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Running Shoe Review: ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 ($160)

Right shoe of ASICS GEL-Kayano 30

By Brian Metzler

Not so long ago runners who were deemed to be severe overpronators – those who experienced dramatic ankle and foot inversion after their feet hit the ground – were prescribed stability or motion control shoes. This footwear was built with structural features aimed to slow or stop that inward rolling motion. At the least, it meant running shoes with a post of firm foam under the medial arch, but at the worst it meant firmer foams in key places and a hard plastic skeleton that made shoes feel rigid and heavy. Either way, the shoes usually felt sluggish, clunky and limiting. They were never light, energetic and inspiring like the shoes that runners with neutral gaits were able to wear.

Sole of ASICS GEL-Kayano 30

Fortunately, things have changed dramatically. The advancement of running science and better understanding of the various movement patterns of running gaits, not to mention the availability of new materials and manufacturing techniques, has led to modern stability shoes that are light and lively and the complete demise of motion control shoes.

The new ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 is a great example of how far stability shoes have come, both since the previous edition and over the course of several years. While it’s been evolving into a softer, smoother-riding shoe for years, this year’s version has dramatically morphed into a maximally cushioned trainer that has a lot of similarities to the recently revamped GEL-Nimbus 25 and GEL-Cumulus 25 neutral-oriented trainers. It feels as comfy and energetic as just about any model you’ll find on the shoe wall of your local running store, but it still has the ability to mildly and subtly help keep your foot stable as it rolls through the stride cycle from the heel-strike impact to the toe-off phase.

What’s New: Radical changes to the latest edition of the GEL-Kayano include a maximally cushioned midsole (4mm higher than the previous version), a new guidance system to provide more inherent stride stability and decidedly less structure. The thick and cushy midsole is made of FlyteFoam Blast+ Eco foam—a partially bio-based material that’s extremely soft and absorbent but also provides a noticeable amount of energetic pop, too. There’s also a new, softer PureGel cushioning pod embedded in the heel and an increased heel bevel slope for improved shock absorption and stride transitions. The other outstanding update to this shoe is the modern adaptive stability mechanism (called the 4D Guidance System) that serves up inherent stability from a 5mm wider footprint, and a less obtrusive secondary foam wedge under the medial arch and a less abrupt heel counter, but no there’s no longer a lightweight flexible plastic shank embedded in the midsole.

Inside shot of ASICS GEL-Kayano 30

Fit/Feel/Ride: The ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 fits true to size with a snug, locked-down, medium-volume interior in the heel and midfoot but with a decidedly more spacious forefoot. The medium-thick gusseted tongue, pliable engineered mesh upper and mildly supportive heel counter help keep the foot secure and comfortable during the run. The step-in sensation is plush, with copious amounts of soft padding in all directions. The most extraordinary aspect of the new version of this shoe is the ride. It feels extremely well-cushioned and bouncy, starting with a soft and accommodating feeling at the heel and a robust sensation of cushiness under the forefoot. There’s a gentle, adaptive feeling of support from the 4D Guidance System, not an abrupt feeling of structure from a firmer wedge of stiffer foam as in the past.

Why It’s Great: It’s great because it’s so soft, cushy and energetic. If you like max cushioned shoes, you’ll love the GEL-Kayano 30 because it feels like a high-stack neutral training shoe. But it also has a greater degree of heel bevel than before and has more subtle structure from the shape of the midsole, allowing it to provide a large amount of energy return while also offering inherent structure to channel any lateral/medial movement into forward motion.

ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 Specs: Weights: 9.2 ounces. (women’s size 8), 10.7 ounces (men’s size 9) Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (40mm in the heel, 30mm in the forefoot)

Why You’ll Love It: The beauty of this shoe is that you won’t feel the support you’re getting. It’s not a traditional stability shoe, and that might take some getting used to, but once you trust the idea that you’re getting the support if you need it – partially from the wider footprint of the shoe – you’ll realize this is a great everyday training shoe that can be a high-mileage workhorse if you’re training for half marathons or marathons. It’s very good for long runs and recovery runs and can suffice for tempo runs, too.

Pro: ASICS uses a dyeing process for the sockliner that reduces water usage by more than 30 percent and carbon emissions by about 45 percent. And at least 50 percent of the shoe’s main upper material is made with recycled materials to further reduce waste. When you run in the Kayano 30, you’ll feel good knowing your shoes have a carbon emissions footprint that’s 14 percent lower than similar running products.

Con: To some, the new design of the ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 will feel like a lot. It’s definitely a maximal shoe with a lot of cushy foam under the foot and some runners will equate that to being bulky because it doesn’t feel light or agile.

The ASICS GEL-Kayano 30 is now available for purchase here.


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