Years ago at the Portland Marathon Expo, I found a pair of Puma Complete Aello II running shoes. This extremely lightweight radiant yellow running flat, with Goodyear tire rubber on the heels, is a work of art. So much so that I’ve never had the heart to put them on my feet and run in them. They should be in a glass case in some type of industrial/manufacturing art and design museum.
I felt a sense of deja vu when I opened the box of new Core running shoes, provided by Skora of Portland, Oregon. These shoes are singularly beautiful in their design and manufacture. And, yes, they do look a bit like the classic flats from Puma. This time, however, I resolved to place the charcoal, black and green-tinted shoes on my feet and run in them in order to produce this report.
Skora does not call the Core a minimalist running shoe, but it is a shoe that’s designed to facilitate a mid-foot/whole foot running style. When you first stand in the shoe, it feels quite flat, especially when compared to a standard American running shoe with a raised heel. On taking the first steps in the Core, it literally feels like you’re walking in a pair of moccasin-style house slippers. This made me wonder, as an instinctive heel striker, whether the shoe would be able to provide enough support and cushioning on the streets and trails of suburbia.
Initially, I jogged in the Core on a crushed gravel road and felt the shoe to be firm—something I usually like—and supportive. After a few miles, running in this non-traditional runner felt almost innate. I think my running form, in response to the shoe, very quickly changed. In my mind’s eye, a video would have shown me adopting Deena Kastor’s flat, mid-foot, relaxed landing pattern. (The brain seems to readily determine that there’s no pay-off in this model for heel strikers, thus directing the feet to stay lower to the ground.)
On hard concrete, the Core’s ride is surprisingly cushioned. On asphalt, it feels like a pair of racing flats, meaning that you definitely feel the ground but on a short to moderate distance run, it’s not going to punish the feet. I did not expect to feel any energy return while jogging in the Core, but found it to be a nice unexpected dividend. However, I ran with the floating sockliner in place and I think that helped. Some will choose to remove the sockliner.
The Core was truly impressive when I found a hard-packed natural dirt trail. It felt as if the shoes were anticipating my every move and turn—I can only compare it to driving a Mini Cooper, knowing that you can easily drive that automobile at close to its full capacity. “If you’ve got it, use it!” The Core’s an excellent trail runner that provides the confidence a runner needs to go virtually all out on a twisty trail. (What could be more fun than that?)
I would not run in the Core on a trail consisting of medium-sized and large rocks, but that’s the only surface I would avoid in this runner. Fit wise, the Core is nice and narrow in the rear and in the mid-foot, while providing plenty of room up front. Some might find the length a bit too long—which matches up with the laces—but that’s better for retaining one’s toe nails than being too short.
I found the Core to fit a half-size larger than standard walking shoes, which is a true fit for most running shoes. The flexible and comfortable upper of the Core uses leather with sheepskin lining, so animal lovers and vegans will want to look instead at the Phase model which uses man-made materials. The men’s version of the Core weighs 8.1 ounces; the women’s version comes in at just 6.7 ounces.
The folks at Skora will urge you to transition gradually into their shoes, which is good advice. I felt a slight twinge in my dominant left heel and a bit of ankle soreness on that side after the first runs in the Core. But I had no signs of hip soreness, something that can crop up when using seemingly protective shoes that displace impact forces away from the feet and knees.
In the Core, my feet felt released to work naturally. These running shoes allow one to run in style while enhancing an organic running style. (The company’s motto is Run Real.)
The Skora Core advances the notion of running real. As attractive and distinctive as they are, they should be used on roads and trails and not displayed in a museum case.