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Run To You

Skora CORE soleSKORA_SS13_CORE-mens-single_961

Running Shoe Review: Skora Core

Is the Skora Core simply a visual work of art, or a beauty on the feet and on the road?

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 back, 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 initial 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.

Initiallly 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, the Core 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 shoe. 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 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.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The Skora Core retails for $155.00.

This article earlier appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-skora-core/

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Cloud Nine

ON Cloudrunner 2013 (4)

Running Shoe Review: On Cloudrunner 2013

Does the updated version of the On Cloudrunner provide a cloud-like ride, or does it offer other strengths?

Years ago a shoe was sold that was a delight for natural heel-strikers such as I am. That shoe was the classic Nike Air Pegasus with the rugged polyurethane heel. The “poly” heel was virtually indestructible and insured a solid heel plant with every step; it offered a consistent reward for a certain type of runner. That shoe was also blessed with an extremely flexible, blown rubber forefoot.

Running shoe construction is different these days and heel striking is something that is going out of favor. Thus, we have lowered heel running shoes and seemingly softer, and less durable, materials in the rear. Some running shoe companies seem to have adopted a goal of transforming heel strikers into mid-foot and forefoot landers.

With this as background, it was a surprise to run in this year’s edition of the On Cloudrunner, a shoe “engineered in Switzerland.” It’s a different type of running shoe, as is apparent when you look at the 15 Cloud Tec elements — or lugs, on the outsole. These lugs (smaller and softer in front, larger and firmer in the rear) are meant to absorb both vertical and horizontal shock. Despite the hollowness of the construction, the lugs offer Nike Air-like (or Zoom Air-like) protection against external forces — forces like concrete and asphalt.

My test pair, provided by On, came in an Anthracite and Methyl color combination, one that I would describe as dark gray and turquoise. Perhaps because of its Swiss roots, the shoe presents a message of being seriously functional rather than frivolous. No doubt some will find it to be too European/industrial looking — like an athletic shoe you would find at Ikea, if they sold such items; however, On does offer a striking 7.9 ounce Cloudracer flat for those who desire a flashy shoe.

The Cloudrunner is a mid-weight shoe at 11.5 ounces and despite being a neutral shoe, it offers some stability. I found it (a half-size up from walking shoe size) to be somewhere between medium and narrow with a uniquely-angled toe box that provides plenty of room for toe wiggling. The toe box is exemplary in being extremely flexible.

Two sets of laces, one in Anthracite and one in Methyl, come with the Cloudrunner. The laces stay tied. The wide-apart lacing pattern means that the shoe does not feel tight while you are jogging along. (I generally dislike running shoes with this type of lacing pattern but it did not present any issues this time around.)

This is not a shoe in which to spend much time walking. As with Newton running shoes, the outer sole lugs make walking feel quite awkward, and there are far more lugs on the Cloudrunner than on a pair of Newtons. To its credit, the Cloudrunner — the motto of which is, “I make concrete easy” — provides a good ride on concrete and an even better one on asphalt. This shoe, in fact, was seemingly made for running on asphalt; the Cloudrunner consistently maintains its stable and protective characteristics. I’m less sure of the notion that runners will experience the “running on a cloud” feeling with this model, instead they may find it to be firm.

The Cloudrunner midsole is built of a high quality EVA and it is likely to be extremely durable. Heel strikers will joyfully find that the heel — supported by the largest external lug — is firm and stiff. It may be the closest shoe to the classic Pegasus in terms of delivering a tenaciously solid heel plant.

The Cloudrunner is a trainer that would seem to be perfect for mid-range to long-distance runs, and it should perform quite competently as an event day racer, from a 5K to the half-marathon distance. I wish I had had these shoes on my feet when I ran my first half-marathon. And the second.

For most runners, these shoes should get the job done. For heel strikers, the party’s on at On!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

The On Cloudrunner 2013 retails for $139.00. This article first appeared on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-on-cloudrunner-2013/

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