I need to preface this review by telling you that the GoRuck Rough Runner is not built like a modern running shoe. It’s waaaaaay different. It’s a throwback model built for stability, durability, and the ability to handle a wearer carrying a bunch of weight in a ruck (a backpack more or less). If you’re looking for a modern running shoe for road running or long distances, go check out our Best Running Shoes list. If you’ve been searching for something to change it up, keep reading.
GoRuck’s goal with the Rough Runner is noble, but recovery science doesn’t necessarily back up the choice to rewind the running shoe clock by 10 years. The military ethos of toughness does support the choice, as do the use cases, but the Rough Runner is going to be a tough sell to the running shoe market unless the buyer does a fair amount of rucking. Let me explain why.
GoRuck Rough Runner
Release Date: June 2023
Weight: 10.5 oz.
Sizing: True to size
- Rundown: The GoRuck Rough Runner isn’t a modern running shoe, it’s built different. It’s a throwback aimed at supporting weighted runners and ruckers.
The GoRuck Rough Runner is a firm, bottom-heavy shoe. It’s bottom-heavy due to both the midsole and the outsole but we’ll cover the midsole first. It’s a thick slab of gradient density EVA. Gradient density means it’s a touch softer and bouncier in the forefoot and firmer in the heel. Could I feel that difference? Not really. But based on my experience with GoRuck’s awesome Ballistic Trainer, gradient density EVA does make a difference over the long term.
GoRuck’s stated goal was to make a durable midsole that could handle running and rucking. They nailed the durability piece as this midsole won’t bottom out…ever. And the midsole works well for rucking, in my experience, much better than it works for running. The 10mm drop is noticeable but when there’s weight on your back you compress the heel and the drop feels like a more traditional 6-8mm.
This midsole just isn’t very good for actual running. There’s no give or bounce. The thick midsole adds durability, but what it adds in weight means you hit the ground with a thud. And sure, it’s stable, but a lot of shoes with pillowy, protective softness can be stable too. The midsole is out of touch with the reality of road running. There are ways to be firm and stable without feeling like concrete.
And the midsole would be fine if the shoe didn’t have “Runner” in the name. Stick to walking, rucking, and working out and you’ll have a solid experience. But if you prefer running, this is not the shoe for you.
The GoRuck Rough Runner’s seamless, one-piece 100D polyester mesh upper includes fused TPU film for support in key areas. The upper looks super basic, and it is pretty minimal, but it’s breathable and comfortable.
At first, I did get some weird flexing at the midfoot where some of the TPU film is but it didn’t rub or cause a hotspot, and eventually, I didn’t notice it at all.
The heel is mixed bag. It’s got awesome achilles pillows on both lateral sides and behind the heel. They help lock the foot down into the shoe. But the heel collar isn’t padded across the top where the inner and outer layers come together. I wouldn’t wear no-show socks with this heel collar setup as you will pay for it with a hotspot or blister. It’s a GoRuck product, so this area will wear in nicely over time…but for the first couple weeks of wear, be ready for some break-in.
Look at the picture above. The GoRuck Rough Runner has full rubber coverage and is nigh indestructible. This outsole will take a beating and it will be multiple months before you notice any sort of significant wear. It reminds me of the outsole on the New Balance 57/40, a casual shoe built to last the long haul.
A lot of running shoes today use soft rubbers for the outsole to both save weight and add a touch of softness, but that kills the shoe’s durability. GoRuck went in the opposite direction and sacrificed some weight and softness for an outsole that will last as long as a fossilized dinosaur bone. It’ll also handle both roads and trails with ease. Versatile and durable? Sounds like a GoRuck-made outsole to me.
Is the GoRuck Rough Runner wide foot friendly?
Yes. The GoRuck Rough Runner’s toebox widens quite nicely, there’s plenty of lace length (they’re arguably too long), and the polyester mesh upper is flexible enough to accommodate wider feet.
Is the GoRuck Rough Runner worth $140?
If your use cases fit what the GoRuck Rough Runner is good at, then yes, it’s worth the price. You’ll get a shoe that will do what you need but also last an incredibly long time. There’s no planned failure here. GoRuck is hoping you get years out of these shoes.
GoRuck Runner Summary
The GoRuck Runner is not what you’re used to when you hear the word runner. But that’s not a bad thing if you want to use it for rucking, walking, and working out. The GoRuck Rough Runner is durable enough to last years, hyper-stable, and fairly versatile.
You just need to know going in that it will feel much different from any running shoe currently on the shelf at your local store. It’s a remarkably different experience from everything else that’s out there. It’s a risk on GoRuck’s part, but it fits their brand ethos and aligns well with what many of their biggest fans need.
Even though it’s not my favorite shoe, I’m really glad there’s a brand pushing away from the norm and giving us something that contrasts with the current norm. This sort of option is exactly what a consumer-centric market needs.