A few years ago, I lost my favourite shoe when the React Vapor NXT and Vapor Pro replaced the Nike Vapor X. The Vapor X had everything: comfort, fit, lockdown, flexibility, support, and perfect sliding.
Ok, maybe it wasn't perfect everywhere. That shoe was not durable at all, but being in the position I am, where I have access to multiple shoes at heavily discounted prices, I honestly didn't care.
Either way, the Vapor X was my favourite shoe for many, many years, and when it was replaced, I struggled to find something I liked as much. There are plenty of fantastic options on the market — even some that are probably technically better than that Vapor X — but I was never quite as in love as I was with that shoe.
That has finally changed.
We decided to bring in KSwiss shoes a few months back, and while most of their lineup is very good, the Ultrashot 3 stands out as a precious diamond in the sea of tennis shoes on the market today. I'll say this right now; it's my current favourite.
As soon as I picked it up, looked at the design, and flexed it in my hands, I knew I would like it. That's why I practically begged our store manager Kevin to let me take it out for a hit, and he obliged. The Ultrashot 3 is the American brand's flagship shoe, and it lodges itself right in the middle of the flexible/comfortable style and the supportive/stability one.
Fit and comfort
The fit and comfort is by far the most enticing part of the KSwiss Ultrashot 3; it really is remarkable. It's got that classic, wide-in-the-toe box, narrow in the heel fit, that seems to be the most popular for the widest variety of foot types. But what makes it stand out is how your foot feels like it's in a cocoon as soon as you tie the laces. This made the Vapor X so special, and it's even better on the Ultrashot 3.
The lacing system is fantastic. The laces loop through these ribbons that flow to the bottom of the midsole and give you a maximum range of adjustment for how tight you want the upper to wrap your foot. I like a snug lacing system, so I synch them down pretty hard, and the whole upper compresses onto my foot, making it feel wrapped in every direction.
The wrap is not uncomfortable; it's quite the opposite. The upper material is remarkably adaptive, and because there is no loose space along that lacing system, there are no uncomfortable pressure points when the shoe flexes.
Then you've got the heel. It has just the right amount of padding, which is the perfect durometer to hold your foot firmly in place without making it feel uncomfortable. It's also cut slightly higher than average, but it doesn't add any pressure to the ankle bones.
Here's a quick synopsis on the fit: an ample toe box for your toes to splay, feel the court, and give you optimal balance, the most personalized midfoot due to a, quite frankly, perfect lacing system, and an extremely comfortable and locked-in heel section. Because of how adaptive the lacing system is, it should work for pretty much everybody, and KSwiss should be extremely proud of a job well done.
The only minor, minor inconvenience I had comfort wise, was with breathability. The mesh weave is pretty tight, which makes it a little warmer than most shoes, but take that with a pinch of salt because I was using a black colourway with black socks.
Tennis shoes really don't need a bunch of fancy tech to provide great lockdown, and the Ultrashot 3 is perfect proof of that. I've said this before, and I'll repeat it, the most effective (and cheapest) way to add lockdown is to develop a good lacing system. As I mentioned, the lacing system cinches the foot down onto the shoe as much as any player might want, making the Ultrashot react so one-to-one with your foot's movement.
Here is one little bit of criticism, and it's hilarious that this is pretty much the only negative thing I have to say, but: KSwiss…what are these laces? They feel like something I would find on a $20 shoe, not a $220 shoe. Let's invest more in these moving forward.
The slightly higher cut in the heel and the firm padding also help the shoe feel about as locked in as anything else out there. The plastic in the heel cup isn't necessarily stiff, but the extra height means your foot is cupped by plenty of supportive material.
The Ultrashot 3 is a zero pressure-point shoe with an ultra-soft and comfortable upper, but it doesn't suffer in the stability category. In fact, it excels.
The shoe doesn't feel like your classic brick stability shoes that are really hard but also super supportive because of how firm they are. Here, the stability is more nuanced. If you've ever played with a Vapor X or older, you'll know what I mean. You feel so stable in the Ultrashot because of how locked in your foot is. The foot and shoe move in perfect unison.
It's as if the whole upper was sewn directly onto your foot, and then the higher cut in the heel and the lacing system's wrapping sensation means there is little to no give during hard lateral cuts.
The midsole and outsole also complement the upper design to a tee. The sole is flexible but not mushy, so it pushes back, and the flexibility is similar to the upper's. Too stiff an outsole here would have meant the lower and upper portion of the shoe react differently, but that is not the case.
The sole also protrudes wider than the upper. This means there is a substantial platform for your foot to stand on, which is yet another efficient and underrated way of maximizing stability.
There isn't much artificial spring or stabilization to the outsole, and not much in the way of technology that makes it feel super revolutionary, but that's the beauty of the Ultrashot.
Movement might be my favourite category on the Ultrashot 3.
Everything about the shoe perfectly complements modern movement. The stable platform, ultra-reactive design, and comfortable upper make for a shoe that more or less disappears on your foot.
The heal-to-toe drop may be more traditional, but it's ideal for keeping players in the ready position at all times. Recently, shoes have been getting flatter, but I'm a big fan of the more "on your toes" sensation that shoes like the Ultrashot 3 provide. It's a classic drop that will never go out of style.
The Ultrashot 3 is also a fantastic sliding shoe. KSwiss uses a high-grade rubber material that is clearly optimized for the discipline, and the grip-to-slip ratio is near perfect. Also, because there is pretty much zero rollover in the upper and the shoe is so reactive, you feel like you can move around anyway, please. It really is fantastic.
The Nike Vapor X was nearly as competitive as the Ultrashot 3 in the above categories, but it faltered big time from a durability standpoint. That is not the case with the Ultrashot.
The outsole is made of a robust, more rigid rubber material that helps it slide so well but also makes it more durable than average.
Most of the upper is made of a soft mesh material. However, KSwiss has perfectly placed a healthy layer of rubber in the two high-wear areas for toe-dragging and sliding. That rubber is almost bulletproof and more effective at combating wear than some full-rubber uppers. Shoes don't need rubber in random places that never make contact with the court, and saving weight in those areas, focusing more durability materials in the key locations is logical, and I'm glad KSwiss has done that with the Ultrashot.
It's pretty obvious that I love this shoe.
I'll have to sift through some archives buried deep in my brain to confirm if it's my favorite ever, but right now, it certainly sticks out as #1. There's no glaring weakness in the Ultrashot 3, and the way it interacts with the foot and the court makes it pretty much the perfect shoe.