Get the first look at four of the running shoes K-Swiss will be releasing over the next year.
Only three years ago, K-Swiss was a tennis brand poised to create a running shoe. Their first shoes had shortcomings, but their technology and philosophy has evolved greatly since then. The 2011 line centers around their unique sole material and design, and is complemented by their inventive uppers. At this week’s Trek/K-Swiss triathlon team camp in Kona, Hawaii, K-Swiss showed the four new or changed running shoes they will release in the next year. They were not yet available for test.
The Kwicky Blade-Light is a lightweight trainer/racing shoe built upon K-Swiss’ Blade-Light sole, which creates a flexible grid that can compress and recoil under the runner’s foot to provide cushioning and perhaps energy return. The medial side of the shoe has a post—a denser section of material under the arch to prevent pronation—because K-Swiss says every runner, no matter how efficient, eventually fatigues during an Ironman marathon and the feet collapse as a result. The post minimizes that collapse, but doesn’t affect runners with a neutral stride when they are fresh, because such a runner rolls past the mid-foot and supports their weight with their forefoot, according to K-Swiss.
The upper is seamless to prevent chafing when running barefoot and is coated with a hydrophobic treatment K-Swiss calls Ion Mask. This treatment waterproofs the individual fibers used in the upper and prevents the shoe from absorbing even a drop of water. We tested this by pouring a bottle of water over it and the coating proved extremely effective. The shoe’s inner liner around the heel, however, still absorbs water. The differences between this upper and a Gore-Tex shoe are breathability and weight. Since Ion Mask treats the fibers instead of creating a barrier water cannot pass through, the shoe is still breathable. K-Swiss found that building a shoe with a Gore-Tex upper adds about an ounce more weight than a shoe with an Ion Masked upper.
The ultra-light racing flat receives an update for 2011. Its upper has been replaced with a seamless, Ion Masked upper similar to the one used on the Kwicky Blade-Light. Instead of employing the Blade design, the sole of the K-Ruuz is a solid block of material with a slight medial post under the heel. This race flat is the shoe of choice for many K-Swiss athletes, including Joe Gambles and Mirinda Carfrae. It will be available in Spring 2012.
The 2010 version of the neutral, mid-weight Blade-Light Run is this editor’s current running shoe of choice and it will receive a safety-oriented refresh for 2011. The neon sole grabs attention during daylight, and the mesh upper itself—not plastic pieces glued to the upper—will reflect light so cars won’t miss you during an early morning or late night run.
Built upon the new Blade-Max platform, this trail shoe will be available in the fall of 2011. Blade-Max is the sturdier version of the proven Blade-Light sole. The slanted pieces of K-Swiss’ Superfoam sole material, the Blades themselves, are thicker and taller than the Blades on the Kwicky. Unlike the road-orient Blade series shoes, Trail has ample rubber under the sole for grip on the surface. The upper has been Ion Masked and K-Swiss says it stays incredibly clean after muddy runs, thanks to its hydrophobic characteristics.