Best Asics running shoes

by Solereview editors

Best Asics running shoes 2021

This article has been updated with current models for July 2021. The Cumulus 22, DS-Trainer 25, Excite 7, GlideRide, GT-1000 9, Nimbus 22, and Tartheredge have been replaced with their updated versions. The Fujitrabuco Lyte, Hyperspeed, Metaracer, and Nimbus Lite 2 are new additions. The Dynaflyte 4, Fujitrabuco 8, and Lyteracer 2 have been removed. The introduction is a complete rewrite.

The Asics running shoe line is evolving fast. So much so that by the time summer ends, this piece may require another update. For example, the Kayano 28 and Novablast 2 have just hit the shelves, and so has the Kayano Lite 2.

We don’t have a read on the Asics Metaspeed Sky and Metaspeed Edge yet, so those two are also likely to be included in the next update. While we’re at it, we’ll give the Magic Speed a spin as well.

The last time we edited this guide was in last October, and we had to update almost everything this time. That’s the blistering pace at which Asics has been updating its product line.

And this is a good problem to have.

The new Asics is a happy meld of the old and new, where shoes like the Carbon-plated Metaspeed Sky and Gel-Nimbus 23 co-exist in harmony. The newness has also trickled down to some of the entry-level products; the Hyper Speed is a good example.

And you know what’s the best part of it all? This infusion of product newness doesn’t feel forced at all. These shoes blend into the assortment without feeling out of place and add value with a distinct ride character. We mention this because there was a time when Asics tried to force-fit ‘new’ products and it did not end well.

The new shoes bring new consumers into the fold, whereas the legacy models like the Nimbus, Kayano, and GT-2000 retain Asics loyalists by keeping them happy.

The ‘bridge’ models that connect the old and new Asics also deserve a mention.

In particular, we refer to the ‘Lite’ versions of popular shoes like the Kayano and Nimbus. Existing alongside the regular Kayano 28 and Nimbus 23 are the Kayano Lite and Nimbus Lite.

As their names suggest, these are the slimmed-down versions without the plastic shank or visible Gel pads. The way we see it, these Lite versions have the long-term potential to replace the standard models.

In the not-too-distant past, Asics lacked a credible trail running shoe collection. That’s changing slowly but surely.

Besides the entry-level Venture 8 and the likes of the GT-2000 trail soft-roader, the Fujitrabuco used to be the only legit trail running shoe from the Japanese brand.

But now, there are new entrants. The Fuji Lite 2 is new, and so is the upcoming Trabuco Max – a cushioned trail running shoe with a rockered Guidesole geometry. And then we have the Fujitrabuco Lyte from 2020, a trail shoe that features on this guide.

For the sake of brevity, this guide distils the Asics product line into just 14 models. This list is in no particular order, but we’re prefixed each model with their best use.

1) Neutral cushioned trainer: Asics Gel-Cumulus 23

Every brand has an everyday neutral trainer that’s a ‘safe’ reach for most runners. You know, shoes like the Brooks Ghost and Saucony Ride.

For Asics, the Cumulus 23 is that shoe; a running shoe that combines ride comfort with everyday versatility. The 10 mm heel-to-toe offset makes it a safe pick for runners for all experience classes. Its $120 retail makes it decent value as well.

The soft Flytefoam midsole is comfortable enough for long runs while being lightweight (10-ounces) and non-mushy when the pace picks up. The Ortholite insole and the blown rubber forefoot outsole helps with the cushioning too.

Even with the heel Gel and a different density foam wedge, the Cumulus feels very neutral. It’s not the most supportive shoe, but you won’t get thrown around either. The transition groove on the outsole (Guidance line) also helps center the weight.

Also, this is one of the best Cumulus versions ever. The soft and cushy upper runs slightly small but the rest of the shoe has a please-all quality. The Cumulus 22 was an excellent shoe, and the 23 builds on that. For runners who require more room, the upper is offered in two widths – a 2E (wide) and 4E (extra wide).

The 22 was available in a Lite-show (reflective) version, so the high-visibility variant of the 23 should follow shortly.

2) Neutral cushioned trainer: Asics Gel-Nimbus 23

The Cumulus-Nimbus pairing has been an Asics thing for over two decades.

The $30 more expensive Nimbus 23 is a premium Cumulus of sorts. That means an upgraded upper package along with larger Gel pads – that kind of stuff.

Visible Gel pad of Asics Gel-Nimbus 23

The visible Gel units of the Nimbus 23.

Apart from the higher sticker price, the Nimbus 23 is an ounce heavier than the Cumulus. So if you want the lighter of the two, the Cumulus is the shoe you buy. Else, the deluxe version – aka the Nimbus – will do everything the Cumulus is capable of, but with an extra serving of upper and ride plushness.

To sum up, this is a capable daily trainer or a long-distance shoe for un-rushed workouts. If speed is a need, then look up the Hyperspeed or the plated Metaracer.

The Nimbus 23 is an across-the-board improvement over the 22, and the best Nimbus we’ve ever reviewed. While the Nimbus 22 wasn’t bad, the 23’s re-arranged Flytefoam stack is plusher, smoother, and delivers the kind of softness balance that is a part of any good running shoe. The ride is neutral with satisfactory levels of support.

Asics Gel-Nimbus 23 tongue sleeve gusset

Yay! The Nimbus gets a gusset. It’s a part of the tongue so there are no attachment seams.

This is a $150 shoe we’re talking about, so you get a nice looking – and feeling – upper. The mesh exterior is soft and breathable with a true-to-size fit. The Nimbus 23 also gets an important feature that was missing all these years – an inner sleeve that holds the tongue in place while making the fit smoother.

It’s worth noting that the Nimbus 23 has gender-specific cushioning. The Women’s version has a 2 mm thicker heel that results in a 13 mm heel-to-toe offset – versus the 10 mm drop on the Men’s version.

3) Neutral cushioned trainer: Asics Novablast

Ok, we get it. The Novablast isn’t an original idea; the max-cushion concept has been done to death by most brands. At the same time, it’s refreshing to see Asics interpret this form factor through a Flytefoam lens.

And just like any running shoe in this category, the Novablast has a soft and deep cushioning that is excellent for long runs. There’s a fair bit of spring in the semi-rocker midsole, so the runner benefits from a forward-biased transition quality.

The 10 mm heel-to-toe offset differentiates the Novablast from say, a Hoka One One. A higher midsole drop is Asics’s wheelhouse, and that’s how Asics interprets the max-cushioning form factor.

Midsole of the Asics Novablast

While the Novablast makes running enjoyable, there are a couple of things worth noting. The relatively slim rear midsole and the deep groove doesn’t do favors for the overall stability.

While the Nova is great for straight-line running on paved surfaces, the lack of support is sensed during tight turns or the occasional off-road detour.

The upper mesh is soft and breathable. That said, one needs to be mindful of the long-ish fit and the less-than-ideal levels of midfoot lockdown. Since the Novablast relies on just five lacing rows (the standard is 6+1), securing the fit takes a bit of work.

If the idiosyncrasies do not bother you, enjoy – the Novablast is a fun running shoe for daily runs and long-mileage endeavors alike. The Novablast V2 has just been released, and we hope to report back with what’s new, soon.

4) Neutral cushioned trainer: Asics Glideride 2

The Glideride 2’s midsole has an internal plate, so it’s easy to assume that it has a very springy ride. But this shoe isn’t about a springboard quality that’s a signature of various plate-embedded midsoles.

Here, the Nylon plate is used to assist transitions – the firmer layer and rocker midsole help the foot roll efficiently through the gait cycle. The plate isn’t felt at all during runs; it is invisible yet functionally effective in the background.

Thus, the GlideRide 2 makes a good case for itself as a cushioned trainer for medium speeds. Say, a pace range between 6 min/km and 4:30 min/km.

The ride is soft enough to make most long-distance runs very comfortable. The foam stack is great at absorbing foot-strike; the internal plate prevents it from bottoming out.

The 5 mm heel-to-toe offset and lack of a heel overhang make the shoe suitable for mid/forefoot strikers as well. The soft upper fits just right, with the interiors being neither too narrow nor excessively roomy.

5) Neutral cushioned trainer: Asics Nimbus Lite 2

You’re probably wondering why we featured the Nimbus Lite 2 instead of the Kayano Lite. The answer is simple; the Nimbus Lite 2’s higher versatility appeals to a broader demographic. Of course, if you’re looking for a more stable ride, then the Kayano Lite is the answer.

That being said, the Nimbus Lite 2 is fairly supportive while delivering mileage-friendly cushioning. Its softness doesn’t translate into slowness; the single-density Flytefoam midsole (with internal Gel pads) is smooth and amenable to efficient toe-offs.

Rounded heel of Asics Nimbus Lite 2

It weighs less than 10-ounces, so it’s a lighter substitute for the fully-kitted Nimbus 23.

At the same time, the Nimbus Lite is capable of everything that the Nimbus 23 is – it’s a comfortable everyday trainer that can go the distance.

Foam tongue of the Asics Nimbus Lite 2

The upper is snug in the forefoot, and plush in the rear. The forefoot fit helps the pace-friendly character of the forefoot by securing the foot over the midsole, whereas the sleeved midfoot and foam-filled heel + tongue create a plush interior environment.

6) Budget daily trainer: Asics Excite 8

Not in a mood to spend mega-bucks on the latest Flytefoam marvels? Unlike its name, the Gel-Excite 8 isn’t particularly exciting but it gets the job done – if a budget daily trainer is what one needs.

Unlike the $10 cheaper Contend 7, the Excite 8’s design taps into inspiration from the more expensive models. That applies to the engineered mesh upper and sculpted midsole.

Though the midsole is non-Flytefoam EVA, its contoured sidewalls are based on Asics’s new visual scheme. The Contend 7 is also nice with a similar ride, but the Excite looks like a more expensive shoe. That’s the reason why we have featured the Excite 8 rather than the Contend.

Asics has done a good job with the upper too. The snug-fitting exterior holds the foot securely while managing to look good in the process.

Also see: Gel Contend 7

7) Cushioned mild-support: Asics Gel Kayano 27

You have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the Kayano before.

This is the longest continuing shoe series with a firmer medial post. The midsole wedge design isn’t the-in-your-face kind like it once used to be.

The Kayano 27 has a mild motion-control quality that’s expected of shoes in this class. Except for the redesigned shank and outsole, the midsole configuration resembles the Kayano 26, so the ride is fairly similar. The rearfoot has better articulation due to the split crash pad, and that makes the heel landings a smidge smoother.

Premium materials are used throughout the upper, so the Kayano makes for a comfortable foot covering. Unlike the Kayano 26, the toe-bumper is now internal so the toe-box space comes at a slight premium (short). The 27 is also sold in a wide, extra-wide, and a Lite-Show version.

Since the K-27 is an 11-ounce shoe with a firm ride, it’s best used as a daily runner or occasionally for long-distance training at easy paces.

The Kayano 28 has just been released. If the Nimbus 23 redesign is any indication, we assume that the K-28 will have a softer and smoother ride due to the Flytefoam blast (of the Novablast fame) and a sleeved upper.

8) Cushioned mild-support: Asics Gel GT-2000 9

Even if you don’t call yourself a running shoe aficionado, you may have heard of the GT-2000 in passing.

The GT 2K has long been an Asics staple, for it occupies a specific niche within the Japanese brand’s assortment. This traditional ‘stability’ shoe belongs to the fast-disappearing class of running footwear with medial posts. Firmer medial wedges have dropped out of favor, so the GT-2000 9 remains the last bastion of this category.

And yet, the GT-2000 9 is a lot more than its medial post. It is a comfortable daily beater that straddles a fine line between soft and firm. Yes, the Flytefoam is a mite softer than the GT-2000 8, particularly in the front.

But the rest of the shoe is a familiar place for many. The true-to-size upper has a design and fit character that resembles the past models. Components like the engineered mesh upper, welded overlays, and the traditional tongue and heel design produce a comfortable upper fit.

Besides being one of the few old-school stability shoes in the wild, one of the reasons why the GT-2000 does well is because it’s a pared-down version of the bulkier and costlier Kayano 27. And that’s precisely what the GT-2000 is.

If you’re looking for something more than the regular version of the GT-2000, then there’re knit, trail, and Lite-show (reflective) variants available too. Wide and extra-wide sizes are optional.

There’s even a waterproof Gore-Tex version available. In short, there’s a GT-2000 for every occasion.

9) Cushioned mild-support: Asics Gel GT-1000 10

Over the years, Asics has made significant improvements to the fit and feel of this $100 stability trainer. Therefore, not only is the GT-1000 10 an affordable support shoe, but it is also good value for money.

The previous year’s GT-1000 9 and the 2021 GT-1000 10 are two of the best GT-1000’s to date. The aesthetics and materials were completely redone last year, and part of that overhaul included a visible Gel window. Previous versions of the GT-1000 lacked this trim, so this update makes the 1000 a good tie-in with the more expensive GT-2000.

While the GT-1000 10 uses the same midsole and outsole as the V9, the upper looks more premium. The new mesh and cosmetic detailing results in better shape retention of the upper.

The GT-1000 10 is a good choice as a stability shoe with a near-neutral ride. The small medial post does not induce a noticeable motion-control feel to the ride character. The cushioning isn’t overly harsh, so the ride comfort is sufficient for mid-distance workouts.

10) Budget road racer: Asics HyperSpeed

The 2021 HyperSpeed shares nothing in common with the identically named HyperSpeed 6 or 7 from a few years ago. This Hyper Speed is more cushioned, but firm – thus making it a comfortable speed trainer for longer distances.

If the Hyper Speed looks familiar, that’s because its design is based on the plate-equipped Metaracer.

Asics Hyper Speed outsole grip

The Hyper Speed borrows its design lines from the Metaracer.

However, as noted in our review, the foot does all the work during the transitions instead of the plate making things easier.

Nonetheless, it’s an excellent shoe for speed training and races – even though the midsole isn’t as low-profile as the previous generation Hyper Speed 7.

The upper is secure but well ventilated and not overly narrow. That kind of fit character works great for longer speed runs as it accommodates the increased foot volume that occurs as a result of running long distances.

11) Firm, mild-support speed trainer: Asics Gel DS Trainer 26

It’s easy to see why the DS Trainer has been a popular choice for over two decades. Its firm and low-profile ride make this 9-ounce shoe an excellent shoe for fast training.

The last couple of DS-Trainers – namely the 24 and 25 – brought in significant improvements to the fit quality. The DST-26 gets a similar knit upper with a smooth and secure fit. The exteriors are based on a single-piece mesh, with the Asics logos on the side acting as supportive layers.

We could be imagining it, but the DS-Trainer 26 seems to have a slightly snugger toe-box due to the plusher heel pushing the foot forwards.

Under the upper is a dual-density midsole with a barely noticeable medial post. If that sounds familiar, the New Balance 1500V6 and Saucony Fastwitch 9 are comparable products.

The DST-26 uses the same sole as the 25, so the forefoot outsole has a colony of small lugs for a decent bite on the roads. However, it lacks the Dual-Stenciled lugs seen on versions 23 and earlier. The outsole connects the forefoot and the rear so the transitions feel connected.

The 8 mm offset DS-Trainer 26 is perfect for days when you want to build some speed into the run, or as a race-day shoe.

12) Carbon-plated Road Racer: Asics Metaracer

If our detailed review didn’t make it obvious, we loved the Asics Metaracer. That’s because there are a few things that this shoe does very well.

The Metaracer occupies a unique place within the running shoe ecosystem, and not just within the Asics universe. The Flytefoam midsole cushioning makes even longer runs (10 miles+) comfortable, and the Carbon plate makes the transitions excellent.

Flytefoam on the Asics Metaracer

The plate-foam integration is excellent.

What’s also noteworthy is the foam-plate integration; both come together as a cohesive unit and complement each other. The flat, race-car inspired outsole delivers a great grip for a quick touch and go.

The upper fits a bit long, but no biggie – it makes up with superb ventilation and comfortable interiors. The outsole even has a drainage port.

13) Road Racer: Asics Tartheredge 2

Asics doesn’t sell many road racers outside the Japanese market. That means that Tartheredge 2 is what you buy – if you want a serious speed shoe for your 5K and 10K personal bests.

The $130 retail sticker may seem pricey for a road racer but hold still; there’s a reason for the high price.

The forefoot and midfoot outsole have an aggressive DSP (Dual-Stencil Process) geometry for a fantastic grip, and the Flytefoam midsole allows the shoe to weigh less while protecting the foot during the quick touch-and-go cycle.

Nowadays, there aren’t many racers with a DSP outsole, so the Tartheredge 2 is a relatively rare find.

The retro racing upper is very breathable while fitting very narrow and a half-size small. Buying a larger size will turn the interiors more accommodating.

14) Trail running: Asics Fujitrabuco Lyte

The 2021 Fujitrabuco 9 is a nicely designed product, maybe a little under-rated too. The Fuji-T 9 has most of what makes a versatile trail running shoe. The Flytefoam midsole serves as a cushioned and protective layer; above, an overlay-rich upper does a decent job of shielding the foot.

However, since the FujiTrabuco 9 no longer has the rock plate from the V8, we’ve picked the Fujitrabuco Lyte instead. While it (also) doesn’t have a rock plate, its solid outsole offers plenty of protection.

The Fujitrabuco Lyte’s unimaginatively named Asicsgrip outsole is excellent – both from a rubber compound and lug geometry viewpoint. The material sticks well on slick surfaces whereas the aggressive lugs deliver a deep bite.

This is also one of those rare shoes to have a comfortable upper fit that feels akin to a road shoe. The interiors aren’t overly narrow so that the foot doesn’t feel boxed in.

It helps that all the overlays are externally fused and do not influence the interior space. The rubberized midfoot panels provide protection as well as the means to keep the foot securely held.

It’s not the most breathable shoe out there, but hey – if the Fujitrabuco used an open mesh, you’d need to shake out small debris every 5 miles. A ‘lace garage’ comes in handy to tuck in the loose lacing ends.

The firm Flytefoam midsole bodes well for the overall stability and impact protection, while being cushioned enough for longer trail runs.

The 4 mm heel-to-toe offset encourages full-contact or midfoot landings – and that’s a good thing when uneven surfaces are involved.

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