Asics is in the midst of a major product transition, a process which it needs to manage carefully.
For years, the Japanese brand has built its running shoe credibility based on popular staples like the Kayano, Nimbus, and the GT series. Its ‘Gel’ platform was the major selling feature, claiming effective shock dissipation on impact. In reality, the Gel was always about marketing over function. But hey, Gel tech managed to sell millions of Asics shoes, and that’s what counts.
Embedded cushioning technology was all the rage for many decades. Adidas had various systems over the years, and Nike has their Air bags and Lunarlon. Saucony had different versions of the GRID in the past, and Brooks had its Hydroflow and DNA inserts.
Today, nobody is interested in cushioning inserts. A full-length foam midsole packed with as much springy responsiveness as possible is the new mantra. It began with the adidas Boost and has rapidly spread to the rest of the footwear industry.
The Flytefoam is Asics’s take on the all-foam concept. Its claim to fame isn’t a bouncy feel, but rather a lightweight and more durable substitute for Asics’s older foam compounds.
Tiny fibers are molded along with the foam, thus increasing the midsole’s lifespan. Flytefoam isn’t as long-lasting as Polyurethane-based materials like the Boost, Everun or Ignite. But it does seem to last longer than traditional Asics midsoles and is lighter too.
The Metarun was the first to use Flytefoam, and now this foam is used in many Asics running shoes. Even long-continuing models like the Kayano, Nimbus and the DS Trainer have either partially or completely switched to Flytefoam.
In addition, there are brand new models like the Dynaflyte and Roadhawk which had a full-length Flytefoam midsole to begin with. Asics is also in the process of introducing more Flytefoam-based models.
Along with the midsole change, Asics is taking its outsole and midsole design towards a minimal direction. In the near future, expect Asics shoes with fewer Gel and Trusstic shank bits. The traditional foam-plastic shank-Gel models built the Asics brand in the last two decades; the lighter Flytefoam models will build Asics’s future.
With everything in a state of flux, finding the right pair of Asics running shoe takes some work. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the brand or not.
If you have been buying Asics for the last decade, you’d still need to look at the assortment with a fresh pair of eyes. The 2014 Nimbus isn’t the same as the 2017 edition, and the same goes for other franchise models.
And if you’re new to the brand, a little help is always nice. That’s why we have compiled this list which is structured by functional categories. From cushioned mild-support to affordable trail-running, we’ve picked the best of the lot.
|Cushioned Neutral||Asics Gel Nimbus 19||Amazon|
|Cushioned Neutral||Asics Gel Cumulus 19||Amazon|
|Lightweight Neutral||Asics DynaFlyte 2||Amazon|
|Lightweight Neutral||Asics Roadhawk||Amazon|
|Cushioned mild-support||Asics Gel Kayano 24||Amazon|
|Cushioned mild-support||Asics GT-2000 5||Amazon|
|Lightweight mild-support||Asics Gel-DS Trainer 22||Amazon|
|All-around trail running||Asics Gel Kahana 8||Amazon|
1) Cushioned Neutral: Asics Gel-Nimbus 19
The Nimbus is Asics’s premium neutral cushioned trainer. The Nimbus has had its share of updates over the years. The 2014 Nimbus was firm, and the Nimbus 17 was ultra-soft.
With the Nimbus 19, the shoe is back to a firmer ride courtesy of the partial Flytefoam midsole. Its upper loses the stitched overlay design and uses a one-piece Jacquard mesh which feels plush inside.
2) Cushioned Neutral: Asics Gel-Cumulus 19
The Cumulus is a less expensive Nimbus. It doesn’t have a Flytefoam midsole (yet), but still has a cushioned ride which works for daily runs.
The Cumulus is a good alternative if you don’t want to pay the Nimbus price.The upper design is simpler than the Nimbus. There’s no external heel counter or the Jacquard mesh, and the toe-box is shallower.
3) Lightweight Neutral: Asics Dynaflyte 2
Now in its second year, the Dynaflyte is akin to a neutral version of the DS Trainer. It is lightweight, well-cushioned and feels fast. The upper has transitioned to a cleaner design, so the insides feel more comfortable and breathe better than the Dynaflyte 1.
Also, there’s a $10 drop in MSRP over the V1 – just in case you wanted to know.
4) Lightweight Neutral: Asics Roadhawk FF
The lightweight Roadhawk is the price of entry into Asics’s Flytefoam technology. But this isn’t a shoe meant for everyone. The ride is firm, and this goes against the general Asics tendency of keeping the ride soft.
If you’ve worn a pair of Brooks Launch, then think of the Roadhawk as an Asics equivalent. If you like the idea of an affordable and lightweight trainer with a firm ride, then the Roadhawk is the shoe.
5) Cushioned mild-support: Asics Gel Kayano 24
The Asics Kayano 24 is the mild-support version of the neutral Nimbus 19; or a plusher GT-2000 5 if you will. The midsole foam wedge (Duomax) adds a bit of firmness to what is otherwise a cushioned ride.
The midsole and outsole is the same as the outgoing Kayano 23, but the upper is brand new. The fit is an improvement, as it features a higher toe-box and a better gripping heel.
6) Cushioned mild-support: Asics Gel GT-2000 5
If you’re looking for a cushioned daily trainer with mild-support, then consider the GT-2000 5. It’s got a (small) firm wedge blended into the inner midsole, while the rest of the midsole is made of a softer EVA foam.
The upper is built traditionally (welded overlays, stitched toe-bumper, heel clip etc), and has a decent amount of interior room.
7) Lightweight mild-support: Asics Gel DS Trainer 22
It’s easy to see why the DS Trainer has been a popular choice for over two decades. The 8-ounce shoe treads the fine line between a racer and a fast training shoe.
The result is a lightweight, mild-support trainer which feels fast without beating your foot down. Now updated with Flytefoam, with a tiny Gel pad under the rearfoot.
It fits snug, as most fast trainers do. A tiny wedge of firmer foam is co-molded with the Flytefoam midsole for inner side support.
8) Trail running: Asics Gel Kahana 8
Within the Asics assortment, the Kahana 8 represents good value. This trail-running shoe has an outsole design geared for light trails, and the layered upper helps keep the debris out while providing support.
The Kahana’s upper materials feel very basic when compared to adidas and Nike. Asics has always made decent, but never great trails shoes. Even the more expensive Fujitrabuco 6 or the BOA lacing equipped Fujirado are lacking in features when compared to the competition.
At best, the Kahana is meant for light trails because of its split outsole design. For a little more over the Kahana, the GT-2000 5 trail is also a decent option for mild trails. It has the comfort of the road-going GT-2000 5, but with a slightly grippier outsole and a winterized upper.