K-Swiss Ultrascendor Mid Shoe Review
The K-Swiss Ultrascendor Mid replaces the mid cut Preventor in K-Swiss' shoe line up. While the Ultrascendor Mid does not offer the extreme level of ankle support found in the Preventor, it is a more performance driven shoe, ideal for match day.
We were impressed by the performance of the Ultrascendor Low in our 2002 shoe review and hit the courts in the new Ultrascendor Mids to see how the shoes would perform with even more support. Read on for the results of our three-week playtest.
To insure a comfortable ride the Ultrascendor Mids feature a combination of leather uppers and Shock Spring midsole cushioning. The level of comfort impressed our entire team. Finding comfort out of the box was Jeremy. "I found this shoe to be one of the most comfortable shoes out on the market. This shoe lacked any of the normal break-in problems, like being pinched or having the shoe rub on my foot." Danny was equally impressed. "The cushioning and comfort was amazing. I liked the thick outsole of the Ultrascendor. The upper cushioning was flexible and very comforting. The interior cushioning was smooth, which I liked. I have no complaints as far as cushioning goes."
Chris was also impressed with the Ultrascendor Mids. "I found these shoes to offer a good level of comfort. The fit was a little wide for my narrow feet, but with two-pairs of socks I found a good level of comfort and fit. The uppers were soft and comfortable right out of the box and the shoes required no break-in before hitting the courts. There was plenty of cushioning and my feet felt well protected in all directions. The ankle collars are very padded which is important in a mid-cut shoe. I never had any rubbing around my ankles or on any other part of my feet, and I thought the interior finish of the shoes was top-notch. The only downside to the comfort was a lack of ventilation. It did not bother me when playing as much as when I wore the shoes casually for an extended period of time."
Paul offered, "the comfortable feel was one of my favorite features of the Ultrascendor Mids. The Ultrascendor Lows have been one of our most popular and best selling shoes when players visit the TW retail shop seeking cushion and comfort. The Ultrascendor Mids exhibit the same favorable attributes as the Lows. Added ankle support makes them a no-brainer for those seeking cushioning, comfort and ankle protection. As with the Lows, I found the Mids to offer a snug fit. The soft pliable leather uppers molded to my feet exceptionally well. I had some slight pinky toe rubbing when I first tried these shoes on. When it occurred again later on in the test, I was able to determine that it was a lacing issue. Once I loosened up the first cross (above the toe box area) the rubbing was gone. Although these shoes had a somewhat snug fit for me, I had enough room for thick Thorlo type socks. Whether on the court instructing, grinding out a match, working an eight hour shift, or just cruising around town, when it came to comfort, these shoes delivered."
The Ultrascendor Mids feature a midfoot shank for added support and stability. The midfoot shank also pushes the flex point of the shoe forward to the toe area, protecting the arch area from straining on a fast push-off. Inside, the shoes' removable insoles increase cushioning, offer a favorable fit and allow for custom inserts to be used if needed. Our team found the arch areas of the Ultrascendor Mids to be very supportive. Danny said, "the arch support was surprisingly good. My arches are somewhat high. At first I thought the arch support was going to be too low and give me problems with comfort, but it didn't. The arch area provided great support." Also pleasantly surprised by the amount of support he found was Paul. "The arch support was excellent. It was easy to move around the court up on the balls of my feet. The shoes cupped my feet, cradling them into the proper position. This type of movement has been difficult for me to sustain in other mid cut shoes that were lacking support in the arch area."
Jeremy offered, "once again the Ultrascendor Mids came out on top. The arch support was right on for my feet. The support was not overbearing on my feet even though I have a medium arch. If you had a flat foot or low arch you may feel some pressure on your arches. However, I would recommend this for anyone with a medium to high arch." Feeling plenty of arch support was Chris. "The arch support fit my medium height arches well. I felt locked in and I was moving with confidence. The shoes seemed to flex just right, and I never felt like they were going to fold in the middle or put any stress on my feet."
Most mid cut shoes are built with stability in mind, and the Ultrascendor Mids are no exception. Finding a good blend of support and comfort in the Ultrascendor Mids was Chris. "These were very stable shoes. I did not feel the need to wear my ankle supports while playing in the Ultrascendor Mids. Once I had the fit sorted with two pairs of socks, lateral support was impressive. I was able to tighten the lace system adequately to stop my feet from sliding forward when coming to a stop. The shoes make a fairly wide footprint and seemed very resistant to rolling over. Probably the most impressive thing was that these shoes offered support in every direction, yet they were also soft and comfortable." Danny also found a supportive fit, with the exception of slightly too much room in the forefoot. "Generally, I liked the foot support and stability. They held my feet well and my feet never felt like rolling over. The problem was the extra space that the shoes offered in the forefoot area. There is a little too much room in the forefoot area/toe box. However, if you like a roomy toe box, then I think this shoe would be one of the best shoes that you can buy for tennis."
Jeremy offered, "in buying a mid cut shoe you are probably looking for more support and stability. This shoe will definitely satisfy that need. On the court I found excellent support moving forward and backpedaling, as well as good torsional stability on side to side moves. One thing to consider is that the Ultrascendor Mids are inherently wide, and I would advise a player with narrow feet to beware of having their feet sliding around in these shoes." Finding a very supportive fit was Paul. "The Ultrascendor Mids exhibited excellent support and stability. The upper is composed of five lateral and medial straps which connect to the eye stays. This design, in conjunction with the soft pliable leather and thick cushioned tongue, allowed these shoes to mold to my feet. I also found the lace system offered enough adjustment to accommodate thick or thin socks. The added support in the achilles area is comprised of a non-slip material. It stabilized my heel and achilles quite well. I felt no slippage. The heel cup felt like it wrapped around my heel and provided excellent support. Naturally, the mid cut design provided excellent ankle protection. At no time did I feel in danger of rolling an ankle."
Overall Outsole Durability
The Ultrascendor Mids feature K-Swiss' durability designed Aosta 7.0 rubber compound. For the most part our team found the Ultrascendor Mids to be durable. Finding the Ultrascendor Mids to be as durable as most other comparable performance shoes was Danny. "The first signs of wear that I noticed were towards the toe region of the outsole. Compared to other durable shoes, the durability is top-notch." Finding a more average level of durability was Paul. "The K-Swiss Ultrascendor Mids did not demonstrate extraordinary durability. The rubber wore down at the pivot point first. They did not wear as fast as my Adidas Climacool Feathers, or last as long as the New Balance CT802. They fell somewhere in between - average durability for this playtester."
Chris was impressed by the durability of the Ultrascendor MIds. "I found these shoes to be durable. The outsoles held up well and the shoes seemed to be more than durable enough to handle the hard courts. Even the areas of the outsole where I usually see lots of wear held up well."
The Ultrascendor Mids are reinforced at the toe, both at the upper and the outsole. The soft leather uppers are protected by a TecTuff toe wrap for toe drag protection when dragging up high. The outsole features a more durable rubber compound called DragGuard for increased durability when a player drags the lower part of the toe. Both of our toe dragging playtesters were impressed by the durability of the Ultrascendor Mids. Chris said, "the Ultrascendor Mids feature a significant toe wrap which does an excellent job of protecting the shoes. Although I did make some scuff marks to the toe area, there was no structural damage and the shoes were holding very well. Top marks here from this playtester." Danny offered, "the Toe durability was just as good as the overall outsole durability. Generally, the first signs of wear on all shoes that I wear is the toe. Sometimes the wear I see first is at the top of the toe box, but the Ultrascendor Mids held up well at the toe. The overall durability of these shoes was impressive."
Jeremy found the toe area to be more durable than competing performance shoes. "I am pretty easy on all my tennis shoes, and usually find them to last awhile. I have played in shoes that have shown signs of wear on the toe, like the Nike Air Court Motion Internationals, Nike Breathe Frees and the Diadora Speedzones. With the Ultrascendor Mids, even after three-weeks of use I noticed no major signs of wear. Keep in mind that I am not a toe dragger and I generally wear out the ball of the foot outsole area on my shoes."
Our team found the modified herringbone pattern on the outsoles of the Ultrascendor Mids to offer impressive hard court traction. Moving with confidence was Jeremy. "Out on the court I had no traction issues with these shoes. I didn't feel any slipping and I felt confident in the level of grip these shoes offered." Paul found enough grip to put the pedal to the metal in the Ultrascendor Mids. "The outsoles felt soft and they gripped the court quite well. I felt confident motoring around the court. I didn't experience any adverse effects when I put the traction of the Ultrascendor Mids to the test. Whether I planted my feet, or had to transition off my heels into a sprint, the results were favorable. Quick starts and stops were always executed with plenty of traction."
Also finding some impressive hard court traction was Chris. "I found a good level of traction in the Ultrascendor Mids. The shoes never gave out during aggressive cuts and I felt confident when changing directions. The tread pattern seems very hard court friendly, allowing for easy pivoting while also providing plenty of grip."
At 17.1 ounces (size 10.5), the Ultrascendor Mids fit in the middle weight category for mid cut shoes. On the whole, our team found the Ultrascendor Mids to carry their weight well. Chris said, "the weight of these shoes was fitting for a mid cut design. While they weren't super light, the shoes did not feel heavy or clunky. I felt like there was enough material for performance, but not so much that the shoes felt over-engineered or heavy." Finding a similar experience was Jeremy. "While these shoes are in no way the lightest shoes I've worn, when playing in them I noticed the shoes had good weight distribution, making them feel lighter than their actual weight."
Danny found the weight of the shoes to be hardly noticeable during play. "The shoes felt slightly heavy due to the higher cut. I prefer a mid cut shoe, so this is something that I don't mind sacrificing. I think they play lighter then the actual weight. The distribution of weight made for a lighter feel." Paul was also surprised at the listed weight for the shoes. "I researched the weight of the mid cut shoes currently available at Tennis Warehouse and I was surprised to find that the Ultrascendor Mids are not one of the lightest. They didn't feel bulky at all. I was perplexed. Much like a typical low cut shoe, the weight felt distributed effectively, creating a well-balanced, efficient design. I found them sturdy enough to withstand punishing match play yet light enough not to slow me down. I was very pleased."
With soft leather uppers that offer plenty of comfort out of the box and an effective midsole cushioning system, the Ultrascendor Mids make an attractive choice for the mid cut performance shoe fan. While comfort is always important, stability is essential, and the Ultrascendor Mids deliver a stable ride. Players with medium to wide feet should find a comfortable and supportive fit here. Our team was also impressed by the support offered in the arch area and the security offered by the lace system. Performance was rounded out by impressive hard court traction and a durable toe design.