For the second day running we feature another evolution in running shoes. This time at the very limit of minimalism. The Skora Form was recently launched more like the latest Nike Air Jordan – with a giant billboard in Time Square, New York City.
The reaction of the guys at Ultra168 was along the lines of them being more a “work of art” rather than something we would take out on the toughest trails of the Blue Mountains and bring home 50 kms later covered in our own blood from leech bites and dirt and dust from the trail.
If the late Steve Jobs ever got round to commissioning a pair of barefoot running shoes – this could be the end result!
So in order to give them the respect they deserved we called upon long-time minimalist runner and good friend to Ultra168 none other than our resident Australianised Irishman Philip “Spud” Murphy. For those who know Spud, he has run over some of the worlds toughest terrains (Western States, Hardrock100, UTMB) in some of the worlds most minimal shoes (New Balance).
So we throw the floor open to Spud and thank him for his review:
First impression out of the box was wow….are these running shoes or casual wear moccasins? The waft of new leather aroma would indicate the latter. Picking them up I was rather impressed with their light weight considering the material makeup (233gms in a US10.5). With a goatskin skin leather outer and sheepskin leather lining, there is no expense spared. Indeed upon closer inspection at how these ‘boutique’ shoes are put together – with beautiful overlay stitching, off-side lace up, soft heel cup with Velcro adjustment strap, and very close attention to detail, a very impressive ‘barefoot’ shoe!
I couldn’t wait to get my feet into them though and within minutes I was in sockless shod heaven. Talk about comfort and fit, these ‘shoes’ engulfed my foot in a joyful cocoon. Soft…soft …soft and flexible enough to allow my foot to flex every which way it pleased.
Before I review my first burn in these babies let’s look at the build and features.
Upper: As mentioned a super soft goatskin leather with a clever screened reflective splatter along the medial side running from toe to heel. But made of leather, straight away you have to question how quickly they would dry and what affect repeated wetness would have on the leather, more about that later, but the ‘Pittard’ goatskin leather and sheepskin lining used are reputed to dry quickly and importantly soft and subtle too. The heel counter consists of a moderately thickened and soft wrap with a novel Velcro adjustment strap to lock the heel in. Initially I thought this would be superfluous but subsequently found it quite useful. They do come with an optional insole which for a minimal shoe I found rather odd. This insole can easily be removed however and such is the quality of build with zero material overlays on the inside, wearing them sockless is perfectly comfortable.
There is no tongue instead a thin leather flap that is sown in on medial side that runs diagonally across the top of the shoe under the quirky off centre lacing system.
Midsole – None or if any very thin.
Outsole– Flip them over and you see a full blown rubber last that is meant to resemble the shape and curvature of the foot. This is noticeable with plenty of convex curves and a heel shaped foot bed. There is not a whole lot of cushioning but plenty of protection from the blown rubber. There is a small toe bumper which is quite stiff due to the thickness of the rubber there, and as such should provide some protection.
Oh and zero heel to toe drop… and you feel this straight away standing in them.
Test Run – My first run was to the local oval near where I work for a bit of speed work. I am quite experienced running in minimal shoes now but generally in the 3-6mm drop range, but did notice the zero drop on bitumen, less so on the grass oval. They felt very comfortable and stayed that way the entire session. I noticed the effectiveness of the Velcro heel strap after a bit of fine adjustment. I left it open at first while slipping my foot into the shoe, pulled my foot back and tied the laces and then locked the heel in place with the Velcro strap, worked well. On bitumen there is plenty of protection from small stones etc but very little cushioning. This is the intention of these shoes though and footstrike becomes more natural immediately. My foot didn’t roll around in them either feeling quite secure in place. More on that to come…
Well I have now run in them over several terrain types putting almost 80kms in them and they work just fine. Trail running is fun albeit limited to relatively benign terrain, as there is not a whole lot of ‘lugginess’ happening with these shoes. The outsole rubber is very grippy on dry rock and can handle most Aussie trail conditions. However on rocky, gnarly and technical terrain they fall over. I would prefer more traction than the Skora has to offer. I ran a trail I am quite familiar with that is a classic mix of hardpacked, rooty technical single track and rocky (small sharp rocky descent). Compared with my Minimus MT110s, they matched up quite well, however I feel more secure on the rocky descent and rooty /muddy singletrack in the Minimus. Surprisingly I would rank foot protection in the Skoras as similar to the MT110s and that is without a rock plate, a fair achievement.
Running sockless I did notice a bit of foot movement (laterally) due to sweat build up. This was most noticeable on trail cambers or whilst side stepping rocks and obstacles. The velcro heel strap worked quite well holding the heel in position but I was acutely aware of minor foot movement running sockless when wet. My feeling is this shoe is designed more for road than trail anyhow.
I found the leather didn’t dry out as quickly as might be suggested by the manufacturer. It does however remain incredibly supple and comfortable.
The Skora Form is a fun minimalist shoe and one of the most comfortable I have put on my feet.
They mimic the barefoot feeling very well with no real restriction on natural flexure of the foot whatsoever. I would recommend them as part of a weekly ‘barefoot’ session to help build lower leg strength (they are my speedwork shoe of choice). That said I still struggle with getting them dirty. They are such a well engineered and manufactured shoe it’s almost criminal to run dirty in them