Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Shoe Review: Skora Base

If you're reading this (or have read my previous blog), you probably know I'm somewhat of a shoe junkie.  I'm a triathlete without a doubt, but my run is obviously my strong point and has always been the base of my training.  Therefore, when I get a chance to try out something new in the running shoe department - I'm all over it.

I happened upon an opportunity to try out a line of shoes that I previously had not heard of.  Skora is a shoe company based out of Portland, Oregon who is gearing their entire line of shoes towards the "minimalist" running style.  Again, without getting into a huge debate, I put that word in quotes because it seems to have taken on a whole different meaning in the running shoe marketing world.  Without getting into detail, a lot of shoes are marketed as minimalist when they really aren't.  Just because a shoe has minimal padding, support, material, etc - does not mean that it is a shoe that is good for you.  To me, minimalist is simply a shoe that allows your foot to strike the ground and propel you forward the way it naturally would do.  The Skora Base (the model I tested) does a wonderful job of this.  It's a shoe that allows your foot to naturally run the way it would without shoes, but with enough protection to keep your joints, bones, and muscles from completely wrecking themselves from the pounding pavement puts on them.

I've ran in several minimalist style shoes (sometimes marketed as being "barefoot" shoes, racing flats, etc) and I can honestly say that the Skora Base is among the best of these that I've ever used.  They are an outstanding shoe that are not only eye catchy and different, but deliver outstanding performance as well regardless of the distance you run.  The pair I have now will definitely be in my regular rotation and will see some race day action as well.

As you know, I try to take all of my own pictures - so the high quality top notch pictures you get on shoe websites don't exist here.  I use my cell phone to take the picture and it's an attempt to give people an "everyday view" of the shoe - rather than seeing it on the runway.

Shoes from the top view.

 Skora describes this shoe (and all of their other shoes) as having an outsole that is naturally shaped to the foot.  What this means is that the heel of the shoe is curved to that it better matches to your heel.  The sidewalls of the shoe match up pretty well to the natural shape of the foot, which - for me - allowed a more comfortable footstrike while running in them.  It made the shoe feel more like a sock than a shoe - which is a VERY GOOD thing.

The sole of the shoe is zero drop, with 13 mm of cushioning - so pretty minimal by most standards out there.  I found the cushioning to be perfect in the sense that it allowed for a great feel on the road - but also prevented fatigue in the foot from running long distances.

The sole of the shoe is removable and the shoe can be worn without the sole without any issues (oftentimes when you remove the sole to decrease the cushion in other shoes you run into a myriad of problems - not the case here as the Skora Base functions exactly the same, just with a bit less cushion).

The first thing you notice when you look at the shoes is that they're definitely not your standard running shoe.  They have a completely different look than most shoes and that, in my opinion, is a wonderful aspect of the shoe.  The straps, elastic, lack of laces, and reflective accents all come together to produce a shoe that is pretty remarkable looking, and is a headturner wherever they are worn.

The elastic straps on the upper help get a dialed fit quickly.

I've used these shoes for a few months now - doing runs of just about every distance in them (from a quick 5k after a bike trainer ride to my 22 mile long run) - so I feel I have a very good feel for how they perform.  There's some quirks that would probably have the runner new to a lower profile shoe spending some time to get used to - but all in all, the Skora Base is an outstanding shoe.


First off, the top billing for this shoe - aside from all the tech that they advertise for it - is the strap enclosure.  Often, with laceless running shoes (which is my preference because they typically work better in triathlons) you have problems where - if the shoe doesn't particularly fit you well - there will be "play" in the shoe as you stride.  This will result in blisters and general wear and tear on the skin of the foot - which is no fun (especially in longer runs).  The Base has straps on the forefoot and the heel that allow you to dial your fit in.  I've read some reviews of this shoe where they complain that there "isn't enough strap" - and I couldn't disagree more.  The strap was fine for my foot - but my wife (who I purchased a pair for) tightens hers all the way (where about 1/4 of the velcro is attached) and she's had no problems.
The fit system is perfect for quick transitions in triathlons - where I feel this shoe really shines.  It slips on incredibly easy and if your fit is already dialed, is literally a pull on the heel of each foot before you're off and running off of the bike.

The shoes strap system - which works perfectly.

Second, the shoe is incredibly durable.  I'm a fairly light foot striker (definitely not a plodder), but the shoe has had around 250 miles on it and still looks pretty good.  The upper has no tears or rips - which was originally a concern of mine (I felt it wouldn't last and was proven wrong).  The sole of the shoe shows little to no wear - which, even with a lighter footstrike - is something Skora should boast about.

Third, the upper on the shoe is outstanding.  Not only does it fit perfect on  your foot, but it does so without the need to socks.  You can literally pull these shoes right out of the box and be running sockless immediately with them without worry of blisters or cuts or any of the nasty stuff.


No shoe is without its faults and this one is no exception.  However, you know you have a great shoe when the faults are very minor.  There are really only two things I would want to improve upon on this shoe.  First is the weight of the shoe.  While this is a very minor thing and something that most people who buy this would not notice or care about - the shoe certainly "wears heavier" than the 7.9 ounce weight that it is listed at.  I'm in a size 8.5 and felt that it was heavier than other shoes that I have that are advertised at a higher weight.  Now, there's a lot of contributing factors that go into that and it doesn't effect the performance of the shoe - but it is what it is.  Second is that the shoe would probably not be a good candidate for a "foul weather" running shoe.  When it got wet, the upper tended to retain a lot of the water and the insole would also get soaked pretty quickly.  This bogged the run down.  Drainage vents or holes worked into the sole of the shoe would solve this problem quickly - and the shoe performs well even without them.

I would highly recommend these shoes to anyone looking for a lower profile shoe or wanting a shoe that matches more with a natural running style.  These are great shoes that perform extremely well and I can't imagine anyone not being satisfied with them.  To top that off, they're available on www.skorarunning.com for $60 to $70 right now depending on the color scheme you choose.  At that price, you simply can't go wrong with this shoe.

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