Saturday, September 29, 2012

Minimalist Shoe Review: Skora Base

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how Skora, a newcomer to the shoe market, is one of the "next big things" in minimalist running. A representative from Skora was kind enough to contact me and ask if I would like to review a pair of their Base model (that's the actual name; it doesn't mean is has roll up windows and no air conditioning), and I was happy to oblige.

I was feeling a bit adventurous when placing my order, so I decided to go for the yellow colorway. Warning: in the pictures on Skora's website and elsewhere, the color is listed simply as yellow, and the pictures look like a pale canary. This is just a tad misleading because this yellow shoe is freaking retina-searing, fluorescent highlighter yellow. This is not a complaint; I needed a high-visibility shoe in my arsenal. It's just something to be mindful of when ordering yours. Note: The color is not accurate in my pictures either. The flash washes them out a bit. They are seriously bright.

First Impressions
Out of the box, the Base looks really well constructed with sharp design and high-quality materials. Putting on the shoe initially proved rather quick and easy - exactly what you would hope for and expect from a shoe that appears to be marketed directly at the triathlon crowd. The interior lining of the shoe is a perforated synthetic material which provides sufficient comfort for sockless wear. The insole is removable, of course, which allows for better ground feel and more room on the interior of the shoe. A bit puzzling is the design of said removable insole with its reverse dimpling. It feels like a golf ball turned inside out which I didn't find especially comfortable, but it was not even noticeable walking around. The upper, overall, is more structured than many of its competitors, but I don't necessarily see this as a negative. Weight is also on par with the competition - slightly better than the Altra Instinct.

Pretty sweet looking shoe.

A laminated toe cap of sorts. I assume this is to prevent excessive wear from toes contacting the roof of the toe box.
Insole in.

Without insole - smooth as butta.

You cannot see the reverse dimpling here, but it's there.

The insole is contoured, but I had no discomfort in my arch from it at all. No support, thank goodness.
One of the most prominent features of the Base is the X-style velcro strap. I like this idea a lot, and it really sets the shoe apart aesthetically from other minimalist offerings. However, as attractive and clever as it may be, this was my first indication that fit issues would plague my experience with Skora's shoe. Full disclosure: I have a long, thin foot except at my toes. I prefer a slim-fitting shoe through the arch with a super-wide toe box. The Base is the exact opposite. While the toe box on the Base is respectable for a traditional shoe, it is not sufficiently roomy for my preferences. I would place it somewhere between my Mizuno Wave Musha 2s and the New Balance Minimus Trail (MT10). The width of the ankle and arch portion of the shoe, however, is crazy wide on my foot - a size 11.5. To make the problem  a bit worse - and this is an issue with many shoes that feature velcro closures - there is not sufficient adjustment to fully tighten the shoe. The velcro strip on the shoe is too short/not low enough to cinch the shoe down.

You can get a good look at the toe box width ratio to the rest of the shoe in this pic.

This is the adjustment strap in the "fully taut" position. I'm not sure why shoe companies do this, but Skora is certainly not the only one.

Here you can see the strap adjusted to the "neutral" position. Notice the slack.

Rear adjustment strap provides a surprising amount of fit modification.
All is not lost, though. There is an elastic adjustment strap on the back of the shoe to allow wearers to tweak the fit a bit, but this didn't fully resolve the issue for me. Instead, I took matters into my own hands.

My handiwork. I will post another pic later.

On the Road and Trail
Running in the Base took a bit of getting used to. The knobby rubber outsole and thin midsole is a bit on the rigid side, but I have noticed a good deal of break-in over the time I've worn them. There was an initial *clip-clop* that worked out of the shoe within the first 20 miles. The fit and construction of the shoe, with my foot shape, make it great for running on hard surfaces and little else. I would be hesitant to suggest the Base for running on technical trails because of the slop in the fit; the shoe moves around a lot on my foot if I have to cut or torque in them. I just can't cinch them down like I would want. For casual wear, the Base is fantastic. The yellow is extremely eye-catching, but I am fine with that. It matches my personality, and I am more confident in low-light out there on the roads. There is also prominent toe spring present in the Base, which may bother some. I have never had a problem with it.

Very well designed sole. The rubber outsole has proven quite durable. The little island in the heel felt a bit annoying initially, though.

Toe spring.

Notice the curvature of the sole. Toe spring does not bother me, but some people don't dig it.

The Verdict
The Base is an excellent first effort from an upstart company with tons of promise. The shoe certainly has its flaws: it's bit traditional in the toe box and wide in the rest of the shoe with limited and flawed adjustability, but its positives certainly outweigh its negatives. If you are a wide-footed runner or triathlete looking for a shoe as a first foray into minimalism, I would definitely recommend the Base. They go for $110. Check them out at Skora's official website.


  1. Nice photos Chad. About the X-Strap. I think I have...almost 200 miles in my current pair of Base and I've probably only adjusted the X-Strap once or twice, if that. Mine is strapped in just were there is almost no slack, it's just barely pulling on it. I like the Base due to it's moccasin like, smooth, slip on feel. Lots of room in there for my EZ and Moderate speed runs. For my faster workouts I put on the Form for a more snug fit.

  2. Thanks, Brother. If I didn't adjust the strap, my foot would swim a bit. Out of curiosity, what size shoe do you wear? I have a suspicion that larger sizes go up in width as well because I have had width problems before where people who wear smaller sizes than me do not. It also may be a matter of foot shape. I had a similar issue when people raved about the Merrell Trail Glove: a friend raved about how perfectly they fit, but they just didn't match my foot least not nearly as well as they did some others'.

    Maybe I'll get a chance to try out the Form in the future. I have a feeling that the laces will make a large difference with the fit. Any insight there?

  3. I wear a 9. I may go down to an 8.5 in the BASE with the insole removed, I'm going to see how that size feels next week.

    Not a fan of how Merrell shoes are shaped. But I can see how someone could rave about them, if your foot is close to how they are shaped, they would feel fantastic.

    The laces to change the fit drastically on the Form when comparing it to the Base.