The GORUCK Rough Runners – Our Review

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⭐️ Best for “Speed” Rucking: 86/100

The Rough Runners are GORUCK’s first foray into creating a dedicated running/rucking shoe. Unlike their functional fitness Ballistic Trainers and “pure” rucking Mackall offerings, the Rough Runners attempt to straddle both elements.

As more of a running and general fitness shoe than a rucking shoe, they nevertheless hold up on the trail better than your typical sneaker. They also excel at “fast” rucking outing that take place on pavement or other even and consistent surfaces.

While the Rough Runners may not exactly live up to their namesake, they are a solid all-around shoe without any glaring weaknesses to make you think twice about what you’re getting yourself into.

Pros

Ideal for combined functional training and longer distance running

Accommodates and supports movement under heavy loads

The “Dad shoe” look is iconic

Cons

There are better “pure” running shoes

Would prefer CORDURA upper materials

Aren’t actually that great in rougher terrain

Read more on GORUCK

Overall Score

86

“Pure” Rucking

80

“Speed” Rucking

90

“Dynamic” Rucking

85

General Training

90

Construction & Materials

80

Price

85

Customer Reviews

92

Customer Service

85

How we test & score products

I’ve done a bit of running in my time, but I wouldn’t classify myself as a “runner”. I haven’t been in the market for dedicated running shoes in over a decade and after years of wearing shoes with microscopic heel drops, I honestly feel like I’m gliding when I slip on a pair.

With that in mind, if you’re looking for a running shoes review from a legit running man…well…you’re probably better off hitting up Arnold’s review or something.

goruck rough runners
2019…this show was on 5 years ago? Where was I??!!

Luckily for me, the GORUCK Rough Runners aren’t your typical “running shoe” (so now you gotta read my review!)

Honestly, I have to tip my hat to GORUCK for this ambitious venture, straying the furthest away from its rucking pedigree than with any of their previous footwear offerings. They certainly took a chance here.

…and, I would imagine that most running purists would say that they “failed” with this venture. The Rough Runners do not feel like (or really perform like) “typical” running shoes.

However, for those of us with other ideas in mind (let’s call these “running-adjacent” ideas) the Rough Runners fit pretty nicely, if not in a somewhat “red-head step-childish” type of way, with GORUCK’s other array of shoes and boots.

Today, I’d like to discuss my experience with and impressions of the Rough Runners. We’ll look at what they do well and what they’re not so great at. We’ll also discuss who would likely most appreciate them in their fitness sneaker collection.

“Pure” Rucking

When a lot of people think about rucking, they probably envision a long, hard slog, that is offset by the rather even and consistent terrain they’re manuvering on.

To me, this type of rucking fits more in with the category below (“speed” rucking). In contrast, I think of “pure” rucking as an activity that is much more difficult without the right footwear. Think mud, hills, brush, and elevation changes.

If you have this picture in your head, you can also imagine the Rough Runners on your feet and the image still pretty much holds up. These aren’t the best shoes for this task, but they’re pretty good and likely outpace any of the other shoes you currently have in your closet for this type of rucking.

The main components the Rough Runners have going for them is their more-robust-than-normal outsole (which includes decent, but not overly thick or penetrating cleats for additional traction) and the compactly woven outer materials. The latter of these serve as a strong base layer to keep the bad stuff from the trail out of the shoe, even if the material itself isn’t particularly strong.

Additionally, I appreciate the additional padding in the midsole. This creates more distance between the foot and the oftentimes rocky or otherwise invasive terrain while absorbing some of the impact and additional load/weight from the ruck with each step.

Truth be told, all of these features are better than what you’d find on a typical training shoe, but none of them are anything to get crazy about.

The outsole tread is present, but it doesn’t provide much traction in any type of significant mud or brush accumulation. The base layer outer materials keep my feet from getting poked by your run-of-the-mill prickles, but are somewhat susceptible to abrasions and scuffing.

Also, unlike their other GORUCK shoe brethren (the Ballistic Trainers and Mackalls), the Rough Runners outsole is only dual compound rubber. Again, this makes them feel more durable than most other training or even outdoor shoes, but they don’t feel as durable as other GORUCK footwear and I’ve found my feet more susceptible to lateral rolling in these.

Some of those criticisms may have you thinking that I’m not a fan of rucking in the Rough Runners. This is far from the truth and, outside of the Mackall shoes and a select few others (such as some of Danner’s offerings), these would be a top choice for “pure” rucking ventures. Their “problem” is that these others are just designed a lot more intentionally for these tasks.

“Pure” Rucking Score: 80

“Speed” Rucking

I could immediately tell that the Rough Runners were going to become the shoes for my faster-paced rucking endeavors, especially for those in more controlled environments (indoor/Air Runner rucking) and on easy terrain (good pavement).

Where other, heavier duty shoes like the Mackalls make your feet feel like they’re in a suit of chainmail, able to deal with any and all environmental conditions and withstand moving under heavy loads, they also remind you that they’re there every step of the way. In contrast, a shoe like the Ballistic Trainer (or any shoe with that minimal-to-medium heel drop) really doesn’t “excel” in longer distance pieces and you begin to feel the hard pavement on every step (doubly so when under load).

The Rough Runners possess just enough additional stability and to better accommodate the weight on your back while also not becoming a hindrance. As subtle as this sounds, I can assure you that you can really tell the difference, especially once the miles start to pile up, between a shoe that can absorb a bit of the weight and one that can’t.

Also, like any good running shoe, the Rough Runners feel light (to be honest, I don’t really feel them much at all…in a good way).

Much of my rucking of this kind involves pure interval work. Shorter periods of ruck running (let’s be real; it’s more of a shuffle!) and fast-paced walking with a longer, slow running piece to finish things off.

I find it pretty easy to maintain an interval pace, alternating between 30-second ruck runs and 90-second walks with before kicking it during the kilometer-long all-run finisher.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention a topic that has been mentioned by some others who have given the Rough Runners a try.

Blistering

My first higher-volume, higher-intensity rucking session was a 9-kilometer/5.5-mile ruck run. By the 6th kilometer/4th mile, I felt the inklings of something forming on my right foot. When I finished up, got showered and changed, I had this bad boy waiting for me at home:

As annoying as any type of blister is, particularly those on that specific part of the heel (and when considering that I haven’t experienced this with any of my other GORUCK footwear to date), I have experienced numerous blisters like this during new-shoe “break-in” periods. I know that this blistering has been mentioned in some Rough Runner shoe reviews, but don’t think the blistering is anywhere out of the ordinary.

Ultimately, if your style of rucking is of the “cleaner” and “more controlled” variety (and there’s nothing wrong with that; this is how most of my rucking looks!), the Rough Runner should be on your shortlist.

“Speed” Rucking Score: 90

“Dynamic” Rucking

The most pleasant surprise with the Rough Runners? In my experience, they are pretty darn good for helping you grind through CrossFit metcons/WODs and hold up surprisingly well during CrossFit-adjacent (ex. Moderate weight Olympic lifting) workout sessions.

I have really tried to pay attention to how my feet felt during “standard” CrossFit metcons and have intentionally put my Rough Runners to the test in workouts involving a multitude of different movements and stimuli. Take for example “Glen” below:

Long-ish distance running – check

Olympic lifting – check

Rope climbs – check

Burpees – check (to be fair, these will suck in any shoes you opt for!)

After literally years of running in different iterations of Nike Metcons and Reebok Nanos, the Rough Runners feel like an instant upgrade. The extra ~3 mm of cushioning makes each step much more comfortable and made these portions of the workout (semi) tolerable.

(If you’re eyeing a PR in Murph, these are the shoes that will help you get there).

I wasn’t trying to break Dan Bailey’s Grace world record (the last thing I wanted to do was red-line at the beginning of the workout) at the beginning of “Glen” and opted for singles for the duration of the opening 30 clean and jerks. At first, these felt slightly more awkward than they feel when wearing either “shoe extreme” (low-heeled CrossFit shoes vs. Olympic lifting shoes), but I was able to quickly adjust. I found them to be more stable than expected and actually felt more stable during the few touch-and-go reps I completed near the end of the 30 reps.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything stable on my gym’s ceiling to thread the climbing rope through so I can only climb about 10 feet. Regardless, I was able to latch my feet onto the rope a couple of times during each rep. I didn’t experience any significant chafing, but it is pretty apparent that the polyester mesh of the Rough Runners were not constructed to accommodate this movement.

If you climb a rope once every few weeks or so, you should be fine; anything more than that…change out your shoes every once in a while, or your Rough Runners will be looking pretty rough themselves!

As mentioned above, burpees are going to suck whether you’re wearing the classic Reebok Pumps or clown shoes (especially when the workout ends with 100 of them!) That being said, performing these in the Rough Runners felt no easier or worse than in any “dedicated” CrossFit shoe. Make of that what you will!

Performing a hero workout as varied as “Glen” might be a bit of overkill as even in the realm of CrossFit, it is a bit of an outlier in terms of movement variety. With that being said, the Rough Runners have served me pretty well in other CrossFit contexts, to include shorter, less varied metcons.

…except for the competition power lifts (mainly the squat and deadlift) and heavier Oly lifts.

When it comes to heavy squatting, I would suggest opting for a shoe with a bit more stability as the added padding on these is a bit awkward while not adding enough leverage (like an Olympic lifting shoe does) to compensate. Also, as someone who prefers a very flat sole when deadlifting, the Rough Runners are simply too padded and….not flat for dedicated sessions.

As decent as the Rough Runners feel for bigger sets of Olympic lifts at lighter weights, they aren’t really designed for the rigors of serious cleaning, jerking, or snatching. They can absorb some impact of the weights, but the sound of your feet hitting the ground is far too muffled to get any necessary feedback. Keep these at home when it’s time to hit the platform.

Overall, I’m more than pleasantly surprised with how well the Rough Runners function as CrossFit shoes. I have started to work them into my training days with much more regularity, although I am mindful that there may be certain situations that arise where they might not be the best shoe for “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.”

Dynamic Rucking: 85

General Training

After spending years in CrossFit-style training shoes, I’ve learned to appreciate the comfort of running shoes and general training shoes. Being that the Rough Runners straddle both of these classifications, I find them to be very suitable for less intense, standard “bro gym”, walk around to different machines, some bicep curls (in the squat rack), and run on the treadmill workouts.

The Rough Runners few downsides (ex. dual compound outsole, not overly protective out materials) are irrelevant with this type of training. On the flip side, their utility for all types of running ventures (particularly in controlled environments) makes them an excellent option if your primary interests involve this kind of training and “speed” rucking.

Personally, this benefit is pretty much lost on me since I don’t do much of this kind of training, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

General Training Score: 85

Construction & Materials

For those familiar with GORUCK’s footwear offerings, many aspects of the Rough Runners’ construction will be somewhat redundant:

These are aspects that can be found, to some degree or another (even if they are trademarked or marketed with different language) in other training shoes, but may not all be found together. In terms of these aspects combining to create a stable and supportive, yet comfortable shoe, the Rough Runners pretty much hit the mark.

With that being said, I don’t find the materials to feel overly “quality” and also don’t think that they are somehow far superior to what you’d find in other running or training shoes. They’re slightly above average, but not outstanding.

Where the Rough Runners differ from the Ballistic Trainers is in the upper material construction. Instead of opting for the more durable CORDURA, the engineers opted for “polyester mesh/TPU film reinforcement”. 

I find this material to feel “cheaper” and less resilient than the Cordura, although it is a bit more comfortable when wearing the shoes for an extended period of time.

Construction & Materials: 80

Price

Like most of GORUCK’s offerings (to include their bags, gear and footwear), the Rough Runners don’t come cheap. At the same time, their $140 price tag isn’t really overpriced in my opinion; it is an acceptable and pretty much fair price.

With that being said, I still suggest that you avoid paying this price whenever possible…

…and it is possible to do so a lot of the time.

All of GORUCK’s shoe offerings can be found on sale at any given time. This may be a slight exaggeration, but I’d bet money that you’d find at least one color combination for each GORUCK shoe on sale ~90 percent of the time.

If you’re like me and don’t really care how fly your training shoes look, save yourself ~30 percent (or more) when these sales pop up. You know you’re not gonna wear these anytime outside of rucking and workout hours; chicks aren’t gonna care.

Price Score: 85

Customer Reviews

GORUCK has built up its brand on its reputation for putting out gear people like. This is evidenced by the customer reviews section of just about all of their products.

While everything can’t be the biggest hit (the Ballistic Trainers currently sport a 4.8/5 rating!), the Rough Runners hold up pretty well with the peanut gallery.

90 percent of the Rough Runners’ customer reviews are 4 or 5-star reviews. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

It is important to keep in mind that GORUCK’s stuff isn’t really sold in too many places (pretty much just on the main site(s), ROGUE, and some obscure re-sellers) so it’s difficult to find product reviews that don’t come directly from the main site. Take this as you will, but I don’t think there is any reason not to believe that these reviews are not in good faith.

(my apologies for the triple negative there!)

Customer Reviews Score: 92

Customer Service

I give a lot of credit to GORUCK for expanding their operations outside of the U.S., making it easier for those overseas to get their hands on their products. This is a significant customer service “plus” in my book.

While all of my dealings with GORUCK personnel have been just fine to almost pleasant, I have experienced situations where their processes seemed a bit more “wooden” than they needed to be.

On one occasion, I ordered a batch of goods and immediately realized that I had entered the wrong address. I was instructed to create a brand new order and that my existing order would be cancelled and refunded up to a week later. It seemed to me like simply changing the delivery address would have been easier. Slightly frustrating, but whatever.

Customer Service Score: N/A

Who are the Rough Runners Really For?

The Rough Runners are kind of an enigma. They’re not really for (too rough of) rough terrain work…but they’re pretty good at a lot of other things. Let’s create a profile on who exactly they are for.

Ruckers Who Prefer Pavement, Sidewalks, or Treadmills

If you like to ruck, but rarely take things into the deep rough, the Rough Runners are likely to serve your needs well. Their overall comfort level combined with their ability to withstand impact and handle movement under load, even at higher speeds, makes them ideal for this type of activity.

Gym-goers Looking for a General Training Shoe

If you only intend to wear your Rough Runners to navigate your local gym’s Nautilus machine circuit, you’re probably better off purchasing an equally comfortable, but less expensive shoe option.

However, the shoes are great for running the gambit of most non-super intensive gym movements and for…ya know…running in general. Plus, their overall durability (which is boosted by the Scars Lifetime Guarantee) ensures you’ll get your money’s worth out of them.

Not for Those Who Are Looking for a “Broken In” Shoe

I have read a few different reviews where customers are lamenting their blistered heels, upset at the Rough Runners and writing them off entirely. I experienced this blistering, but did not find it to be anywhere different than when I have broken in new shoes before.

For those who want the “true” “broken in” experience, I think you could get away with it with the Rough Runners so long as you wear socks more appropriate for trail running or hiking as opposed to standard workout socks.

…or, just get a different shoe.

How we Reviewed the Rough Runners

I wanted to see/feel for myself how the Rough Runners performed in different types of workouts. Although I’m not doing much running these days and haven’t completed a Hyrox event (yet!), it wasn’t difficult to replicate these workouts and to discuss how the Rough Runners compare and contrast to running in other shoes.

I completed a “reasonable”-length combined road/trail run (~5k) in these as well as an annotated version of a Hyrox Open event.

Additionally, I regularly wore the Rough Runners as part of my Norwegian Foot March training and made dedicated observations while completing a 9-kilometer ruck/ruck run session. I also tested the shoes while taking on a number of CrossFit metcons which have been excellent for determining how well they held up in a workout with running, Olympic lifts, and rope climbs.

The Rough Runners also became regulars in my everyday wear collection. The early 2000’s were the “Golden Years” for the iconic, gray New Balance Classic 574 sneaker (an older guy in my fraternity joked that they were “issued” to every pledge on campus at the beginning of pledgeship) and the look of the shoes bring up fond, if not hazy, memories from that period!

Rough Runner Alternatives

It’s a little hard to come up with apples-to-apples alternatives for the Rough Runners due to the fact that their purpose(s) is unique and because the shoe itself is unique. Because of this, each of the alternatives listed below favor a slightly different objective:

Best alternative

Danner Trail – 2650 Gore Tex

One of the first runners up for the best “speed” rucking shoes, Danner’s offering is equal to the Rough Runners in all areas…except price.

Pros

Vibram 460 outsole provides exceptional grip on all surfaces

Gore-Tex liner enhances foot breathability

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) (“Trailguard”) for additional stability

Cons

Not inexpensive

Not as multifunctional

Hybrid Alternative

Puma – Deviate NITRO 2

One of the most if not the most popular shoes in Hyrox, the Deviate NITRO 2s excel at both distance running as well as “dynamic” movements and other “functional” exercises.

Pros

Exceptional running/functional fitness shoe

Better than expected grip

Not expensive

Cons

You don’t want to wear these out on the trail

Long-term durability is questionable

Brand Alternative

GORUCK – Mackall

The best “pure” rucking shoes out there. If the “rough” part of the name “Rough Runners” is what appeals to you, these might be what you actually need.

Pros

Triple compound outsole ideal for gripping

Wide toe box and protective toe cap

13mm heel drop ideal for rucking

Cons

“Aggressive” outsole is not suitable for “dynamic” rucking

Too heavy for sustained “speed” rucking

Frequently Asked Questions

Yeah, there are probably some things I didn’t mention/forgot to mention. Maybe one of these three questions is your burning question:

The same order as written in the question: The Rough Runners are primarily a rucking/rucking running shoe, followed by being a dedicated running shoe, while still serving as pretty decent functional training shoes (under the right conditions!)

Two very different shoes that feel very different from one another. If you’re more into speed and distance, the Rough Runners are what you’re looking for. Need a good all-around shoe that skews more towards functional fitness endeavors, go with the Ballistic Trainers.

Longer than other shoes, but not ridiculously long. I got my blister after my 4th wear (and first long-ish ruck in the shoes); 3 days later, my blister was healed and the shoes felt just fine.

More “Runner” than “Rough”…but Still Good Rucking Shoes

I’ll admit that I had my doubts that the Rough Runners would be viable long-term additions to my training shoe arsenal. As acclaimed and beloved as GORUCK’s Ballistic Trainers are, the Rough Runners have taken more of a “little brother” role.

To my surprise, their average actually rates slightly higher on all of the selected categories than the Ballistic Trainers do.

I have no doubt that these will continue to be my go-to shoes for rucking longer distances at a fast pace on even and fair (ex. Paved roads) terrain as well as my footwear of choice for any CrossFit metcon with a run measuring 800-meters or longer.

I wouldn’t say that they really live up to their “rough” name, though, and in conditions where terrain is muddy, uneven, variable, etc., I’ll opt for my Mackall shoes (if I need to move decently fast) or my MACV-2s (if conditions are especially crappy). 

The jury is still out on how these will serve me in a full HYROX event (I’ll update this in the coming months with my verdict). For trainings with heavier lifts and less cardio, you’ll probably be better served by a dedicated functional fitness shoe.

These wouldn’t be my first choice for most rucking, running, or functional fitness ventures, but the Rough Runners are my first shoe “off the bench” for any of these activities.

Summary

Overall Score

86

“Pure” Rucking

80

“Speed” Rucking

90

“Dynamic” Rucking

85

General Training

90

Construction & Materials

80

Price

85

Customer Reviews

92

Customer Service

85

How we test & score products

GORUCK – Rough Runner

The Rough Runners are GORUCK’s first foray into creating a dedicated running/rucking shoe. Unlike their functional fitness Ballistic Trainers and “pure” rucking Mackall offerings, the Rough Runners attempt to straddle both elements.

As more of a running and general fitness shoe than a rucking shoe, they nevertheless hold up on the trail better than your typical sneaker. They also excel at “fast” rucking outing that take place on pavement or other even and consistent surfaces.

While the Rough Runners may not exactly live up to their namesake, they are a solid all-around shoe without any glaring weaknesses to make you think twice about what you’re getting yourself into.

Pros

A truly “do everything” shoe

8mm heel drop “sweet spot” for dynamic and even “pure” rucking

Eligible for GORUCK’s patented Scars Lifetime Guarantee

Cons

Not the best shoe for “pure” rucking

Not “great” at any one thing

You don’t want to run distances in these

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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