Sunday, December 7, 2014

Skora Fit Review: 'Fit but You Know It!'

"I think those are the ugliest shoes you've ever worn." My wife was looking at me as if I were offering her a piece of cake that I'd just scraped off the floor—confused that I'd present such a thing and appalled by its appearance. She was reacting to the new Skora Fit I'd just pulled from the spiffy, blue shoe box. "I'd be embarrassed to wear those outside, if I were you," she emphasized with finality.

Technically, I hadn't put them on yet.

I almost always have this song in my head when I talk about the Fit! How can I not?!?!

It would be difficult to confuse a Skora shoe with another brand's running footwear. The young company continues to create unique and aesthetically conspicuous products that are hard to ignore. And, whether you think them off-putting or post-modern perfection, Skora shoes pretty much require you to have an opinion about their appearance. And, I'll opine; oh yes I will!

Permit me to confess straightaway that I admire and appreciate Skora's attention to design. As Stan puts it in his review, "I like shoe designs that don't quite fit the mold." The Skora designers obviously care about how their products look. And, they make no pretense that their inspiration draws from pure functionality or traditionalism. It's intriguing to watch a company evolve along with its product.

In spite of my personal appreciation for conscientious design, my feelings about specific Skora shoes tend to be complex. [Leaning toward you and whispering] It's just that, sometimes, when I wear a pair of my Skoras, I feel a little underdressed for a dance party that I'm about to attend. 'Cept I don't dance. Or party. Or attend things.

Good thing they're running shoes!

As you might infer from that previous paragraph, I, like my wife, had some initial misgivings about the appearance of my new Fits. And, like any good judge of fashion, I conferred with Internet friends in order to further research the degree of supposed ugliness my silver Fits exhibited.

My crack team of running shoe consultants conveyed opinions ranging from "Do not like!" to "I'd wear them if they were comfortable," to "Shiny! I like!" One creative shoe expert suggested that I "pimp up" the shoes with a sharpie doodle or two. Hmm...

Overall, then, the responses to my extensive research were on the positive side. So, I reasoned that Dear Wife and I might be in a group of outliers who simply have a strong aversion to silver shoes and such, which is pretty obvious; now that I think about it. I'm not a flashy fellow. Rather, I tend to like earth and fruit tones (yeah, fruit) in lieu of metals. So, I got over my personal tastes and acted like the goddamn serious runner blogger that I am!

First off, I rationalized the practicality of a silvery upper by imagining that the shoes would be incredibly reflective in low light. But, no, that's not really the case. This particular silver only makes the shoe as bright as white shoes in dim conditions. It's not like I'm wearing those glowy Phase-X shoes. But, there are some well-placed reflective overlays on the piping around the lace area and on the heel. So, it's not as if you're running without any reflectivity whatsoever.

I further considered that the 3D-printed dot pattern/gradient on the upper served to make the material feel more flexible. And, that might actually be true. But, 3D printing freaks me out a little. So, I don't want to devote too much pretend consideration to that feature.

Anyway, you see the shoe. It is available in other colors. Decide for yourself whether the design is irksome or awesome.

More Than That

Now, I know what you're thinking: You see that I've devoted several paragraphs to the Fit's outward appearance. And, you wonder if I am avoiding a review-worthy description of my experience and thoughts about wearing the shoes, because, maybe (perhaps) I haven't actually worn them—much like one would do when put on the spot in a high school English class: Like, maybe the kid didn't have time to read all of Henderson the Rain King last week. So, when the teacher asks about such-and-such, the kid does his best to fake an answer by describing how he would feel if so-and-so did that to him.

Or, maybe you think that I'm being passively condescending in the way that a certain reviewer at Spin magazine tersely described the font and layout of a book when he was supposed to be imparting thoughts on Jewel's poetry. (Yeah, I'm that old. And, my memory is like that)

Well, well, dear reader, you are wrong if you think such things (though, I dont blame you, because I would totally do that stuff in certain situations).

First of all, this is just a really long-ass review. (Sorry)

Second, I've actually worn the Skora Fit(s) a lot! They're currently my go-to running shoes. And, I've even worn them with jeans while walking to get the mail. (Yeah, the neighbors saw me!)

Personal problems with the appearance aside, I was essentially won over by the obscene level of comfort these shoes imposed as soon as I laced them on my feet. Holy crap, that seamless mesh upper is the bee's knees of uppers! I'm pretty sure I have a couple of other shoes that tout a seamless upper. But, this is the only pair I give a shit about now. The Fit gets the seamless feature exactly right.

I believe the absence of structure-defining overlays contributes to the Fit's tremendously comfortable version of being seamless. For instance, the Skora Phase also has a comfy seamless upper. But, it's overlays give it a slight stiffness in contrast to the Fit's slipper-ish feel. And, while a little more stiffness is good in certain running conditions, the feet like what the feet like.

Just a heads up: The Fit might feel a bit too low-volume in the toe area at first. My big toe felt especially compressed between the shoe's upper and the insole-cushioning thing. Do not be disheartened. You just need to break in the cushioning with a run to find that the upper you feel on your big toe isn't going to be of consequence. Seriously.

I suppose the asymmetrical lacing does something to enhance that smooth-as-awesome fit over the top of my foot. Actually, I don't suppose at all—I know this, because I read it in Dr. Nick's Fit review:

I love the lateral placed laces (shoe laces cross and tie on side of the shoe as opposed to the traditional midline of the shoe) as they make the upper portion of the shoe feel very comfortable and soft without restricting the extensor tendons.

Yeah, my extensor tendons are lovin' that lacing design!

How Thick Is It?

Now, let's backtrack a moment.

Skora released the Fit, their cushiest shoe yet, quite a bit earlier this year after a bevy of articles touting the declining sales of minimal shoes littered the annals of our running-centric interweb for several months. That and the heightened interest in "maximalist", Hoka-esque shoes seemed to mean bad things for the minimalist shoe aficionado. So, when I saw the Skora PR verbiage mentioning a more cushioned Skora model, I was afraid that the company might be jumping on the maximalist bandwagon. And, I was prepared to hate it.

Imagine my relief when I inspected the Fit in real life and found that they weren't giant marshmallow shoes. Better still, the stack height was just a reasonable 16 mm, which is a comfortable stack height indeed.

Now, imagine—no, you can't. I'll just use an expletive-laden series of exclamatory sentences: I was fucking impressed that the entirety of the Fit's characteristic cushioning was implemented by fattening the fucking insole! Yeah, All that extra cushioning? It's in the goddamn insole! Those fucking geniuses!

See, the insole is removeable. And, when you remove it, you're basically wearing a insole-less Base or Form, which puts the stack height at something like 9 mm, I think.

However, the Fit wins over the Base and Form for me, because, while the platform (sole shape, etc.) is basically the same; the Fit's upper doesn't make the shoe as narrow in the toe area. So, (Dare I say?) most everyone will have room for the piggies in the Fit, especially with that insole removed.

Granted, removing such a thick insole creates quite a bit more volume in the shoe. So, if you decide to take out the insole for some of that sweet, nearer-to-the-ground sensation, you'll probably need to adjust your laces or wear some thicker socks. This isn't an issue for me, though, even with my low-volume feet. The laces do the trick.

Whether you have the insole in or out, the Fit is wonderfully flexible, which is a feature you know I enjoy. If it was just kinda flexible, I'd be less enthusiastic.

And, the flexibility is more impressive when you note the density of the midsole and outsole. Unless you've ignored Skora 'til now, you've probably read more than a few testaments to the Form's or Base's durability, Instagram posts boasting over 1,000 miles. That outsole is tough stuff. And, the Fit shares the same makeup down there.

I've run well over 250 miles in my pair. And, they're showing the kind of wear that most shoes exhibit after 100 miles. So, if you buy a pair, make sure you like the colorway, because you'll be stuck with them for a while.

Like other Skora models, the outsole's grip is superb on most running surfaces. Since the outermost material isn't a sticky rubber, you could complain about how the shoe handles on slippery, wet pavement. But, then you'd be a short-sighted whiner, because not all pavements are the same when wet. And, if Skora made the outsole of sticky stuff, it would wear out more quickly. And, then someone else would gripe about decreased durability.

No shoe is perfect. But, there are varying degrees of awesome.

Heel(ing) Thoughts

Speaking of imperfection, one fellow runner bought his first pair of Fit's and went for a 14-mile run, after which he developed a rather bad peroneal tendon issue. The runner attributes this to the Fit's rounded heel, a distinctive feature of all Skora shoes.

Sure, some of us are inclined to judge the prudence of running 14 miles in a brand new shoe on the first or second time out. But, come on, we runners are all guilty of enthusiastic carelessness once in a while. And, if you knew how comfortable the Fit is, you'd probably want to try the shoes on a longish run right away, too.

The peroneal-pummeled runner's predicament forces us to consider the strength of our tendons and muscles in the ankle area. After all, not all runners are practiced in the ways of foot stability without the aid of a stiff, level platform. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I suggest that you run more trails.

The Fit's rounded heel is meant to mimic the rounded heel of your actual foot. (I've gone over this before) And, a shoe that copies important aspects of your real foot facilitates better running form, "real running" as the Skora folks say.

If you're inclined to run in very minimal shoes, or no shoes at all, then you likely have strong lower-leg tendons and muscles. So, running in shoes with such a rounded heel will probably not be an issue for you.

But, if your shoe arsenal is comprised of footwear with the traditionally flat and flared sole, the Fit's rounded edge will seem rather different and require some learning on your part.

That's the price of breaking from tradition, though. And, what are you, some kind of traditionalist?

Basically, if this is your first pair of Skora's, keep the initial runs short. Good things come to those who wait, and all that.

Yes, the Fit Is for Running

Like many of the Skora Fit reviews out there, I say the shoe feels firm on the ground and flexible in motion. The sole and cushioned insole provide the necessary proprioception to maintain good form while giving you the confidence to step on pointy rocks.

As my testament to the Fit's go-to-ability implies, it's a fairly versatile shoe. And, I've enjoyed slow, languid jogs as well as faster fartleks in them.

Would I race in them? No, I have too many race-specific shoes to necessitate wearing the Fit for all-out running. But, that's just me. If you have one crappy pair of running shoes and this pair of Fits, I'd highly recommend racing in the Fit.

The upper is breathable, albeit not as conducive to air flow as, say, an especially meshy shoe. I wouldn't say they're hot. And, my sweat-inclined feet didn't complain any more than usual as I ran early-morning miles this past summer with a Fit on each foot. And, better still, the shoe is warmer than my other shoes in colder weather, especially while riding a bike.

If you cornered me in dark room and threatened me with violence if I didn't compare the Fit to some other brand's running shoe, I'd first shout, "Never!" Then, I'd say that the Fit reminds me of running in the Merrell Barefoot Road Glove with a little more plushness and extra comfortable upper. Then, as you looked through your tablet for my review on that shoe, I'd sneak my way out of that corner and cackle as I sprinted for the exit! Thought you had me, didn't you?

What to Get?

Like other Skora shoes, I'm wearing the Fit in a half size smaller than my standard size. So, while I wear a US men's size 12 in most running shoes, the size 11.5 Fit is the best fit for my foot.

And, finally, how 'bout that price, yo? Ninety-five dollars is a pretty sweet deal for a running shoe like the Fit. 'Course, that's only a good deal if you like the shoe. And, you won't really know if you like the shoe until you try it on.

And, so, dear reader, your future as it pertains to the Skora Fit is entirely up to you. I've imparted my wisdom, disclosed my insights, and rambled to the point of sweaty exhaustion. Feel free to ask questions in the comment area, though.

Thanks for reading!
Product provided by SKORA.


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