As the minimal/barefoot movement gains momentum and traction it seems every shoe maker is jumping at the chance to get in on it. K-Swiss has now thrown their hat into the ring ... well, they are about to. Introducing the K-Swiss Blade Foot. Here are some official specs:
- Profile: A zero heel lift running shoe that promotes natural foot strike. 8.0oz, 226.79g
- Midsole/Outsole: Blade-Foot zero lift cushioning.
- Upper: A minimal and supportive lightweight upper constructed with Air Mesh.
The Blade Foot won't be out until early 2012, but I got my hands on an advance pair. Follow me after the jump to take a peek.
While my gym isn't officially sponsored by K-Swiss, we do have a tight relationship with them. Their corporate headquarters is about a mile away, and four of their executives are members of our classes. And this is how I got an advance look at the K-Swiss Blade Foot shoes.
Having said all that, I am not on their payroll, and I will give you my honest opinion of these shoes, just like every other pair I have written about for Birthday Shoes.
After seeing so many garishly colored and strikingly odd-looking minimal shoes this last year (like the canary-yellow KomodoSports and Pumpkin-orange Minimus Trails or soon-to-be-released orange Merrell Road Gloves) it was shocking to see the all black-and-white K-Swiss Blade Foot. Clean and simple, and very different from what we expect from a minimal shoe. Right out of the box, I liked the aesthetics. Simple, clean lines, and basic, understated colors. Nice change.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Blade Foot shoe is K-Swiss’s first foray into the “minimal/barefoot” market, and they are jumping in feet first (pun-intended) with a zero-drop shoe, right out of the gate. I was unable to get the total sole thickness from my contact, but I will try to add that into an update shortly. I can tell you that in my size the shoe weighs about 8 ounces.
The midsole and outsole are comprised of several K-Swiss proprietary materials including their Superfoam midsole, AOSTA II rubber outsole and GuideGlide. They are definitely a little thicker and more cushiony than most of you will be used to at this point, but if you’re just discovering the world of minimalist footwear, the K-Swiss Blade Foot may be a good “training wheels” option to ween you off padded soles slowly and comfortably—the Blade Foot certainly has much less padding than say traditional running shoes or the Nike Free.
Take my opinions with a grain of salt here. I get very broad with my “test drives” because I have to be. All the shoes I have written about are put through a complete CrossFit battery of tests, and not just traditional running (For more about CrossFit and minimalist footwear, read the full article here).
I got in some straight all-running workouts in the Blade Foots, and provided you are a forefoot striker, these hold up well. They aren't too heavy, and they have a zero heel-drop, and a somewhat liberal toe box. The stiffness of the sole isn't ideal, but it's not bad either. I found running in them to be quite comfortable, and I didn’t notice much of a change in my gait, if any.
In CrossFit, it’s a different story. In that world these shoes are less than perfect. They are good for some things, but bad for others. Strangely, in workouts with lots of jumping or cutting movements (double-unders, box jumps, burpees, suicides) they caused severe cramping across my arches. I thought that was odd, especially since they are just fine for plain old running. My best guess is after three years of minimal shoes, my foot is stronger and more active than this shoe will allow, and my toes are fighting the sole to flex and grab at the floor as I jump and land.
I didn't try this, but I can tell you right now, these will not hold up well against a climbing rope. The Superfoam of the midsole will disintegrate on your way down. As I said, I didn’t try it yet, but I can tell you that my business partner ruined a different pair of shoes that way. His pair had the same materials in the sole, and just one climb, that’s all it took.
For anything else I tried, they worked just fine. Under an extremely heavy load you might notice a slight sole-squish, but it didn’t bother me. They are a good, comfy standing and walking around shoe, which is mostly what teaching CrossFit consists of. I demonstrate/explain, and then I stand around and yell and motivate. Pretty fun.
All in all, it's a good shoe, but not a great shoe. I feel much the same about this shoe as I did about the first Nike Free. It's a good start, and they are on the right track, but they have a fair amount of work to do. Which brings me to ...
CONFIDENTIAL, HUSH HUSH, AND SECRET STUFF (the good news)
After playing with these shoes for a week I went and had a sit down with an anonymous source from high up within K-Swiss. Essentially, I told them my thoughts, I showed them the Birthday Shoes CrossFit Guide and explained in great detail exactly what we are looking for, and how they can grab our attention as a market.
This person politely listened to all I had to say, smiled a knowing smile, and told me they agreed that this shoe isn't exactly the right shoe for the CrossFit market. He reassured me that something a lot like the fantasy shoe I describe is in the “pipeline” already and I will be receiving wear-testing pairs in spring of 2012.
So, the good news is they know what we want, and they’re already on it, and something very exciting should be in my hot little hands to tell you about soon enough. I was also told of some of the innovative tricks they have up their sleeve, and it should be interesting. More than that, I cannot say just yet, but pretty exciting stuff.
As I said, this is a good shoe. If you're only major shoe hang up is heel-drops and total shoe weight, these are very good. I would also say for someone slowly weening off of marshmallow shoes, this would be a good first step. But if you're a veteran Vibram FiveFingers guy or gal, or interested in ground feel at all, these are not the shoe for you.
Look for the K-Swiss Blade Foot to hit stores in early 2012. As of the time of this writing the MSRP will be $90. Actually, it looks like a white/blue pair may already be available ...