A discount code was provided to the author by Azza Fencing in return for my honest review. The shoes, which retail at $167 (plus shipping) were discounted to $66.82. I received no monetary compensation for this review, nor am I endorsed by Azza Fencing in any capacity. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by Azza Fencing and/or its affiliates in any way.
There’s not a lot that the Fencing community agrees on universally, but in any frequent belabored thread discussing shoes, there is near unanimous agreement that the Adidas Asymmetrics were the greatest fencing shoes ever made, and their discontinuation marked one of the most catastrophic events in the history of the Fencing equipment market. I certainly fall into that category.
For the decade or more since those shoes were decommissioned, I’ve tried out a number of fencing-specific shoes. I gave the Nike Ballestra SE2’s a try and was immediately turned off by their discomfort in the heel, the lack of removable/customizable insoles, and the flimsy material in the backstay of the shoe. I had previously tried their “Air Zoom Fencer” model and had a similar feeling of disdain.
When both coaching and doing my occasional bouting, I’ve since found the most comfort in court tennis shoes and have almost exclusively used the Adidas Barricades for the last couple of years. To me, the utility of a fencing specific shoe was always questionable when I could receive superior support with tennis shoes at a usually cheaper price.
With the introduction of the new Azza Fencing Shoes, my once diminished faith in the fencing shoe market has been restored, because let’s get this straight off the bat—these shoes are frickin’ awesome.
Founded by 3x Olympian Azza Besbes, Besbes started her own shoe company with the intent of “empowering the world of fencing through innovative and sustainable performance footwear” and created “from fencer to fencers.” From heel to toe, these shoes feel functionally and logically designed for the movements of fencing and only fencing. We’ll get into that a little more. But let’s start off with the design and aesthetic.
The Azza 15/14’s come in four design patterns as of my writing this. I went with the “Blue” version (it was a tough choice between that and the “Reds”). From an aesthetic standpoint, these shoes are rich in quality. The Blues feature a two-toned blue (royal and navy) that extends from the foxing/heel all the way through to the vamp. Divided by a firmer material on the vamp (top) of the shoes called the “Toe Protect,” the material on the top of the foot provides enough protection, that even when taking moderately hard shots to the foot in a lesson, I never found myself wincing in pain.
On a fencing shoe, an absolute must is a hard raised plastic or rubber protection layer on the inner heel to protect against dragging the foot on the lunge. The Azza’s include this, appropriately named “lunge protection” adding a thick extra layer of rubber coating that rises from the sole into the feather edge of the shoe.
The heels feature a white and blue camouflage pattern like something right out Space Force Battle Dress Uniform (BDU’s), with that camo pattern extending into the lunge protection coating and close to the toe on the outer heel is Azza’s signature logo.
The counter lining around the heel and the eyelets feature a nice bright red fabric, providing a sublime contrast to the blues and whites of the shoe.
As a nice touch on the laces interspersed with the eyelets, is a message from Azza: From Fencer to Fencers.
It’s a beautiful shoe from heel to toe—but more importantly, how does it function as a fencing shoe?
When doing any kind of fencing movement, these feel fantastic and comfortable, providing excellent ankle and heel support and able to give the buttressing needed for a sudden change of direction or acceleration.
The chief difference between a tennis shoe and the Azza’s is a little bit less flexibility in the toe box (top of shoe closer to the toe). This was a point rued by my friend Samuel Gallagher-Pelletier of SGP Fencing, but to me, this made sense: these shoes are tailored towards more towards fencers with a more orthodox style of movement, leading with the heel on the lunge with maximum foot/ankle support to a traditional 90 degree en garde position with alignment in the back of the front heel to the back of the back heel.
After testing a number of lunges in both my Barricades and the Azza’s, I felt significantly more comfort on the lunge from the Azza’s, particularly as I pushed off the front leg to recover back en garde. The Azza’s have a thicker midsole/outsole (rear of the sole) that provide a softer, smoother landing on the lunge.
Unlike my Barricades which I’d likely wear outside of the Fencing salle, the Azza’s stiffness in the toe box make them exclusively relevant to fencing movement and not say, going for a run, playing squash, or slaying a game of Dance Dance Revolution. Azza markets these as “great for outdoor training” and good to wear “inside or outside the piste,” a notion I’d disagree with. That’s not a knock, because they are functionally meant for fencing and they work well in that purpose, but not much else.
The heel and ankle support on the Azza’s is where these shoes truly shine. Even without inserting my custom insoles to give my flat feet added arch support, the shoes make you feel like you’re walking on pillows, even after a long, multi-hour session in the club. And whatever the errrr…oddly named A-Nyltech is comprised of, I found that the design and texture of the rubber sole on the shoe allowed me to grip to the piste without slippage.
To test the grip, I attempted to stand on one leg, twist and torque my body to see if the shoe pivoted. Without fail, it stuck to the piste, which gives me confidence that I won’t be slipping and sliding when lunging. We’ll see if that grippiness maintains over time, but on initial tests of a relatively new shoe, they clung firmly to the piste.
I’ve worn these exclusively in the club for the past three weeks. Thus, I haven’t had the chance to test these for longevity, but if and when these shoes fall apart or the tread wears down to unusable, I will update this review to reflect the shoe’s durability.
As a fencing shoe, these are close to perfect when it comes to doing what you need to do on the piste. After a litany of injuries, these are shoes I feel personally comfortable in and well-supported, not worrying about pain or discomfort after long sessions of use.
At $167, the Azza’s are hardly inexpensive, but run cheaper than the overpriced sorry excuse for a fencing shoe that are the Nike Ballestra’s, and less expensive than the $199 Kempa Attack Pro’s (which I have not personally tried). It’s worth noting though that as of my writing this review, the Azza’s are not available domestically in the United States, so anticipate an additional $20-$25 in shipping costs (but tax-free as a specialty good).
Azza is in the process of finding retailers in the US for domestic distribution and anticipates they will be available more widely sooner rather than later.
|Nike Ballestra SE2||$189|
|Kempa Attack Pro||$199|
|Adidas D’Artagnan V||$170|
|Adidas Solecourt Tennis Shoes||$160|
|Adidas Barricade Court Tennis Shoes||$125|
And from a shoe sizing perspective, unfortunately, as of publication, the shoes top out at US size 11.5, so Epee Fencers with yeti-sized feet don’t yet have an opportunity to purchase. Azza has noted that for their second production line, they will have shoes available up to size 13.
Roughly ten years ago, the Adidas Asymmetrics died, and nothing rose from their ashes in the fencing shoe market, leaving me and other shoe connoisseurs to argue combatively in Reddit threads over which fencing shoes are good and not.
The Azza 15/14’s are finally a real fencing shoe I can recommend—perfection in the aesthete with maximal comfort and support in the foot and ankle to allow you to perform every action you need on the piste (but not off).
For a first product of a new company, the 15/14’s leave an excellent first impression, and it’ll be interesting to see what future innovations and designs Azza Fencing comes up with. I rate the Azza 15/14’s a 10/10.