|The SKORA Forms after a little autumn jaunt in the woods.|
And with good reason. After years of struggling with IT band issues, I thought I was completely done with running. I got my first pair of minimalist shoes after starting CrossFit in the spring of 2011 because it was easier for me to maintain good form in exercises like squats with a flatter shoe, and I'd heard they allow you to run more naturally*.
To transition safely, I learned the Pose method of running and did a video analysis of my technique during a CrossFit Endurance seminar. I haven't run in a traditional pair of shoes since, and thanks to the technique changes I made, I haven't had serious IT band issues in quite some time. Over the past few months, I've had an opportunity to test one of the most unique looking pairs of minimalist shoes I've seen - the SKORA Forms. I've used them primarily for CrossFit workouts, sprints (3x400 meter repeats and the like), and short runs (under a 5k), but from other press I've seen about the Forms, they're great for putting on the miles. Right out of the box, it's obvious they're not your typical running shoe.
Pittards goatskin leather upper, an asymmetric lacing system and no-tongue construction. The upper is soft against your skin, which is good because the Forms are designed to be worn without socks. I'd never gone sock-less before, but did once with the Forms to see how it felt. I found I couldn't run any great distance in them without socks because I need the extra volume the socks provide. The toe box was designed to be wide on the Forms to allow your toes to splay naturally when your feet hit the ground, but it's just too wide for my narrow feet. The Pittards sheepskin lining felt amazing nonetheless, and I was able to fix the fit a bit with the elastic heel strap.
The lacing system is meant to follow the contour of your foot to minimize the discomfort of traditional laces. I tend to lace my shoes pretty snugly and it was nice not to find imprints of the laces on my feet when I took them off. They're zero-drop shoes, but they provide more cushioning than I'm used to with minimalist shoes. On a few of the sprints, I found myself getting lazy with heel striking during runs, just because I could. But during the runs, it almost felt like I wasn't wearing shoes. The Forms are light, comfortable, and really do seem to mimic the natural movement of my foot.
The Form's heel and forefoot are slightly curved to mimic the natural movement of your foot, which was a little strange at first. The fact that the shoes are rounded, not flat, made me wonder if I'd roll my ankles or have trouble balancing. I didn't. But if you're prone to ankle injuries, take note of the fact that the Forms are extremely low profile.
The biggest issue I have with the Forms is the overall fit. Initially, I was going to test the SKORA Base shoes, but when I got them in the mail, they were huge and floppy. No matter how tight I cinched the Velcro, I couldn't get them tight enough. I swapped them out for the Forms, which I'd heard run a bit big in general, but I got my normal size 10 regardless. They're a touch too long, but I think the 9 1/2 would have been too short. I also have narrow feet, and for me, the toe box is just too wide. The toe box is intentionally wide to allow yours toes to spread out, which is great, but I felt like my forefoot was slipping around the inside of the shoes. There's just too much room.
The bottom line? I like the Forms. They're comfortable, durable, well-constructed and pretty cool looking. I just wish they fit a bit differently. At an MSRP of $185, they're priced at the high end of the minimalist shoe spectrum. But from what I've seen so far, they're built to last and the materials are top notch. If you can find the exact right size, these could be every runner's new favorite pair of minimalist shoes...if you can afford them.
For more information, visit the SKORA website, and be sure to check out the blog while you're there. They routinely post valuable information about running in general. Thanks to SKORA for providing a complimentary pair of Forms for testing.
* Disclaimer: Minimalist shoes aren't for everyone, and if you're used to running in traditional shoes, transition slowly. If you don't, you could end up with plantar fasciitis and a whole host of other issues. Make sure you do your homework when it comes to the transition process, learn how not to heel strike, and learn the difference between a midfoot strike and running on your toes. And take your time. Got it? Good!