I live at the bottom of a valley, and with recent rains it’s getting a bit like a shallow quagmire of mud that makes walking, let alone running a bit of a slippery chore. I’ve been testing the K-Swiss Blade Max trail-running shoes for a few weeks now, off an on and whilst they are undeniably very comfortable, I’m not totally convinced.
Slipping them on is a pleasure; they’re made with a soft and supple fabric upper which feels more like a thick sock than a ‘trainer’. The lacing system is great, and my sample has an extra lace-hole at the top which helps hugely in snugging the shoe to your foot when running. The laces are also flat, which I like since they don’t come undone too easily.
Walking around they feel lightweight (370g) and airy, which is a bonus since they’re waterproofed with Ion-Masking – a nano-technology water repellent that keeps wet, dewy grass from soaking your toes.
A great big heel cup keeps your foot held comfortably in place and looks protective, but the same can’t be said for the toe-end, where only a very soft rubber coating keeps your tootsies protected. I’d not like to kick a rock in these, it’d hurt.
The upper is reinforced by a leather-finish moulding that keeps the whole shoe snug on your foot, and it’s seamless, which means no chafing on long distance runs (which I don’t do, since I regard running as a necessary evil only for catching buses and reviewing shoes).
The sole is designed in a series of angled ridges, which look like they should push you along. They work really well indeed at shedding mud – a quick wander on some grass gets rid of almost all mud – but when running I found the single-direction anti-slip design quite unstable. I turn my feet outwards slightly when running, so I experienced a fair bit of sidewards sliding.
The mid-sole is soft enough to cushion against rough surfaces, and has a built in stone-guard to take the shock out of any sharp edges which you land on. It’s what I’d describe as a medium thickness, so not totally disassociated from the ground, but certainly not barefoot. That’s the kind of shoe I prefer, so I was happy with only a little feedback from the trail.
Looks wise, the Blade Max are a bit Marmitey. The quite subtle upper is juxtaposed onto a bright yellow squelch of midsole and then a huge chunky detailing on the sole itself which emphasises that there’s plenty of air channels in there to give you cushioning. Indeed, the heel-strike of the Blade Max is soft and forgiving.
SUMMARY: Very comfortable running shoes with a seamless upper and well-cushioned midsole. Lacks much toe protection for gnarlier trails, and whilst the sole is excellent at shedding mud, I found it to be quite slippery – especially sidewards. My running gait is quite splayed, but this still affects the rating.