Skinners are a revolutionary minimal sockshoe. They are described by Skinners as a ‘The ultimate pocket footwear designed for all your adventures, travel and sports. Minimal. High-tech. Anti-Odour. Durable. Awesome.” Backing up this claim Skinners won a Red Dot design award in 2017 and their crowd funding campaign through Kickstarter raised over US $650 000 with an initial goal of just US $10 000. It was an impressive beginning for this fledgling brand.
Skinners list the uses as fitness, yoga, camping, hiking, running, office, roller blading or simply anywhere. They are designed as a minimal all-purpose footwear alternative. This review is aimed at Skinners purely from a running perspective.
Since they became popular in the minimal scene I have been very interested to use and try Skinners. They are an intriguing product and can’t be described as a shoe and offer more protection than simply a sock.
Prior to trying this product I had reservations on a couple of points.
- Longevity – How could these ‘socks’ withstand constant running on hard surfaces and the ‘sole’ remain intact?
- Structure – As a sock becomes worn they stretch, would Skinners stretch and lose structure and comfort?
I wanted to make sure I gave them a good test, running over many different surfaces and test them out as a pure running footwear alternative.
To look at Skinners are simply a sock with a rubbery granular coating over the sole of the sock. The sole is thicker than I had expected. On first wearing they are exactly like a sock and the sole coating offers no rigid structure at all. For this reason the running experience in Skinners is quite different.
Without any rigid structure under the foot the foot can feel everything under foot. The running experience with Skinners is very similar to completely barefoot running, however the protection offered, however minimal does provide enough protection. Running in Skinners is very successfully over almost all terrain.
I tested Skinners over road, trails both hard packed dirt and rocky single trail and also on the beach and both soft and hard sand. Over all surfaces the Skinners were acceptable, over rocky trails they didn’t quite give enough protection for the runner who isn’t already running regularly completely barefoot on rough terrain.
One of my favourite quotes regarding barefoot running is from ‘Born to Run’ author Chris McDougall who says ‘The more minimal you are the more aware you are.” Skinners certainly fit into this category and give you the awareness of everything under foot. Most of the time this is a good thing as it gives you feel of the ground and a very natural barefoot running feel.
After running in Skinners regularly over the past 6 weeks the longevity is certainly adequate. I have run so far just over 100km in them and given them a thorough test. As I expected in a short period of time the rubbery granular sole started to come off the sole directly on the foot impact points. This doesn’t pose any problem as it is natural wear of the sole and happens to all running footwear. The rubber sole of a shoe takes longer to wear, however is much more rigid. The sole coming away doesn’t deteriorate further with more running and for the 100km I’ve run has maintained similar wear to even after 2-3 runs.
Only very recently has the sole started to crack in one position directly under the ball of my foot, but only on one of the Skinners. From my experience I believe the Skinners will continue to wear with more miles run in them but overall the longevity expected is similar to most traditional running shoes.
However, if you are buying Skinners as your primary running footwear and want 1000km+ from them you may be disappointed. Overall I believe Skinners will offer fairly good longevity and value for money.
My other reservation was whether Skinners would lose structure and stretch like socks tend to do after a longer period of time. I was very impressed that they have not altered in structure at all in the time of run with them.
One of the few negatives I have found is after a few runs they can become smelly and require washing. They can easily be machine washed, which I have done 3-4 times following the care instructions. This has also not contributed to them losing any structure and this reservation was completely unfounded.
Skinners are quite a thick sock which may be another reason why they hold their structure so well. However, running in Skinners late in the Australian summer the feet quickly become quite hot. They are much better suited to mild or cool weather, which certainly make sense as a barefoot running alternative. Stay barefoot in summer and wear the sock shoes in winter perhaps.
Who should use Skinners?
From a pure running point of view Skinners are not for every runner. If you have not transitioned to run in minimal shoes or barefoot they are probably not for you. Yet.
If you have run for a period of time without injuries barefoot or in minimal shoes these are for you. They are perfect for the runner who believes in running barefoot but wants the protection from the elements of having something between you and the ground. They give a very natural barefoot experience and are excellent for this type of runner.
If you have run in minimal shoes and transitioned to zero drop running then these could be a great footwear to add to your arsenal. They may not be your go to primary running footwear but they are a great asset to have to add variety to your footwear options.
If you run in traditional shoes and haven’t transitioned to any barefoot or minimal style footwear Skinners could be your ticket to initiate change. They will give you a perfect introduction to barefoot running and may kick start your barefoot running journey.
Skinners are a pure barefoot running footwear option that gives the runner enough protection from harsh surfaces without inhibiting the feet’s movement. They are a very good minimal running option for most surfaces. Skinners are a product very much suited to a colder climate and for a barefoot runners winter footwear, they are however quite hot in a warm climate.
I’m satisfied that Skinners will give longevity equal to most traditional running shoes that have a much larger price tag. After regular use and repeated machines washes Skinners keep their structure and don’t stretch out of shape.
Skinners are a viable running option for anyone experienced or considering barefoot running. Whilst they won’t be my primary running footwear for training or racing they will certainly find a place in my footwear rotation for the foreseeable future.