Pearl Izumi Kissaki Review
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Pearl Izumi is one of my favorite running shoe manufacturers because of its long reputation for great fitting uppers and fast-feeling, fast-looking shoes. The Kissaki is a new model from Pearl Izumi in 2012, and the model’s description and great styling had me anxious to burn some miles in this shoe. The concept for the Kissaki was to create a lower-to-the-ground, more level platform with a responsive midsole, and realize all this in a lightweight shoe for performance training and longer races. The result is a solid debut from Pearl Izumi that might need just a little tweaking to be the rockstar it aims to be.
The word Kissaki refers to the tip or point of a Japanese sword, signifying that this shoe is intended for fast action. The Kissaki is built on a platform of 1:1 Energy Foam that does a great job of smoothing out miles of hard concrete and pavement, with softer foam crashpads in the lateral heel and under the ball of foot. It’s forgiving, but not so mushy as to soak up your energy during faster running. The stack heights for the Kissaki are 19mm (heel) and 10mm (forefoot). This 9mm delta, while not as low as many new ‘natural running’ shoes, is more level than most Pearl shoes, and feels conducive to faster, more natural running. The outsole is highly segmented, with a heel decoupled into halves, and forefoot flex grooves that run the full width of the shoe. These features make the Kissaki quite flexible. The outsole is composed of blown rubber with a carbon heel crash pad, and despite the soft outsole materials, outsole wear seemed no worse than average after the 50 or so miles I put on the shoe.
The upper of the Kissaki is made up of a very open mesh that is quite flexible and breathable, which covers the entire body of the shoe’s upper, even over the heel counter. The reinforcing materials of the upper are made of a much stiffer material than that used on most Pearl shoes, which is double-layered where it wraps the midfoot and extends up to form integrated lacing loops for a secure fit. Perhaps this material is lighter in weight than the traditional microsuede found on higher-end models, and that may have prompted Pearl Izumi to use it here, but I found myself wishing softer reinforcing materials had been used in the Kissaki. These materials were the source of the biggest problem I had with the Kissaki. The midfoot wrap extends far down toward the toe of the shoe, and when the shoe flexed, this relatively inflexible material pressed down hard on the tops of my toes, and actually caused significant blisters on my first three runs in the shoe (see photo above left). This situation is exacerbated a bit by the somewhat low-volume toe box of the Kissaki. It did improve some with time due to break-in of the upper materials. The fit of the upper is somewhat loose in the waist or midfoot as well, and perhaps a bit tight in the forefoot. The heel collar is made of a memory foam that provides a great fit, but the collar could be 5mm or so higher I felt.
The upper of the Kissaki does have some great features however; I liked the performance of the breathable mesh, and the lacing system, once fit issues are solved, should provide a very secure lockdown. The Kissaki also introduces a new tongue design that is attached on one side to the upper and I had no issues with it (a sign of a good tongue design). I also discovered while photographing another pair of test shoes that the laces are reflective!
So in summary, the Kissaki definitely has some fit and materials issues in the upper, but I think that some slight tweaks to the fit and a change of reinforcing materials to something a bit softer could alleviate all of these issues. The Kissaki has the potential to be a great shoe for neutral runners looking for a go-fast shoe that can still handle high mileage, or for competitors in longer events. I look forward to testing the next revision of the Kissaki.
MSRP: $130 For more information on the Kissaki and other Pi gear, visit www.pearlizumi.com.
Type: Road running – training and racing
Weight: 10.1oz (Men’s size 9)
Heel/Toe offset: 9mm