A few months ago I accidentally (probably through a link on Facebook or something) came across an invite for people to register as testers for Asics running shoes. Having run in Asics most of my running career, I jumped at the opportunity – who wouldn’t want to receive a free pair of a favourite running shoe, with the only requirement being to actually run in the shoes, and then give some feedback on your experience? Sounds like a plum deal to me!
After registering as an Asics road tester, I also joined their Facebook page, and it wasn’t long before I received a notification that they were looking for runners to test the brand new Gel-Kayano 21, the Rolls Royce in Asics’ stability line-up. I’ve run in previous iterations of the Gel-Kayano before, so I was more than keen to sign up. In fact, the previous model in the range, the Gel-Kayano 20, is in my current rotation of running shoes (along with the more minimalist Nike Free Flyknit and trail shoes from Nike and Montrail), which turned out to be quite lucky, because one of the requirements when applying to become a tester for the new Gel-Kayano’s was a photo of you with your current Kayano’s.
With my picture and 50-odd word spiel about why I should be selected submitted, I kind of forgot about it. Until I received a email just before Christmas that I was selected as one of the testers for the new shoes. What a Christmas bonus!
Being away on holiday at the time, I arranged for the shoes to be delivered upon our return in early January. And indeed, the day after returning, the local postie knocked on our door holding a package with that familiar shoe box shape. Opening the box revealed a striking pair of brand new, fluorescent yellow-green, red, black and white Gel-Kayano 21’s – I couldn’t wait to get out for a first test run!
Over the past year or so I’ve been migrating to more minimalist shoes, but I do like alternating between minimal and more traditionally cushioned, supportive shoes in my daily training, to mix things up and avoid overuse injuries as far as possible. And I have to admit, as far as traditional running shoes go, Asics are definitely up there with the very best. The brand can probably be described as leaning towards the conservative end of the spectrum, in the sense that they have not embraced new trends like minimalism and barefoot running as aggressively as some other brands such as Nike, New Balance, Mizuno etc. And while I am all for innovation and change, I think this traditional approach can actually be a plus. If you pick up the latest version of an Asics shoe, you know what you’re going to get – a sensibly tweaked/improved version of the same shoe, subtly incorporating new technologies, but not throwing things that work out the window. And that’s great – I had no problems stepping into the brand new Kayano’s and going for a three-hour long run. No niggles, just a plush, familiar, comfortable ride. Which may not be terribly exciting, but when you venture out on a long run, dependability outweighs excitement every time in my book.
Compared to some other shoes I run in, the Asics Gel Kayano 21 is a lot of shoe, offering a range of features and technologies providing stability, support and cushioning, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on where you stand in the minimalism debate. But so far so good – based on the experience of my first 50-odd kilometres, I am definitely looking forward to the road ahead in these babies!