Friday, June 7, 2013

Falling in love again.

Making Birmingham fun and exciting.
Not as easy as it seems
I have a long standing policy of not doing shoe reviews. It's not as if I don't want to, but this blog is about me and not what I have on my feet; I am in the lonnnng process of developing a review site, for when I get time and motivation - so far I am about 2 years behind. I have only one shoe review I have posted here and that was my first love - shoe love that is.  The Merrell Pace Gloves were my go to shoe for such a long time; so much so, that they have the honour of being the first pair of runners I had worn out. I used them for everything, shopping, running, you name it - well almost everything, there are some things a girl has to keep secret. ;)

When I break my tradition, it's not done lightly. Before I start, I will state, these shoes were given to me as a tester. However, I have had a few freebies in the past, but this is one of the few occasions I have decided to post a review here. So, you will probably get the idea, I like these a lot.

When I left Canada I had to clear out my closet and make decisions. You know the ones - should I ship the PVC cat-suits, chains and whips? Where to rebury the bodies? Oops, did I say that out loud? I am joking *cough* honestly. ;)

I mean decisions about shoes. There were three piles of shoes: shoes to carry, shoes to ship and, shoes to donate. With the Merrell Pace Gloves being the one shoe that had to go to shoe heaven. Okay, the Merrell Mary Janes had to be laid to rest too, but that was because of the disastrous, impromptu trail run I had with my son and the large mud, poop pile I had accidentally run through. No amount of cleaning fluid were going to get those puppies smelling sweet again. So they were laid to rest with the Pace Gloves.

So, as I placed my circa 2011 New Balance Minimus into the donate pile -along with the motion control clodhoppers I had worn once in my young and naive days- and boxed up my Luna's and Merrell Trail gloves (wide) to ship along with about ten other pairs, I took a gamble. I placed the (at the time) new Skora Forms and the VivoBarefoot Breatho's into my suitcase. Before you mention, yes, I have a lot of running shoes. Haven't you heard of the irony of the barefoot runner blogger?

The Breatho's were my tried and tested technical trail shoes. To date, I haven't found a pair of minimalist trail shoes as good as these. The gamble was in the Skora's.

They had been in my possession for about two weeks before my move back to the UK from Canada -given to me by David and Kyle at Skora- and I hadn't tested them enough to see whether they were a winner. These were going to be the only road shoes I could wear for three months as our shipment came across the Atlantic - missing the storm 'Sandy' by hours. We had a few days of panic there, as our worldly possessions left NYC about 36 hours before the storm struck. I mean, where would be able to find fluffy handcuffs in the UK? Scary thought!

The Skora's were going to be the only shoes I could wear over the British winter. These were the only shoes, I would be able to use as I sought out the safe trails. Until my family had settled permanently then I would be road running - a lot!! The Skora's had better live up to everything I had heard about.

Oh boy, did they fulfil their brief. That's not boy briefs - behave guys!!

As I ran over the icy canal paths in urban Birmingham, they gave me a fun and wild ride only bettered by my homespun running aqua booties. (And fun and wild is something Urban Birmingham does not have a world-wide reputation for). As I ran through easy, muddy trails, they scrubbed up nicely. I concede that I didn't try them on technical trail, but I am well aware that road shoes do not tackle unkempt mountain passes - that's what the VivoBarefoot Breatho's were for. Even the Merrell Road Gloves failed on very wet and slippy, technical trail. Luckily I survived that foolhardy test without the need to call the mountain rescue team - it was a close call.

They kept my feet warm and as I am a Raynud's sufferer, warm feet are as essential as Doctor Who on a Saturday evening - When it doesn't happen, you are numb and senseless. As I ran longer, the Skora's, like your old slippers, were just more and more comfortable.

As our cold winter was replaced by our cold spring, they kept performing until... I broke my back - well, slipped a disc. This wasn't a running injury - can you slip a disc running? Nope, this was a, 'we now live in a Victorian brick house which is determined that occupants should not use hammer drills without consequences'. My new best friend -my hammer drill who I named 'Bernard'- was not as nice as it claimed to be on the box. So, the last few months have been a little haphazard in my running. But whenever I felt the urge to attempt to run like a broken snail, the Skora's were the shoe I picked up.

The long delay in getting my back diagnosed -welcome to the NHS, still better than no healthcare-meant I was trying everything to keep moving. I even went as far as to buy a pair of 6mm heel-toe drop New Balance shoes, with some squishy foam - the ultimate 'transition' shoe *shudder*. My soul -or is that sole?- did go down a few dollars on that purchase. Yet, the Skora's were still the shoe that seemed to cause as little discomfort as possible.

A fairly impressive write-up so far, but that is not enough to qualify for 'love' status in my book. I don't go for 'one-trick' ponies. I need a relationship that fulfils all of my needs. Oh er misses! So, what was the clincher?

I am doing it right now. No, not the clincher -which sounds like a strange position in Pilates- I am standing. I am standing and walking and sitting. I am not in my running gear, but in the coffee shop waiting for a friend. I am in shorts and a coat - Did I mention the weather here sucks? I am wearing make-up (another shocker), and I don't smell of post-run sweat. The reason I love the Skora Forms, are due to the fact I can wear them anywhere at anytime. The leather and the styling mean that if I want to put them with day-to-day clothes, they are smart enough to do it. If I want to go to the store, they are comfy enough to last all day. If I want to go for a run, I can do that too. If its cold, they keep my feet warm. If its warm, they don't rub, so I can wear them sock less -a feat (get it, feat? Feet, feat? No?) that only the Merrell Pace gloves have succeeded in. If they get mucky, they are easy to clean. For ninety-five percent of the time, these shoes deliver. Okay, what about the other five percent? Name me one shoe in your collection that you can permanently wear come rain or shine? In the gym and on the school run? One that you can wear to a restaurant as well as running around those easy forest trails on a cold day? Yep, you can't.

Oh and as a bonus, there is no stink. Well I haven't suffered from it yet. My Vibram's were banned from the house due to their 'pong'. My Merrell's had to be aerated occasionally. Yet, after eight months or near constant wear, my Skora's still smell as fresh as, well, a pair of new shoes that have just come out of the box.

The only situation I haven't managed to test these shoes in, is how they stand up to the height of summer. Some have said that they are very warm, some say the goat leather doesn't cause a problem. As the British summer looks like just that; a British Summer; I am not sure if and when I would get to test that out. As of yet -the first week of June- we have managed a top daytime temperature of about 18 degrees Celsius. That's about 65 degrees for my North American friends. Not exactly sweaty weather. Maybe the Skora Base or Phase may be better, although you may suffer the unfortunate stink problem. I can't comment as I don't know - but it's something to consider.

So, yes, I admit it. I am in love. I have a new shoe-affair. There is another rival to my affections. Just don't tell my family, they may get jealous.

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