The West Coast counterweight to New England-based running shoe brands like Saucony and New Balance, Skechers doesn't have the traditional, 100-year-old running roots of some of its East Coast competitors. Although Skechers is still a baby of a company (relative to others) and its influence on the running shoe market is even newer, the company has made itself into a contender in the race for running shoe dominance.
Skechers launched in 1992 and leapt headfirst into the grunge era with, of course, a big black combat boot. Its popular line of Roadies sneakers, which were a simple, everyday wear-around shoe, helped the brand gain prominence in the mid-90s. Since, Skechers has grown into the one of top three best-selling athletic shoe brands in the US. The company’s innovations for runners have come more recently, but it’s unique compared to running-specific brands because Skechers shoes offer a similar level of performance at a much lower price.
Skechers’s Rapid Running Success
Skechers created its GOrun line of running shoes in 2011, and a number of remarkable kicks have come from the line since. The GOrun shoe, a minimalist, lightweight (6.9 oz for men’s) trainer, was the first in the GOrun lineup, and it made clear Skechers’s commitment to high-performance running shoes. With the GOrun, Skechers was no longer making athletic shoes that you could run in, they were making running-specific shoes designed for you to run in. Skechers then embraced the minimalist running trend of the time with the release of the GObionic running shoe a year later. This shoe was built to give a good feel for the ground and save on weight.
In 2011, runner Meb Keflezighi signed a professional contract with Skechers, and he helped it refine its racing flat design by giving detailed feedback on his shoes. The collaboration between Keflezighi and Skechers led to the GOmeb racing shoe line. In 2014, he won the Boston Marathon while wearing a pair of GOmeb Speed 3s—a big win for him, and for Skechers, too.
The Latest in Skechers Running
Skechers has continued to build on its running successes since then. In 2017, the company debuted Ultra Flight foam, which is found in shoes like the GOrun MaxTrail 5 Ultra and the GOrun MaxRoad 3 Ultra. This proprietary TPU-based (short for thermoplastic polyurethane) foam is designed to be lighter and bouncier than older foams like EVA, so you get the same level of cushion with less weight and more energy return. More recently, Skechers created a ton of buzz with the release of its Hyper Burst foam on the GOrun Razor 3 Hyper in late 2018. There’s a lot of complicated science behind how it’s made, but it’s essentially EVA that has been exposed to supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2 gas that’s heated under pressure until it turns to a liquid). The liquified carbon dioxide turns the EVA into foam with irregular-shaped pockets, making it lighter than normal EVA while still just as bouncy and soft. Underfoot, it feels firm and fast, but still delivers good shock absorption. It’s now available in the GOrun 7 Hyper, and is coming to the MaxRoad series of shoes as well.
How We Chose These Shoes
The shoes below represent the best running and cross-training shoes from Skechers. To choose them, we talked with a Skechers brand rep to get a sense of how the company’s running lineup is evolving, analyzed past Runner’s World reviews, and used our knowledge of the running market to pick out the most important kicks. From road racers to trail shoes and more, there’s a shoe here to please nearly every kind of runner. If you’re looking for more info, we also linked to the full RW review for several of these models—that means we tested the shoe in our lab and on the feet of hundreds of wear testers, so there’s plenty of information to guide your purchasing decision. Long story short, Skechers has come a long way since the ‘90s (haven’t we all?), and it has only gotten better at creating shoes for runners. Here are some of our favorites from the brand.
—BEST EVERYDAY TRAINER—
GOrun 7 Hyper
The GOrun 7 is the second Skechers shoe (after the GOrun Razor 3) to get upgraded with the company’s new Hyper Burst foam. This material checks nearly every box when it comes to cushioning: It’s durable, springy, and lighter than traditional EVA. In this shoe, it provides a firm feel but still does a good job of softening impact forces. In addition to the foam, rubber pods on the outsole increase cushion and flexibility, and the sole’s rocker shape promotes a smooth stride. On top, the knit upper offers a good balance between flexibility and support.
GOrun Ride 7
Skechers packed the Ride with its refined EVA Flight Gen foam, creating one of the softest shoes we tested for 2018. Wear testers loved the energy return it provided, and although the large amount of foam makes these kicks pretty stiff, they earned good scores for comfort and a smooth ride. The knit upper has a bootie construction that closely wraps the foot for a secure fit, and like the GOrun above, it has a removable liner if you need extra room.
—CUSHIONED AND FLEXIBLE—
GOrun MaxRoad 3 Ultra
The MaxRoad Ultra uses the new, light and bouncy Ultra Flight foam in the midsole, and it’s designed to be a little more flexible and lightweight than the Ride above. It’s about an ounce lighter than the Ride, and it also features grooves along the forefoot that allow the shoe to move with your feet, so you flow through your stride more easily. On top, a breathable flat knit upper has minimal seams for a smooth foot feel and comfortable fit, too. Keep an eye out for the MaxRoad 4—we gave it an Editors’ Choice Award at Outdoor Retailer, and it’s slated for release in September.
—LIGHTWEIGHT AND DURABLE—
GOrun Forza 3
Heading out for longer distances requires a shoe with endurance to match your own, and the Forza delivers just that. Wear testers were impressed by the durability of this relatively lightweight shoe (9.3 oz for men and 7.4 oz for women), which held up through half marathons and across a variety of terrain. The midsole contains a layer of Flight Gen foam and a dense foam support post that runs into the forefoot, which helps create a smoother ride.
—BEST FOR SPEEDWORK—
GOrun Razor 3 Hyper
This shoe has garnered a lot of attention in the running industry. Why? Because Skechers engineers found a new way to create an EVA midsole, know as Hyper Burst, and it’s featured on this shoe. In short, it’s impressive and radical because it’s lighter and more durable than traditional EVA (to learn more about how Skechers did this, click the link above and read the review). The main takeaway is that this shoe is super light, feels like a racing flat that’s built to hold up as an everyday trainer, and it features a thin, breathable upper. If you’re looking for a new shoe to try in 2019, the GOrun Razor 3 Hyper might be one to consider.
—BEST FOR ROAD TO TRAIL—
GOrun MaxTrail 5 Ultra
Plush cushioning and a novel tread system make the MaxTrail a real standout for hitting the dirt. A generous layer of Ultra Flight foam in the midsole delivers supreme cushioning and shock absorption, and the shoes tested above average for energy return as well. The woven upper features an ankle collar that locks out rocks and debris, and its looser weave in the forefoot adds flexibility and improves ventilation. On the bottom, foam-filled lugs embedded in a rubber outsole provide excellent traction, but they also compress on harder surfaces so you get a smooth ride if you switch to pavement.
—BEST RECOVERY RUN SHOE—
A decent running shoe for less than $100 is a rare find, but the GOrun Pure bucks convention: With its combination of low weight, exceptionally soft cushioning, and a nearly seamless knit upper, it’s a great candidate for an affordable trainer. The EVA-based Ultra Go foam in the midsole provides plenty of shock absorption without weighing the shoe down, and testers found it to be highly comfortable on short- to mid-distance runs and even when wearing casually.
—BEST FOR CROSS-TRAINING—
The “train” in the name hints at what these shoes are designed for: cross-training. With their minimal cushioning, especially in the heel, these shoes are very firm underfoot and are much more suited to CrossFit workouts or hitting the gym than running. The synthetic heel counter on the upper provides good support for workouts that keep you upright, like box jumps, and the knit mesh material is breathable enough to keep your feet cool when you crank up the intensity.
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