Pearl Izumi is making a bold move into the shoe market with half a dozen models that cover road and trail. Most publicity has centred around the Kissaki and its name - the tip of a samurai sword in Japanese, and its appearance, the shoe has an eye-catching bright contemporary look and colourway.
When I pulled these out of the box I was impressed by the style and looking forward to trialling a more natural shoe - I'm a bit of a cushioning junkee and started to feel left out of things as more and more brands introduced low profile shoes.
The architecture of the shoe is striking. Linear and streamlined it offers a sharp contrast to more conventional shoes with their minimalist uppers and dominating cushioned soles. There seems to be more happening on the top half of the Kissaki than in the big brand regulars.
The neutral insole of the Kissaki features a memory foam counter for shock absorption while the midsole uses proprietary foam technology for returning energy to the toe-off after heel strike. The rubber outsole also has a carbon-rubber heel to aid durability. There was less cushioning in the sole than I was used to but it seemed to provide adequate protection while encouraging me towards a more forefoot strike. Fine for speed sessions or on race day I thought.
As mentioned, the upper is a distinctive part of the shoe. The semi-mono tongue is fine - a one-piece construction on the medial side of the upper which wraps around your foot to the lateral side. It hugs the foot and I've always liked this style of upper. However the internal seam at the bottom of the tongue is quite rigid and I found it restrictive.
Other runners that I've spoken too have liked this claiming that the lack of stretch from the taped seams holds the foot securely in place. Maybe I just needed a size bigger; others have suggested that the sizes are neat. One running buddy loved the Kissaki. He told me that he rated its 'firmness', enjoying the foot security combined with the responsiveness.
Overall the Kissaki will be a nice addition to the shoe shelves in your local store and will build up a big following among runners who're looking for a lightweight shoe for intervals and racing that continues to offer the protection of effective cushioning while directing you forward.
For more information visit the Pearl Izumi website.