Barefoot and minimalist runners are a tough crowd to market to. The whole purpose of their outdoor activity is to renounce supportive, high tech shoes and accessories, and focus on the art form of running purely. However, even those who prefer to run, walk, hike, and generally exist without traditional footwear still require protection from the elements.
Skinners offers a radical new product as a solution. Their new ultralight footwear has the best of both worlds – it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all, but your feet are completely protected from the environment around you. Are they worth giving a shot for those who prefer to go barefoot? Do they really protect your feet from usually painful terrain? We put them to the test to bring you the answers you need.
When you first receive your pair of Skinners, be prepared for them to feel, well, light. If you’re not someone who ordinarily uses minimalist footwear or barefoot running shoes, they’re going to look like and feel like socks. Don’t let the simplistic design fool you. Skinners can take a beating. The anti-abrasive double layer that coats the sole of Skinners is made to withstand stomping on glass and miscellaneous Legos, and it holds up under pressure. The sole of Skinners are also designed to be completely waterproof, making an accidental misstep into a puddle a non-issue.
The convenience factor of the design is also worth noting. Skinners only weigh 2.8 ounces, making them an incredibly lightweight and convenient option for those who are looking to cut down on bulk. Additionally, because of their sock-like design, they’re completely portable. Skinners come with their own carrying pouch, but you can also roll them up and stuff them in a zippered pocket if you’re on the go.
Skinners are marketed as being for much more than just barefoot running. With high-tech cooling viscose threading, mesh ventilation zones, and antibacterial yarns containing pure silver, they’re a conveniently lightweight alternative to clunky shoes at the gym, or even heavy hiking boots. The antibacterial yarns, in particular, open up the ability to use Skinners in virtually any environment. Knowing your feet are going to be protected from germs while walking through an airport terminal, for example, gives you peace of mind while you’re enjoying the comfort of wearing next-to-nothing footwear.
The ultralight footwear offers a lot of benefits, and their portability opens up the ways in which they can be used.
That being said, there are some downsides to the incredibly streamlined design behind Skinners. Although they’re a physically attractive footwear, their anti-abrasive soles tend to cling to virtually everything. From dirt to dog hair, they’re tough to keep clean, which is tricky for an outdoor adventurer. Skinners are advertised as being three-season footwear, which makes sense as their design isn’t cold-weather friendly. This poses a problem for barefoot runners and minimalist footwear subscribers in cool-weather climates, unless they’re willing to completely keep their running indoors on the treadmill.
Aesthetically, Skinners are simple and streamlined, which is appreciated in comparison to the sporty, rugged appearance of their nearest competitor, the Vibram FiveFingers. Skinners come in a variety of color options, but their primary color is always black. If you’re keeping up the comparison to Vibram FiveFingers, the design behind Skinners doesn’t feature individual toe sections. Despite the argument that Vibram FiveFingers’ individual toe-design more closely mimics the barefoot experience, Skinners are more comfortable for those of us who don’t like the feeling of having each individual toe encased, and allows for a much freer feeling.
Performance while active
Skinners hold up during a wide range of activities. The first thing you notice is that no matter what terrain you’re on, your foot never experiences discomfort. From rocky trails while hiking with the dogs, to the sleek (but admittedly germ and sweat covered) gym floor, you never feel exposed or like you’re running the risk of hurting yourself by stepping on a stray sharp or rough object.
Running in them was comfortable and wasn’t accompanied with any pain after the fact. The anti-abrasive soles protect feet from multiple threats – be it rain puddles, gravel, or uneven trails. If you’re someone who isn’t experienced with barefoot or minimalist running, take it slow. A mile or two on fairly even ground is a good starting point. You wouldn’t want to risk injury by forcing your muscles to do something they’re not used to, and absorbing all of your body weight with every stride without the added cushion of a traditional shoe is certainly a sensation you have to adapt to. However, Skinners are so incredibly simple in their design, it makes it easy for you to feel exactly how your body is doing under the strain of physical activity and respond accordingly.
Skinners also fared well during non-running sports – like yoga, Pilates, HIIT workout classes, weight lifting, and cycling. They are decidedly non-slip, an added benefit to the material that creates an anti-abrasive barrier for the soles of your feet, which makes them incredibly convenient and comfortable to wear during movement exercises that require your full focus and balance. Because they’re designed to mimic the barefoot experience, you can evenly distribute your body weight onto your feet without being hindered or misled by the cushion support of a traditional shoe. You’ll notice that this allows for a much more freeing experience, all without the added worry of injuring a bare foot.
Skinners are advertised as being more than just a barefoot or minimalist running footwear option, and you can see why as soon as you put them on. They’re comfortable to walk around in, and provide more protection than your average sock.
Skinners offers a radical new product as a solution.
We wore them driving, in the airport, at a restaurant, at the office, and around the house. They’re simple enough that their design doesn’t call attention to itself, and frankly they’re infinitely more comfortable than binding boots or shoes – especially when you’re used to spending a long day in uncomfortable footwear.
There’s the added benefit of Skinners being anti-odor, as well as antibacterial, which means you can walk around in places where you’d never dream of going barefoot, like the airport, in Skinners, providing you the next-best thing to a fully barefoot and natural experience. Another advantage is the portability that Skinners offer. If you wear traditional (read: uncomfortable) shoes, hiking boots, or other kind of footwear out into the world, it’s easy to pack Skinners along to switch into later in the day. The anti-odor design means they won’t stink up your gym back or briefcase, and they’re small enough to tuck into a side pocket or zipper pouch in a jacket.
Skinners are still linked to Indiegogo for purchasing, which means that they have to abide by the Indiegogo refund policy. Now that the campaign has ended, refunds have to be discussed with the campaigner directly.Our Take
Skinners provides an interesting alternative to traditional footwear for those seeking a barefoot or minimalist experience. The ultralight footwear offers a lot of benefits, and their portability opens up the ways in which they can be used.
Is there a better alternative?
The DT Accessory Pack
Skinners closest competitor is without a doubt Vibram FiveFingers. Vibram has dominated the barefoot and minimalist footwear scene in recent years, providing several options for a wide variety of buyers. However, personal preferences between Vibram FiveFingers and Skinners boils down to a few factors – aesthetics, design, and pricing. Skinners are significantly less expensive than alternative options Vibram offers, and they provide a more versatile and portable option. For those who don’t like the feeling of having each individual toe separated within their minimalist footwear, Skinners are the clear winner. For those looking for a little more support, Vibram FiveFingers have a stronger sole with grips.
All that being said, Skinners provide something that Vibram FiveFingers do not – an experience that’s much closer to being bare footed. At their price point, they’re the best option you’ll find.
How long will it last?
Skinners are incredibly durable, and because they’re designed without adhesives they’re less likely to fall apart. However, like all footwear, you’re going to put them through the ringer with regular use – especially if you run in them or use them for other rigorous physical activities. The only way they could possibly be damaged is if you wore them out, which would take a long time. They’re designed to last.
Should you buy it?
Skinners are a good buy for someone who’s looking for a versatile footwear that provides a minimalist experience. Whether you’re a barefoot runner, or just someone who doesn’t like walking around in binding traditional shoes all the time, these are an excellent option. They’re portable, antibacterial, anti-odor, anti-abrasive, and comfortable. You shouldn’t buy these if you’re looking for a footwear with a little bit more support, or if you experience shin or knee problems as Skinners won’t provide you with the cushioning you need during both physical activity and your day today.