Best Gear Geek Review of 2014

Well folks, we find ourselves here slowly leaving 2014 behind, and to that I say Good Riddance! Not just because it means we’re one year further away from the last Star Wars movie or one year closer to the next one, but because to be quite honest, 2014 sucked.

But let’s not dwell on me and my problems. There was a lot that happened in the world of running in 2014. Jenny Simpson won the Diamond League 1500m crown. This would be a huge accomplishment, if only people would stop obsessing over the one diamond league race won by Alan Webb 7 years ago. Perhaps a move to the triathlon could get Jenny the attention she deserves. Galen Rupp won a bunch of indoor meets in Boston, but unfortunately for him there aren’t rabbits at USA’s. Marathoner Rita Jeptoo tested positive for EPO, yet we haven’t received word on whether or not she’s going to pull a “Reverse Armstrong” and give the Tour de France a try.

That being said, 2014 was also the year we got started here at DumbFlotrack. We’re still figuring out how a lot of things work and it’s been a little slow going to start. We’ve pissed a lot of people off, had a lot of people tweet at us references we don’t quite understand, and only gotten in trouble once or twice. That being said the work we’ve done this year is nothing compared to our good friends at Flotrack.

This was a big change for the Austin, TX company and their corner of the internet. Lots of new hires, features, and content gave Flotrack a whole new feel. It would be almost impossible for the average person to go back and sort through all that they’ve put out this year. It is for that reason it is our pleasure to have curated for you the Best of Flotrack 2014.

We don’t mean to be making personal attacks on anyone in particular or those associated with Flotrack, as that isn’t, nor has ever been our intention. We’re simply highlighting the things about Flotrack that we enjoyed the most this year.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce our award for Best Gear Geek Review of 2014.

This was a bit tough for us to figure out, as there was a lot to pick from, but we settled upon a recent entry into the realm, the review of the Skechers GoRun 4.

I’d like to preface this with a small note about gear reviews in general. Gear reviews are a huge part of the marketing for any running product. Companies will send pairs of shoes for free to bloggers, writers, and other internet influencers with hopes that a positive review will help boost sales of their product. It’s the same reason why running store employees get free shoes. You’re more likely to have positive things to say about someone who gave you something for free than someone who didn’t. If you want to see this in action, ask a small child what they think of you. Then, give them a bag of gummy bears and ask again. It’s human nature to try and please someone that has done something for you. That being said, it isn’t exactly responsible journalism.

When you’re trusted by your viewers to give them a fair and unbiased view of the product you’re showing them, you have a responsibility to be honest about the circumstances surrounding your review. Most gear reviewers will disclose that they received the product for free when that is the case. It really is glanced over more often than not, but it is a good way to be completely up front and honest about it.

With Gear Geek, that’s not the case. Now, the issue isn’t Flotrack receiving free shoes and the failure to disclose that fact, but more so that the only products they seem to review are those of companies that sponsor their website. This is where the Gear Geek reviews fall apart. Getting paid to have an opinion doesn’t validate the opinion, especially when that opinion isn’t much of one.

As for the actual review of the Skechers GoRun 4, it’s a doozy. I’d like to first note that Flotrack did mention that this is a review of a shoe from their “friends at Skechers Performance Division.” A fact I was pleased to learn because I would hate to hear that they were fighting.

If you had to pick a song to describe Nathanial’s reviews of shoes, it would be “Everything is Awesome” because he literally doesn’t have a single bad thing to say about any shoe he reviews and this video plays out like a Skechers marketing presentation.

A big issue Skechers has faced with their shoes is one similar to other lesser known brands such as Altra and Hoka. There simply aren’t a lot of people who trust their product. When presented with their shoes, we really don’t know to expect.

What’s really nice is that Nathanial (who I will now call Nate, for sake of my fingers, but also because it’s more casual) relates the viewer. He warns us this is a big overhaul, which to be honest got my heart pumping. I was shitting bricks and writing my congressman until he assured us that the shoe’s initial feel is “amazing” and everything about it is great. All these major changes are great and that we were big stupid idiots for ever thinking otherwise.

Now let’s break the shoe down.

The upper has been narrowed to give a “performance” feel and the overlays have been reduced down. Why you wonder? It’s so the shoe can fit your foot more naturally! This is where the marketing bullshit starts. You know that it has because that’s a weird thing to say about a shoe. No one knows what the hell that means. How does it naturally fit your foot? Is my shoe here inferior? Does it artificially fit my foot? Do people with wide feet still “naturally” fit in the new, narrower GoRun 4? Something naturally fitting everyone is impossible outside of everywhere but a board room at an ad agency.

Now he goes back into talking about the skepticism, and really at this point I’m starting to doubt how great of a run he really had. I mean, he keeps bringing it up, and I just don’t know if it’s genuine. Nate doth protest too much methinks.

They added the “Quick-Fit” system to help you get in and out of the shoe faster, an important feature because the first thing you’re going to want to do after running in a Skechers shoe is to get the hell out of it as fast as you can.

Here’s a really cool feature that he chose to highlight though. The seamless sockliner. Yes, because that’s what’s really going to set this shoe apart from any other shoe, the fact that the sockliner doesn’t have seams. This will be really amazing to people who have never worn shoes before and don’t realize no running shoe has seams in the sockliner. The shoe also comes with an 8mm sockliner to adapt the naturally fitting shoe to your preference. But it’s all a natural fit, trust us. Completely natural. Except for that small adjustment.

Now the midsole. Nate says they added more cushioning. How much cushioning we talking? We’re talking 3mm. We’re also talking like this, which is an odd way to talk about it. How odd are we talking? Real odd.

When discussing the M-Strike platform, he mentions that they’ve changed it up slightly, but the big point I’m gonna talk about here is Nate highlighting that if you heel strike, it’ll still have a nice roll to it. Here’s the big issue: Skechers didn’t design the shoe for you to strike on your heel. “M-Strike” stands for “Midfoot Strike” (convenient because it’s mostly just added cushioning and blown rubber in the middle of the foot). This is a minimalist shoe and not geared towards heel striking runners. Skechers can’t say that though, because minimalist shoe sales have significantly fallen in the past few years as consumers have moved away from the category.

Nate wraps it up by again reminding us that he thinks this is a great shoe, just incase we hadn’t heard him say it before.

Now, I’m not going to get on Nate’s case here, because he does a really good job reading the script and selling the product. He seems to know quite a bit about shoes and has a nice presence in front of the camera. But the whole Skechers commercial the viewers had to sit through really rubs me the wrong way (like an artificially fitting upper).

In an ideal world, Flotrack as a news source should exist for reasons other than making money from advertising. But with videos like this one, you have to wonder: when a company is willing to bend over backwards to please an advertiser, how much can we trust their opinion when it matters? These gear reviews are a microcosm of what Flotrack has spent this year becoming.

Now while shoe reviews aren’t really “news” and at the end of the day really not that important, there’s a lesson to learn from this: If Flotrack wants to earn widespread respect and be taken seriously as a news source, they should think of their audiences less as mindless sheep that can be sold to, but more as people passionate about the sport. Advertising is a huge source of income for Flotrack and allows the website to stay afloat, but if the content that people used to look to for news has now devolved into advertisements thinly veiled as coverage, then what’s the point of Flotrack existing as a source for running news? Can we still go to Flotrack expecting to learn about the sport, or is it now solely a destination for the promotion of Flotrack personalities and their advertisers?

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