GoLite Tara Lite Review

Concept shoes, by and large, are usually a passing fad at best and a commercial flop at worst. However, in today’s trail running market that adage just doesn’t hold true anymore. Take, for instance, the success of the Vibram FiveFingers or the Merrell Trail Glove. Trail runners seem more open to trying out a new concept than their asphalt pounding counterparts, and GoLite makes their second entry into the trail running market touting a unique concept and design for the GoLite Tara Lite.

For lack of a better descriptor, the Tara Lite is a “thong shoe,” with a rubber separator between the wearer’s first and second toes which was inspired by the Tarahumara tribes of Mexico and their huaraches. However, this shoe is not minimal by any means and sometimes the best intentions have the strangest outcomes. Not to imply that this shoe is a dud, there are particular aspects of this shoe that get high marks in my opinion.

GoLite Tara Lite

First Impressions
The Tara Lite was conceptualized as a huarache sandal on a moderately cushioned midsole with a protective upper which could be worn year round. The midsole height is consistently 24mm throughout the midsole technically making it a zero drop shoe. However, this midsole is anything but minimalist. GoLite uses their Soft Against the Ground (SATG) technology which puts the softest EVA closest to the outsole. The hardest material is right under the insole of the foot and GoLite claims that this reduces ground impact forces on the wearer by 33%. I will say that I was impressed with the cushioning in this shoe, but it lacks some flexibility desired for the trail.

When I first tried on this shoe I was surprised at how large the thong between my toes was. GoLite provides some thong socks to wear with the shoes and one would have to either go barefoot, wear the provided pair of socks, or wear Injinji toe socks. The forefoot is rather wide and the entire shoe is secured with an interconnecting strap system which is tightened by two velcro straps: one on the top of the foot and one at the back. I had difficulty getting the shoe tight enough with these straps without the upper wrinkling a bit, especially at the heel of the shoe. My size 9.5 also fit more like a 10, and without a very secure system to lock the foot down I would purchase a half size smaller than usual.

GoLite Tara Lite upper

I was also surprised by how heavy this shoe was tipping the scales at over 11 ounces. By and large the majority of this weight is in the midsole; however, the upper of the Tara Lite seems to be fairly thick stretchy material.  It does an excellent job of keeping debris out and adding adequate protection on the trail, but my feet roasted in these shoes on summer runs and I found the shoes to breath poorly.

Performance
I took several shorter trail runs in this shoe and trails that would classify as smooth single track.  I didn’t feel that the fit of the Tara Lite warranted anything more adventurous.  There are quite a few aspects of this shoe that I didn’t like at all.  The thong concept is uncomfortable in my opinion and really has no functionality in the shoe.  It irritated my feet and I wear flip flops daily so I already have a callus between my toes.  The upper is stifling to the feet and the strap system also has little functionality rather than being gimmicky.  The shoe is too heavy and I felt like I was running in a hiking moccasin rather than a trail running shoe.

GoLite Tara Lite in action

GoLite Tara Lite in action

What GoLite Did Well
The SAGT cushioning system definitely has my vote of confidence.  I’m not sure what the exact durometers (densities) on this shoe are, but the cushioning feels responsive and springy.  I also liked that with the higher 24mm platform they created a zero drop shoe which wasn’t really noticeable.  I didn’t feel like I was running in a completely flat shoe and it wasn’t until after I researched the specifications of the model that I found this out.

The outsole of the Tara Lite is covered with tiny sticky nodules inspired by a gecko’s feet.  There are 350 lugs of various sizes and the outsole is contoured with a rounded heel which seemed to roll well through all terrain, especially slanted trails.  I found this outsole to perform very well in wet clay, sand, and on rock.

GoLite Tara Lite outsole

Conclusion
I think that GoLite is on to something with their midsole and outsole designs that, unfortunately, were overshadowed by incorporating design fads.  Now, some runners might completely disagree with me and find the strap system and upper of the Tara Lite to be completely functional.  I think that GoLite has the potential to make some very exciting trail shoes in the future, and in my opinion it would be great to see this gecko outsole paired with a stripped down version of the zero drop SATG midsole (think 15mm) and a minimalist upper with a more traditional lacing system.  Get the whole package down under 9 oz. and GoLite would have one amazing shoe.

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar’s Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 11 comments

  1. Panos from Greece

    On top of what footfeathers said, i think this is the ugliest shoe i have ever seen in my life. I think the product manager of this shoe, should get fired.

  2. Mike B.

    I think firing would be excessive. They just need more feedback from runners. People shouldn't get fired for trying something new. If everyone made the same old shoe we wouldn't have anything to get excited about.

    Golite- Keep trying new things, as long as you are constantly improving you are doing something this runner appreciates.

  3. Doug Reed

    This is not the company that makes nice light backpacking gear, they just license the name. The shoe put a blister between my toes on first wearing, a combination of the thong feature and near zero breathability trapping moisture inside. There is no preciseness in fit, it’s just super wide from toe to heal. One strap in the closure system does nothing at all, literally, and tightening the heel strap is almost as pointless. Given the numerous failings in this design one would not expect it but Go Lite does have some good shoes (not trail running) in their line.

  4. Tom Caughlan

    Doug,

    Glad you made that differentiation between the "gear company" and the "shoe company". They are not one in the same. I should have specified that in my review. Thanks,

    Tom

  5. JJ Johnson

    Tom,

    Good review. It is interesting that you had some of the same conclusions that I had. I think there is a couple real good ideas in this shoes and then soem that are not so good. Here is my review if you want to check it out: http://ymmvreviews.com/?p=1069 In the spring GoLite will have the TR 63 which will be just over 9 oz, zero drop, traditional upper, and lower to the ground. I think it will be a much better shoe.

    JJ

  6. footfeathers

    Remember the "GoLite" trail runners released in 06-07? They had big moonboot lugs on the sole and the upper cracked, came unstitched and fell apart if you looked at them the wrong way. That was about when Mackey was sponsored by them (about the only quality thing about them, really).

    Tecnica is putting out some gems, too and, as my southern friend likes to say, "They're proud of their shoes!" (meaning they're overly expensive). It's like some of these companies design shoes in a vacuum, unaware of existing shoe design features that work well.

  7. B Chuck

    I agree with Panos from Greece: those shoes are ugly. Those shoes are so ugly the government moved Halloween to their release date.

  8. Tina

    Good review! You pointed out several things which definitely steers me away from considering this shoe. The heavy weight, the unpractical toe thong, and the stiffness. If I want something between my toes, I'll stick with my Vibram FiveFingers (which I love wearing on shorter runs). I do like the velcro strap if it could get the shoe secured properly (could be useful for those steep downhills where the lacing on my shoes seem to always loosen). I'm a big fan of zero drop, so that's definitely a plus for the GoLite. I'll wait and watch what GoLite may come up with next. Looks like they do have some good points, just need some improvements for a more functional trail shoe.

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