Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Announcement and an Even Quicker Review

My friends, lend me your ears, for I have something of a disclaimer that now takes effect. It hasn't affected my product reviews up to this point, and it will not in the future, but in the spirit of complete transparency, I feel it is only right to tell all of my readers that I recently became a Skora Brand Ambassador. What does that mean? It means that, amongst other things, I now share a responsibility to grow the brand. Will this affect my reviews? Absolutely not. I will continue to review without bias, however, I felt it was only fair to let all of you know. Take it as you will. It's no coincidence that I'm also going to use this announcement to springboard into my review of the Skora Phase. So without further ado, here it is:

For those that don't know, let me give a quick recap: Back in late April, I was about to ditch the minimalist movement and go back and try to find a decent cushioned shoe. After burning out on the New Balance Minimus line, as well as various other shoes that I never ended up buying, I was going to give Nike Pegasus another go. I discovered Skora, a premium minimalist brand in Portland, Oregon, that has a slogan that resounded: Run Real. Since then, it's become my mantra. I've digressed. Long story short, I bought a pair of their Forms, a premium minimal shoe with a premium price, $180. However, the price was well worth it. Not only are the shoes close to perfect, they also lasted me over 1,000 miles. Seeing how the Brooks PureFlow 2 lasted 350 and cost ninety dollars, you can do the math and figure out that these shoes are pretty well worth the cost.

Fast forward to August. I discovered that the sole was separating from the upper, unfortunate, but hardly unexpected after 1,075 miles. I needed shoes and I needed them fast. I went back to looking through Skora's lineup. Additionally, I inquired about become a brand ambassador for them. Skora came through in a big way and sent me two pairs of shoes and a sweet gig as an ambassador. The first shoe I'm reviewing is the Phase. Why the Phase? My thinking is simple: Skora's shoe comparison chart lists their Base model, the other pair that was sent to me, as very similar in ride characteristics to the Form. Having run in that pair for quite a while, I figure it would be nice to switch it up and try something different.

The Phase is like the Form's younger, and better looking cousin, at least in my opinion. It's a slimmed down version, weighing in at 7.2 ounces vs 8.2 for the Form. It also is slightly more flexible, according to the comparison chart and has better breathability, thanks to the mesh upper. It's also the younger brother to the Core, which is the same shoe with a leather upper, and retails for $150.
The Phase. Picture courtesy of OptimalRun.com
Now to my impressions. The first thing I noticed upon putting them on and heading out the door for an easy shake-out run was that it felt a heck of a lot like the New Balance Minimus MV10v2 that I have previously reviewed. If you recall it, I wasn't exactly a fan. The idea was solid, but the fit was lacking. The ride feels a lot like the Minimus, but the upper is far less constricting of my wide feet. Additionally, the asymmetric lacing is nearly identical to the Form, and continues to offer hot spot free running, truly a blessing on long run Sundays. The shoe is designed with a no-sew upper, so it can be worn barefoot, but I've found that the inside heel like to rub, so I wear socks with them. In the future, I'd like to see the heel of the shoe lowered a bit so it's not so high up my ankle and have a polyester backing, which has slightly stretchy properties, but good durability. Just a thought, thought it may not be practical to execute. While the mesh may not end up being as durable as the goat leather upper of the Form, I can still bet the house that there will still be tread on the sole of the shoe come (at a minimum) 600 miles, just like the Form, since they share the design.
The Skora Phase is available at www.skorarunning.com and retails for $110, which puts it within the competitive price range for most decent running shoes on the market. My verdict: Minimal bliss with less impact on the wallet than the $180 Form. Run on, Run Real!


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