These shoes were purchased by the author and not provided by Nike. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by Nike and/or its affiliates in any way.
When I tore my Achilles several years ago, my orthopedist revealed that one of the fundamental problems that led to my tear was that I had been wearing off the shelf insoles for decades despite having extremely flat feet. In fact, when I tore it, I was wearing a fresh new pair of the Nike Air Zoom Fencing Shoes, their previous iteration of their fencing shoe brand.
Despite my reservations, when I saw the new Nike Ballestra SE2 shoes, I immediately committed the cardinal sin of judging a book by its cover—because let’s start there: these shoes are beautiful. The version I purchased features an aesthetically pleasing multi-colored sole that is teal green on the inside vamp, steadily changing to a light pink as it goes underneath the shoe to the outer sole.
The shoes feature a stylish cover that slightly eclipses the laces, giving just a little more protection on the top of the feet in the event you’re popped hard in the foot. Inexplicably, Nike made the bold decision to imprint the words “Nike Fencing” in Comic Sans MS font, neutralizing the brio of the shoes in favor of what could be mistaken for a child’s lemonade stand sign.
To top off the sleekness, the toe cap has a subtle and transparent signature Nike swoosh just below the laces. And that’s about where the positives of the shoe just end.
Pain. Pain. Pain.
I’ve never worn high heels, but I imagine that the pain felt after wearing them is similar to that of what I had wearing the Nike Ballestra SE2’s. The Ballestra SE2’s feature a cylindrical stacked heel independent of the sole of the shoe. Presumably, this was placed to provide additional gripping on the heel when executing a lunge, but what you get instead is pain concentrating at the bottom of your heel after a long bouting/coaching session.
The pain doesn’t stop at the heel. The insoles are unfortunately stitched into the shoe itself and unremovable. Placing in custom inserts raises the heel and arches too high, making the shoe unwearable for those who don’t like to wear off the shelf shoes as-is. So for flat-footed Fencers like me, these shoes are as pleasant as walking on hot coals.
The collar of the shoe provides just enough support around the top of the ankle that I felt firmly supported when lunging, fleching, and making sudden changes in direction. But buyer beware: the material inside of the backstay (the back of the shoe) is flimsy enough that after a few uses, the area would dig into the back of my heel, forcing me to take the shoe off and reset the material back in place. It’s recommended to either place these on with a shoehorn or loosen up the laces all the way before slipping these on.
Lastly, the shoe has exactly the kind of protection Fencers should expect on the inside of the foot to preserve the shoe from damage when dragging the foot on a lunge. This is a must on any shoe worn while fencing, and the amount of material added here should give these shoes a long life before needing to be replaced.
You’re Paying for the Nike Name Without the Nike Quality
Let’s talk pricing. At $189, these shoes are priced towards the top of the fencing shoe market, and for the (suspect) quality you’re getting here, it’s simply not worth that price.
|Nike Ballestra SE2||$189|
|Kempa Attack Pro||$199|
|Adidas D’Artagnan V||$170|
|Adidas Solecourt Tennis Shoes||$160|
|Adidas Barricade Court Tennis Shoes (Author’s Preferred Shoe)||$125|
I recommend court tennis shoes as a cheaper (and better option) than what most Fencing shoe brands give. While they tend to be a little heavier, they usually offer removable insoles, they have the raised inside protection to support dragging the feet, and they come at a cheaper price. No, they don’t have the name “fencing” on them, but they’re sure better than the fencing shoes on the market.
If you’ve got money to burn and you value style over quality, you’ll love the Nike Ballestra SE2’s. If you enjoy throbbing heel and arch pain at the end of every practice, you’ll also love the Nike Ballestra SE2’s. What you have here is a shoe that was probably designed by the bottom tier of Nike engineers who got relegated to the Fencing division after a few poor performance evaluations. For $190, it’s a shoe I can’t recommend. For more on Fencing shoe recommendations and what not to wear, visit the following post.