Road-testing the Asics Gel-Kayano 21

Asics Gel-Kayano 21

My trusty Gel-Kayano 21’s after 6 months on the road. Being a mid-to-forefoot striker, the forefoot of the outsole shows a fair bit more wear than the heel, but generally the longevity of the outsole has been good. And I am very happy to report that the upper materials still seem perfectly intact – a definite improvement from my Kayano 20’s.

It has been 6 months since I hooked up with my bright and cheerful new road-tester Asics Gel-Kayano 21’s, so this may be a good time to look back and take stock of the first 600 kilometres of our relationship.

“Six months and only 600km!?”, you may exclaim in surprise. Well yes, I have to confess, my relationship with the Kayano’s has not been exclusive – I’ve also been spending some of my running time in other shoes, including a pair of minimal road runners (the Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit), and a range of trail shoes from Montrail, Nike, Asics and Mizuno.

But the Kayano’s have definitely been my go-to shoe for the bulk of my training. In addition to many daily training kilometres, they’ve also been of service during the wet and windy Mountain to Surf Marathon in New Plymouth, the last 30km of gravel on the 100km Tarawera Ultra in Rotorua, and the 56km Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa. And quite a few half marathons and other shorter events on top of that.

When I got the shoes, stepping into them for the first time felt like meeting up with a good old friend. Everything just felt right, comfortable and easy. No niggles, nothing. So much so that I firmly believe you can take the Kayano’s out of the box on Friday and run a marathon on Saturday, no worries. I had a pair of Kayano 20’s in my regular running shoe rotation before I received the 21’s, and going from the old pair to the new was a perfectly smooth transition. Promo blurbs described the 21’s as lighter and softer, but for me they pretty much provided the same plush ride – I couldn’t feel any significant difference except the normal improved cushioning you’d expect from changing from an old shoe to a new one. I considered this instant familiarity a good thing; after all, why fix something that ain’t broken. Even if there are subtle changes in cushioning etc between the 20 and 21, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who enjoyed running in the Kayano 20 should have no negative experiences moving to the 21.

As far as durability is concerned, I’ve noticed the midfoot outsole on my shoes starting to get quite worn (much more so than the heel, thanks to my midfoot-strike running style) but there’s still enough of the outsole left to give me confidence they will easily last past the 900km mark. Something else that I am very happy with so far is the durability of the upper materials of the shoes. With the Kayano 20’s I started getting some holes in the upper material from about 500km, and by 700km the uppers were pretty worn out, with my socks poking out through a number of holes. With more than 600km on the clock, my Kayano 21’s still seem pretty solid, and I’m hoping they will last well past 700km before starting to show any significant wear in the upper.

Asics Gel-Kayano 21

I still really like the look of these shoes. Bright enough to ensure good visibility, but not too flashy.

I will probably still be running in these shoes until after my next marathon, the Taupo Marathon at the start of August. By that time, they should be well past the 800km mark, so I would need to start looking at a replacement shoe, especially for longer runs. I prefer rotating between different styles and brands of shoe at any given time, and will continue alternating traditional supportive shoes with more minimal shoes for my daily training. Which leaves me with some interesting options. Do I go for another stability shoe like the Gel-Kayano, or something a little lighter and less supportive but still with good cushioning, like the Gel-Pursue, or even something from Asics’ minimalist Natural33 range? Whatever my decision, I have little doubt there will always be some or other Asics model in my running arsenal.

(Disclaimer: I received the Gel-Kayano 21’s as part of the Asics Roadtester programme.)

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