Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3 ReviewJune 29, 2016
- Soft, cushy midsole
- Wide toe box
- Innovative drainage system
- Flex grooves and rocker midsole
- Soft midsole feels unresponsive
- Minimal groundfeel
- Less stable than shoes with traditional stack heights
- Poorly-suited for technical trails
The new Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3 is the successor to last year’s GoRun Ultra road/trail hybrid, but it’s a full revamp of the shoe with substantial changes. The maximalist sole has innovative drainage ports and new rubber, while the segmented sole gives it the flexibility similar high-stack models from Hoka are lacking. At just under 11oz for size 9, it’s surprisingly light, and our wear-testers universally described it as supremely comfortable to wear. Reactions to its performance on the trail were mixed, however, with some wear-testers describing it as a solid choice for off-road ultras while others found the maximalist sole energy-sapping, unstable and distracting.
Since 2014, the Skechers Performance line has included a lightweight, max-cushion model called the GoRun Ultra. Last year’s GoRun Ultra 2 was a 4mm drop (34mm/30mm heel/forefoot stack) hybrid that performed well enough that some runners found it a comfortable alternative to Hoka’s trail models for off-road ultramarathons.
Major upgrades to the GoTrail Ultra 3 over previous models include a full-rubber outsole, an innovative drainage system, and deep flex grooves. The new outsole should eliminate any concerns about durability or traction from previous models, while the deep sole grooves improve flexibility substantially. The drainage system includes small holes in the sockliner and directly through the midsole, with two small ports below the heel on each side of the sole. It’s an innovative system that prevents water from pooling inside the shoe and facilitates very quick drying.
With the revamped, renamed GoTrail Ultra 3, Skechers doubles down on this maximalist trail niche, but the result is a model that deeply divided our wear-testing team. Some wear-testers felt that this was a comfortable, responsive shoe designed for long-distance off-road ultramarathons, while others described the maximalist midsole as distracting, energy-sapping, and unresponsive.
This is the GoTrail Ultra 3’s strong point. Our wear-testing team unanimously described the shoe as soft and comfortable, both straight out of the box, on the road, and on the trail. One wear-tester noted that Skechers has “achieved a balance in the cushioning with a mix that is stiff enough to make my foot feet like the shoe is listening, yet soft enough to give me the protection I want in a maximalist shoe.”
Unlike comfort, this is an area where our wear-testing team was divided. Some wear-testers felt that the rocker midsole encouraged a quick, natural footstrike and the shoes felt speedy, especially on smooth, manicured trails. Others thought the maximalist midsoles were so squishy and energy-sapping that the GoTrail Ultra 3s felt sluggish and slow, particularly on technical singletrack. As one wear-tester put it, “You will not dance quickly through the rockpiles on these towers of mush.” Evaluating a shoe’s speed is relative however, and while this may not be the swiftest shoe for a technical off-road 5K, the plush midsoles might very well translate to fresh legs and sustained speed over a 100K ultramarathon.
Security of Fit
The GoTrail Ultra 3 fits true to size, with uppers that are roomy without feeling sloppy. Wear-testers specifically praised the generous toebox, which has enough room to accommodate toe splay and forefoot swelling during long, hot runs. The heel too, feels locked-in and secure, and no wear-testers reported heel slippage under hard effort or uphill.
This was another area that divided our wear-testing team. One noted that, the GoTrail Ultra 3’s felt, “WAY too unstable on anything other than dirt roads or crushed gravel. On technical trails, I thought the soft midsole swallowed the rocks, making it harder to feel agile and responsive. Sadly, I thought this negated the traction that was gained from the outsole.” Another described the shoe as “wobbly and imprecise.” On the other hand, other wear-testers described the shoe as “balanced” and much lighter than expected. The plush midsole is stiff enough to feel agile, but soft enough to provide the protection a runner ought to expect from a maximalist shoe.
Like agility and speed, our wear-testing team was split over the GoTrail Ultra 3’s responsiveness. Some thought the grooved, segmented outsole was flexible while the maximalist midsole was equal to or more responsive than other models in this category. Other wear-testers felt strongly that the shoe was mushy and unresponsive, with very poor groundfeel and sensory feedback. There was also concern that the midsoles felt canted toward the inside, despite being described as neutral shoes.
The maximalist soles provided terrific protection from rocks, roots and other trail obstacles, although some wear-testers felt that this protection came at the expense of speed, agility and responsiveness. The full-rubber outsole has 4mm triangular lugs, with forefoot lugs facing forward and heel lugs facing backward for stability on climbs and descents.
For the 2016 support/stability trail running shoe review, test director Jason Brozek worked with a team of wear-testers from across the country. The team put the shoes to the test on a variety of trails and conditions, from rocky, wet technical singletrack to well-groomed off-road paths. Testing included everything from long-distance trail runs to intense off-road races, and each shoe’s cumulative mileage for testing was 50-150 miles. Our wear-test team gave feedback on each shoe in six categories: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness, and protection. The final Gear Institute Rating is the combined score across all categories, representing the team’s overall assessment of performance.