LINCHPIN SERIES David Sypniewski of SKORA Running

by Editor on February 9, 2012

SKORA Running, the newest entry into the expanding universe of minimalist running shoes is already making waves, thanks to slick design, knowledgeable engineering and a driving passion for runners and running. Barefoot Running was fortunate to talk with founder David Sypniewski, a barefoot runner, marketing expert and uncompromising shoe designer.

Before we bring you the interview…a bit of their philosophy –

SKORA approaches design and performance from a practical, honest and realistic understanding of a runner’s true needs. We don’t cling to doctrine, new or old. We don’t hold ideology over practicality. SKORA is designed for the real runner, in the real world.

SKORA products are designed from a feature/benefit analysis based on common sense. It is oriented to the “why” of features rather than the “what”. Many athletic brands focus on “technology” to help a runner go faster, longer, stronger. We believe that the best technology available is the human body, and design our products to respect this. SKORA products allow the human body to function as naturally and efficiently as possible.

Rather than look for features to add, we look for features to remove. We believe that the best shoe is one that compliments the human body, and allows it to perform naturally.

Have no doubt, this is a runner’s company. Without further ado, the interview.

BR:  When did SKORA launch?

DS:  We began taking pre-orders for the BASE and FORM on January 25, 2012. We’re shipping globally, and offering free ground shipping to the lower 48 states. The shoes are scheduled to release to customers and retailers on February 22, and by March, they will be in key running stores in the US and internationally.

BR:  What was the inspiration behind SKORA?

DS:  The seed for the company was planted 11 years ago. A month before my first marathon, I got injured – my IT Band went. I didn’t race, and for the next 18 months, I couldn’t shake the injury. Even with $400 orthotics, top-of-the-line running shoes – the whole thing. But I couldn’t shake the injury. I began to get angry at the industry.

In 2002, I started my own research to learn how to fix my injury. I stumbled upon Ken Bob’s Web site. I read it and it made sense – a light, midfoot strike was the key. The following Sunday, I went on an early morning, 20 minute barefoot springtime run in moist grass.

It had been 18 months since I’d run more than five minutes without pain. It was a discovery of health, and the falsity of what I had been ‘sold’ for years.

I kept running barefoot but couldn’t always do that (environmental, etc) so I ran in aqua socks but that wasn’t ideal either. They wore out, they smelled…I looked around to find a different shoe but there was nothing available. I had a full time job, and didn’t think I could design a shoe, but tried things like putting latex on a sock to form an outsole.

In early 2007, I decided finally to embark on the process of creating my own line of shoes. I took what little money I had and began to design. It’s been a four-year journey, and here we are.

Runners deserve the best. And we want to build the best. Period.

BR: What is your background – or what was it about your background that has informed SKORA Running?

DS:  My background is in sales and marketing. I know how retailers want to be treated. I know that it’s important to be a good person, to be honest, and to be real. Personally, I love design and architecture. It applies to how I view branding in the world, and organically it feeds into how SKORA is – it is our brand signature. We cut no corners, we use the best, and we make no excuses.

BR:  What is the source of the company name?

DS:  “It’s all about the google.” It was the solution to our company name. We were focused on running words, names of bones and ligaments, etc… Then I thought about Polish, my background, and it dawned on me – “skora” but with no accent on the “o”. It means “skin” or “leather,” depending on the use. So we made it skora – like a second skin. It worked because we knew the fit and knew that we would use leather. Amazingly, we also discovered that if you drop the “a” to make it “Skor” you get the Swedish word for “shoe”.

BR:  Tell me a little about the BASE line.

DS:  It is an all-synthetic slip on style that features an X Strap over the instep for adjustability, rather than laces. It has a stitched down construction – there is no intrusive stitching inside so can be worn bare. It’s light. The Men’s size 9 is only 7.9oz.


BR:  Tell me a little about the FORM line.

DS:  This shoe is made with premium, high performance perforated Pittard goatskin and sheep skin for the uppers and liners. It also has a ceramic fiber treatment so the leather never needs conditioning, and it dries quickly and soft. There is an asymmetrical lace design for the best adjustability and fit, and it is also light. The Men’s size 9 weighs in at 8.2oz.

We want to break the misconception that leather is hot and sticky. This performance leather symbolizes a return to what is natural for our bodies – it is breathable, sustainable, and warm when you need it.

Also, our manufacturing process uses goat leather that is a bi-product of eaten livestock. Goat is a staple food industry from Africa, and we have access to the leather when the animals have been used for food. This product is sustainable and tied directly to humanity.

Both lines feature a list of key SKORA features:

  • R01 System
  • 9mm/13mm sole
  • Zero drop
  • Flexible EVA and Rubber design w/ flex grooves with proper lateral/medial design
  • Adjustable VelcroTM heel strap
  • 3M reflective materials
  • The rubber on the heel is fully rounded to mimic the shape of the actual human heel, and there is contouring like the underside of your actual foot – it mirrors the foot in the way it behaves

BR:  What’s next for SKORA?

DS:  So much. We will continually expand our size offerings with each new season release. We’re expanding our retail reach internationally; we’re adding women’s models in late July. We’ll continue to expand and improve the BASE and FORM lines, and as we push forward, we are looking at trail as our addition to the lines.

BR:  What does your free time look like?

DS:  My first response is that I have no free time. If I really think about it, when I find some time, I love to hike and ski. I love to explore new restaurants and cook wonderful, unique things with my wife.

BR:  Who inspires you?

DS: I am inspired by the late Steve Jobs. His attention to detail and his near inability to settle for anything but the best is inspiring to me. When I wonder if I’m pushing too hard, I think to him and realize that – no way can I push too hard.

Why do it if you’re not going to do it best? So make it the best. We deserve the best.

Recently a blogger called SKORA the “apple of running shoes.” I actually got choked up. It made this long journey, and all the work and sacrifice, worthwhile.

BR:  Are you running again?

DS:  Absolutely! It’s what drives us. We are runners. We’re creating for runners. SKORA is all about function. That said, I don’t have as much time as I’d like.

Release Schedule

Read the Barefoot Running review of the pre-launched SKORA men’s shoes here.

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