Skechers GoBionic 2 Review and A Run Through the Development Process

Skechers GoBionic 2 RedI have been working with Skechers as a wear tester/consultant for several years now, with the majority of my time spent in the GoRun and GoBionic shoes. My closet is filled with prototypes of many iterations of these shoes, and right now I have protos of a few other shoes sitting on the floor next to my desk (including the GoRun 4, GoUltra 2, GoMeb 3, and Meb’s training shoe which is an entirely new model). It’s all great fun, but interestingly enough I’ve yet to race in a Skechers shoe – that may soon change as the GoRun 4 and GoMeb 3 are awesome (and substantial) updates.

One of the cool things about helping out in the shoe design process is that you get to watch the development of a shoe from a relative “rough draft” to a finished product that will wind up on store shelves. The wear test process generally involves around 4-5 iterations of a shoe, with each successive iteration honing the product down to the final version. Sometimes the first iteration is almost there, sometimes it needs a lot of work and significant changes are made. There’s often a lot of debate among wear testers – it’s interesting to see varied perspectives on a given shoe, and sometimes people get very passionate about things they do or do not want to be changed (I was involved in one such email exchange just yesterday!).

I received my first pair of Skechers GoBionic 2 prototypes right around this time last year. I was prepping for the Vermont City Marathon at the time, and after a few runs I started to seriously consider using them in the race. I liked them that much. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get in a long run in them to see how they’d hold up over distance, and race day was cold and wet (the sole of the GB does not handle puddles well), so I wisely opted to use a shoe that I had more experience with.

My first impression of the of the GB2 was very positive. I was never really crazy about the moccasin-style construction and aesthetic of the original GoBionic, and Skechers had opted to refresh the upper with a much more athletic looking design. I thought the update looked fantastic. The flexible, zero drop sole was carried over unchanged from the original, but Skechers opted to add a thin layer of cushion to the footbed below the insole (it’s a finished footbed like the original, so you can run with or without the insole). They also swapped out the thin, flat insole from the GB1 with a thicker, 4mm drop insole in the GB2 (there were issues with folding/bunching of the insole in the original GoBionic since it was so thin, and it was hoped the 4mm drop option would open up the market for the shoe a bit). The combo gave the update a slightly cushier feel compared to the original, and I felt that it was better suited to longer distances as a result.

One of the things I’ve come to anticipate is that shoe prototypes will sometimes have mistakes that originate in the factory. I was told that the mesh on the round 1 sample was incorrect (the upper shoe below). I was actually disappointed because I loved the mesh they had used, and advocated continuously for them to keep it. No luck, but no big deal really as it was mostly an aesthetic preference.

2014-03-23 15.56.59

Skechers GoBionic 2 – round 1 sample (top), round 2 (bottom). Note the change to the red upper mesh.

You’ll notice in the above photo that the upper material changes over the forefoot to an open mesh underlain by a thicker layer of cushiony mesh (the black part with the triangular cutouts). This is very similar to the design of the GoRun 3, and it’s very stretchy. Probably one of the more significant changes in the GB2 is that the forefoot feels even more roomy than that of the original, and the new stretchy upper in this area is likely the reason for that. I find it a very comfortable and accommodating fit. I’ve even wondered if sizing down might be warranted, but I’m right on that borderline and I haven’t found the roominess to be an issue.

After running in the round 1 sample for a bit, my two major comments were that the upper was a bit baggy around the midfoot, and the shoe absorbed and held onto water too easily (partly why I opted not to race in them in VT). The new layer of cushion added to the top of the sole was particularly prone to absorbing and holding water. The image below is the image I sent to Kurt at Skechers pointing out where I felt the fit was a bit sloppy (compared to the Nike Free 3.0, which I felt was the closest comparison to the GoBionic).

Skechers GoBionic 2 Fit

Both of these issues were addressed in subsequent iterations – there was progressive work done to snug up the midfoot fit, and attempts were made to reduce water flow through the sole from below by adding a waterproofing compound. I’m still not sure I’d recommend this shoe on a really wet day, but it is improved from that original sample. Most of the other tweaks in subsequent iterations were small. A layer of brushed fabric was added to the top of the footbed to increase comfort when running sans insole, fit issues were addressed, etc.

One other change in prototype 2 that disappointed me was that they changed the tongue by removing a layer of that cushiony mesh (you can see it in the shoe on the right in the image below). I liked the aesthetic with that mesh present, and it also helped to reduce pressure from the laces above. The production tongue is very thin and looks a bit plain – this remains my biggest complaint about the production shoe.

2014-03-23 15.58.53

All told I think I tried four iterations of the GoBionic 2 (the black shoe on the top is the finished product):

2014-03-23 16.00.59

So how does the final product perform?

I liked running in the original GoBionic, and I liked running in the GoBionic 2 from the very first prototype. The midsole is identical, but the slight increase in softness due to the new insole and layer of cushion added to the footbed created just enough cush to make for a more comfortable ride (I tend to like a softer shoe). It’s still a tad firmer that the GoRun I think, and of the two I think I may actually prefer the GoBionic 2 over the GoRun 3 for that reason (though I am a bit smitten with the GoRun 4…).

Like the original, the sole is incredibly flexible and the shoe runs very quietly given the lack of an extensive outsole. You will pick up rocks in the sole flex grooves, so be prepared to pick them out after each run – the GoBionic is very much like the Nike Free in this regard. And since I’ve mentioned the Free, I’ll say that the Free shoes are probably the closest comparison to the GoBionic. The main differentiators are that the GoBionic is zero drop without the insole, and the GoBionic is far roomier in the forefoot. The latter in particular makes this a great casual shoe for me, and I wear them to the office frequently (the all black version is pretty conservative looking for those who don’t like bright colors). I’d also compare the GoBionic to the Brooks PureDrift, but I find the ride of the GB2 to be much more comfortable and not as harsh as that of the Drift.

As with the previous version, the one big concern with the GoBionic 2 will be durability due to the lack of extensive outsole rubber. If you tend to be hard on shoe soles, that may be a an issue with these. I also did have an issue with one of the upper overlays peeling off in one of the prototypes, but it didn’t happen in any of the others and may have been a manufacturing issue in that one pair.

Skechers Go Bionic 2

I’m not really sure how many miles I’ve run in these shoes since I’ve been through so many iterations. I just ran another 6 in them earlier today for a final refresher, and it seems every time I take them out I’m reminded of what a great little shoe this is. I’m obviously a bit biased since I helped to birth it (that sounds a bit weird…), but I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Skechers GoBionic 2. If you want a super flexible shoe with a roomy toebox, ability to swap between 0 and 4mm drop, and just enough cush under foot to make for a comfy ride, these are definitely worth a shot.

The Skechers GoBionic 2 is available for purchase at Skechers.com and at Shoebuy.com. You can take 20% off the sale price at Shoebuy by using the code 20MAY (codes should apply to any of the Skechers Performance shoes – view full selection here).

[Disclosure: I like to be honest about my connections, so I should disclose that I have done some paid consulting work for Skechers on a model currently in development. The wear testing that I do is all unpaid, and I have received no compensation for the work done on the shoe being reviewed here (other than receiving the prototype shoes provided, most of which will be donated). To demonstrate that I don’t love every shoe I wear test, I’ll openly tell you that the Skechers GoRun Ride and the GoMeb Speed 1 and 2 were not good matches for me, and I wear tested those as well.]

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Here’s my issue (which I realize could be resolved by 10 minutes of googling): I can’t keep the models straight! The names are too similar and the models are coming out so fast that I can’t figure out which shoe would be right for me.

    • I feel exactly the same, Scott; I am never sure that I am buying the “right” Skechers…

      • I’ll write up a guide to Skechers Performance shoes, hopefully that will clarify. It’s really pretty simple, but the complication comes from the fact that they sell through many channels and “discount” versions of each shoe come out with similar names.

        • Pete – Just clarifying – so if I see the GORun products (Run3, Bionic, etc.) models on other discounted sites (ex. shoebuy)- these aren’t the same model as what I might find on Sketchers site/store? Was confused by the comment “similar names” statement.

          • No, those core styles will be the same on any site. It’s just that they spin models off the core group for different retail outlets, but online you may find them all on the same site, especially if it is a general footwear site like a Shoebuy or Zappos and not a running-specific site.

  2. Hi Pete,

    I’m I big fan of Skechers shoes but was disappointed with the GoRun 3s compared to the GoRun 2s. So I look forward to seeing what the new GoRun 4s and GoMeb 3s bring.

    I know you can’t say too much but when can we expect to see the new GoRun and GoMeb?

    Thanks.

  3. great post, thanks, and it sounds like my favourite shoe has got better. I look forward to them making it over the sea to the UK.

    Longest run I did in the original was 22 miles (and each subsequent pair has lasted around 400 miles in total). I personally found that the limit for me, but with the extra 4mm cushion option in the heal and a bit more in the mid foot I could imagine running further in a pair.

  4. The original GoBionic has become my go-to training shoe alongside the Merrell Trail Glove. Glad to hear that they kept the same sole in this update. One question about the new model: Did they update the laces? The original model laces felt a bit cheap and came undone too frequently for me (I swapped them out for Merrell laces after a couple of runs).

    • They look similar to me, maybe not exactly the same. I’ve had no issues with them, but then I don’t think I’ve ever had laces come untied on any shoe I’ve worn. Double knots do the trick for me.

      • Thanks for the quick reply!

        I guess I should clarify: My issue with the laces is that they never really feel “cinched right” (as Paul in the comment below mine articulated so well). It’s weird. I double-knot the laces, but a few miles into a run, I more often than not find that the knot has “moved” a centimeter up the laces, making for a looser fit. The obvious conclusion is that my knot-tying game needs work, but I’ve never had this happen with the factory laces in my other running shoes, even when running longer distances. I do wonder if it’s just an effect born from the unique combination of the lace material, eyelet placement on the GoBionic, the lack of overlays on the upper, and my low-volume foot. In any event, it’s not a real issue for me, as it’s simple enough to swap out the laces (and swapping out the laces do the trick in my case).

        • Got it :) I frequently get asked about laces for this same reason, but I’m not very helpful since I’ve never had an issue. I wonder if there are idiosyncratic variations in how we each tie knots that create problems for some. Never thought about that!

  5. Brad Patterson says:

    Great writeup, Pete. Can you post a picture of the new insole? I would be interested to see what they did with it to make the 4mm drop. Thanks!

    • I’m not sure if a photo would help much. They basically just made a thicker insole that is about 6-7mm in the heel, 2-3mm in the forefoot. Mine is broken in a bit so hard to get exact measurements. And insoles do compress quick, mine measure at about 3mm drop.

  6. Kara Raehsler says:

    I think Skechers is making so many great shoes because of their willingness to listen to runners. Here is my idea for the most perfect running shoes ever….the cushion of Newton Energy (sans lugs) the upper of Skechers Go Run Ride 1 or Brooks Ravenna 5. I would be soooo happy.

  7. They updated the laces, but I don’t like the layout; they never feel cinched right, as I believe the Running Swede said. I also don’t get the insole option, as they don’t fit right both with and without the insole. Despite what I think they got wrong in the update (I actually liked the old styling better, too), the change in the built-in sockliner makes this a better version all around. The little bit of extra cushion (I always wear them without the 4 mm drop insole) makes a huge difference in comfort level. The ride in the 1st version was a little harsh for me at distances approaching 8 whereas I’ve felt completely comfortable past 8 without a hint of a problem. Really, it’s a great shoe: 0 drop, wide toe box, very comfortable. Had this been the first version, I would have been ecstatic with this shoe, so I try not to sweat the changes that I don’t like.

    • With regard to the insole, swapping it out for a flat one solves the problem. I’ve tried the 3mm Inov-8 insole that is for sale on Zappos and it fits fine.

  8. Peter – you have heard my concerns about the GRR3 before and the issues that I have had with the toe box stability strap on the outside of the shoe going from the lace leather to the sole unit.

    I am hopeful that they go back to a more minimal upper like they had with the GRR2, the two pair I had were great. It will be interesting to hear if they keep the GRR3 design or move to a less obtrusive design in the upper in the GRR4.

    At least I hope so, I miss running in GRR series of shoes.

    Thanks Peter for the work you are doing with them.

  9. EternalFury says:

    Is the color of the outsole baked into the material or painted over?
    The first version had the side posts painted over and they scraped off rather quickly.
    Also, for something that is going to be in contact with the ground, white is certainly not the best idea for the freaks such as myself who like their shoes to look decently clean after the first few runs.
    Otherwise, in general, I am not a fan of the pods they have on the outsole. I find they distribute pressure unevenly on the bottom of my feet.
    Looking forward to trying them.

  10. I would love to try a pair but the colors are much too bland IMHO. I prefer to have shoes that look as if a clown vomited on them than plain black runners. Same with the gorun3 vs the 2. I much prefer the flashy colors of the 2.

    • Funny, I hear just as many people say the opposite. I do like the blue/yellow color combo. Plain black shoes are not a personal favorite for me, but lots of people prefer conservative colors like that for casual use (which is why I mentioned that in the post).

      • I don’t doubt that not everyone wants clown puke on their shoes. I just happen to think that my running kicks look better the louder they are. Seeing how much the colors have changed from last year, it is almost as if are from a different company. Though the red/black are growing on me now….Thanks for the review!

  11. hollyoak says:

    Thanks for the review. Big fan of the GRR1 and GRR2, haven’t tried the GRR3 yet but it doesn’t sound like they add a lot. Was looking into getting the GO Speed 2…but it seems I need to wait based on your opening comments here ;-)

  12. My perfect fitting shoe is the New Balance MT110. It hugs my heal, mid foot wrap is ideal, and my toes splay happily. Furthermore, it has the perfect amount of ‘build’ in the upper. When I say perfect fit, it means this is my gold standard against all other shoes. It quite literally ‘snaps’ right into place like it was designed specifically for my foot. That said, I can get a good 1/2 marathon distance on these before I start to get beat up. Especially pounding are those steep and long descents (I run exclusively on trails).

    I’ve tried the Altra Olympus (way too much upper, sloppy fit) and liked the maximal cushion but suffered hot spots on a 1/2 marathon. Tried the Pearl Trail N2 but too much play in the heals. Next up is the Merrell Allout Rush.

    So, I have in my queue to try the Skechers GoUltra but notice you have a version 2 in prototype. What do you recommend as a good distance trail shoe? Would you recommend the GU? Keeping in mind I have run on the MT110 for three years. They’re no longer stocked so I’m in search o the equivalent ‘perfect’ shoe albeit with a bit more cushion.

    The little road running I do is with the Kinvara 4. It’s a bit more pointy than I prefer but fits well and has a lightly built upper like the MT110.

    Appreciate your insight.

    • Nate does most of my trail shoe reviews, so my experience is limited with that category. Have you tried the MT1010? Think it’s on the same last as the 110, and adds a bit more cushion. The Skechers GoBionic Trail also has an ample toebox and a softer feel. The GoUltra is a max cushioned shoe, more Hoka like than the others.

  13. Thanks for the review. I love the original GoBionic and probably would have ignored them if it wasn’t for your review. I rotate them with the Altra TheOne and those are my only road shoes at the moment. I just order the SGB2 and look forward to them.

    On the trails side – I am also rotating two shoes (mostly) – the Skechers Go Bionic Trail and the Altra LonePeak 1.5. Mix in Inov8 Trailroc 235 sometimes.

    In both environments I need zero drop and a wide toebox, with some cushioning(i.e. not super minimal). The choices with good fit, zero drop, suitable cushioning, not heavy (< 9 oz ideally) and enough traction (for trail use) are actually pretty limited. If I had one issue with the Skechers it is that the toebox is not quite wide enough (but the heel and midfoot are great – nice and snug without being tight). The Go Bionic variants work for me because the upper is not rigid. Looking forward to the new version!

  14. anybody else disappointed that the insole is not zero drop?

    I didn’t like the original GB without the insole–not enough cushion and disliked the non-insole “feel.” I def want a zero-drop shoe, so the new GB is a big disappointment :-(

    • The footbed without the insole is new in the GB2 – it has cushion built in and a soft surface covering. You could always just swap in a flat insole from another shoe if you really want a pair of the GB2 and need zero drop. The 3mm Inov-8 insoles should work fine: link to runblogger.com

  15. Laurence says:

    Hi, I’d love to be able to buy the GB2, but as usual we have to wait in the UK.

    Trouble is I need a show NOW!!!. I’d like to stay with Skechers and like the look of the GR3. Are they as wide as the GB1, that shoe is perfect fit for me width wise.

    The only GoBionic on sale in the UK is the Fuel and looks too build up for me.

    Any suggestions for a wide toebox daily trainer would be welcome. Thanks

    • Great review! I love your blog and am jealous of your job :) appreciate you sharing the link to Shoebuy as they ship internationally and was a nice discount.

      Laurence, order from Shoebuy. With the discount and international shipping it only comes to £60 which is cheaper than UK retail :)

  16. Pete,

    I am here to post a glowing review of the GB2. I want to do so because my hope is that people like you who have influence on the design will read this.

    I’ve been a minimalist/barefoot (true barefoot) runner for the better part of the last 5-6 years. Coming off of many years of chronic ITB running barefoot and in VFFs was a godsend and changed my life.

    But, minimalist shoes have always felt limiting. I can’t run as far or as fast or an as rugged terrain. I’ve been searching for good shoe shoes ever since. But, I have some requirements:

    1) Zero drop.

    2) WIDE.

    I tried NB minimus, Merrell Trail Glove, Nike Free, Altra, Vivo…basically the whole gamut. Not only are my GB2 wider than NB Minimus advertised 4E size, but they are more foot shaped than any of them.

    My feet are wide. Abnormal wide. Ridiculous wide. Please keep the GB series wide. The wideness of the GB2 is what prompted me to buy, and while I still push out on them, it’s not much and it works.

    I ran 6 miles last night in them and it was heaven. You guys are doing good things. For a guy who runs 30-50 miles per week and really wants to wear shoes again to perform, you guys are my heroes. KEep it up.

    • Thanks so much Adam, really appreciate this!

      • Yeah man! Did 6 the following night and it was even better.

        Let me mention, and I’m sure you can relate, that ego plays a role in every man’s mind. I mention this because I never, not in a million years, imagined myself rocking Skechers.

        To be honest, your role in the company, starting with your honest feedback, gave me an incentive to try them out. I have the GB Trail, as well. I like it, but not nearly as much as the GB2. I may even rock the GB2 on trails because it just fits me better (is wider feeling, mostly).

        Hear this minimalist-devout: if you search for a good, minimalist shoe then search no further!

  17. Ran in these last night. First one was an 8.25m run. Did it in 1hr 7… Not particularly fast, but considering I’d been awake since 0330am,on a plane and walked over 3 miles, it’s okay.

    Shoe was genuinely excellent. Simple, well designed… Perfect. It reminded me of a zero drop, better upper Green Silence (no bad thing). Fit is nailed on… Love it. Skechers?!?!

  18. Hi Peter,
    I was a bit surprised that no comparison with the Virrata was made: same drop, more or less same weigth. What’s the big difference between these two: the Virrata having a bit more cushioning? The GB being wider? Other differences?

  19. Dean Fredericks says:

    I thought the GoBionic would always be sketchers zero drop offering – i thought that was the whole point. If it’s becoming a 4mm drop shoe – will customers who want to continue running on zero drop need to find a different shoe or brand? Or could sketcher put 2 different insoles into the box (zero and a 4mm)?

  20. Hello Peter, primarily I would like to thank you for the impartial knowledge you provide people around the world (I’m from Sweden) about running, running-shoes, and more. Altough we all have different feet I like that we can get something more than a clue about which shoe would fit.
    Now, I red both your and Nate’s text about the GoBionic, and i especially liked two things (unfortunately it wasn’t you who wrote the words that sounded so good in my ears, but Nate) I liked the description that the shoe felt like running barefoot on grass. Since I play much football, I realy liked that comment, and thats excactly what I’m searching for.
    It seemed to me like there were some acquirements, which the shoe have, to accomplish this. Zero drop, roomy forefoot, flexible, lightweight and a bit cushion for the grass-like feeling. (There seems to be a hard task to both offer flexibility and cushioning, but that is excactly what i think the first GoBionic shoe seemed to offer when reading about it)
    So I’m about to buy my first zero- drop shoes, and what i prefer is something that will strengthen my foot and body in a forgiving way. I’ll use the shoe as an all-day-shoe and running shoe (even though i don’t run that much) so is this the right shoe for me Peter? Or do you got a better one?

    Have a good day!

    • Thanks for the comment Hugo! The GoBionic would be a great one to try for your needs. Other good options would be the Altra The One2, or the Altra Instinct 2.0. Just not sure if Altra is available in Sweden.

      • The closest shoe to GoBionic 2 that I can find on Skechers homepage is the GoBionic Fuel, just wonder if you know anything about it.
        I saw that it got 4 mm drop which i didn’t like very much. I’ve googled (so to say), but i couldn’t found any clear differences except for that, so it would be great if you could tell me about it.

  21. Brad Landry says:

    Does Skechers not offer their performance shoes in half sizes above size 12? I would love to give their shoes a try, but can’t seem to find my size.

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