The long and short is this: K-Swiss teamed up with the esports organization Made in Brazil to launch a branded line of "performance esports shoes."
Those shoes are the K-Swiss One Taps.
It is essentially a cross-promotion, and it's a particularly strange one given that esports players spend their time seated. There is no form of "performance" connected to the feet of anyone playing a video game professionally.
Here's Ari Segal, the CEO of the parent company of Made in Brazil, describing the creation process: "The One Tap is the output of months of collaboration and prototyping and a genuine bottoms-up approach to understand our players in and out of the game, and to design a product that would feel truly bespoke and original."
Notably, there's no mention in there of what potential benefit these shoes provide.
The president of K-Swiss, Barney Waters, offered a slightly more direct explanation: "For players to perform their best, they must look and feel their best. In the esports world, this is no exception as physical and psychological preparation breeds excellence in performance, exactly what the One Tap offers."
What's it like wearing the One Taps:
The K-Swiss One Taps feel like wearing a less well-made version of Nike's Flyknit sneaker design.
The cloth feels cheap, as does the faux-chrome accent, as does the plastic surrounding the base of the shoe. Nothing about the One Taps, from looks to feel, justifies the $125 price tag.
These do not look or feel like $125 sneakers — they look and feel like knockoffs.
Worse still, their design actually hurt my feet.
Even while sitting, not doing anything, the K-Swiss One Taps hurt to wear.
Due to the design of the One Taps, where elastic braces provide the tension that keeps them snug to your feet, it actually hurts to wear them.
While sitting in the downtown Brooklyn Alabama Drafthouse and watching the lengthy "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood," I found the pain of the left shoe cutting into the top of my foot so uncomfortable that I had to lower the heel guard and loosen my foot from the shoe.
After removing my foot, there was a visible indentation where the elastic was cutting in. It was most similar to the feeling of wearing a sock that's too tight at the cuff, and when you remove it there's a physical indentation of your sock.
I got over the pain pretty quick, but I'm gonna take a wild guess that it's not the intention of K-Swiss to hurt anyone with its shoes.
"We have not heard about the elastic being painful. In fact, we've heard the opposite, that the shoe is extremely comfortable with a 'slipper-like' feel," K-Swiss brand president Barney Waters told us via email. "However, everyone's feet are different, so what may be great for one person, may not be a great fit for another foot shape."
What about while gaming?
Allow me to say something controversial here: I don't wear shoes while gaming very often. There, I said it. Frankly speaking, when I'm home, I take my shoes off.
We live in a society, folks.
But, for the purposes of this piece, I donned my "performance esports shoes" and got to work playing competitive games like "Apex Legends" and "Overwatch."
Was I any better at either game because I was wearing these shoes? My guess is no, I was not. If anything, I was so preoccupied with the subtle, persistent pain in my foot while wearing the One Taps that I probably didn't play as well as usual.
Overall though, in a not-at-all shocking twist, the shoes I was wearing had next to no impact on my gameplay.
So, what does the "performance" aspect of these shoes' description actually mean?
K-Swiss brand president Barney Waters attributed the description to three qualities:
"Number one performance attribute is the foldable heel, allowing for slipper-like feel while playing for hours. Then, the heel can we worn up, for a sneaker feel for the 'walk-in' to a tournament, and for general casual wear, and travelling, which pro esports players do extensively."
"Second performance attribute is temp control. Gaming can be hot with lights and technology, often under desks, so the Flow Cool system is for air flow and breathability. However, big warehouse style event venues can be cold, so we have the wool-lined sock liner option for warmth."
"Thirdly, overall weight is minimal, for long hours of play."
Products sold as "for gamers" tend to be terrible, and these shoes are no exception.
Ever bought a "gaming router"? Or maybe food aimed at gamers, like Mountain Dew's Game Fuel? How about a gaming-specific chair?
Those are just a few of the many, many totally normal things that have been branded and sold as "gamer" versions of their standard form.
Without fail, the "gamer" version of whatever product is almost guaranteed to be an equal or lesser version of the non-"gamer" version of that same thing.
As it turns out, expensive "gaming" chairs are easily swapped with less expensive, perfectly nice normal chairs that cost less and look more like actual chairs. And those gaming routers? They're oftentimes identical to standard routers, with some specific settings tweaked.
If you're looking to become a better esports competitor, practice whatever game you're playing more. And if you're looking for a pair of good shoes, look elsewhere.
At very least, you'll have until spring 2020 to think about it. "This launch is a very limited Beta Program," Waters said, "Specifically designed to gather feedback from eSports pro players and influencers. This feedback will allow us to perfect the model for a wider release in Spring of 2020."