Review by Dr. Mark Davino
I am relatively new to the joy of running having started within the last 2 years. I was able to advance from an even amount of time split between watching sports and road cycling to running 5K races without too much discomfort. It was however, the journey to my first half marathon which was not as smooth and quite unfortunately fraught with new pains and injuries.
In preparation for my newest pursuit I went to the local running store and promptly bought the fanciest, plush (and rather pricey) running shoe I could find. It was so comfortable to walk around in, and, at first, to run in. However, as I advanced my running distances finally attaining 20 to 25 miles per week, I started to have ever increasing low back pain. Also, my feet started to hurt, developing right-sided plantar fasciitis. By the time I lined up for my first Half last Fall I was a shell of myself, having to take a muscle relaxant just to ease my back pain enough to line up at the starting line. The first 8 miles went OK, the last 5 were agony, and I finished almost 20 minutes longer than it should have taken me.
After taking 3 weeks off and then running in a ZooZoom 8K I had the pleasure of hanging out with Thomas Neuberger and we had a nice discussion over a few beers. I had recently read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and was contemplating starting all over with a minimalist shoe. My hope was to force myself to run in a more conventional (evolutionarily speaking), natural style. So, when Thomas asked if I would like to give the GObionic a try I answered with a vigorous “yes!”
What Skechers says about the GObionic:
GO like never before in the Skechers GObionic shoe. This zero-drop, ultra-minimal performance running shoe features a design developed using advanced biomechanic innovations inspired by the human body.
• exoFit construction upper reacts and moves like a second skin, surrounding the foot with supportive and breathable materials
• Extreme Flexibility with roomy toe box and vamp area along with an articulated sole allows the toes and foot greater freedom of motion
• Zero Drop design eliminates traditional heel lift so the entire foot remains low to the ground in a more natural position
• 18 Bio-Responsive Resalyte™ cushioning zones added to key flex points of the foot add protection without compromising responsiveness
• Decoupled responsive zones linked by ligament-style connectors to permit increased plantar- and dorsiflexion for more natural movement and enhanced feeling
• Super lightweight and responsive
• Named ‘Editor’s Choice’ by Runner’s World UK – October 2012
• Ultra lightweight synthetic and mesh fabric upper
• Lace up zero-drop barefoot-style running shoe
• Stitching and overlay detail
• Lace-up front
• Smooth comfortable interior for barefoot wear
• Agion® scent protection built in to combat odor causing elements
• Custom Fit – run with or without 1.7mm removable insole
• 11.5mm Resalyte™ shock absorbing midsole
• Water resistant midsole layer
• M-Strike high abrasion rubber traction pads on sole
• Weight: 6.0 oz. per shoe in a men’s size 9
The GOBionics are certainly “minimalist!” The zero drop height forced me to alter my running style completely. I am no longer running with long strides and repeated heel strikes. I converted rather seamlessly to a shorter stride and more upright posture with midfoot strikes. My low back pain is gone and has not returned. The shoe fits comfortably, almost feeling like slippers but they conform to your feet and do not feel particularly loose or slippery. The wide toe box is a definite plus, allowing for ample toe splay and minimal friction. I no longer suffer from blisters on my “pinky” toes. The light weight design may be my favorite aspect to the shoe, feeling like I’m almost gliding along at times. Almost.
The GOBionics are certainly “minimalist!” The light weight feel is terrific but when I am running on some significant downhills the mid foot support is lacking just enough to cause a slight forward slide in the shoe that is uncomfortable. The GOBionic also does not hold up well on a truly wet/rainy run. I had one run in the sleet/snow and inadvertently hit a couple of shallow puddles and by the end of this 6 mile run the sole insert had slid about an inch up my heel. The sole insert is designed as just that, a removable insert to allow for a “truly minimalist” feel. However, I would never do that because the shoes are “minimalist” enough and I would prefer the inserts to be static. Finally, although I no longer have plantar fascia pain, I do find that the bottoms of my feet do ache some after my longer runs. Admittedly though, I am still building up my feet, ankles and calves while adjusting to my new running style.
I have really enjoyed transitioning to the GOBionics. I feel much better about my running and have felt so re-invigorated that I have signed up for a couple more half marathons. The fact that I am not having persistent low back pain, plantar fascia pain, or blisters is truly a blessing. I am confident that these shoes will hold up for a half marathon, but am less certain they would do me well over a marathon distance. The transition from plush and well-cushioned running shoes to this minimalist shoe has been a process. At first I could barely run 3 miles without ankle and calf pains that were quite significant. But slowly I’ve been building up these necessary muscles and am really feeling great. If I had to do it all over again, I might consider a shoe that is a little less “minimalist” which has me thinking a shoe like the GORun 2 might have been an easier transition. However, thanks to the light weight design (6.2 oz estimated weight for my 10.5 size feet) I am running a full one minute per mile faster than I was previously. Thank you Skechers.