Color: Dark Grey/Hot Orange/Deep Ruby
Asics' marketing pitch: A bold step forward in unsurpassed performance and modern design.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 18° C/64° F
Upper: Engineered mesh, no-sew synthetic overlays, plastic heel clip.
Midsole: Tri-density midsole with forefoot and heel Gel inserts. Plastic midfoot shank, 12 mm heel to toe drop.
Outsole: Hard carbon rubber under heel, softer blown rubber under forefoot.
Weight: 369 gms/ 13 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: D-standard (reviewed), 2E (wide) and 4E (extra wide) in select colors.
Solereview should do this more often.
Do what exactly? Tell you right away whether a new, ‘upgraded’ model is worth buying over its previous edition. In that spirit, if you’re planning to replace the Kayano 21 with the recently released K-22, our suggestion is that you stock up on the 21 instead.
Doing so will result in huge savings, perhaps enough to buy another pair of shoes to add to your rotation. And you’ll end up with a better shoe in the bargain.
Because, for reasons best known to Asics, the Kayano 22 does something weird to its fit. On top of that, the ride becomes softer, following the footsteps of the marshmallow-ey Nimbus 17. Really, Asics? The Kayano is supposed to be your go-to ‘stability’ shoe, not Nimbus 17’s sidekick.
Sure, the increased softness makes the Kayano 22 a great shoe for walking around in town, or standing in them all day. But then, the Kayano happens to be a running shoe.
Once you actually start running in the Kayano 22, you begin to realize how sorted and well put together the Kayano 21 was. Not only does the softened ride leech the Kayano 22 of its overall stability, but there are a couple of other design changes which causes the heel to feel lopsided. And there’s the new fit, which like the midsole, feels nice when you’re not running in them. Guess what happens when you do start running in them? Yeah, right.
What has caused the Kayano 22 to change so drastically?
Before anything else, Kayano regulars will notice the strangeness of the upper fit. On paper, a lot appear like improvements. The fore and midfoot is pretty much no-sew now, with all those stitched-over components of the K-21 being replaced by fused overlays. A lot of the visual clutter has been cleaned up, like the forefoot side webbing of the K-21.
The K-21’s spacer mesh has been swapped with a two-layered engineered mesh. You know, the now ubiquitous mesh design with open vents in certain areas and closely knit areas in another?
The insides of the Kayano 22 are much smoother due to the near-complete lack of stitched seams outside. The interior feels a nice place when you slide your foot into the shoe for the first time, and the tongue retains its soft lining material from the K-21.
The upper heel stays true to last year’s design, sticking to the same collar lining and padding which feels snug yet pleasantly comfortable. There was no issue with heel grip on the Kayano 21, and that holds true for the 22 as well.
On the outside, the plastic heel counter comes with a few changes. There’s a lot of reflectivity spanning the open mesh windows, and on the lateral (outer) side, the plastic piece extends a little further towards midfoot. Overall, the heel feels identical to the Kayano 21’s design in fit and feel.
With all this apparent goodness, what could possibly go wrong on the upper?
As it turns out, a couple of things will have most people scampering back to the safety of the Kayano 21. The first part pertains to the Kayano 22’s toe-box. Not only is it noticeably shallower than the K-21, it takes on a more pointy profile.
Here’s how comparing the business ends of both the Kayano versions looks like. The difference is telling, isn’t it?
You will immediately miss the accommodating nature of the Kayano 21’s toe-box fit. The newly designed canopy of the K-22 not only hems in the big toe from the top, but also on its medial side – a result of the pointier toe box.
And here’s where things take a turn for the weird. For the same US11 size, the Kayano 22’s insole/footbed is 5 mm longer than the 21. And the strangest part is that increase in length does not eat into the upper volume; that is purely the doing of the shallow toe-box.
Instead, Asics makes the entire shoe 5 mm longer than the Kayano 21 when measured from the heel outsole edge to start of the midsole right under the tip. That explains the heavier weight of the K22, despite all the no-sew deal. The new Kayano is 369 grams or 13 ounces, nearly 20 grams over the Kayano 21.
Going half-upsize isn’t the perfect solution, which brings us to the second issue with the Kayano 22’s upper. Except for the toe-box, the Kayano 22’s fit is actually very roomy versus the Kayano 21. There are three factors which creates additional space inside the new model.
On the forefoot, the lacing is pushed back by 5 mm. This eases off the pressure over the forefoot. The urethane welds or ‘webbing’ which used to earlier hug either sides of the Kayano 21’s forefoot – that too, is gone.
So put these two together, and the unsurprisingly result is a wider fitting forefoot.
The third factor involves the combined effect of the redesigned lacing and tongue. The gap lacing is set narrower, which means lower top down pressure over the foot. And the tongue is relatively skinny compared to the thickly quilted type on the K-21. These are means to achieving a more relaxed midfoot fit quality, and that’s how the Kayano 22 ends up feeling.
Smooth but sloppy is how one can best describe Kayano 22’s fit. The reassuringly midfoot lockdown experienced on the Kayano 22 is a thing of the past. Instead of keeping the foot secured over the midsole, all that stands out is the shallow toe-box, and isolated lacing pressure under where you tie your laces.
And perchance, should you happen to run barefoot in the Kayano 21, the upper will feel downright baggy relative to the K-21.
The tongue also tends to slide more than the Kayano 21, as there isn’t enough padding to keep it in place. But that’s a minor irritant, and not a deal breaker. What one really misses is the confidence inspiring midfoot grip of the Kayano 21.
For a stability shoe, a supportive midsole should be only half the story. What brings it home is an upper which keeps the foot secured over the midsole, and it is here where the Kayano 22 comes up short.
And what of the other half of the story, the ride behavior?
The new Kayano is a softer Kayano, but there’s more than meets the eye. The heel feels less stable than the K-21, and the transition quality is found wanting in a few aspects.
First, let’s quickly go over the summary of changes. Or more specifically, updates on the Kayano 22 which makes the ride softer than the 21.
Despite its increased size, the insole’s foam firmness stay unchanged. What has changed though, is the foam lasting below it.
Exactly like how the uber soft Nimbus 17 did it, the Kayano 22 swaps the compression molded EVA sheet with a more porous foam.
This instantly increases the level of softness under the foot; a change which is fairly noticeable even during your first few steps in the 22.
The Kayano 21 came with a three-tiered midsole, and so does the Kayano 22. There’s the top EVA layer directly beneath the upper, followed by the visible Gel windows and the lower midsole.
And know you must – that for most Asics shoes, the midsole cushioning comes from the foam and not the Gel pads. A lot the Gel is restricted to the sides as a visual tool, and very little of that tech actually pads the underside of your foot..
The lower midsole has not changed in softness, nor have the Gel pads. The upper midsole isn’t the same, however.
The foam is much softer than the Kayano 21’s upper midsole – just to make sure everyone knows what we’re talking about, it is the sheet of black foam on the K-22 and lime green on the K-21.
While the softer lasting and upper midsole makes the overall ride softer from heel to toe, there’s a third factor involved.
If you turn the shoe over, you’ll be greeted by the familiar sight of Asics’s ‘guidance line’ – a channel which cuts along the length of the outsole. At one point in time, this was supposed to improve transition. But with all that softness going around, the ‘Guidance line’ design might require a reset.
Under the Kayano 22’s heel, this groove is now deeper compared to the 21. It means that every time you load weight on the heel, there’s increased midsole travel or downwards compression. This adds to the overall softness too.
The extra dose of softness has a slightly negative effect on stability, but it’s a rather innocuous looking update which plays a larger role. See the heel Gel windows with angular carving? Compared to the Kayano 21, there is a minor design change which affects rear-foot stability.
If you look closely, the center of the Gel pads have a sharp inwards cut. So when you rear-foot strike, the midsole tends to compress much more on the lateral(Gel side) than the inner side, which is made of a firmer foam. This ends up in the heel feeling lopsided with a noticeable outer side lean or bias. You get the sense that the shoe isn’t tracking straight, and none of this was experienced on the Kayano 21.
But wait, one might say. Isn’t that how these Kayano type of motion control shoes are supposed to be, soft on the outside, firmer on the inside?
Only partially. To begin with, every running shoe should be fundamentally supportive, and any enhancement should be a sub-set of that. In case of the Kayano 22, the motion control behavior negatively impacts stability, which is a big no. Reminds us of the Nike Structure 17, which was another such shoe. Nike said it was stable, but it was actually not. The sharp stacking of soft and firm foams achieved the exact opposite.
The Kayano 22’s lack of stability stands out in contrast to even the Kayano 21, which was definitely more supportive. Other shoes in this category such as the Adidas Sequence 8, Brooks Adrenaline GTS, Mizuno Wave Inspire, NB 1260, Nike Structure and Odyssey or the Saucony Hurricane – none of them feel unstable. So the Kayano 22’s behavior is the exception, and not the norm.
So these are the options you should try instead of the Kayano 22. If you’re a Asics person, then get the Kayano 21 for cheap. If the snug forefoot of the 21 poses a problem, then see if you can get a 2E.
Transition quality also suffers on the Kayano 22. The softer midsole and deeper groove saps the efficiency of transitions, resulting in a lazier experience. Asics’s Guidance line worked very well when their shoes were firm, and when the Kayano was a stability shoe in its truest sense. Remember the Kayano 17, 18? Combining the guidance channel with a very soft middle doesn’t exactly produce the best results.
We also have this nagging feeling that the Kayano 22’s elongated outsole base also is to blame. The new Kayano is 5mm longer than the K-21, and that has to influence transition behavior. In comparison, the last year’s Kayano 21 felt more compact and nimble.
Another side effect of the softness overload is how the foot feels even after a simple 7 miler in the Kayano 22. The corners of the forefoot outsole lugs tend to transmit pressure through the midsole, resulting in a dull ache under the ball of the foot. This is similar to what goes down on the Cumulus. So unless you’re very light, you might want to consider doing your longer runs in something else than the new Kayano.
And the shaky rearfoot makes one feel like you’re running on a cambered road, with the body trying its best to compensate for the shoe’s shortcomings.
If you wanted your Kayano to be softer at the cost of stability, or simply plan to walk around in these shoes, then by all means get the 22. Otherwise, there are far better options to get the job done.
Asics has sure dropped the ball on this one.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price.)
Looking to upgrade your older Gel Kayano 21 to the latest version, but not sure how the 2015 model compares? We can help here. The following infographic is a ready-reckoner for what changes you might expect in the new model vs. old. To make this more fun, we’ve put in a system of percentage match, which calculates a weighted average for a set of attributes.
A higher or lower match percentage is neither good or bad. The % number just tells you how similar or distanced the new shoe is from the previous version. Total match % is a result of weighted averages.