K-Swiss Blade Max Trail Running Shoes

They Say - Off road trail running shoe designed to provide cushioning and stability featuring ion-mask water resistance and seamfree technology for the perfect fit, whilst Blade-Light technology keeps you ride cushioned.

We Say - I feel that these are very light, and far more comfy, compared to the ASICS trail shoe I’m also testing right now. In reality they weigh pretty much the same, its just that the K-Swiss FEEL lighter, and as we all know, a huge percentage of your running performance comes from your head rather than your legs. So if you feel lighter, you are lighter, and hopefully, faster.

They’re also closer to the ground, flatter, than other trail shoes I’ve been wearing recently. That’s fine by me. I’m moving towards the barefoot style anyway, and these are helping me transfer from padded to barefoot in a safe way. The soles of the shoes have a Blade-Construction with K-EVA blades that are claimed to ‘align to the angle of impact providing progressive cushioning’, and also help to flick stones and mud away as you run (in effect that means they’re self cleaning). I’ve found this aspect of the shoes to work as it should do, and at the end of a run the soles are mercifully free of most of the rubbish that I’d otherwise have to spend time brushing away. The blade construction is minimalist and actually see-through at certain points.

One of the reason I really like the K-Swiss brand is that they fit nicely but are still roomy. Sounds strange, granted, but they have achieved what few other mainstream running shoe makers have done, in my opinion. They fit, so they don’t rub or cause blisters, but they also give my toes room, so they don’t cause aching toes or hard calluses on the outside of the big toe after long runs, such a marathons. 

The other day I wore my padded road running ASICS shoes for a 15km road run, then got changed into these straight away for a 7km cross country run. The difference was huge. Whilst the ASICS, which were fitted especially for me in the ASICS shop, put pressure on my big toes and were subsequently a relief to take off, the K-Swiss give me all the room I need for a comfy run – and they were not fitted especially for me either; they’re just regular off the peg shoes.

Something to note; if you are wearing these trail shoes I would either wear them for your road running as well, or stick with the K-Swiss brand for your road shoes as well and go for the Kwicky Light, for instance, which are also pretty flat but cushioned and roomy with it. I have had slight problems when switching between these trail shoes and my ASICS road running shoes, basically in the calf muscles and associated areas of my legs.

They let in the dew when I plough through long grass in the early morning, but the wet feeling doesn’t stay around for more than a few minutes once I hit the shorter grass/hard surfaces. I also wear them for a twice a week 20km circuit which is two thirds muddy path, one third tarmac, and they cope exceptionally well with either surface.

I recently read a review of these shoes that’s worth quoting here. It’s not worth taking notice of – like most journalists the writer only wore the shoes once around the block before writing about them, but to their credit at least they owned up to that – but it’s worth talking about in order to set straight what they and others have said about the shoe. I’ll reproduce it here first of all; 

‘Just in for review is a pair of the new Californian-designed K-Swiss Blade Max Trail, trail-running shoes, complete with the ion-mask water-repellent treatment also used by Hi-Tec. First impressions are that they’re not the most subtle or the lightest of trail-running shoes we’ve come across. They’re also a good example of how the US interpretation of trail running and the UK one is subtly different. US versus UK Trails? American ‘trails’ seem to be pretty smooth and well groomed and, as a result, US-designed trail-running footwear tends to be closer to road shoes in terms of the amount of cushioning and, in particular, the thickness of the sole unit. Meanwhile, here in the UK, trail-running falls somewhere between road and fell-running with anyone running mountain paths, for example, likely to come across some pretty rugged and uneven surfaces. That’s led to a sort of compromise shoe epitomised by the likes of inov8, which sits low to the ground for good stability, but has enough cushioning to take the sting out of harder surfaces. The Blade Max Trail falls squarely into the US interpretation and while it would be fine on, say, one of the Peak District’s old railway trails, we’d be wary of using it on rougher terrain.’

I’ve actually seen this sort of thing written a fair bit, and it gets me a bit angry, partly because it’s clearly written by people who know very little about trail running but like to sound as if they do, and partly because it gives a great product an unnecessarily harsh write up. In reality, there’s very little difference between U.S. and U.K. trails, and to suggest ours are ‘tougher’ in some way is just very small minded. If anybody would be wary of wearing these shoes on rough terrain after checking them out, then they should stick to the playground and leave the ‘harsh’ terrain to those who can handle feeling a few stones as they run. As for the shoes, I’ve used them for the past 3 months on all sorts of terrain around where I live, as I’ve explained. They cope well with hard tarmac, and very well with boggy woodland, muddy hills (we have a fair few here, the North Downs are near my house, and my trail route takes in a couple of 50/100 metre climbs), stony tracks and leaf ridden rough ground that hides a multitude of pitfalls. They’re also not very heavy at all, unless you’re comparing them with Vibrams.

In Summary - The Blade Max Trail Shoes are well equipped to cope with most environments a trail runner will encounter in England. They’re not too heavy at all, and have helped me make the transition from very padded shoes to the barefoot style, which I’m about to go to now (that doesn’t mean totally barefoot, although I will do that on roads, but when on trails I’m moving onto my Vivo’s). K-Swiss were a brand that I knew little about at the start of 2011 but having used 2 of their trainers now (road and trail) extensively I can say without a doubt that they have been the best fitting, most comfortable brand I’ve used for a few years. They look great too, so are good for town and trail use (until you get them a little too dirty, which mine have been for a while now). I like these shoes, they do the job for me, and I’d happily use them for any trail run or race of any distance (might dig them out for ‘The Wall’ 65 mile Ultra next year). Most importantly of all, I’ve worn them regularly on long 2 or 3 hour runs and come back to my house with my feet reasonably dry, my toes un-blistered and my soles feeling ok. I recommend them.

To find out more about K-Swiss Sportwear and to see their full range of shoes and clothing please check their website out -

www.kswiss.com

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