Last year we checked out the Skora Form, a high-end, minimalist pair of running shoes, complete with goat-skin tops. They did some things right, but were ultimately ergonomically lacking. The year Skora has come out with the Core, and the little refinements go a very long way.
NOTE: The usual disclaimer about minimalist running shoes applies here. They're not for everybody. You have to adjust your running style and build very slowly or you will break your feet and ruin your entire life. Do your homework regarding what you need to do to slowly transition to shoes like these. Okay?
High-end, zero-drop minimalist running shoes for "barefoot style" running.
Barefoot style runners who are down to pay a little more for a nice balance of comfort and minimalism.
Up top, the Cores feature a blend of vented Pittards goatskin and sheepskin. Running down the middle of it is an asymmetric lacing system that runs down the length of your foot diagonally. There's no tongue, strictly speaking. The upper leather essentially wraps around your foot and keeps it snug.
The biggest difference between the Core and last year's Form, though, are what's going on underneath. The Form's tread was a bit too rigid for something that was supposed to be minimal. The Core uses a new injection-blown rubber (IBR). It's lighter and much, much more supple, yet still feels very durable and offers good traction.
The Cores simply feel much better than their predecessors. For starters, Skora seems to have figured out its bizarre sizing issues—last year the difference of a half size was either way too small or way too large, but nowhere in between—and the fit is quite good. The company re-cut the upper, too. Before, when you laced the shoes up snugly, it would bunch up and dig into your upper foot. This is much less of an issue now.
The biggest difference, though, is that the sole is far more flexible. It's definitely closer to a "barefoot" experience, but still provides plenty of protection from sharp rocks. The tread is easily burly enough for light trail runs, and I never slid out on wet pavement.
It's gotta be that new injection blown rubber. It makes the biggest difference in the way these shoes feel, and it's really nice.
Your feet are gonna get hot in these. Vented leather doesn't breath anywhere near as freely as mesh. It'll probably be okay when it gets really cold out, but most of the time you're going to have some sweaty tooties.
These shoes in the colors pictured will run you $155 (from Skora.com), which is very expensive for minimalist running shoes. However, you're down to get the monochrome version (which arguably look better), they're only $109. Colors aside, they are the exact same shoe. Go figure. They're out of stock in most sizes from Skora's website, but Amazon still has most of them.
- We don't love the lacing system. It's not uncomfortable once you're in them, but they are a bit of a pain to adjust. It makes getting them on and off and fitting right more of a process.
- The tread is pretty pronounced which is good for traction, but you end up feeling some of those hard edges on your feet. This can create hotspots on your foot and may lead to pressure-blisters.
- These are zero-drop shoes, which means the sole is the same thickness under the heel and under the forefoot. It helps you avoid heel-striking. The stack height on these are 11 millimeters (8mm sole plus a 3mm insole).
- They definitely feel a bit more cushiony than other minimal runners, which is a love-it/hate-it kind of thing. Hardcore minimalists will find it too thick. People who are just starting with minimal shoes will probably like it.
- Some think these are comfortable enough inside that you don't need to use socks. We tried that and our blisters beg to differ. In fact, the interior is a bit rougher than you find on other minimal shoes, like the Merrell Road Glove 2.
- The toe-box feels a bit wider than last year's shoes did, which is a good thing, but we'd still rather a bit more room.
For $155 retail? No. We think that's too much for minimal shoes, and the high-end leather (which is undoubtedly where the cost comes from) doesn't provide any tangible advantages. If anything, we think it makes it less comfortable, but your milage may vary. However, if you can find the monochrome version in your size and you like the way they feel, $109 is not a bad deal. Amazon has the green/black ones for $135, too.
Ultimately, though, the Merrell Road Glove 2 is still our favorite barefoot runner, and for $100 bucks (often less on Amazon), it's hard to recommend the Core over it. Even for minimal noobs, the Brooks PureDrift provides better cushioning at a better price. The Skora Core is better-looking, though, so if that's your thing, then they're worth a try. [Skora]
Note: We talked to Skora and the reason many of the Cores are sold out on their website is they're expecting a new shipment soon with more colors. It's not being discontinued.
Men's Sizes: 7 - 13
Women's Sizes: 5 - 11
Men's Colors: 2 options
Women's Colors: 2 options
Price: $109-$135 (at Amazon)