K-Swiss has finally entered the "barefoot" shoes segment! Their first attempt at it, the zero drop K-Swiss Blade-Foot Run. Following the tradition of the very successful Blade innovation, expect some radical changes to the shoe design and how we run in them. And after thrashing it out at the recent Twilight Ultra Challenge 2012, I felt more confidence in giving it a review of my own.
Back to basics, the zero drop of the Blade-Foot Run refers to the difference in heel to toe drop. A traditional shoe will have at least 8mm to 13mm differences and with this pair, your feet will feel flattish in them. No support and minimal cushioning, the shoe's primary duty is to protect the feet from the harsh environment like the rough tarmac and pebbles.
The outsole is still based on the Blades. However, some changes were made to place the Blades in a different way to simulate a more barefoot feel and this gave even better traction than before. It felt much firmer now hence providing a more efficient and responsive propulsion with every toe-off. High wear and tear area were reinforced with Aosta II rubber compound for extra durability and I must say that the wear rate is rather impressive! The shoe's flexibility itself isn't as flexible as some other minimalist shoes out in the market. However, it was acceptable and to my surprise, it even does have a "springy" feel to it, where the shoe will flex its way back to its original form. And notice the original form of the shoe's toe box. It's curved upwards very obviously and this has really proven to help a lot with forefoot landing.
I've no problems with the fitting of the shoe. The shoe wrap up nicely on my arch, providing enough protection on my Achilles region and the toe box was wide enough to have my toes splayed. A clever design on the toe box, the area where the metatarsal meets the tarsal has been widen resulting in a more natural fit. Even the laces were asymmetrically designed to take the shape of the contour of our feet's upper.
Some of K-Swiss key features were retained in the Blade-Foot Run. The ever popular Flow Cool System to ensure fresh air entering the shoe to keep the feet cool and to dry off any moisture that may have accumulated in it. Stay tied laces, where no more worrying of laces coming undone. And finally, the pulley on the tongue and heel tab to allow fast entry and fitting of the shoe.
However, as much as I like the Blade-Foot Run, I would have prefer if Ion-Mask is implemented to allow a water repellent upper. It has become a technology I adore so much that I'm really missing it in this model. Next will be the drainage system on the outsole of the shoe. I was very surprised that it has been excluded even though the midsole is perforated. It has been a key feature in K-Swiss performance model and I can't understand the reason for its "demise". Perhaps an upgrade in the next future model.
All in all, I'm very happy overall with the new K-Swiss Blade-Foot Run and am confident enough to take it as my race shoe of choice for my upcoming Comrades Marathon 2012.
The K-Swiss Blade-Foot Run is now available at Running Lab, Tropicana City Mall Malaysia and Running Lab Singapore retailing respectively at a recommended selling price of RM399.00 and SGD159.00.