I’d like to begin this review similar to my last SKORA review and talk about the brand as a whole. In that post, I referred to the many awards and praises that SKORA has received, including a reference to SKORA being “the Apple of running shoes”. At first, I thought that analogy was made based on the quality of the design and materials used in SKORA FORM (their higher-end model), but now that I’ve tried one of the entry-level models (the PHASE), I’ve realized that, like Apple, SKORA’s goal is to offer an experience to its customers, no matter what the price point. From the well-designed box with a magnetized lid, to the artistic design of the shoes themselves, you are ready to hit the road and never look back the moment you open up your pair of SKORAs.
Color Options: Men’s – Red/Black/White & Black/Black/White (pictured) Women’s – Blue/Pink/White & Purple/Black/Green
Other: 8mm stack height
Considering the slew of analogies that have been thrown out there regarding the quality materials and design of their shoes, SKORA built up some extremely high expectations from their customers. From my point of view, they’ve managed to exceed these expectations on nearly every account. The FORMs are one of the few shoes that I’ve kept in my rotation of the dozens of shoes I’ve had the pleasure to review, and I’m prepared to say the same will happen with the SKORA PHASE.
Similar to my foray with the FORM, the PHASE took me longer than I intended to review. In fact, I’ve already managed to put 75 miles on them, whereas my original intent was to put our standard of 30 to 50 miles per pair. This isn’t because of uncertainty about their quality or performance, but because I felt I needed to spend more time with them to try to find something to complain about. I like to make our reviews as thorough as possible, but SKORA does such a good job with their designs that it’s difficult to find anything to critique!
Only two strides into my first run with the PHASE, I could feel the difference between them and the FORMs. The 2013 Spring entries (the PHASE & CORE) were intended for SKORA’s more barefoot-oriented runners. Although only 2mm thinner overall (1mm of stack height and 1mm in insole thickness), the PHASE is worlds different when it comes to ground feel. This is achieved through SKORA’s use of different materials and construction for the soles in these models. The major differences, as mentioned in my previous post, are:
R02 system vs. R01 system: The R01 is the original sole on the FORM & BASE models which used a combination of 3 pieces (outsole, midsole, and insole). The R02 is the new sole on the CORE & PHASE models which combines the outsole and midsole into one unibody frame.
The R01 system of the FORM is likely to have a slightly longer lifespan considering it uses a high abrasion rubber in it’s sole, while the R02 system is geared towards using lighter, less dense materials (specifically Injection Blown Rubber, or IBR) to eliminate weight and increase control, ground feel, and flexibility.
I wrote those statements back in March before getting a chance to interact with the new models in person, but my impressions of the goals for the new sole system still hold. The R02 sole is much more flexible and the weight is lowered across the board when you compare the PHASE and CORE to the BASE and FORM models, respectively.
The fit is anatomical, it has a no-tongue design, and they breathe like sandals. The mesh uppers utilize no-sew construction, which keeps the inside of the shoe incredibly comfortable and eliminates hot spots. This design also limits weight, makes the upper more durable, and seems to make them even more breathable. Last, but not least, I should mention this shoe tends to push me into more of a forefoot strike rather than the midfoot strike that my FORMs encourage.
The only complaint I can come up with for these shoes is in the comfort and durability department. Durability is at a slightly lower level than the BASE & FORM, which, as I mentioned earlier, is because of SKORA’s decision to go with a different, more minimalist sole. From a comfort standpoint, I think my complaint is an issue that is specific to the pair I received, considering I only seem to be having the issue with the right shoe. It seems the heel cup may have been deformed from shipping or some other mishap during manufacturing. This has resulted in rubbing on my achilles, where I’ve ended up with multiple blisters after my longer runs.
Fast, unique, and intimidating are just some of the words I think of when looking at these shoes. Granted, I went with a more basic color scheme when choosing black/black/white, but I’m happy with my decision as these shoes go with most of my running gear and I feel comfortable wearing them with nearly every casual outfit. What continues to set SKORA apart in the aesthetics department is the asymmetrical lacing. Although other minimalist shoes employ this lacing style (e.g., the New Balance Minimus Zero and the Brooks PureFlow 2 and PureConnect 2), SKORA’s is the most distinctive and stylish-looking. One of my favorite things SKORA does is make the little design details on their shoes also functional. In the case of the PHASE, I’m taking about the strips of material attached to the mesh that makes up the majority of the upper. Not only do they give some style and add detail to an all-black shoe, but the moment those lines hit the light at just the right angle they act as very effective reflectors.
You’ll notice that, unlike our other shoe reviews, I refrain from offering a pros and cons section in this review. It seemed silly to list only pros! The pros are basically everything: great aesthetics, performance, and even the cost ($110), which is reasonable compared to every other major player in the market. Yes, I could list decreased durability as a complaint (relative to the phenomenal 700+ miles supported by the FORM), but the durability is a very minor trade-off for a sole that is lighter weight, more flexible, and offers much better ground feel. The durability is also still on par with other running shoes. In the end, all I can say is that SKORA hit it out of the park with this one, and would be a great entry-level introduction to the SKORA line (especially if you’ve held back purchasing a pair in the past because of the higher price points of the original models).