Review: Skechers GoRun Ultra 2

The world is a buzz with the sport of trail running. Whether you are a 5k-trail speedster or a 100-mile ultra runner, big protective shoes have overshadowed the minimalist movement made popular by books such as “Born to Run.” The advent of maximalist shoes made trendy by Hoka One One were upon us a few years ago with companies such as Saucony, Nike, New Balance soon following suit. The big surprise to me is the addition that Sketchers brings to the table with the GoRun Ultra 2. Weighing in a 9.2 oz for a men’s size 9, it seems as though Sketchers was aiming to take a chunk out of Hoka’s extremely successful Clifton clientele. How does the model stack up? Read on to find out!

GoRun Ultra Upper

Upper/Fit

The upper for the GoRun Ultra 2 is a lightweight, breathable mesh in the toe box area that stretches well when running. If my toes jammed the front of my shoe on a long technical downhill on the trails, the material stretched enough to accommodate them resulting in no bruised toenails. Synthetic overlays around the mid-foot provide support for the upper so you can try to get a locked down fit. I say try because I have noticed that the overall fit is pretty large, almost a ½ size too big. While I like the loose fit for the eventual volume gaining swelling of feet at mile 20+, the beginning of the run can result in a sloppy fit. On a few occasions I hit an off-camber root and the shoe nearly slipped off my foot as if it wasn’t even tied. The fit problems could be alleviated by sizing down ½ size or wearing thicker socks (not a great idea in the Southern heat recently). The inside of the shoe is soft but not suitable for sockless wear because of the protruding overlay stitching within the shoe.

GoRun Ultra Side

Midsole

The midsole is where this shoe shines most! The 34mm heel to 30mm forefoot drop is very comfortable and the shoe has a mild rocker feel in the forefoot to aid in forward progression. The Resalyte foam is Sketchers’ lightweight, injection-molded compound that feels good on the roads but better on the trails. It is fairly responsive giving more “pop” than a Hoka Stinson ATR and has a softer underfoot feel than the Hoka Challenger ATR. In other words it is a perfect combination to provide plenty of protection on the trails but without feeling sluggish.

GoRun Ultra Sole

Outsole

The outsole consists of a high-density foam material called Resagrip. There is no rubber on the outsole. Because of this, the overall weight is low and the flexibility is very good for such a large shoe. Unfortunately because there is no rubber on the outsole, the life of the shoe will be significantly lower than most shoes. My pair of GoRun Ultra 2’s has barely 70 miles on them and the midsole wear is very noticeable. I haven’t lost any of the foam traction lugs yet but I have worn some down to half their original size as well as torn a couple.

GoRun Ultra 2 wear

Conclusion

Sketchers has come out with a shoe package that is comfortable, lightweight and available for the Average Joe costing only $90 MSRP. The only real issue I see with the GoRun Ultra 2 is the outsole life. If in their next iteration of the shoe they include some rubber pods to take the stress of traction off the foam, then I will be first in line to get a pair. If you want to make the leap into maximalist shoes but don’t want to throw down a hefty amount of money because you are unsure what the hype is about, try out the Sketchers GoRun Ultra 2. Your feet (and wallet) will thank you!

You can find Skechers for even less than MSRP at Amazon with our affiliate link below (we get a small commission to help support the site at no cost to you).

Review: MIO Alpha 2

For the past 6 months I have been dabbling in the new world of heart rate training thanks to the input from my good friend Eric here at Hampton Runner. At first I was using a standard Garmin chest strap with my 910xt and Fenix 2. It performed great except for the fact that I would chafe on my upper stomach where the sensors would rest on my skin. It became so bad I began to not wear my chest strap anymore to allow the scabs to heal, in turn making me run harder than I should have resulting in overuse injuries. I was in search of a remedy and Eric offered the new Mio Alpha 2. If you are in the market for a new heart rate monitor hopefully my thoughts below will point you in the right direction towards your new investment.

mio-alpha2-box

The Mio Alpha 2 is Mio’s newest, top-of-the-line wrist mounted heart rate monitor. The watch utilizes electro-optical cells on the underside of the face to detect your pulse. It is worn just like a regular watch and with it’s light 53 gram weight it feels very sleek and minimalist. The size is smaller than my Fenix2 and 910xt while being about the same as my wife’s Garmin Forerunner 15.

alpha2-compared

The soft rubber straps have enough “give” in them to wear the watch at the proper tension to receive an accurate heart rate reading without cutting off circulation. The instructions for the proper reading of heart rate is to wear the sensor 1”-3” above your wrist bone. (I had some runs with mismatched HR readings from my Garmin strap but once I moved the watch up my arm a little bit, my readings became more parallel to each other.)
The watch utilizes Bluetooth Smart 4.0 to connect to popular apps such as Strava or RunKeeper or BTLE enabled watches offered by Suunto, Polar, TomTom or Timex. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that I wanted to connect the watch to my Garmin Fenix2 instead of my ANT+ HR strap (Garmin only supports Ant+). I also hate carrying my cell phone on runs so my ability to connect the Mio to an app for a run was almost never. In the end, I downloaded the free MioGo app to automatically download my HR. Then after the workout I had to look at my file on Garmin Connect to see when and where my HR spiked. In other words I was using two apps instead of one like would prefer.
Setting up the watch is easy. The watch itself has two buttons: the left controls the mode and settings while the right button acts as the HR sensor turn-on as well as the timer start/pause/stop. By holding the left button you can adjust your individual weight, height and HR zones on the watch itself, or you can do what I did and go on the MioGo app on your Smartphone to adjust the settings there. The ability to customize the display such as LED heart rate zone flashes or timer displays is a great feature as well. Holding down the right button will activate the HR sensor and usually after 10-30 seconds your pulse will be read. The watch is now ready for activity.

alpha2-hr

To start an activity, simply press the right button to start the timer or chronograph. The built-in accelerometers will measure your pace, calories burned and distance although side-by-side to my Fenix2 the totals were off. To stop and save the workout, simply press and hold the right button. When you open your MioGo app, it will automatically sync your workout displaying your average heart rate, max heart rate, pace, distance as well as a HR graph:

mio-alpha2-app

The Alpha 2 has a rechargeable lithium-poly battery giving the user about 20-24 hours of continuous heart rate monitoring, or up to 3 months without the sensor on. It comes with a USB magnetic charger that charges the watch quickly.

mio-alpha2-charger

The Mio’s built-in accelerometer that tracks the pace, speed, distance and calories is fairly accurate as well. In the dense foliage of on the East Coast trails, my Garmin Fenix 2 will often read a quarter mile short (or more) of the true distance of the trail. But, surprisingly, with the Mio Alpha 2, the accuracy was within a couple hundred yards on average. What makes this even more weird is when trail running my stride varies greatly when coming into technical sections (i.e. shortened, faster steps) than when I run on flat, flowy singletrack sections but yet the distances were pretty close to true. Running on the roads were just as accurate as well. There were many times that I wore my Mio over my Garmin because I knew the GPS signal would make my pace so far off from the truth and mentally hinder my performance.

Conclusion

The Mio Alpha 2 is a great tool for those who hate wearing the standard chest straps. The readings of heart rate were accurate on most occasions and the accelerometer was actually more reliable than good ol’ GPS in the dirt and trees. However, I really missed having ANT+ connectivity.

Another issue that arouse was the location the watch had to be on my wrist to get an accurate reading. On some days it needed to be higher up the wrist than other days and different extreme temperatures made the sensor not read the pulse correctly. On some occasions I had my HR read 20-30 BPM below my Garmin during a run. Sure these were freak occurrences but must be noted.

But the overall experience with the Mio Alpha 2 was good because the comfort of no chest strap outweighs the fact that I had to manually look at two different workout files at once to compare and contrast workout results. Besides the two issues stated above, I think Mio made a good watch that is accurate with your heart rate, pretty accurate with distance, minimalist in it’s design. It has solid ease of use, is comfortable to wear, but I do wish it has both Bluetooth and ANT+ capabilities.

The Mio Alpha 2 can be purchased at Mio for $30 off until August 31, 2015 – http://www.mioglobal.com/save-30-alpha2.htm