Shoes

This page details a number of the boots and shoes I use for photography sessions and other
adventures, including Lowa boots, the Vivobarefoot Hybrid, and three innovative shoes from
Skora, a company that creates superb minimalist shoes primarily designed for running which
in my opinion are the best shoes for walking, approach and stalking that I have found to date.

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This may seem like a rather unusual subject for a Photography website, but when you are shooting Wildlife, Scenic and Travel images you can do one heck of a lot of hiking, stalking and walking. I walk seven days a week, typically 30 to 35 miles a week. When in the mountains or exploring a city, 10 to 15 miles per day is not at all unusual, and in those cases a week can easily encompass 50 to 75 miles. When you are putting that sort of mileage on your feet it makes sense to take care of them, and to select shoes which are designed to reduce the possibility of injury to your feet, legs, hips and back.

My grandfather was in the shoe business, and I suppose I have always been somewhat of a shoe geek. Ask my wife.

On this page, I will outline some of the shoes and boots I have used for various adventures and shooting trips, including a very interesting brand of shoes by a relatively new manufacturer of minimalist shoes in Seattle, Washington called Skora.

Often, when you are shooting wildlife or scenery high up in the mountains or some distance from your base camp, you will be carrying significant weight in cameras, lenses, clothing, food and water. A 30 pound pack is common, and a 50-60 pound pack is sometimes necessary. When you are carrying that sort of weight in rough country, it is a good idea to use a sturdy pair of boots. After a good number of years trying various options, I finally acquired some Lowa boots, and selected the upper mid-volume Trekker.

The Lowa Trekker is a glove leather lined boot, which when treated with Nikwax is quite waterproof. It offers superb support for the ankles and a really solid sole. The boots have climate control features to exchange air within the boot, and the glove leather lining conforms to the foot, breathes well, and is very comfortable. These are trekking boots... they are stiffer than a typical hiking boot, and heavy at about 3.5 pounds (per pair), but they are very durable, long-lasting boots.

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Lowa Trekker

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Lowa Renegade Leather Lined

For use in extremely hot climates and in situations where less weight is being carried, the lighter Lowa Renegade LL boot gets the call. This is a mid-volume leather lined hiking boot. Lowa also makes a Gore-tex version which is waterproof, but the Gore-tex does not breathe well and it can get very hot. Nikwax does a good job of making the boot fairly waterproof while still allowing your foot to breathe.

The Renegade is a lighter boot at 2.5 pounds per pair, but it still offers good ankle protection. Its Vibram Evo sole gives the boot excellent traction and durability. The Renegade is labeled a mid-boot, but the three lace hooks and higher front cuff allows the boot to be cinched well for excellent support.

This lighter Lowa boot is the go-to boot for most hiking situations where less weight will be carried, and especially in hotter climates. When there will be river crossings or lots of marshy ground to cover, I may take the Asolo Gore-tex.

The Asolo Fusion 95 Gore-tex is a reasonably lightweight, mid-height Gore-tex lined hiking and light backpacking boot. The Gore-tex makes these boots exceedingly waterproof. I have walked across marshes in Alaska, Florida, New Mexico and California and have been in drenching downpours with these boots and still had dry feet. If the water doesn’t go over the top of the boot, you will stay dry. The boots are fairly hot, as the Gore-tex does not breathe all that well, so they can be uncomfortable in hot weather (and toasty in cold weather).

These upper mid-volume boots offer good traction and support, and they most definitely keep you dry, but for long hikes or warm weather they are not as good an option as the Lowa Renegade. For this reason they are only selected for consistent wet weather or marshy ground.

Even when I know that I will be dealing with some creek crossings or rain, but will be doing a lot of hiking in the mountains (such as in Yosemite), the Lowas will get the call as they are much more comfortable over the long term.

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Asolo FSN 95 Goretex

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Lowa Tempest Lo

The Lowa Tempest Lo is a low-cut hiking and approach shoe with a midsole borrowed from the heavier Lowa boots and a full length nylon shank to add stiffness. These shoes will allow you to carry quite a load comfortably, and the double-stitched split-grain leather gives your feet protection from sharp rocks. This is a really durable hiking shoe that can take lava, sharp boulders, heavy loads, and pretty much anything you can take and a lot that you can’t. This shoe will outlast almost any other hiking shoe. I have been with other people whose shoes were shredded, and the Lowas only showed a little abrasion.

The Lowa Tempest Lo is a mid-volume hiking shoe with a somewhat narrow toe box, so on long hikes your toes can get squished a bit. This is common for approach shoes, as they are often used for light climbing as a backup for a heavier boot. If you have low-mid volume feet and a narrow forefoot it will not be a problem at all, but mid-volume feet (and up) can be constricted. I have mid-volume feet.

As long as we are discussing approach shoes, I should mention that I have used approach shoes from 5.10 and La Sportiva, which are low-volume and very low-volume shoes more suitable for rock climbing with a little approach work. If you have to walk more than a couple of miles in either of these your toes are going to be stressed (the low-volume 5.10 shoes are far more comfortable than the extremely narrow La Sportiva). Both of these shoes are quite good for climbing though, and while they are not a purpose-designed climbing shoe, you can scale some very technically challenging climbs in them, and they are still a good thing to carry in the pack if you are sure there will be some technical climbing to be done. If all you need is a good, durable and waterproof approach shoe, and you are not going to be in a high abrasion environment or carrying a lot of weight, you may want to consider the shoe shown immediately below: the Vivobarefoot Hybrid.

Barefoot and Minimalist Shoes

After hiking and walking the equivalent of halfway around the world in heavy boots and shoes with heels and narrow toe boxes, I had gradually been noticing that my toes were being compressed together, and I had been experiencing an increasingly troublesome pain in my knees and shins, plus some occasional pain in my hips. My back is always sore (I was an elite-level gymnast in college after having recovered from breaking my back in four places at the end of high school), but it was getting worse than usual. I decided that something had to be done to address this, and I started doing some research.

What I discovered was a lot of discussion on the benefits of anatomically correct shoe construction and altering your stride to return to the techniques man used for hundreds of thousands of years, rather than using elevated heels with massive cushioning and motion control, narrow toe boxes, and a long stride culminating in a hard heel strike. I read a lot, used some common sense and the perception of my body which I developed as a gymnast, and decided that this was worth a try. I decided to go all out and got several types of Vibram Fivefingers shoes (KSO Trek, KMD Sport and Bikila LS), and spent considerable time retraining my feet and body to walk barefoot (but with protection), altering my stride and adopting primarily a midfoot and forefoot strike, maintaining a light heel strike when it made sense (such as when walking uphill or in certain situations on level ground).

Basically, the difference between barefoot and minimalist shoes is this: Minimalist shoes have a small amount of cushioning, a shallow midsole with little to no arch support, and from 6mm to zero drop from the heel to the forefoot. Barefoot shoes have very slight to no cushioning, an extremely shallow (4mm or less) midsole or no midsole with no arch support, zero drop from the heel to the forefoot, and a wider toe box with no upward toe spring. Both barefoot and minimalist shoes are very lightweight.

You have to build up gradually (do not start by running a mile or more, or walking five miles, as you risk injury). Alter your stride by taking shorter strides and using either a forefoot or mid-foot strike or a light heel strike depending on the situation. Once your tendons and muscles stretch a little (you will notice it in your calves as soon as you start walking or running in shoes without a heel), you can build up distance. Your feet and leg muscles will gain a lot of strength, and the knee, shin and hip pain will soon disappear. Of course, even though Vibram makes the Spyridon MR with a sole that has an embedded rock plate specifically designed for trail use, their uppers are made of mesh and offer little to no protection from rocks and branches that hit the side of your foot. Many of their shoes are completely porous and water flows through the shoe easily (except for winter models like the Lontra, which are very warm but are made of synthetics which offer little protection against rocks and sticks). Vibrams are great training shoes and superb for running, but are not ideal approach shoes in the woods or on rock, and I will not climb in them.

The shoes shown below utilize many of the same principles (albeit without the separate toe pockets),
and offer protection from the elements, rocks, brambles and sticks, and other hazards you may encounter.

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Vivobarefoot Hybrid inside HS2659

The Vivobarefoot Hybrid is a true barefoot shoe made of vegetable-tanned leather with ripstop nylon on the inside part of the shoe from the forefoot to the heel. Like all Vivobarefoot shoes, it has a generous toe box, but unlike other models the Hybrid has a rigid heel cup that adds structure. It has a zero drop heel, an extremely thin puncture-resistant sole with V-shaped 4.5mm lugs reminiscent of a mountain bike tire, and a thin removable insole, which allows for increased interior volume and ground feel.

The Hybrid is marketed as a water-resistant barefoot golf shoe, and the company does have other shoes with this sole: the Neo Trail (a low mesh shoe), Synth Hiker (an ankle-high mesh boot), and the Off-Road Mid and Hi boots (vegetable-tanned leather, ankle-height and over-the-ankle). I wanted a low leather shoe for their water resistance and added protection from abrasion, and this shoe fit the requirement. The very wide toe box allows the toes to splay naturally, the 2.5mm thin puncture-resistant lugged sole offers good ground feel with superb protection and traction, and the shoe is water resistant while remaining breathable.

I have worn the Hybrids in conditions from a light drizzle to the sky opening up and dropping torrents of rain, and my feet have remained dry. They are low shoes, and if you step into ankle-height water your feet are going to get wet, but standing puddles or wet forest litter are definitely not a problem. The tongue comes right up to the ankle junction and is gusseted to the fourth lace hole, keeping water that hits the top of the foot out of the shoe, but if you walk in a downpour for a long time you may reach the limit of the water resistance. I have had no problem walking in the rain for 20 minutes until I could find shelter.

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Hybrid Black front quarter

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Vivobarefoot Hybrid inside detail HS2659c

The Vivobarefoot Hybrid is an upper-mid volume shoe with a very generous toe box. With my mid-volume foot I am able to wear a trail-weight sock, and if the insole is removed I am able to wear a heavyweight sock or two layers in cold weather. The leather protects against incidental scrapes and sharp sticks, and while the sole is thin and flexible, allowing you to feel what you are walking on, it offers very good protection from sharp rocks underfoot. This is a very lightweight shoe, and its flexibility makes it quite comfortable (plus it looks good enough to be worn into a restaurant or other less casual outing after wiping off the dirt from the trail), but that flexibility and the lack of cushioning reduces the distance that you can walk in these if you are carrying a lot of weight. The interior has a Dri-Lex lining for increased ventilation and comfort. The Vivobarefoot Hybrid is a superb inclement weather walking, stalking and approach shoe that can be worn directly from the trail to a night out with a simple wipe-down.

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Hybrid Black top sole

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Hybrid Black scrunch (no linked image)

Note the smooth lines, multi-directional lugged sole and the extreme flexibility of the Vivobarefoot Hybrid,
a superb upper-mid volume barefoot-style water-resistant off-road walking and approach (and golf) shoe.

The thin and flexible sole has minimal cushioning, and I have found it best to wear midweight socks
so that over longer walks on harder surfaces, their cushioning reduces the feel of the lugs underfoot.

Below are several innovative minimalist shoes from Skora, a company based in Seattle, Washington.

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Skora SS14 group

The Spring/Summer 2014 men’s line from Skora, a running shoe company in Seattle, Washington whose shoes are in my opinion the best general purpose walking, approach and stalking shoes that I have found, and are superior running shoes, which is their primary purpose for existence. Their shoes are specifically designed for a mid-foot strike, with zero-drop heels and anatomically correct lasts, an asymmetric lacing system which avoids the tendon from the big toe to the ankle, and an extension of the upper that wraps over the top of the foot instead of a tongue. Below are descriptions of three of these innovative shoes.

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Skora SS13 Form display

The Skora Form has been described as the Bentley of running shoes. The attention to detail in all of the Skora shoes is exceptional. Constructed using a fully leather Pittards Goatskin upper with a Pittards WR100X Sheepskin lining and a microfiber heel pad, the Skora Form is a supremely supple and exquisitely comfortable shoe which features stitch-down construction for a seamless feel, and like all Skora shoes it has asymmetric lacing and a wrap-over extension of the upper rather than a tongue. The shoe is built on the Skora R01 platform, with zero-drop from the heel to the forefoot, a thin midsole of compression molded EVA, and a durable high density rubber outsole. The heel and outsole edges are rounded to mimic the human foot and promote natural stride transition. The outsole is strategically grooved to increase the flexibility of the sole. The 4mm Ortholite anti-microbial insole is removable, and the interior of the shoe is smoothly finished so that it can be worn without the insole. The Form is a mid-volume shoe with a 13mm stack height (outsole, midsole and insole) that becomes an upper-mid volume shoe with a 9mm stack height when the insole is removed.

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Skora Form rear quarter HS2643

This rear quarter view of my Skora Form in Natural/White/Grey shows the wrap-over upper extension that replaces the tongue, the perforated Pittards Goat skin upper and perforated Pittards Sheepskin lining, and the rounded heel. The Form has just a hint of cushioning and high-density, abrasion-resistant rubber over the entire outsole, making it a superb shoe for walking or running on hard abrasive surfaces. The shoe feels secure on trails and rock, and the sole offers excellent protection while maintaining ground feel. The leather upper protects the foot from sharp sticks and rocks, and it is an excellent approach and stalking shoe. The Form even does a good job for light climbing, and it is my favorite approach shoe for its comfort and abrasion resistance.

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Skora Form tongue lining HS2643c

A detail crop showing the burrito-like wrap-over upper extension which
replaces the tongue and the Pittards sheepskin lining of the Skora Form.

The last of the Form almost perfectly conforms to my medium-volume foot.
The heel is just a tiny bit wide, so that when wearing lightweight socks my heel
slides sideways just enough to notice during lateral movement, but tightening the
heel strap reduces the movement. When wearing midweight socks the fit is perfect.

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Skora Form detail HS2648

Detail of the perforated Pittards Goatskin upper and the stitching quality of the Skora Form.

The Pittards glove leather features their Armor-Tan technology, which improves abrasion resistance of the leather by encasing the fiber bundles within the leather structure in microscopic ceramic platelets. Pittards WR100X tanning process creates leather with a low water uptake and permanent water resistance, maintains the softness and suppleness of the leather allowing it to keep its shape over time, increases breathability and sweat resistance, and allows the wet leather to dry four times faster than typical leather. The perforations will allow water to enter the shoe, but the leather dries soft and supple in 6 to 8 hours.

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Skora SS13 Form front quarter

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Skora FW13 Form front quarter

Shown above are front quarter views of the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter 2013 models of the Skora Form in black.
Behind the heel you can see the velcro fastener of the adjustable heel strap. Note that there is a bit of toe spring in the
design of the Form (the shoe curves upward slightly at the end of the toe box). The sole flexes enough that the curvature
does not affect the gait, but it does seem to reduce the tendency for the toe to scrape on low objects while walking.

I originally acquired the Form to augment the extremely light and breathable Skora Phase (shown further below) with a shoe that has a denser sole for increased protection from sharp objects and a leather upper for increased foot protection from rocks and sharp sticks. The Skora Form has a 5mm narrower toe box than the Core model (the leather Skora Core is described below the section on the Form), and the sole of the Form is stiffer, offering noticeably more protection from objects. The dense rubber sole of the Form emits an audible tapping sound as your foot strikes a hard surface, even if you have a light strike.

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Skora FW13 Form outside

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Skora FW13 Form inside

Outside (lateral) and inside (medial) views of the Skora Form. Note the heel strap and slight toe spring.
You will also notice that the sole material wraps around and up to protect the toe and heel quite effectively.
This really comes in handy for that occasional scrape against a rock or when you clip your toes on a rock.

The unbelievably luxuriant sheepskin lining of the Form feels really good against the skin and the shoe can be worn without socks, but the leather is quite warm against the skin and in high temperatures or high humidity the feet will get warm (you have to try it sometime in cooler temperatures though... your ankles may get cold but your feet will remain toasty). The shoes are much cooler when wearing socks, and I wear them with lightweight to mid-weight socks, preferring Injinji toe socks to wick moisture away from between the toes and away from the foot. The perforated leather breathes quite well, but it can still get warm in high temperatures as anyone who has worn leather shoes will know.

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Skora FW13 Form top

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Skora FW13 Form sole

Top and bottom views of the Skora Form in black. Note the asymmetric lacing and the anatomical sole flex grooves.
One other thing I should mention: Skora shoes come in what has to be the industry’s nicest shoe box, with magnetic
closure and an attractively patterned blue surface. The boxes get used for small storage instead of being recycled.

The Skora Form is an exceptional running, walking, approach and stalking shoe. The high density rubber sole provides excellent traction on all but the most technical trails and mud. The light cushioning and the fact that the sole is designed to accept a light heel strike makes this a superb choice for those looking to transition into a zero-drop shoe, and I recommend it highly. It is rather expensive due to the materials, but it is extremely durable and will outlast many other shoes. Based on my experience, it is likely that these shoes will last for more than 2500 miles (I now have over 1500 miles on the Form, and the soles are showing only mild wear). This means that the price is far less than buying several pairs of lesser shoes which will only last 600-700 miles and do not offer the unparalleled experience that wearing the Skora Form will offer.

The Form has an anatomic design that is very aesthetically pleasing and really looks good on your foot, not that this has a lot to do with shoe selection for functionality... however, the extra layer of leather around the side of the shoe and the height to which the rubber of the sole wraps up the side makes for a very effective rand, which does a superb job of protecting the edge of the foot from abrasion. The dense sole also provides just the right amount of support for approach work and stalking when you are carrying medium weight, and protects your feet from sharp objects while still providing good enough ground feel that you know exactly what you are stepping on, allowing for good balance and a quiet approach. After about 10 miles or so for break-in, the supple leather conforms exactly to your foot, and while the toe box is a bit narrower than shoes like the Core (below), the Merrell Gloves, and some other minimalist and barefoot shoes, it is comfortable for those with medium-width feet (or upper-medium width with the insole out). My medium-wide feet fit the Form perfectly with mid-weight socks and a little loosely with lightweight socks, with the insole in, and remain comfortable all day unless I am carrying a lot of weight. I really like this shoe.

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Skora SS14 Core display

The Skora Core features a Pittards Goatskin upper with reduced stitching, a combination lining of Pittards Sheepskin and an Agion anti-microbial mesh, a low-density injection blown rubber outsole with no midsole, a dense rubber O under the heel, and high density rubber inserts under the metatarsals and toe. The Core is an upper-mid volume shoe with a 5mm wider toe box than the Form. If you remove the 3mm Ortholite anti-microbial insole, the Core becomes a sub-high volume shoe, which allows it to be used with heavyweight socks if you have a mid-volume or upper-mid volume foot. Including the 3mm insole, the Core has a stack height of 11mm... if you remove the insole the stack height is 8mm and the ground feel is increased. The Skora Core is built on the R02 platform, which uses a single piece sole of injection blown rubber with no midsole and higher density rubber inserts under the metatarsals and toe. The injection blown rubber of the Core is softer than the high-density rubber of the Form, and even with the insole the Core has more ground feel. Like the Form, the Core exhibits zero drop from heel to forefoot.

The Skora Core is constructed using a Pittards Armor-Tan WR100X Goatskin upper similar to that of the Form, but with several notable differences. The upper is built so that the perforated leather covering the majority of the forefoot is a single piece, with a leather molding crossing the toes, carrying around the side of the foot past the lace loops to the ankle collar, concealing much of the stitching. The Core also has the burrito-like extension of the upper that wraps around the top of the foot replacing the tongue, but on the Core it wraps to the inside of the foot rather than the outside as on the Form. The pull-tabs on the heel and the upper extension replacing the tongue are not present on the Core. The lining is a combination of Pittards WR100X Sheepskin which is smooth in front of the heel and suede around the heel, and a seamless Agion anti-microbial mesh lining in the forefoot.

Details of the technology of Pittards Armor-Tan WR100X leather are described in the section above on the Skora Form.

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Skora Core lining HS2646

Detail of the lining of the Skora Core, showing the wrap-around extension of the upper that replaces the tongue, the Pittards Sheepskin lining on the top part of the upper wrap-around extension and between the heel and forefoot, (suede side around the heel and Achilles tendon and smooth side in front of the heel), and part of the white Agion anti-microbial lining on the forefoot.

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Skora Core detail HS2647

Detail of the forefoot of the Skora Core, which shows the large perforations in the Pittards Goatskin leather revealing the Agion anti-microbial mesh below, and the leather molding that is covering seams between leather panels and concealing the stitching.

The Pittards Goatskin upper has larger perforations than the Form, which along with the anti-microbial mesh in the forefoot allows the Core to breathe better when it is worn sockless or on an exceptionally hot or humid day. The Agion anti-microbial mesh uses silver ions to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and fungus and is designed to last for the life of the shoe.

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Skora SS13 Core front quarter

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Skora SS13 Core top

Front quarter and top views of the Spring/Summer 2013 grey/white Skora Core (the version that I have).
Note the smooth reflective leather feature around the heel of the shoe, and the removal of the heel strap.
The spacing between lace attachments is wider on the Core than on the Form, and the ankle collar rises
higher on the sides below the ankle bones on the Core than on the Form. There is slightly less toe spring
on the Core than on the Form, and the injection blown rubber sole (no midsole) of the Core is much softer.
The wider toe box of the Core allows the toes to splay naturally without restriction while running or walking.

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Skora SS13 Core outside

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Skora SS13 Core inside

Outside (lateral) and inside (medial) views of the Skora Core. You will notice that the sole does
not wrap up around the heel and the front of the toe of the Core as much as it does on the Form.
Also, note the air space under the center of the sole. The flexible sole gives a bit to assist the foot
in cushioning a midfoot strike. Along with softer injection blown rubber, this makes for a soft ride.

Because of the softer injection blown rubber, the Core sole gives quite a bit more than the Form. Due to the denser rubber ring under the heel, the Core will allow a slight heel strike, but it is really designed for a midfoot or forefoot strike (note below that the sole has dense rubber inserts under the metatarsals and toe, along with a denser rubber ring under the heel). As the sole of the Skora Core is optimized for a midfoot or forefoot strike, the Core is recommended for those who have already transitioned to zero drop shoes and the midfoot or forefoot gait.

Because the sole does not wrap up around the foot, the Core offers less protection from rocks than the Form.

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Skora SS14 Core front quarter

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Skora SS14 Core sole

Front quarter and bottom views of the Spring/Summer 2014 Skora Core.

There are reflective leather panels around the heel and at the top of the upper wrap extension.
Note the denser rubber under the heel and under the metatarsal and toe at the front of the sole.
Like the Form, the heel of the Core and edges of the sole are rounded to mimic the human foot.
You may notice that the round extrusions at the forefoot are larger and higher than on the Form.
These higher extrusions on the forefoot give the sole of the Core a little better traction off-road.

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Skora SS14 Core group

The Spring/Summer 2014 men’s colorways of the Skora Core.

So, at this point you may be wondering which I think is better... the Form or the Core?

As usual... it depends.

If you tend to heel strike more often than you use a midfoot or forefoot strike, the Skora Form is better. If you are carrying a fair amount of weight fairly often, the stiffer sole of the Form is better. If you tend to go into high-abrasion environments, the Form has a denser sole and can withstand the abrasion better than the softer injection blown rubber of the Core. If you have a narrow or lower-volume foot, and plan to use it in situations where there is a lot of high energy lateral movement, the narrower toe box of the Form is better as it reduces sliding of your forefoot in the shoe when moving laterally. If you live in an area where the temperature is cooler, the Form may be better. If you are transitioning into a zero-drop minimal shoe from a cushioned shoe with a heel-to-toe drop, the Form is certainly better. The more durable high density rubber on the sole of the Form will last longer than the injection blown rubber sole of the Core. The design of the Form offers more protection to the edge of the foot due to the extra layer of leather and the height that the sole wraps up the side.

If you have a wider or a higher-volume foot, the Core will give you more room, and the wider spacing between the lace attachments on the Core allow more adjustment for a narrower midfoot. The lower volume and narrower toe box of the Form mean that anyone with a wider or higher-volume foot should choose the Core. If you rarely carry a lot of weight, have already transitioned into a midfoot or forefoot strike, and prefer a softer ride, you will prefer the Core. If you live in a hotter environment or you like wearing shoes without socks, the Core is the better choice. If you are often on slippery trails, the added traction of the larger round extrusions on the forefoot of the sole of the Core may make it a better choice, although the Form is quite stable.

Both shoes offer a zero drop and are superb running, walking, approach and stalking shoes. The Form has a stiffer sole with denser rubber and slight cushioning which is better for those transitioning to a zero drop minimal shoe and better when carrying weight or in a high abrasion environment. In my opinion, the Form is a better choice for a dedicated walking shoe. The softer ride of the injection blown rubber sole of the Core is pleasant, as I long ago transitioned to a primarily midfoot or forefoot strike, but I still do a light heel strike except when running or descending a steeper hill. You have to be careful not to strike your heel too heavily when wearing the Core... the Form is more forgiving in this respect.

The Form has a slightly narrower toe box (5mm narrower), which over a long walk or a medium-distance walk with weight can be mildly constrictive for those with wide feet. The operative word here is mildly. I have medium-wide feet (a bit wider after a year and a half wearing Vibrams), and my foot just contacts the edges of the toe box when wearing trail-weight or mid-weight socks with the insole in. The supple leather has conformed to my mid-volume foot and it is not constricting, but if you have very wide feet the narrower toe box will become an issue. The volume of the Form can be increased by removing the Ortholite insole, converting it from a mid-volume to an upper-mid volume shoe and increasing ground feel.

Under the same conditions, the wider toe box of the Core allows my toes to splay completely, and my toes do not contact the sides of the toe box at all, but the bottom of my foot and my arch gets a little sore if I am carrying a fair amount of weight. The ground feel of the Core is higher with insole than the Form without insole. Removing the Core insole increases the ground feel.

Evaluate your situation, stride and foot type and select the shoe that is best for you.


—  After one year with the Form and Core, I have put over 1500 miles on the Form and over 700 miles on the Core.  —

Both show very mild wear on the soles, reinforcing my initial perception that these will last quite a long time. The Form has completely conformed to my foot and is as comfortable as a pair of moccasins. The stitching on both shoes has held up very well, with no popped stitches (some are slightly frayed) on the Form and none on the Core. The Core works best for me with extra cushioning (Trail-weight socks as a minimum), and in cooler weather the extra volume of the Core allows me to use either heavy-weight socks or two layers, with a mid-weight toe-sock under lightweight or mid-weight regular socks, yet they still breathe very well due to the larger holes in the leather. By removing the insole from the Form, I can use double layers and get even more warmth due to the reduced ventilation of the smaller holes. When the temperature drops into the 40s or below, this configuration is my default. The Form is still my preferred shoe due to additional protection from the upper and the stiffer sole.

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Skora SS13 Phase display

The Skora Phase in black, from the Spring/Summer 2013 men’s collection.

The Skora Phase is highly breathable, with an upper made of a single layer of airmesh using the latest lamination techniques. The asymmetric reflective laminations covering the seams are not sewn except for a reinforcement at the central right angle in front of the laces. Like all of the Skora shoes, the Phase has a zero drop sole from heel to forefoot, an anatomically designed last which mirrors the natural shape of the foot, an asymmetric lacing system that avoids putting pressure on the tendon from the large toe to the ankle, and an extension of the upper that wraps seamlessly over the top of the foot, replacing the tongue.

The Phase is built on the R02 platform like the Core, with a single piece injection blown rubber outsole with no midsole, a higher density rubber ring under the heel and a higher density rubber insert on the toe. Unlike the Core, which has a higher density rubber insert under the metatarsals, the Phase has a metatarsal pad made of injection blown rubber, making the Phase the softest Skora sole. The superb ground feel of the Phase can be increased by removing the 3mm Ortholite insole.

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Skora SS13 Phase outside

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Skora SS13 Phase inside

Outside (lateral) and inside (medial) views of the Skora Phase. The pattern on the inside of the Phase is highly reflective.
There is a padded microfiber collar to protect the Achilles tendon, and the microfiber extends to the insole behind the heel.

Like the Skora Core, the Phase has an 11mm stack height, and like the Core the Phase has superb ground feel even with the insole. Removing the 3mm Ortholite anti-microbial insole reduces the stack height to 8mm and increases the ground feel.

The heel and edges of the sole are rounded to mimic the shape of the human foot. The edges of the sole are rounded to promote a natural stride transition, and there are anatomically designed flex grooves in the sole, making the sole extremely flexible. The sole of the Phase flexes enough to follow contours of curved surfaces you step on.

Note the air space under the arch of the foot. The flexible sole gives a bit to assist the foot in cushioning a midfoot strike, which along with the injection blown rubber gives the Phase an extremely soft ride. Like the Form and Core, the Phase is also slightly concave laterally under the metatarsals to mimic the metatarsal arch of the foot. This concavity flattens out when the forefoot strikes the ground, increasing the shock absorption of the sole.

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Skora SS13 Phase top

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Skora SS13 Phase sole

Top and bottom views of the Spring/Summer 2013 Skora Phase.

Note the asymmetric reflective laminations and asymmetric lacing system on the upper, the higher density
rubber inserts under the heel and toe, and the injection blown rubber metatarsal pad on the sole of the Phase.
Like the Core, the round extrusions under the forefoot are larger than the Form, increasing the off-road traction.
Like the Core, the Phase has a wide toe box which allows the toes to splay naturally (the Core is a little wider).

The very flexible, soft sole of the Skora Phase makes the ground feel superb, very similar to the feel of the Vibram KMD Sport but with more traction and a softer ride. You feel every stone, stick and root you encounter as well as the shape of the surfaces you are on, which increases traction and balance, but you do have to be careful when stepping on sharp objects, especially if you have tender feet. You can increase the already superb ground feel of the Phase by removing the insole.

There is absolutely no break-in period with this shoe... it conforms to your foot like nothing I have experienced. The Phase is supremely comfortable on all surfaces, especially on softer irregular surfaces, and on harder surfaces your foot remains comfortable for a very long time if you are careful when stepping on sharp objects. Walking long distances in the Skora Phase is a very pleasant experience, as is running on hard or softer, irregular surfaces.

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Skora Phase front quarter HS2655

The front quarter view of the Skora Phase. I selected a version from the Spring/Summer 2013 women’s collection as I liked the color combination. My wife says that they look “edgy”. The lightweight and breathable uppers dry quickly when they get wet, and they are very comfortable in hot weather, but like all mesh shoes they do not provide protection from sharp sticks or abrasive contact on the sides or top of the foot, the soft sole does not provide enough support when you are carrying weight, and the extra room in the toe box allows the forefoot to slide sideways a bit when making high energy lateral movements, which are the three primary reasons why I eventually got the Skora Form.

The Phase is an unbelievably comfortable shoe to walk and run in... after a really long walk your feet are only a little sore. A ten mile walk in these shoes is like a five mile walk in the shoes I used to use to explore cities, gardens, and the like, and the Phase is my favorite shoe to wear at home. If you are not planning on carrying a lot of weight and do not need protection from sharp or abrasive objects contacting the side of the foot, the Phase is a superb shoe, especially in hot or humid weather. Just try to avoid brushing against sharp twigs, as the mesh upper of the Phase can catch the tip of the twig.

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