Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

1 Nov 2013

Shoe Review: K-Swiss Ariake

Posted by Will

Paid the princely sum of: £16 (new off eBay)
Used for: 20 months
Shoe-type: sport/free-running
Covers ankle: no
In short: a dream on each foot, my winged sandals, true companions

kswiss

I can tell you now I wouldn’t be writing a review about shoes unless they were spectacularly good or horrifically bad. The writing would be too boring otherwise. Well perhaps you say my writing’s boring anyway, in which case I cycle away into the distance crying. If you’re prepared to read on you’ll discover that K-Swiss Ariake pair of shoes is a light, comfortable and extremely hard-wearing choice in the realm of non-hiking footwear.

A bit of history first. I bought these shoes a couple of years before I left on my cycle trip around the world with the idea that I’d need some cool kicks at university to impress the ladies. I ordered them on eBay and sat eagerly on the doormat waiting. Two days later they arrived and hurried to tear of the packaging. What I saw inside revolted me. The garish green sides and laces, the block black stripe at the front, the odd shape of the sole … of all the possible pairs of shoes the internet holds, why had I chosen these?

It goes without saying that they sat unused throughout my university years seeing no more action than the formation of a fine layer of dust on the inside of their box. Their time would come. My life continued, the crazy idea of cycling around the world occurred to me and I jumped on board. I ordered all kinds of kit online and waited for it to arrive with the same eager anticipation as two years before. In the mad rush to get my equipment ready on time, to build this website, to get my affairs in order, to say goodbye to friends and family, I completely forgot to order any shoes.

And so a pair of K-Swiss Ariake shoes adorned my feet as I pushed the bicycle away from home and made my first pedal-stroke on the long way round. I haven’t regretted my oversight for a second. Onto the review:

I don’t like the K-Swiss Ariake appearance because they are stand-out and trendy but I can completely understand how they might appeal to someone else. Even if you’re like me, they come in less colourful patterns too, the standard being black, white and grey. They look nice on the internet pictures – I was a fool to choose the green and red. So don’t let my poor taste put you off purchasing these shoes.

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Now to the more important features of the K-Swiss Ariake. I have been most impressed by the durability of the shoes. As a long-distance cyclist, I have travelled in scorching hot deserts (Iran, Mongolia), freezing forests (Sweden, Finland), sweltering rainforests (Vietnam)and up 4000m+ mountains (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan). The K-Swiss Ariake never shrivelled, snapped or tore. They were rained on for weeks at a time in Siberia and south-west China and have braved the undergrowth of over 30 countries while camping. Again, no problems. They have dealt with the tasks I put them to magnificently.

Of course, a high-end hiking shoe would have managed the same. However, a pair of those would have cost at least 5 times the price and weighed a lot more. Weight isn’t considered enough when choosing between footwear alternatives. The total extra effort required over a year when wearing a pair of shoes only marginally heavier is a great deal. For instance, take the other shoes I carry with me, an over-the-ankle pair of large Mammut hiking boots. Those weigh upwards of a kilogram each compared to the few hundred grams of an Ariake.

Are the K-Swiss Ariake waterproof? On the surface, yes, and they will keep the rain at bay for a solid few hours. After that, water starts leaking in although it’s difficult to tell if that’s through the leather itself or through though the hole in the top. The manufacturer can hardly be blamed for the latter. A good hiking shoe will improve on the Ariake’s performance when it comes to dealing with wet weather. However, if waterproofing is just one of factor in choosing your shoes, then the Ariake performs perfectly adequately.

When cycling it is important that your shoes breathe easily to prevent sweat building up inside and to keep your feet comfortable. The K-Swiss Ariake does this extremely well. Designed specifically as a free-running/parkour shoe it includes all the features one would expect from a high-end sport shoe. Given the shoes’ intended purpose, the suppleness and flexibility of your feet within is never restricted to the point of discomfort. Naturally, the grip on the sole is nice too, especially for a cycle tourist where one shoe will have to deal with so many different surfaces.

Sadly, after 20 months of use, my K Swiss Ariakes are close to the end of their life. The leather on the outside of the big toe on each shoe is torn which lets water seep in at every puddle. The soles are slippery with wear and the latent grime on every square nanometre prompts too many upturned noses. I will be sad to see them go when I get a new pair at Christmas.

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One Comment already on “Shoe Review: K-Swiss Ariake”
  1. 5:28 pmpermalink
    27 Dec 2013

    Luke Newham

    The above review fails to mention another key feature of the K-Swiss Ariake shoe, that of being a perfect addition to any attire worn for evening functions. Having bought them during your time at University, I was surprised to learn from reading the above that you had not used these shoes for such a purpose until well over a year in to your cycling trip.

    The green sides and laces were surely the perfect match for your emerald green shirt famously worn at the Oxford fashion week launch party (part of your very well received 2011 collection). Furthermore the ‘subtle’ black stripe on a white background down the length of the toe obviously makes them the number one choice for black tie functions, thereby giving a unique harmony with the black bowtie on a white shirt.

    Having observed them used for an evening function only once, when I was fortunate enough to dine with Will at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, I can say with utter certainty that they helped round off what was a very memorable look for Will. It is with a happy heart that I read that a new pair is being delivered this Christmas, and I hope once more to see them used for such a purpose in 2014.

    Lastly, an addendum to K-Swiss. My sincere thanks for developing and pioneering such a distinguished, multi-purpose shoe. I take my hat off to you.