Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Asics Gel-DS Trainer 24: Like An Old Sweater (That Doesn't Quite Fit)

Article by Michael Ellenberger 

Asics Gel-DS Trainer 24 ($130)

Stats

  • Weight US M9: 9 oz / 255 g (DS Trainer 23 was 8.2 oz / 232 g )
  • Sample US M8.5: 8.68 oz / 246 g
  • Stack Height: 23mm heel / 15 mm forefoot, 8mm drop
  • Color Availability: Illusion Blue/Black (pictured); Black/Black
Tester Profile: Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 40-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.

The Skinny

  • Pros: Aesthetics, circular-knit upper is comfortable, improved mid- and outsole.
  • Cons: Knit upper is unstructured, general fit is unbalanced. Shoe weight.

First Impressions and Fit

You know when you find one shoe that really works for you, and you go to the ends of the earth to be sure you've found every last model before you need to move on? Yeah, that was me with the Gel-DS Trainer 13. To me, it was perfection. I must have owned something like 15 pair of that trainer back in its heyday, and I think I still have an eBay Search Alert set up for it now, in case someone finds one, tucked behind the shelves of their running store. Like a Craigslist Missed Connection, my life has moved on in the 11 years since - so has the shoe - but I've been following its iterations over time. I miss it. I want that connection again. 


Enter the DS Trainer 24. Cool, new, knit upper. Refined midsole and outsole. Light, sleek, with a touch of stability. Everything the DS Trainer 13 promised, in a more mature package... right


The DST24 is a sharp shoe, to be certain. It's comfortable, and it feels like a performance trainer on the foot. But this is no DST13. The knit upper - while way cool, and quite comfortable - is loose in a way I haven't experienced in other knit-based trainers. And while the plastic-free outsole does feel better at faster paces, it's still nearly 9 ounces - about an ounce above the Saucony Kinvara, for example. 



Upper

The most obvious visual change to the Gel-DS Trainer 24 is the new knit upper. What Asics calls "performance knit" is one of the most sweater-like knit patterns we've found on shoes in the recent past. It's thick, and I don't think they'd be wrong to call it "sock-like" (though with our weather here, I certainly have not tried it sockless). 
So - it's soft, it's comfortable, it's visually striking. Somewhere along the line, I expected the knit to tighten up a little, to mold to my foot and give me that perfect, snug lockdown. Unfortunately, that never happened - and what is certainly the DST24's most prominent new feature is also its most disappointing. The upper just feels floppy, and provides little security when turning over at faster paces. My first concern was maybe the shoe (an 8.5, my usual) was too big - but I certainly wouldn't want to go down, as my toe is less than a thumb's width from the end. 

No, the issue is that the upper has no mechanisms I can find to keep your foot thoroughly in place, and in the toebox, the material is just slightly too floppy. Whereas other shoes have integrated a logo into a lockdown mechanism, or run material through the eyelids to the midsole (ala Nike's Flywire), Asics has no such "extra" lockdown. The green elements stitched on the side of the shoe are aesthetic, rather than functional. It's certainly not a dealbreaker - for those with wider feet, or higher insteps, that may provide added comfort - but it led to a more "slipper like" experience than I had wanted. The heel collar, while overly padded, had no slippage.

Midsole

Asics integrated its new Flytefoam Lyte midsole material: a firmer, responsive material that provides nice feedback while still allowing a comfortable ride for slower efforts. Despite the "Lyte" name, the midsole (and upper) contribute to a shoe that's nearly an ounce heavier than its predecessor. In the case of the midsole, it may be worth it: I was impressed with the responsiveness of the DST24 at a number of paces, in a number of conditions.

Of course, the Gel-DS Trainer 24 is also a stability shoe, so the midsole integrates Asics's classic Dynamic DuoMax support system and Impact Guidance System (IGS) to help mild overpronators find a more efficient foot strike. I don't overpronate much (at least per the RunScribe+), but I do like to wear mild stability shoes from recovery days where I can tell my foot strike is slightly askew. The firmness of the midsole will help this shoe "feel" stable and if previous DuoMax models are any indication, this should provide ample support for those who need it - even in a lightweight package.

I tried to map the DST24 against the "least stable shoe" I could think of, the Hoka Evo Rehi, to see if the data could elucidate anything regarding the stability mechanics. The Shoe Prints from RunScribe+ are reproduced below.

Hoka Evo Rehi - note the pronation velocity (orange).

Note how the pronation velocity is considerably higher on the Rehi (above as it has a wider print and more orange and less purple) than the DS Trainer  (below, narrower more purple). This is a small sample set, and something I'd love to research further - but at least there seems to be some science backing what I can only describe as a "stable feeling shoe." You can also see on the ShoePrint how the toe-off (green) on the Rehi occurs much closer to the end of the toe box, is wider, and more angled to the medial side than on the DS Trainer - that may contribute to some of the loose feeling in the shoe.
DS Trainer 24.

Outsole

The outsole is improved here, and I'm a fan; they've removed the plastic truss that used to bisect the shoe under the midfoot, which helps reduce weight, but also leads to a slightly easier (and less clunky) toe-off, especially when running faster. On grip, I had no issues whatsoever on the DST24, even on snowy and icy days. After about 50 miles, there are no major indications of wear, and I'd expect the DS Trainer 24 to last a considerable number of miles for most runners. Asics uses their "ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR)" here, at it's never done me wrong before.

As is the case for medially-posted shoes, the wear to the midsole may change the stability pattern over time (as the softer portion of the foam compresses faster than the dual density portion), so runners who need the support should be cautious once the milage ticker gets too high.

Ride

As noted before, I found the upper to dominate the shoe - visually, it's striking, and to the touch, it's comfortable - but it just feels sloppy in practice. It's a shame, as I'm partial to the knit-style of uppers that have been coming forth lately, but Asics's first try just misses the mark. That unease, is counterbalanced by what I found to be a pleasant ride from the mid- and outsoles. It's light, firm, and quite responsive at a variety of paces. The touch of stability that is a signature of the DS Trainer 24 doesn't hurt, either. 

Conclusions

I didn't find the magic of the Gel-DS Trainer 13 I was seeking in the 24th edition from Asics. In fact, I was disappointed by how little magic I found in the DST24, despite all of its purported improvements. The upper is nice, but fails to provide sufficient lockdown. The midsole, while responsive, is heavier than last year's (though some of the undoubtedly is caused by the heft of the knit, as well). The good news is that this is a comfortable, stable trainer with an improved, grippy outsole and some sleek looks, to boot. It's a good shoe, and it does a lot right - it's just not what I was hoping for. 

Long-time devotees of the DS Trainer may be happy, especially because the number of lightweight stability trainers is fast dwindling. And the improved aesthetics and general appeal of knit may turn enough heads to convert some new runners to Asics. But compared to all the terrific trainers available now - and there are a lot! - I was underwhelmed by the Gel-DS Trainer 24. 


Consider the Gel-DS Trainer 24 next time you're in the market for a shoe of this class, but be sure to put it through a test run or two before deciding. The upper is so comfortable (and so cool!), and the midsole so responsive, that you may be tempted to overlook its faults. For me, the experience was like putting on that funky old sweater from the back of the closet, only to realize the sleeves are too short. There are a lot of memories, and a lot to like - but you come away disappointed.


Score (out of 10): 8.75
-.75 for the upper being loose and out of sync with underfoot platform
-.5 for nearly an ounce heavier than last year


Comparisons


Gel-DS Trainer 23 
Compared to the old DST23, the updated version packs a number of improvements. The new Flytefoam Lyte midsole and truss-free outsole are considerable upgrades, and even the aesthetics have been boosted to a funky blue-green madness. Unfortunately, the sloppy upper of the DST24, compared to the "Adapt Mesh" on the 23 - already a competent upper - feels like an unfortunate misstep. Unless you need the latest and greatest, the DS Trainer 23 - especially on sale - is a good buy.

Brooks Ravenna 10 (RTR Review)
The Ravenna 10 is another lightweight stability trainer that I was disappointed in, relative to its predecessor, but I think the DS Trainer does more right than the Ravenna. I wasn't impressed with the upper on either, but the DS Trainer was certainly more comfortable, and while the Brooks integrates the new Guide Rail technology, the midsole was considerably more dull than what the Flytefoam Lite on the DST provides. Go with the Asics.

Nike Odyssey React 2 Flyknit (RTR Review)
The Odyssey React is Nike's stability variant of its popular "Epic React" trainer. It's about an ounce lighter than the DST24, with Nike's Flyknit material up front and a new midfoot "saddle" to keep the foot locked in place. Our early reviews of the Odyssey React were quite positive, and down the road, Nike's  hybrid-upper approach (part knit-part not) may serve Asics well. For now, the Nike is a better - and more affordable - buy.

Read Michael's full run bio here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting the review. My go to shoe is the Adidas Tempo 9, but I have always had a soft place in my heart for the DS Trainer series (starting with the 21 which was my “oh you mean I don’t have to wear Adrenalines”). So with every new model, I try it out. I found your comments about the 24 right on the money. Like you, I was disappointed by the increase in weight, and the seemingly loose fit (and I was a 1/2 size down from my regular size). My recommendation for someone who wants a firmer shoe than the Tempo 9 while staying in the light stability class is the NB1500. I have the v5 and like it very much although my achilles thinks the Tempo 9’s are a better choice :-)