K-Swiss is a very successful tennis company looking to crack the running market. The challenge for K-Swiss is how to go from being a tennis company trying to sell shoes in the running market to becoming an authentic technical running specialty shoe brand. A key factor in K-Swiss’ favor is a loyal fan base, those who have worn K-Swiss footwear products from other categories tend to like K-Swiss. The other big plus is funding. K-Swiss has a sizable war-chest to go after the running market and be able to stick with their vision for quite some time. Add to this, K-Swiss Running is being led by a solid group of industry veterans with enough experience to get the job done. The pieces are in place for K-Swiss to take a stab at the market and be serious about it.
The first few seasons starting in 2008 brought a fairly conservative and safe lineup of shoes from K-Swiss. Nothing too technical or crazy, just safe product in the key category to help get the team set. For Fall 2010, the brand branches out into areas they feel they can have an impact. K-Swiss is jumping into the light and fast fray with their new K-Swiss Blade-Light Technology, a one piece midsole/outsole combination that provides lightweight, responsiveness with 3 different upper offerings for training, racing and post run applications.
While the Blade-Light treo is clearly designed for the triathlon market, the product has attributes that should resonate with serious runners as well. The one piece midsole/outsole has been a great way to provide athletes responsive cushioning, light weight and great road feel while keeping the story simple and the results generally positive. Ever since Reebok invented the concept back in the mid 90’s with their Ultralite compound, this application has made a comeback periodically and this season most brands from Nike to Saucony are using a one piece midsole/outsole in at least one of their lightweight products. K-Swiss is using this concept in their Blade-Light Technology.
The three offerings are the K-Swiss Blade-Light Run, the K-Swiss Blade-Light Race and the K-Swiss Blade-Light Recover. The same Blade-Light midsole/outsole is used in all 3 models. The Blade-Light Run features a traditional upper, the Blade-Light Race offers a velcro treatment for fast and efficient transitions, while the Blade-Light Recover offers a compression sleeve upper to enhance blood flow.
The models look solid with the Blade-Light Run having the best odds of success in the running market. It’s light, looks good and could easily be used by any runner in the market for a lightweight, faster paced trainer/racer. It’s a nice shoe. It will be interesting to see how much the running industry embraces these models, but as a starting point of differentiation between K-Swiss and the rest of the industry, K-Swiss is on a good path. The choice of hitting the light, fast crowd allows K-Swiss to establish credibility with competitive runners and help establish the brand as a viable alternative to the traditional brands in an ever competitive market.