Every once and a while, and more often on The-Gadgeteer, a product comes along with a description that is entirely unique and intriguing. The Kizik shoe is one of those gems: a luxury handsfree sneaker designed for men. It has the sole (and soul) of a sneaker, the materials of the shoe and a little technical secret. I’ve been wearing them for a month now. Read on to see what I think!
What is it?
As described in the news post here, the Kizik shoe is a luxury handsfree sneaker designed for men. The shoe’s materials include 100% top grain leather and other premium textiles to ensure they are durable enough to provide enjoyment for many years. They come in three styles and multiple colors and textures for men and will include a women’s line in the fall of 2018. The shoes are step-in and are different from sandals which are slip on. They grab your feet like a laced shoe and don’t have that loose-fitting feel of a loafer. The end result is a shoe that is not too tight or too loose and goes on without any adjustment.
What’s in the box?
Design and features
Sizes: 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 13, 14
Styles: Boston, Dubai, New York
Colors: Black, Coffee, Date, Castle, White (Not all styles are available in all colors)
Design of the Kizik Handsfree New York Shoe
The shoes feature a patented design that Kizik has dubbed F.A.S.T.® (Foot Activated Shoe Technology). The elements of F.A.S.T. include a wing at the top of the heel to let your foot in and out, a heel which collapses to let your foot in, a rigid tongue to ensure a hands-free experience, and an adjustable width set by velcro on either side of the tongue. After the rear of the shoe is compressed by the heel when donning the shoe, a titanium wire spring returns it to the upright position. As a result, the shoes fit automatically without using complex mechanics or electronics. The F.A.S.T. pamphlet introduces the foot activated shoe technology. (click to enlarge).
The picture below shows the spring and tongue in more detail.
Of course, neither the spring not the plastic tongue is visible on the inside of the shoe. The image above is like an x-ray showing the rigid skeleton beneath a leather skin. Actually, the inside includes a luxurious lining and padding:
The outside of the heal is perforated leather to allow it to collapse as the heel compresses it. A second layer of leather on the inside protects the heel and fully encloses the interior of the shoe. On these shoes the inside leather panel is red. An elastic strip runs along the top of the shoe in a groove and keeps the heel in line with the sides of the shoe when worn. The groove is what allows the heel to expand downwards when the shoe is stepped into. normally it is closed. Both the perforated leather and elastic groove can be seen in the picture below.
This is a picture of the inside of the shoe and shows the red leather heel
The shoe comes with a contoured and padded insole too.
The only adjustment on the shoe is the width of the opening at the top of the tongue; the location where the laces are usually knotted. The adjustment is made with two heavy duty Velcro closures. I found that you can separate the panels and adjust them when your foot is in the shoe. if a tighter fit is desired then fine-tuning adjustments can be made without the foot inside using some trial and error. The intent of the Velcro design is to work in one direction: narrowing and widening the opening for the foot. However, fastening the Velcro slightly ahead or behind the centerline move the tongue ahead or holds it back, changing the fit.
Putting on the shoe is really as simple as the video below indicates
Taking them off is easy too if you use the toe of one shoe to hold the heel down of the show you’re pulling your foot out of. This is the same way you would remove loafers.
The operation of the technology behind the sneaker seems straightforward and the mechanism seems elegantly simple. These characteristics are fundamentals of great technology: technology should be so simple that it doesn’t even seem like it’s present and the complexity of the technology should not impact the design of how it is used. For instance, few realize they are operating a computer when using an iPhone or Android – the user is unaware of everything behind the screen. Similarly, one doesn’t realize that there is a self-tensioning heel that holds these shoes on your feet – they just work.
The shoes I evaluated are a castle grey. At first, I thought that they would just be useful for outfits with jeans, but they complement many different styles and colors of pants. I’ve had several people compliment me on them and they have turned into a bit of a conversation topic. They look more dignified than black lace-up shoe imposter sneakers and more formal than dockers. The Sole features a front to back eye-catching red stripe.
Here are a few pictures I took wearing the shoes in a conference room.
So first off, I need to gross you all out by showing you my feet:
I have rather wide feet with a relatively low arch. However, the shoes don’t come in various widths. I ordered the shoes based on the guidance of the Kizik website, which indicated that the sizes for the New York are in line with normal sizing. Initially, I felt that the shoes I ordered may be too small. I went to Michaelson’s Shoes to see if my sizing was correct. The next larger half size up fit better in front but lifted out of the rear. Jerry Michaelson, one of the shoe store owners, endorsed the Kizik shoe but explained that the design of the shoe, with a more traditional profile, may not be the best fit for my feet. He continued to explain that the leather of the shoe will give over time and may provide the desired fit. I have historically worn wider shoes than the standard design, knowing full well that compared to normal shoes, my feet generally more closely resemble the box the shoes come in. So I endured wearing tight shoes for a couple of days and it turned out that over time the fit improved substantially.
My Garmin Vivosmart HR shows in the last 30 days I’ve taken about 327,000 steps over about 176 miles. I estimate that I’ve worn these shoes about 70% of the time. Also on the days I have worn them I put them on and take them off two to three times. Additionally, I have used them as my quick-step-into-the-garage shoes so I may put them on and take them off two to three times about every day. So over about 125 miles and about 75 wearings, I can say that I’m very happy with these and they have performed very well.
There are a couple of exceptions that I will mention here. Once, with wet soles on a wood floor, I was unable to generate enough traction to put the shoes on. I needed to keep the front of the shoe in place with my other foot. This only happened once but it begs the point that it is important to keep balance on the stationary foot just in case the foot going into the shoe slips. The sneakers have a good grip for urban use. I wouldn’t take these onto a trail but the sole has a good balance of pliability and traction on finished surfaces. When I wore them to walk across a notoriously slippery set of brick pavers I felt that I had good traction the entire time.
The silver F.A.S.T. logo on the back of the insole has rubbed off with my sock and now the entire inside has this silvered appearance.
Over time the shoes have developed a weathered appearance. I like the look but I’m not quite sure how to take care of these. Polishing them isn’t quite the right answer.
The outsole is also starting to show it’s age. It still has all of the mechanical integrity that it started with but the red stripe is more of a maroon these days.
Lastly, I’m not sure If these are rain proof. In a brief shower this happened:
The shoes look like the water dried out without staining. However, I’m unsure what a more substantial wetting will do to them.
What I like
- Hands-free use
What needs to be improved
- offer in more widths
The Kizik shoes are an interesting new take on one of the oldest technologies out there. They look good, feel great, and are really easy to put on and take off.
This is Julie. I know that Howard is the person who wrote this review, but KIZIK asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to try a pair of the women’s version of their shoes. I said sure and they sent me a pair of their Dove Suede women’s handsfree shoes. I can confirm everything that Howard said above, these shoes look nice and feel great on my feet. The only issue I had with them is that the heel was a bit slippy for me. The shoes aren’t too big length wise but with each step, the heel would slide up and down. I asked KIZIK about it and there’s a way to adjust the fit by adjusting straps within the tongue of the shoe. The straps are actually Velcro strips that hold the tongue in place, and by simply adjusting the strips on both sides of the tongue, it creates a customized fit. Presto, slippy heels be gone!
I love how easy it is to put them on and take them off. Shoes like these would make perfect travel shoes for those wonderful trips through the TSA checkpoint at the airport where everyone is waiting for you to get the heck out of the way when you’re trying to put your shoes back on.
As far as pricing goes, the women’s shoe prices range from $150-$160 which a bit less than the men’s price of $180-$190.
Price: $180 – $190
Where to buy: They are available for purchase on KIZIK.com as well as in 17 locations nationwide, including select Dillard’s stores and Dillards.com.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by KIZIK.