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Running in the Desert

Grenade posted some of these photos on our Facebook page, and we asked him if he would mind writing an article about his experiences with our shoes, especially in temps above 100 degrees!

Not too long ago, I decided to switch to more minimal running shoes.

Naturally I had my concerns, as I do not run on only one type of surface (I mostly run trails). I have the fortunate pleasure of traveling due to my work. So when I went on the hunt for my first pair of minimalist running shoes, I brought with me an enormous amount of questions.

I ended up at a small minimalist running store in Shepherdstown, WV talking to Paul Koczera; Assistant Manager at Two Rivers Treads. Paul spent about an hour with me explaining minimalist running and introducing me to several minimalist shoe options. Many years ago my career was in retail management. I understand quality when I see it. Most of the shoes Paul introduced me to just felt, well, cheap. The shoes didn’t feel of quality materials and felt poorly constructed when I would manipulate them in my hands. I’m not saying that these major name brands were no good, but with the price tag attached I just expected more.

Paul finally brought out a pair of SKORAs (which at first I assumed was some type of European shoes). The box seemed fancy so that was a good sign. When he handed me the SKORA Forms I could tell right away that the quality was top notch. I was concerned about them being leather, but Paul had the sales pitch down! He then told me the price; $185. He was surprised that I didn’t seem shocked. I must admit though, I was adamant about paying that much for a pair of new shoes. He told me to put them on and just go walk, not run, around town for a while. As soon as I put them on and walked out the door I knew that I was going to purchase them. I walked for about a mile before I came back.

The first trail I hit later that day was the C&O Canal. It’s a flat dirt trail with a mixture of rocks and gravel. The new shoes did great but that night my calves were on fire from my first minimal experience. The next day I slowed it down a bit and stayed on the asphalt roads for a couple days to retrain my running stride and cadence. I went back and ran the C&O Canal but this time headed toward the Appalachian Trail (AT). After crossing the Shenandoah River Bridge, I hit the trail that leads to the AT. This trail climbs 1100ft in less than a mile. It is rocky and nasty with multiple switchbacks. Besides being wiped out by the time I hit the AT, I was extremely pleased with the comfort and grip of the SKORA shoes. The AT at this location is mostly dirt, grass and dead leaves. I ran it for a few miles before heading back to the trail that brought me up there. On the descent I was just as pleased with the SKORAs as I was on the climb. I did make several stops along this run to check the soles of the SKORASs. I was happy to see that there was almost no sign of running on rocks. No wearing or gouges visible at all.

I then took my Skoras with me to Belize. I stayed in Belmopan for a month. If you’re not familiar, Belmopan is located in the rain forest near Mexico and Guatemala. It rained 21 out of the 30 days I was there. I hit the roads (which there are all mostly dirt) and the jungle trails with or without rain! Once again the shoes did great. They were even dry by the next day! I wore them to run repeats on the steps of the Mayan temples in Xunantunich. These steps were narrow, wet, moldy and slick. The Skoras gripped with ease.

After coming back to the states, I took them on several more trips to run. Tucson, AZ, Saint Augustine, FL, Devils Den, AR and Oklahoma City, OK…just to name a few. But the latest, and most challenging place, was yet to come; Big Bend National Park, TX.

I’m actually writing this piece for my experiences with the Skora Forms in Big Bend. Some people say I’m long winded, and yeah…maybe I am. So let me quit beating around the bush and talk about the shoes from Portland, OR and how they performed deep in the Chihuahuan Desert.

My fiancé and I decided to go to Big Bend for vacation before it got too hot, so we left in mid-May. That was a good call since the highs were only 112 degrees in the shade instead of 125! We frequent Big Bend so the heat is no shocker. During the day the rocks on the ground get so hot that if you pick them up they can burn you. Once I had a cousin go outside barefooted and received 1st and 2nd degree burns on the bottoms of her feet. You have to leave your car windows open a bit when parked so your windshield doesn’t crack. When the sun’s out, the desert is absolutely quiet. All birds, deer, javelina and even fish in the Rio Grande hide.

The only thing brave enough, or built tough enough, to make its appearance are the spiny lizards. And then there’s us…two crazy trail runners determined to get our fix. On day one we hit a short trail to try and get ourselves a little acclimated for the rest of the week.

As you real runners know, the soles are high quality but have that soft feeling to them. I wasn’t sure how they would hold up to the scorching ground heat that can easily reach well over 130+ degrees at this time of year. We took off on our first trek. The heat was, well, horrible! But we kept going. I was expecting to start feeling the heat on my feet from the ground, but after a mile I didn’t feel anything. All I felt was the top of my head burning. After mile two, there was still no discomfort from the desert ground. No more heat was coming through compared to any other shoe I’ve run in there. I did have to get used to the feel of the ground more. After all, this was my first time running minimalist in the desert.

After that short 5 mile run I was very curious to pull of the new shoes and see how they held up. I couldn’t believe that there was absolutely no heat damage or rock cuts on the soles! We then hit up Mule Ears Trail. This is a 6 mile long trail that offers absolutely no shade. The ground offered by this trail was brutal. It is extremely rocky with cactus everywhere. Most of the rocks weren’t forgiving. They were jagged chunks and the heat coming off of them was unreal.

By this point I was on a mission to see if I could damage my Forms. I felt more comfortable and confident in their ability. I wanted to push them now so I could stand at the starting line of my next trail race here in Texas and know they will perform without question. I not only wanted to see if they could handle the heat, but also the rocky terrain. The SKORAs performed superbly. The soles were virtually unmarred and the adhesive maintained its integrity. This is impressive considering that I brought with me another pair of minimalist trail shoes that are designed for the rockier type mountain trails. I decided to use these major named brand shoes for one of our days there. After running and hiking that day in the heat, I noticed that the soles had started coming apart. The adhesive couldn’t handle the heat! And these shoes only had maybe 60 miles on them, so they were still new.

So, if you have any concerns or doubts if the Skora Forms can handle the extreme heat or a rocky terrain, don’t be. They performed above and beyond my expectations in the Chihuahuan Desert under the most adverse of conditions. After a week running the desert, all I had to do was dust them off so they wouldn’t be so dirty looking in the gym today!

Thank you SKORA. I look forward to your future products!

Grenade Fiedler

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