoe, there were some 'production' issues that plagued me with them. The Skechers GObionic Trail on the other hand looks like a winner right out of the box. Coming in my all time favorite grey/green color scheme, the GObionic Trail (which I shall refer to as the GBT from here on) falls into the category of the minimalist trail running shoes. Styling wise, the shoe looks stunning, in my opinion at least.


The GBT uses what Skechers Performance describes as nature and an organic inspired design to create a more natural foot movement though I'm not so sure how that came to be. The GObionic Trail is a 2 in 1 custom fit trail shoe, you get a 4mm heel drop with enhanced cushioning and protection with the insole and a zero drop barefoot like experience without the insole. It's ideal for those who prefer some form of cushioning or for those (like me) who just enjoy the feel of the ground. Personally I feel the zero drop option makes it more stable on the trails where rolling or twisting an ankle is much likelier than on roads.

Weighing in at 8 oz. for the men's size 9, the shoe feels so much lighter than it actually looks. In fact, for a trail shoe, it's exceptionally lightweight. The GBT, like all the other Skechers GOseries shoes is engineered to promote a midfoot strike with a propriety Resagrip outsole that is durable, light and flexible. The Resagrip steers away from the usual foam like material slightly and is more rubber like. I'm not sure about the durability of the outsole until I get a lot more miles in them.

The decoupled geometric lugs on the outsole, which is similar to the GObionic's flex grooves but without the 'cuts' are designed to elevate flexibility and grip. The lugs look bigger and more spaced out than some of the other trail shoes I've seen (including the GOtrail) but they do offer good traction and they actually keep rocks and mud from sticking to the shoe while running. A lightweight rock diffusion plate lends some support to your feet, dispersing the pressure to protect your feet against the harsh environment of trail running, though for the life of me, I couldn't tell if there was a diffusion plate or not cos the shoe is that flexible.


The one thing I like about the shoe is the extremely roomy toebox it offers. Just like the road version of the shoe, the toebox allows ample space for my toes to splay and move within the shoe to provide a natural stability on the trials. Compared to the GOtrail, the GOrun 2 and even the GOrun Speed, which are pretty narrow in the toebox areas, the GBT's toebox is like a cavern compared to those three. For those with a slightly wider feet will love the roominess of the GBT.


The upper consists of a lightweight synthetic mesh and is a little stiff but stretchable enough and works nicely to accommodate your feet as they start to swell from the heat or during long runs. The GBT is also given a water-repellent treatment (which could be the cause of the slight stiffness to the upper) but doesn't hinder your foot's movement and breathing. One good thing about the upper being made of synthetic material is that they never absorb water and get heavy, especially in trails where you have streams to run across, though I have not tested this theory just yet. The GBT supposedly also doesn't just repel water but also drains out fairly quick, again this is something I can't confirm until I find a stream to run in. The lacing is a carry over from the road version and pretty much straight forward.


The GBT is also free of any type of heel counter which allows the heel to move naturally and unsupported with a flexible and soft collar. An Ortholite integrated anti-microbial sock liner helps inhibit odor after a long day in the trails. The GObionic Trail, unlike most shoes has an extra thin tongue which helps considerably in keeping the weight of the shoe down. The tongue, which is slightly longer than normal is integrated into the upper and is suppose to help keep small stones and debris out of the shoe.

The trail test (Session 1)

The best way to really put a trail shoe to a test is to actually head out into the trails with it. The wife was so eager to give it a try that I decided to take a day off work and head to the FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) trails, a regular haunt for local trail runners. It rained a couple of hours earlier and the trails would be wet, just perfect for wear testing a trail shoe :D And for leeches too!

I ran this session with the GBT in the cushioned 4mm mode. I initially felt the shoe was a little too tight and made a wrong choice of wearing thinner socks and found my foot sliding around a little in the shoe, which was also a contributor to debris slipping in. My fault entirely, not the shoes. The wife also did find her shoe a little snug and with her bunion issues, she decided to switch her insole with her GObionic Ride and found that the fit was just nice so she didn't encounter the 'debris' problems I had.

Even with her knee issues, she was still adamant to run ...
This trail session was to accommodate the wife, who is more of the hiking-slow-jog-through-the-jungles-who-would-stop-and- tell-me-everything-about-every-single-tree-or-plant kinda girl who is still struggling with her knee issues so we kept it light, sort of a hike and run session. The trails were wet, slippery and muddy and I took whatever opportunity I could to run up and down the slippery inclines, on various surfaces, mud, gravel, grass and sandy stretches. I must say the grip of the GBT, just like the GOtrail was simply phenomenal.

I didn't know there were durian trees in FRIM, the things I learn daily from the wife ...
I was careening down the slippery path at some silly speeds and the grip never once wavered, be it on gravel or on the muddy sections. With the StandChart marathon just around the corner, I shouldn't really be doing silly stunts like that but heck, what better way to test a trail shoe. A big thanks to the trail gods that looks after idiots like me.

The grip on muddy terrain is simply astounding ...
With the shoe in 4mm running mode, the cushioning aspect of it felt much better than the GOtrail. Running over huge and sharp rocks or gravel, while still could be felt was much less noticeable than the GOtrail. It was more of a muted feel which contributes to running with careless abandon. I guess the rock diffusion plate must really be doing its job well of dispersing the pressure evenly. I'm betting in zero drop mode, I'll be able to really feel the rocks and stones a lot more. My next session with the shoe in zero drop mode will tell a different tale I'm sure.

Breathability wise, the GBT did an excellent job of keeping both our feet well ventilated. I thought the water-repellent treatment would have made the shoe a little hot but that wasn't the case. There were no hotspots and even with feet expansion, the shoe felt nice and roomy. The wife, who is normally prone to blisters encountered none of them throughout the entire session. As advertised, the wide geometric lugs on the outsole kept away mud and stones from getting stuck to them as you run but we both found that upon walking over muddy terrain, they do get impacted into the soles making the shoe bloody heavy. The moral of the story here is to just keep running through mud :D

Left pix of running through mud and right pix of walking through mud
All in all, we both came away very satisfied and happy with the shoe. The next session below is when I really put the shoe through the test.

The trail test (Session 2)

This second session, planned by Jamie a week ago had Julia, Richie and Zane running along. The weather was once again spot on! Wet, muddy and cool was the menu for the day in FRIM. We started off at 6 a.m. and headed off into the still pitch black trails. The four of us, except for Jamie, had mediocre headlights that could hardly light up the pitch black trails. Looks like it's time to invest in one of those fancy schmancy headlamps.

This time, I removed the insoles and set up the shoe into zero drop mode. I also made sure I wore a thicker pair of socks to keep the feet from sliding and made sure I laced up snugly this time employing the loop lacing lock technique that held my feet firmly in place.While it kept a lot more loose stones and debris out of the shoe, I can't say the same about those darned leeches though!

The route was basically the same, after all it's FRIM and not many different options to run. We started off slowly towards dream trail and basically ended up walking that section seeing as how it was just too dark, slippery and narrow. Better to be safe than sorry.

Once we were out of this section, the running proper started. It was time to see what the shoe could take and dish out. Again, the grip was simply phenomenal, hardly any slippage. It dug in real well for the climbs and kept me firmly rooted to the ground on the downward stretches. It didn't matter what terrain I was on, sand, mud, gravel or tarmac, the shoe stuck like glue. Well, except for that Syabas trail section, those two long inclines with the rope. I almost slipped twice there on that moldy cement like trail along the ropes.

Running down Syabas trail. Notice the moldy like cement section
on the left of Julia which I almost slipped twice.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
Overall, the GBT performed the same as the previous session, which in my opinion was very impressive. Except this time, running in zero drop mode made it feel like I was one with the trails. I could feel the contours of the rocks, the bumps, the branches and every single debris I ran over which is to say that it hurt like a bitch! My recommendation is unless you have soles of steel or you're really used to running barefoot or something in trails, go with the 4mm option, they're much kinder and gentler on the feet. My calves are going to scream bloody murder later today!

I don't know, maybe I'm a wuss or something but the zero drop option hurts, especially in trails that have tons of gravel, stones and whatnots protruding of the ground. Maybe a mild to moderate trail would better suit the GBT in zero drop mode. I know I'm running in that shoe with the insole on from now on. I still need to feel the ground but heck, not that much. The insoles gave just the right amount of cushioning but not completely eliminating the road feel which is something I like.

In the 3 hour 45 minutes (close to 22km) we were in the trails, my feet didn't feel hot at all in the shoe. Even with the thicker socks I had on, breathability wasn't an issue. The Skechers GObionic Trail was roomy enough to accommodate the expansion of my feet so I didn't feel at all uncomfortable with the fit. I'd say going really long in the shoe would be a cinch, just don't do it in zero drop mode :D I did step in some small streams of water and though it didn't get soaked, the shoe dried up real fast which goes to show that the water dispersal possibly works as advertised. I still can't vouch for the durability of the outsole until I put in a lot more miles in them so that'll just have to wait a while.

At the end of the day, I'd place the Skechers GObionic Trail as a trail shoe to be reckoned with. Lightweight, adequately cushioned yet able to mimic that barefoot feeling, responds well to pace changes and great traction. Priced at RM369 for the women's version and RM399 for the men's, the Skechers GObionic Trail is definitely a step up in the right direction. Unfortunately though, the shoe will only see a December launch date in Malaysia.

The pair of Skechers GObionic Trail that the wife and me used above was so kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia as a review unit. This review is of my own personal experience with the shoe and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.

Update: The Skechers GObionic Trail has seen an earlier than expected release and will be available in stores from today, the 20th of September 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Nick, great review on the GBT. Had a chance to try it on few days back and it felt good. Only thing is, I've got mixed reviews on friends using them. They are those that used the GBT during the just concluded TMBT here in Sabah vouched that its a great shoe and there are some that question whether its fabric and sole can withstand stepping on sharp objects, may it be glass, sticks, bamboos etc. For RM409, its a much cheaper option than say a Salomon though I'm still considering my options to include few other brands.

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