It’s been almost a a year and a half since Skora burst onto the minimalist scene with the release of their original models, the Base and Form, becoming what can only be described as the “luxury car” of the minimalist shoe world. From their inspired “Run Real” campaign, to the beautiful design and quality construction of the shoes themselves, it wasn’t hard to see why people were willing to shell out almost $200 to get their hands on a pair, and the overwhelming consensus was that they were definitely worth the money. By the time the women’s models were finally released last August (about 7 months after the men’s), I was practically beside myself with excitement to get the chance to test out the Base model. Unfortunately, because my feet are quite narrow, the straps didn’t quite hold things in place well enough for me, and I struggled with uncomfortable rubbing on the balls of my feet.
Because I loved the overall fit, feel, and style of the Base, however, I wanted another shot at Skoras, and I thought a pair with laces would solve my rubbing problems by allowing me to better secure my feet. So, I was very happy to get the chance to test a pair of Skora’s new model, the Core, which is one of two new styles added to the Skora line this spring. Like the Form (reviewed by Steve), the Core’s upper is made of goat-leather, and it features similar design elements (e.g., asymmetrical lacing), but is somewhat less expensive ($155 relative to $185 for the Form). The $30 difference can be accounted for in several elements of the design, such as the lack of a velcro heel adjustment strap, simpler stitching/construction of the upper (in the Core), and differences in the material and structure of the soles. Despite being priced as a “lesser” shoe than the Form, though, the Core holds its own as a great (and in some ways better) minimalist running (and casual!) shoe, and it, along with the Phase, further solidify Skora’s position as one of the best minimalist shoe companies around today.
Weight: 6.7 oz/shoe (women’s); 8.1 oz/shoe (men’s)
Drop: 0 mm
Other: 8 mm forefoot/heel stack height; 3 mm Antimicrobial insole; Pittards Armor-Tan Goatskin leather upper; IBR (Injected Blown Rubber) outsole; asymmetric lacing with no-tongue design
Overall, I’ve been very happy with the performance of the Core as both a running and a casual shoe. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they represent a more minimalist shoe relative to the Form and the Base. The toe box has been widened significantly (a common complaint about the original Skora models), and the sole (discussed more below) is thinner and much more flexible. While the sole still has rounded edges (which made some people feel unstable), the wider toe box and increased flexibility give an enhanced sense of control compared to the Base, especially when rounding corners. The amount of traction provided by the sole of the Core has also been improved by the addition of larger, round treads, and I no longer feel the need to be extra cautious when running over wet blacktop, as I did in the Base.
With all of the changes and improvements relative to my Bases, however, I’m sad to report that they’re still not quite right for my feet. The major disappointment for me is that my feet still slide around inside of them. It is definitely much improved relative to the Bases, but I continue to get hot spots when I run more than a couple of miles in them. Part of the reason for this is because the toe box is so much wider (and this extends a little bit into the midfoot and heel cup portions of the shoe) that I feel like I should have gone down half a size, which would have allowed the leather to conform to and hug my foot more. Another factor that I think contributes to the sliding is that the insole material is pretty slippery, and the edges of the insole are rounded, so it’s easy for my big toe and the ball of my foot to slide inward when my foot strikes the ground.
The other problem I’m having is in regard to the structure of and material used to make the sole. The sole of the Core (Skora’s R02 sole system) is made of Injected Blown Rubber (IBR), instead of the abrasion-resistant/high-density rubber combined with Compression Molded (CM) EVA used for the soles of the Form and the Base (Ro1 system). While it is nice that the IBR sole is thinner and more flexible, it has become very apparent that it is also less durable. I’ve only put about 45 miles on my Cores at this point (not counting additional miles from casual wear), and the sole is showing a significant amount of wear along the outer edge at the midfoot/ball of my foot (i.e., where my foot first strikes the ground). The wear is especially dramatic when I compare it to my Bases, which have over 100 miles on them, but have had much less rubber abraded away (see gallery below). I would like to note that my Bases show more wear than most people’s (and so my Core’s probably also show a bit more wear than usual), because I have a slightly heavier foot strike than I should (something that I’m still working on!). That said, the difference in durability is still there, and it’s definitely an important point to consider when spending $155 on a pair of shoes.
When it comes to comfort and barefoot feel, especially during everyday/casual wear, I have absolutely no complaints about the Core (and think they are an improvement over the Base). As I mentioned above, the Core (and the Phase) represent a step in a more minimalist direction for Skora. The wider toe box, the more flexible sole, and the zero-drop platform put these shoes closer to, if not on par with, the ground feel of shoes like those in the Merrell Barefoot line. The flexibility is pretty similar to my New Balance Minimuses, which are not far off from Lems. The Cores are also incredibly comfortable. The leather used to make them is very supple, and has that soft, perfectly broken-in feeling from the very beginning. It also breathes very well, while still remaining water-resistant, so that has been a big plus during our rainy spring. The leather also seems to be remarkably durable, despite being so soft. During one of my first runs in the Cores, I fell, scraping the top of my shoes along the sidewalk, and was convinced I must have scuffed them up, but you can’t even tell that it happened! I was very impressed.
There’s no denying that, like the other shoes in the Skora line, the Core is a very cool looking shoe. The asymmetrical lacing and smooth curves give them a very distinctive look. I especially like the wide band of reflective material that wraps around the front of the toe box, and the dot design on the inner edge of the foot is a really nice touch. The gray/blue colorway that I have is also particularly great because it looks appropriate for both running and for casual wear. Of course, it is the well thought-out aesthetics that are a big part of what makes the extra cost of Skoras understandable and worth it relative to other minimalist shoes.
- More minimalist than the original Skoras (wide toe box, much more flexible)
- Comfortable, supple (but still very durable) leather.
- Improved traction.
- Very cool-looking shoe.
- Soles wear down quickly relative to the original Skora soles.
- Run wide all over – consider sizing down half a size if your feet are narrow.
- Extra width + slippery insole material may allow foot to slide and result in hot spots.
As one would expect from Skora, the Core is an all-around great minimalist shoe. It is a fantastic option for runners who may not have thought the original Skoras were minimalist enough and although I think it has a couple of flaws, especially for narrow-footed runners like myself, I really do love the Core, too, but I think I will reserve my pair for shorter runs and casual wear. That being said, I’m very tempted to pick up a pair that is a half-size smaller to see if it fixes my foot-sliding problem for good, because if it did, they would certainly become one of my favorite running shoes.