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An Interview with David Sypniewski of SKORA

We had a chance to sit down with David Sypniewski, Founder and CEO of SKORA. If you look at the running shoe landscape, then you will be hard pressed to find a company so committed to their message and to delivering on it. SKORA was born to try to solve a problem and to try to rethink the fundamental way we run. They were innovating in the area of barefoot running before anyone else and they have stayed true to it, but no one can talk to it better than David.

First off, can you tell our readers a little bit about your running background?

I caught the running bug in my early twenties. I raced quite a bit, mainly 10Ks and Halfs, and discovered a true love for running — until injury struck.

Can you talk a little about the infamous IT band injury that led to the development of SKORA. Most people don’t go design their own shoe and build a company when this happens, but you did just that.

I was completely sidelined from running with a severe ITBS injury. It was horrible. I couldn’t run for more than a few minutes before pain set in. Driving a car was uncomfortable as well. This went on for over a year and I tried everything: expensive orthotics, pat-straps, deep-tissue therapy, you name it.

Out of sheer frustration, one day I started researching holistic injury therapy and prevention methods. I stumbled upon http://barefootrunning.com and learned all about running (midfoot/forefoot) running form, barefoot running, and how the modern shoe causes heel-strike – a major cause in running related injuries in runners. The next morning, I set off on my first barefoot run on the grass. I ran 30 minutes pain-free! It was my longest run in nearly a year and I was hooked. But some days I wanted some protection from the hot pavement and sidewalks.

This was 2002, so FiveFingers or other minimal shoes did not exist on the market. I tried running in aqua shoes but they were horrible. So I started making my own “rubber running socks” by coating latex rubber on regular old socks. Five years later, I decided to build a shoe that runner’s deserve – and we launched in early 2012.

David Sypniewski from SkoraSKORA talks a lot about “Running Real” and the 3Rs, where did this thinking come from?

We wanted to simplify the “software” of a natural running style, just like we removed the unnecessary from the “hardware” that is our shoes. Our 3Rs are a play on the 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) except ours start with ‘R’ and of course relate to natural running. It’s easy to remember and practice: Reconnect, Reposition, Rhythm. Basically, Reconnect to ground feel, Reposition your feet beneath your core not in front of you, and find your Rhythm with shorter stride length and a higher turnover. (You can read more here).

How would you say SKORA shoes are truly different from other players in the market?

Three ways really:

  • Our platforms are fully curved, from heel-to-toe, which allows for your own natural foot strike/pronation to occur. Along with being zero-drop (same height heel-to-toe in the outsole) we use high-density EVA and rubber that provides better ground feel and in turn a shoe that, for most, lasts 2X-3X more miles than other shoes.
  • Our fit is anatomical. We started by designing our own lasts, made the toe box nice and wide to allow for natural toe-splay. All of our lacing is asymmetrical or offset to mirror the instep/foot. This makes for a shoe that gets out of your way.
  • Our materials and construction are first class. From the goat and sheep skin leathers, to sourcing the very best air-mesh textiles, we cut no corners in making a shoe that we believe looks and performs better.

The materials you are using to build the shoes are one place where we see a dramatic shift from other manufacturers, the use of goatskin leather for instance. How did you make the decision to go this route?

Leather is awesome. Who doesn’t like a nice pair of leather shoes? They breathe naturally, age well, and offer better value. When we looked for a performance leather, there was only one choice as far as we were concerned. The goatskin we get from Pittards UK is the very best in the world. It’s the merino wool of leather. Breathes well, doesn’t get stinky, and remains soft even after getting wet. We’re bringing leather back!

Are there any runners your shoes aren’t good for?

I’m not a foot doctor or running coach, but I firmly believe that 95% of runners can wear our shoes if they take the time to relearn to run in an all-foot (mid-foot) running style and ease into the mileage. There’s a learning curve, but one that will help you love your run for life. We’re all about better miles, not just more miles.

I’ve seen some crazy mileage numbers from runners using SKORA shoes, are you ducking the traditional “change shoes every 300 miles” mantra? How many miles can you really put on a pair?

If you accept that you don’t need tons of cushioning or structure/support in your running shoes, then you can quite frankly get as many miles out of your shoes until they fall apart. The more efficient and light you are on your feet the less you will require and want overbuilt shoes. So if you need less, you can get away with more miles from our shoes as they help empower your natural running style.

And the running industry in general, we are seeing a big upswing in non-traditional shoe manufacturers. What do you think is the catalyst for this change in the industry?

I think a lot of it has to do with an increase in entrepreneurship for sure, combined with a new generation of runners and designers wanting to buck the status quo. It’s a great time for runners!

How important is it to control your growth so you appear genuine to running while also staying competitive?

Everyone at SKORA is focused on ensuring that our shoes and message remain true to our mission and values. We’re not driven by profits as much as we are by doing the right thing by runners. If it ain’t real or honest, we won’t make it. It’s really that simple for us.

If you look five years down the road, where do you see SKORA within the athletic apparel landscape?

We’ll continue to deliver on our Love Your Run mission as we look at extending our brand into new categories. I can certainly see us crafting more shoe styles and perhaps dabbling in apparel. Keep an eye out! 😉

And lastly on the personal side, do you have that one road or trail that you think is just perfect that you would like to share with our readers?

One of my most epic road+trail mixed runs is Banff National Park, Alberta Canada. But most days I try to hit the local parks in the Pacific NW and explore new routes.

Thanks very much David, we look forward to see what’s coming from SKORA and can’t wait to check out the new TEMPO model.