Saturday, May 22, 2021

ASICS GEL-Kayano 28 Multi Tester Review: Softer, Lively and Smooth Support

Article by Sam Winebaum, Michael Ellenberger, and Jeff Beck

ASICS GEL-Kayano 28 ($160)


Introduction

Sam: When a shoe gets to 28 editions, the 2nd longest “run” of any current run shoe. And it  is ASICS best selling shoe at running stores, something must be up. Yet I  had never run it, even been tempted by it until we tested last year’s 27 (RTR Review). I was pleasantly surprised (as mostly a neutral shoe runner) by its refined, smooth if complex approach to adaptive motion control. 

I felt the rear massive exoskeleton and prominent midfoot Trusstic stability plate were overdone visually and somewhat excessive in their rear clutch and plate feel, comforting I guess but a touch too much for me and for sure adding to weight as it checked in at 11 oz and a bit. 


Hey but that is the Kayano’s key legacy going back to the original seen above. 

Women's color. PC: Sally Reiley


With Kayano 28 ASICS  refines the formula with some quite significant changes. It tones down the “control” not only the visuals but also mellows the sometimes overly “secure and stable” feel while retaining all the adaptive goodness of the 27  through some key changes:

  • Softens and makes more lively the directly underfoot ride more lively with bouncy, softer Flight Foam Blast, a foam found in the definitely neutral high stack Novablast 2 (RTR Review) extending it to the forefoot for a comfortable. soft,  easy and flexible toe off

  • Reduces the size of the rear TPU plastic to more of a clip than previous exoskeletons which, while retaining a great heel hold and stability, isn’t as overwhelming in feel as before and for sure helps reduce weight.

  • Redesigns the mid foot with a flatter Trusstic plate which instead of wrapping up the sides is now embedded above what is now a filled in (Flyte Foam) flatter mid foot area so in the direction of but not all the way (see Kayano Lite for that) to a more inherent stability by contact approach than prescriptive by an arched plate at midfoot with no foam below.  

  • Updates the upper with a soft very comfortable new engineered mesh upper. 


Seeing a trend here… GEL-Kayano softens its image and ride, ups the plush all around to help justify its premium $160 pricing, and relaxes by toning down the visual and actual impact of previous plastic elements. GEL remains front and back with the rear unit streamlined and segmented.  And good news we lose 0.35 oz /10g to come in at about 10.75 oz / 305g. A lot of promising updates. So how did they perform? Read on to find out.



Pros:

Fun, flexible, soft and bouncy Flyte Foam Blast underfoot layer: Sam/Sally/Michael/Jeff

Very easy to toe off, soft and flexible forefoot  Sam/Jeff

Moderate pronation control and stability without harsh blocky misery or prescriptive “rails” Sam/Sally/Michael/Jeff

Non obtrusive new design Trusstic mid foot plate Sam/Michael

Secure and comfortable upper. Should fit a wide range of foot volumes. One of the best premium shoe uppers of 2021: Sam

Weight drop of 10g /0.35 oz Sam/Sally


Cons:

Medial plastic extension of heel support could be lower. Noticed but fortunately not overly long Sam/Michael

Wish firmer medial support DuoMax sidewall was yet more segmented. Unchanged from 27. Sam/Sally

Medial sidewall at forefoot created a hotspot on inside of base of big toe for my particular foot - Sally

Loses a bit of the snap and response of the 27 but gains in smoothness and cushion comfort        Sam/Michael 

Slight concern that heavier forefoot strikers may find soft forefoot thin. Sam

Weight at 10.75 oz. There are equally as effective if not quite as plush and comfortable options weighing about an ounce less. Sam/Sally

A complex "system" and construction priced accordingly gives pause at $160.


Stats

Approximate weight: men's 10.76 oz  / 305g (US9)  /  women's 9.5 oz / 271g (US8)

  Samples: men’s 10.51 oz  / 298g (US8.5); 11.6 oz / 329g (US10.5)

                  Women’s 9.5 oz / 271g (USW8)

  Kayano 27: 10.86 oz /  308g men’s US8.5

Midsole Stack: men’s 13mm forefoot /23 heel || women’s 12mm forefoot / 25mm heel

Add about 10mm for full stack height.

Men’s Widths: D=Medium, 2E=Wide, 4E=Extra Wide

Available June 2021.  $160 


Tester Profiles

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 


Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 30 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying to many fine New England IPA.


First Impressions, Fit, and Upper

Sam: Mostly black with darker coral highlights and a touch of gray detailing inside the Tiger overlays the upper is serious looking, conservative, and attractive if lacking in much visual pop.

The fit and hold is sublime. Plush, soft and secure with plenty of toe box width and volume and no sloppiness. I was true to size. I suspect some on the edge and who went to the available 2E width in the 27 will be fine at regular D width here. I am very impressed that such a soft and supple upper with no gusset and soft and almost non existent toe bumper holds the foot so well and did so just as well for my narrower right foot as my wider left foot.  More than occasionally in a broad unstructured upper I struggle with a good fit on my narrower foot. Not so here. Tribute to the “still” effective but now mellowed out and not as overwhelming rear hold combination of heel counter and new plastic TPU tmore clip like than exoskeleton outer support piece. 

My only gripe with the upper and a small one is that the TPU clip while mercifully short (unlike Brooks Guide Rails or Nike React Infinity’s) rises quite high on the medial side and is felt. 


It extends in a less prominent fashion on the lateral side where I really didn’t notice it, maybe due to the segmented GEL on that side reducing its impact?

The clip for sure contributes to the stability of that area but for my preferences could be lowered, especially on the medial side.

Michael: I can’t say I love the looks of my black and red Kayano 28s, but I do appreciate the fit and finish of the upper. The toebox is sufficiently wide and breathable (we went from 40° to 80° seemingly overnight here - so a welcomed trait!), and I didn’t have any issues with lacing or lockdown whatsoever. My sole issue with the upper - as Sam noted, as well - was the rigid insertion on the medial side that did remind me of my Nike Infinity React experience. It’s not quite as protruding, but it is noticeable, and just not a means of delivering stability that I love (even if it’s effective).


Jeff: It was only a matter of time before I tried a Kayano, this is my first experience with ASICS historic beast. I was surprised how light it felt considering how much tech is in the midsole of the shoe. I immediately understood why this shoe has been around for close to three decades. This is one of those uppers that looks fine and feels great. I’m with Michael, the colorway isn’t my favorite (I’m getting nostalgia flashbacks as black and red was my middle school’s colors), but that doesn’t play into how well the Kayano upper holds the foot without strangling it. Toebox is plenty wide and tall with only hobbit footed runners likely to have problems (though the shoe is available is multiple widths so you can address that if need be)


Midsole


  • FlyteFoam Blast black layer replaces Propel

  • White FlyteFoam below is retained.

  • Flatter more filled in midfoot via FlyteFoam

  • Slightly wider more flared platform

  • New “flatter” Trusstic plate with no wrap up the midsole side walls

  • More segmented rear GEL. Front encapsulated GEL is retained.

  • Dynamic Duo Max firmer medial midsole sidewall is retained.

 

Sam: While complex in its construction,  the midsole is almost all of a piece in feel. Unlike many “control or support” shoes, the rear of the shoe is for sure not overly firm and there are no big disconnects in feel between the support  elements and the rest of the rear of the shoe. 

The Kayano 28 has a nice broad, stable in no way blocky, decently soft landing. The Dynamic Duo Max medial side wall is firmer (but not significantly firmer than the rest of the white Flyte Foam midsole and is not glued but co-molded so no rigid seam is felt  It is sensed as providing support when needed. I wish the Duo Max was a touch more “dynamic” in feel, bending forward more with the foot, giving more, especially as above it the black Blast foam is softer and bouncier.

The now filled in midfoot and flatter Trusstic plate leads to a flatter transition with a touch less snap than the 27 but a smoother and easier one which easily finds the softer, bouncier and more flexible Blast foam forefoot.  The Kayano 27 with its more prominent exposed Trussttic U shaped plate is shown below.

The front of the shoe is particularly pleasant and agile for a big shoe but lacks a touch of the response of the 27 and may be a bit thin in feel especially if you are heavier and/or are a forefoot striker. Summed up basically the midsole is one highly cushioned now softer, smoother, and more mellow approach to stability than the 27 or that I am used to in stability shoes. As a neutral shoe runner, I for sure sensed the three stability elements (TPU clip, DuoMax sidewall and Trusstic plate) were there but they are also never in the way, blocky, or harsh.  


Michael: Last year, Sam and I both took issue with the overly rigid plastic trussic throughout the midfoot, which, while aiding lateral stability and toe-off, came at a cost of general smoothness and flexibility. As Sam notes, there’s slightly less “snap” than the 27th iteration (with the rigid plastic element, you were either on or off your toes, so to speak), but the improvements are, in my opinion, worth it. With my complaints of the “clip” element being irritating (see above in the Upper section), I had not complaints with the midsole - in fact, I think the K28 rides about as smoothly as a Cumulus or Nimbus (“neutral” trainers), and is coming very close to ASICS’s Kayano Lite counterpart.




Jeff: While I didn’t have a previous Kayano to compare it to, I was surprised how similar this shoe runs to the Nimbus despite the latter being a neutral shoe. To Sam’s point, I am a heavier midfoot/forefoot striker and I came around to the forefoot cushioning after a couple runs. Out of the box they felt a little thin up front, but once I got some miles on the road they didn’t feel that way at all. I’m still coming back from an achilles injury so I haven’t had any long distance runs in them, but there’s plenty of pleasant cushioning.

Outsole


Sam: The outsole sees minor changes from the 27.

GEL-Kayano 27 outsole, 

There are more segments 4 vs 3 up front,  and wider segmentation between band as well as some new heel notches as well as less rubber coverage just after midfoot all likely contributing to the improve the landing softness,  flex and flow towards toe off noted on the run.  

The rubber itself is ASICS always durable High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR+) towards the heel and a slightly softer blown rubber further forward.



Michael: Durable and surprisingly flexible, I had no issues with the Kayano’s outsole.

Due to time and weather limitations, I didn’t take it on anything overly technical or sloppy, but I did get it indoors and out, and on grass, pavement, track, and treadmill surfaces, and had no issues (which, I think we can safely say, was not a surprise for a shoe of this ilk). It’s tough, it’s going to last - it’s a superbly durable option.


Jeff: It isn’t the flashiest outsole, and It has more than a passing similarity to the Nimbus 23 outsole which was a very good, if traditional outsole. There’s lots of coverage for good durability paired with plenty of flex points to make sure that the rubber isn’t the cause of a stiff ride - on a daily trainer that’s about all you can ask for.


Ride

Sam: Most of my rides were at mellow slower daily training or recovery paces of 9-10:30 minute miles. The ride was pleasant, quite soft, smooth, and well cushioned if a bit lacking in snap and response due to weight of the shoe, the flatter mid foot geometry, broad platform and the soft Blast upfront. And that is fine as the Kayano 28 will be a great pick for no agenda mellow runs for me where I don’t want to think about form or if I am tired where I appreciate the quite mellow approach to stability and soft and easy flexible forefoot and toe off here. 


Michael: Like Sam, I never did anything particularly quick in these, barring my usual back-alley strides that I do in new shoes, to get a feel for them at speed. That said, I don’t think the Kayano is made for faster running, nor does ASICS expect as much. The biggest change (and I think what could be called an improvement) is the removal of that rigid element through the midfoot, which leads to a smoother, more even ride. “Snappy” this is not, but I was still overall impressed with the cruising ability of the Kayano on runs short and long.


Jeff: This shoe isn’t made for speedwork, it’s made to be a big mileage daily trainer, so I can excuse the somewhat pedestrian ride. And while that sounds like a backhanded compliment, I mean it as a genuine one, it has a very smooth ride. Many support shoes have awkward geometry, but ASICS has really refined this one to create a solid all-purpose trainer for nearly all runners. Bravo.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Looking for some stability in a trainer that isn’t a chore or overwhelming in its support and control? Kayano 28 is a great choice. And that applies to neutral shoe runners as well. 


In a world of carbon plated race or near race daggers even the fast (not me these days) need a comfortable stable cruiser that can handle moderate miles easily and steadily. I say easily as while the Kayano is not as light as I would prefer, and the weight is sensed, it moves along smoothly, is lighter than its predecessor, and is  enough to run when I want to take it easy. Adding  lively Flyte Foam Blast into the mix gives the shoe some soft bouncy pep if not exactly a fast feeling ride. Blast delivers the fun part while the plush, well held upper serves up superb comfort and hold it is, if still a touch overbuilt at the rear (TPU clip), perfectly matched to the shoe’s purpose of comfort and support.


At $160 we are of course in more premium pricing territory. I say more as some shoes, even trainers are now pushing way above the Kayano in price. As a neutral runner you can get much of the same well cushioned softer ride  sans the overt stability elements in the $ 130 Cumulus 23 and the Cumulus is quite stable for a neutral shoe. That said if you want or need some moderate stability that isn’t in the way of comfort, or actual running as some such shoes are for me, the Kayano is a strong option. It is now  yet refined again in what is for me a positive direction which is less overwrought visually and underfoot to deliver what it needs to do, runner adaptive stability that kicks in when you need it and largely stays out of the way otherwise.   


Devotees of the Kayano, ASICS best selling run shoe, should be pleased with this update. Fans of  support/ stability shoes who are ready to ditch firm posts or rails that get in the way of transitions and feel harsh should definitely consider the Kayano 28, and yet more so than the 27. More neutral runners seeking a mild support option, heavier runners, beginner runners, those who tend to break down their shoes or want long term durability, and hard core walkers should all find the  Kayano a  “rock solid option”. My scoring is for the Kayano as a support type shoe.

Sam’s Score: 9.12 /10 

Ride: 8.9  (50%) Fit: 9.7(30%) Value: 8.7 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)


Michael: Sam has done a great write-up, and I agree with his conclusions - especially as to price. At $160, I don’t think the Kayano 28 is a great buy. The Kayano Lite is the same price, more environmentally-friendly in its manufacture, and a more fun shoe. The other -Lite series options are similarly appealing, and all for the same (or lower) prices. But I get the feeling that ASICS has never attracted many brand new runners with the Kayano 28 - instead, I have to assume many runners know the shoe that works for them, and upgrade it year-over-year. In that regard, I think the Kayano 28 is a fine iteration of the Kayano line. It’s a more than good shoe, just not one that stands out in ASICS’s (genuinely deep and compelling) lineup.

Michael’s Score: 8.7/10.


Jeff: Running shoes have gotten complicated. There. I said it. There are so many great shoes out there, and many of them have a somewhat limited scope of what it should be used for, or who it should be used by. 


Then there’s the Kayano 28 that could probably be in virtually every runner’s shoe rotation. Even if you aren’t a runner that wants or needs support, this shoe is subtle in the ways that it gives support. Shockingly it’s a support shoe that gave me zero issues. As a neutral runner who supinates I’m frequently at odds with support shoes that either dig into my arch with their support mechanism (Nike React Infinity) or cause knee pain with their overzealous rails (Brooks Transcend). The medial rail and medial post are superfluous to me, but they don’t seem to interfere at all with my stride or any part of my run. 


While the $160 price tag can definitely hurt, I’d be shocked if this shoe didn’t give you at least 350-400 miles (or maybe well beyond) so the lasting power should dull the blow somewhat. I don’t doubt Michael’s assertion that there are better supportive options within ASICS lineup, I’m sure many runners will be glad that they have made the Cadillac of support shoes even better. 

Jeff’s Score 8.6/10

Ride: 8 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 8 (15%) Style: 8 (5%)


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


ASICS GEL-Kayano 27 (RTR Review)

Michael: As noted above, I think the K28 is a solid improvement over the K27, with the exception of some of that “snap” that benefitted by the rigid midfoot trussic. Especially if you can get it on sale, the K27 will suit most runners just fine - but the Kayano 28 is a better shoe, all things equal.


ASICS GEL- Kayano Lite  (RTR Review)

Michael: I prefer the “Lite” brethren to the new Kayano 28.  Though both ring in at a steep $160, I think the Kayano Lite is a more dynamic and versatile shoe, with a peppier midsole and generally more engaging ride. The Lite did have an odd break-in period that many of us had to endure in testing, but I still don’t think that’s enough to turn it off. The environmentally-friendly construction and superior aesthetics of the Lite don’t hurt, either. Go Lite!


Sam: The Kayano Lite has no plastic stabilizing pieces in the midsole and no DuoMax firmer foam at the sidewalls. It relies on a wider, more inherently stable platform for his stability. It shares the same 31/21 stack height and price with the Kayano 28 and weighs about 0.5 oz / 14g  less. Its upper is made from 80& recycled materials and is a thinner but not quite as soft mesh and has a slightly more secure fit. The Lite midsole foam is a flavor of FlyteFoam with cellulose nanofibers. It delivers a consistent somewhat bouncy ride feel front to back but lacks the lively bounce of the K28’s front Blast foam or its more distinct difference between front and back of the shoe where in the K28 the support is more noticeable to the rear as its superior front flex. If you like front flex in your support shoe ( I do) go K28, if you like a more rolling ,consistent ride feel Lite. 


ASICS Glideride (RTR Review)

Sam: The Kayano adapts to the runner while the Glideride is more prescriptive with its rigid Guide Sole rocker profile directing you forward in a very consistent (once you find its groove) fashion. A 5mm drop shoe it has more cushion stack but is slightly firmer. Somewhat lighter by 0.25 oz once you get them rolling they are a more dynamic, faster ride than the Kayano but are not as friendly as the easy flexing K shoe for more moderate paces. 


Jeff: Stability vs crazy levels of rocker geometry is what this boils down to. I found the Glideride surprisingly stable (even wore my review pair on a tame trail of my first 50K) but it’s a very unique experience with lots of rigidity. I think runners should try a pair of Gliderides on for themselves, it’s a different experience than almost any other shoe out there, and as much fun as it can be, I’m sure some runners may be put off by the aggressive ride. If they don’t work for you, the Kayano probably will.


ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 (RTR Review)

Jeff: The flip side of the same coin, it’s not hard to see the similarities between these two shoes. Very similar uppers, with the Kayano coming in with a little bit wider toebox, while the Nimbus gets the most comfortable tongue in running shoes. They both have exposed plastic TRUSTIC inserts, with the Nimbus being offset to the arch, though I didn’t really feel the plate there in either case. While my supinating nature should lead me to favor the Nimbus, I prefer the ride and the little bit of extra room in the Kayano, and would strongly urge Nimbus runners to at least consider the Kayano.


ASICS GEL- Cumulus 23 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Cumulus 23 has a soft forgiving, easy flexing ride and for me can be thought of as the neutral (while still plenty stable) counterpart to the Kayano ( I have not run recent Nimbus). It has the same 23/13 midsole stack as the Kayano but does not include the Trusstic plate, stabilizing DuoMax sidewall, or rear clip. As such it weighs about 0.5 oz  and $40 less. While it does not have the livelier Blast layer underfoot its Flytefoam is still soft if not quite as springy upfront. As a more neutral type runner it is my preference of the two. 


ASICS Novablast 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: In ASICS if I want to push the pace or go long and faster in training I will reach for the exciting Novablast 2 with its all Flyte Foam Blast midsole, higher stack, narrower platform, and lighter weight. Comparatively speaking, while improved in stability over its first version”  it is not nearly as stable as the Kayano and really isn’t a shoe for overpronators’ daily training purposes.


Michael: The NovaBlast 2 is a superior shoe in almost all ways, though while the NB2 has significantly improved some of its predecessor’s “wobble,” it’s still a markedly less stable shoe than the Kayano. I think the vast majority of runners will prefer the NovaBlast - but if you have concerns about a wobbly or high-stack shoe, it may be worth heading to a running store and trying them both on.


Hoka Arahi 5  (RTR Review)

Sam: The Arahi 5, also a support type shoe is a full ounce lighter and has somewhat more cushion stack height. Using a “J Frame” of firmer medial cushion that strangely also wraps around to the lateral heel it has a considerably firmer heel landing than the Kayano. Using a combination of a rocker and some flex it is for me a faster paces support option with more limited slower paces utility than Kayano.

 

Nike React Infinity  (RTR Review)

Michael: The Infinity React is certainly the flashier of the two, and an overall more compelling ride. If the Kayano didn’t have that somewhat-annoying medial clip, I might be more inclined to choose it, but since it’s ultimately a matter of degree rather than kind, I think the Nike is the better buy here.

Sam: Lighter and flashier indeed the Infinity not only overdoes the medial clip but also strangely includes an equally long lateral clip which I find gets in the way of my transitions, the clips intended to stabilize the knee more than control pronation so a different approach than Kayano.  While its clip may have some of the same “intentions” Kayano doesn’t over do it. So if you want a combination of more classic pronation control at the midsole and some support higher up from the clip the Kayano for me, despite its 0.5 oz greater weight is a better compromise. 

Jeff: I wanted to like the Nike much more, but it’s extended plastic clip was a deal breaker for me. I kept waiting for the irritation/pain in the arch to go away, but it never did. Meanwhile the Kayano’s guidance system is much more refined and doesn’t announce its presence if it isn’t needed - and that gives it a win in my book.

WATCH SAM'S GEL-KAYANO 28 VIDEO REVIEW


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you know whether Asics has any plans to release a stability oriented version of the Novablast--i.e., a shoe with a high-stack FF Blast midsole and some added stability elements? That would be an appealing model from my perspective. Thanks!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, We know of no such plans as of yet, For sure the platform would have to be wider to start. I wonder what a Kayano Lite with FF Blast might run like
Sam, Editor

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, We know of no such plans as of yet, For sure the platform would have to be wider to start. I wonder what a Kayano Lite with FF Blast might run like
Sam, Editor