Skora Core & Phase Minimalist Running Shoes Review
It’s been over a year since I got my hands on Skora’s first entries in the minimalist market, the Base and Form. In that time the Portland based company has been hard at work updating and revising their lineup and has come out with the new Core and Phase models. (Core in the grey and Phase in the black) A lot has stayed the same, but a lot has been updated as well. Read on to see what’s new and how these more minimalist shoes perform.
Here are the two shoes: the Core is the leather-upper on the left; the Phase is the synthetic upper seen on the right.
In the same way that both the Base and Form share an identical sole, the Core and Phase are built on the same platform with the uppers being the major difference between the two. As with the earlier models, the sole has a zero drop heel, meaning that the same amount of material/padding is underneath the toes as under the heel. The newer models have slightly less of a total stack height: 11mm vs 13 mm with the insole and 8mm vs 9mm without the insole. And though the styling is quite similar when compared side by side with the Base and Form, the soles on the Core and Phase are noticeably more flexible.
The rubber on the new models is soft and tacky but seems to be quite durable and held up well through testing. There is some tread to the sole, but I wouldn’t describe it as overly aggressive. These shoes are best suited for asphalt/road running but can handle light off roading thrown in on packed dirt.
As alluded to above, it’s the uppers that create the distinction between the Core and the Phase.
Like the original Form model, the upper on the Core is made from Pittards Goatskin and in this case is much more supple and flexible than the Form. The upper on the Phase is made from a synthetic mesh and has a comparable give and range of motion as the Core. The uppers aren’t nearly as thin as on the Base or nearly as thick as on the Form. For me they fall right in the middle and are “just right.” They breathe well enough that unless you have really sweaty feet, it shouldn’t be a factor.
On both new models, the lacing system is asymmetric and runs slightly off center like on the original Form and is one of the characteristics that sets Skora’s styling apart from many other brands. There is also quite a bit of reflectivity on the upper—the non-leather/non-mesh zigzag strips light up nicely in the dark, which is a plus for evening runners. For readers with a keen eye, Skora has indeed done away with the heel strap in the new models, as it seemed to have little effect on the fit.
Fit and Performance
I wore both the Core and Phase as extensively as I could to put them through them their paces. I wore them casually for entire days and took them out for runs on surfaces ranging from the local high school track, to asphalt/concrete and even some of the local dirt paths in the area.
To give a little background on my shoe preferences, I really look for something quite minimal that gives me as much ground feel as possible. The Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa and the New Balance Hi Rez are two of my favorites right now for road running.
As I wrote in my original Skora review, I was disappointed in the ground feel and transmission of the soles on the Base and Form. Skora has positioned the Core and Phase as a more minimalist shoe so I was excited to test out the changes they’d made, but after my first couple spins out with them on I was again disappointed. Both sets were comfortable enough but nothing really jumped out and impressed me.
But then I removed the insoles. And that changed everything.
Without the insoles, the more flexible rubber of the improved sole really shined through. It was like a moment of epiphany--the ground feel instantly improved and that seemed to change everything. The 8mm sole feels like there much less than 8mm, sure it’s no Vibram EL-X or other ultra-minimalist shoe, but it definitely has plenty of give to it.
In the end I really liked running in the Core and I while I wanted to like the Phase there was something about the way the padding at the top of the heel cup at the Achilles is constructed that left me with some hot spots. The material seems a bit stiff and towards the end of a long day my heels would get a little irritated in the Phase and even running as little as 3 miles left me with blisters. This was not the case at all with Core. When I checked in with a Skora representative I was told that this was an issue that some people had reported with the Phase and that it was being addressed. Apparently some people’s feet have the rubbing issue while others don’t. The rep I corresponded with had been through 5 pairs without any friction, but suggested using Vaseline on the shoe at the spot of irritation to help speed up the break-in process.
The goatskin upper on the Core has a really nice premium feel to it while the Phase has more of a standard sneaker feel to it. I think both look quite sharp and I’m a fan of the plain colorway options. The recent trend towards bright neon in running shoes is fine some of the time, but every once in a while I want something a little less attention getting.
I didn’t really think that the Base and Form were true minimalist shoes, but I now think that that term could apply to the Core and Phase. I actually think that the Core and Phase “system” can work well for a wide range of runners. For a runner just getting into the minimal or no drop style of running I’d recommend leaving in the insoles and then slowly transitioning to runs without them. For the runner who is used to a Vibram FiveFinger or other similar minimalist brand, I’d suggest taking the insoles out and just jumping right into it!
Colors, Pricing & Wrap Up
The Core comes in two colorways (the grey/black/white reviewed here and in a charcoal/black/hi viz green) goes for $155, and has a list weight of 8.1oz. Likewise, the Phase has two colorways (black/black/white and a patchwork red/black/white) will “only” set you back $110, and has a list weight of 8.1oz. There are also women’s versions at the same pricing in a lighter palette of colors. As a side note and frame of reference, the Form and Base are still available for purchase with the price of the Form dropping $10 to $185 since its first review last year and the Base going from $125 to $99 (You can buy them online here).
The sizing is true as I’m an 11 across the board, and Skora is no different, so no need to size up or down at all, but no worries they offer free shipping and returns from their website if you need to make an exchange. If you are looking to pick up a pair in person they have expanded their retailer presence with locations scattered around the US and abroad.
So, should you get them? Here’s my quick pros and cons list!
- Well constructed, premium feel
- Zero drop sole and great ground feel without the insoles
- Great “system” for easing into minimalist running using the insoles, or for more advanced runners who want to just jump right in with the insoles removed
- Subtle coloring and sharp styling
- Free shipping/returns made easy
- Price (This was my biggest con with the Base and Form and I expect this to be the biggest deterrent for most again!)
- Blisters! While fine for most casual applications, the Phase gave me blisters on my heel when running. This was not an issue for the Core.
If you’ve got the cash to spend, the Core definitely deserves your attention. The supple goatskin upper and improved sole make for a nice shoe. If you are a fan of the look of Phase and don’t mind with the possibility of a break in period, check those out too!