Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Asics GEL-Kinsei Blast Review: Return of the Samurai?

Article by Bryan Lim

Asics GEL-Kinsei Blast ($180 US)


Bryan: In my early years in secondary / high school all the way back in 2006, the very technical GEL-Kinsei was born. It became an instant hit. Inspired by samurai armour, its designer Hisanori Fujita wanted the shoe to replicate the way in which it protects the body while still allowing it to move freely. 

Gel-Kinsei 6, the final iteration before the Kinsei was discontinued in 2017


This influence was mirrored in the shoe’s construct. For example, the angle of the sneaker’s heel mirrors the angle of a samurai’s katana swords.

The GEL-Kinsei was groundbreaking stuff. It had exceptional technical design. Some innovations include a biomorphic fit upper,  the trademark Impact Guidance System in the midsole and the weight-reducing Trusstic System technology that is still extensively used in ASICS shoes today. Placed under the arch of the shoe, the Trusstic System provides torsional stability.

It appears immediately that the Kinsei Blast retains the popular maximalist approach, in a technical sense that its predecessors thrived on, but with modern adaptations including a PEBAX plate, FF Blast midsole and ample Gel used in the heel and midfoot. Read on to find out if the Kinsei Blast is relevant in today’s running shoe scene.

I would also like to take this opportunity to disclose that I am an ambassador for ASICS Australia. What this means is that I receive shoes at no charge, but am not compensated by the brand in any way. Whilst I am obliged to promote the brand on my personal social channels, it has been agreed that I will continue to review shoes of all brands impartially.  

Pros: Looks great, well balanced, good vibration dampening and protection 

Cons: Heavy, expensive (conversion rate is not favourable in Australia, retailing at AUD $300), somewhat muted ride


Weight: men's / (US9)  11.71 oz / 332g   Official:  10.93 oz / 310g 

Stack Height: 28/18mm midsole stack height. Approximately 38/28 full stack height.

Available now. $180

Tester Profile

Bryan is a road and trail runner living in Melbourne, Australia. He is a consistent sub 1:25 half marathoner and is presently chasing a sub 3-hour marathon. He is 176cm/ 5'9" tall and weighs about 63kg / 140lbs.

First Impressions and Fit

Bryan: Hearing from ASICS Australia that the Kinsei Blast is intended as an everyday mileage and lifestyle trainer helped set expectations, where the original Gel-Kinsei series was a serious stability contender amongst the likes of the Adidas Supernova Sequence and ASICS’ own Kayano and then GT-3020.

Being spoiled by maximalist shoes such as the Hoka Clifton that weighs down to around 8.5 oz / 240g, the Kinsei Blast felt very heavy in hand. I was surprised to weigh my pair in at 11.71 oz / 332g, which was almost a whole ounce heavier than the official weight. Weight aside, the design is chaotic, but in a good and stunning way! It immediately flaunts the very many technical aspects it possesses. Slipping them on was a breeze, and it fit true to size. No issues with width, length and volume.


Bryan: This is probably my favourite aspect of the Kinsei-Blast. I think the use of an engineered upper is an apt choice by ASICS, in showcasing that the Kinsei-Blast has been refreshed with an upper that was not used in its original run. 

What I like best is the upper’s utility. Having worn several pairs of shoes with knit uppers, including the Vaporfly 4%, Brooks Levitate 5 Stealthfit, Nike Flyknit Rn, Adidas adizero Prime and more, I was initially concerned about the lockdown the upper in the Kinsei Blast would provide, especially where a large proportion of its weight lies in the midsole. My concern was immediately swept aside on my first run as the circular knit design proved its worth. 

The reinforced toe box and heel counter are also appreciated as it prevents longitudinal slippage. Naturally, knit uppers will give over time so the added structure ensures consistent protection throughout the lifespan of the shoe.

The heel cup is supported by an extensive piece of plastic that wraps around it

Ample collar cushioning at the heel 

Another aspect of the upper that works well is the tongue. Whilst not gusseted, the strategically padded neoprene tongue works a treat. It's perfect in its thickness and grippy enough so that it doesn’t slide in any way during a run.


This is where just about all the tech lies. The midsole consists of:

  • U-shaped Pebax propulsion plate running from the mid to rearfoot

  • Ample Gel in the mid and rearfoot

  • FlyteFoam Blast midsole

  • Lite Blast midsole foam used in the forefoot and lateral midfoot below the Pebax plate

  • 3D Space Construction in the heel

  • Ortholite 35 lasting

I tried summing it up in a line, but I think the list view better demonstrates the sheer amount of innovations potentially ASICS have crammed in the midsole. 

Fortunately, the concoction of tech works well to an extent. Despite the ample Gel in the rear, the shoe feels very balanced weight wise and this translated into runs as well. The Ortholite lasting and layer of FlyteFoam Blast midsole provided a generally plush and enjoyable ride, but this was muted by the Gel inserts, the Pebax plate and the Lite Blast foam used in the lower layer of the midsole. The more extensive use of the Lite Blast foam on the medial side provides added stability.

The Pebax plate is U-shaped and irregular in thickness. In the image below (the light blue layer), it thickens in the midfoot and I suspect it is used not only for propulsion, but as a Trusstic System alternative. That’s one thing the Kinsei Blast doesn’t have! The Pebax cradle as ASICS calls it is reminiscent of Mizuno’s Wave shoes, especially when incorporated into the midsole in conjunction with the 3D Space Construction to provide relief and stability upon impact through compression. Being a mid to forefoot striker, I was not able to realize the benefits or effects of the combination of tech in the rearfoot. However, upon attempting to jog and impacting my rearfoot, the amount of protection that the rear provides is phenomenal, but overwhelming for my preferences.

FF Blast foam, Lite Blast foam, Pebax plate and Gel jammed into the back half of the midsole

What I was able to properly test includes the utilisation of the Lite Blast foam, the Gel insert in the lateral midfoot in conjunction with the 3D Space Construction. The Lite Blast foam is new to ASICS, and feels slightly denser and firmer than FF Blast, but softer than the FF used in the Nimbus Lite 2. I think this was a strategic choice in providing for a firmer but responsive base and foundation for a shoe that has a lot of components. As with other FF Blast shoes, there was no real break-in period.


Bryan: Simple yet effective would be the outsole’s catch phrase even though its design seems almost contradictory to the rest of the shoe. However, with the sheer number of components, there has to be weight savings somewhere to keep the shoe viable. This is it.

Strategic use of engineered rubber creates a wide and stable base to work with, albeit the placement of the rubber does seems scant. I didn’t notice sloppiness and felt that the outsole did not hinder the shoe’s performance. Good use of decoupling and recesses throughout provides a degree of flexibility, much to the relief from the extensive Pebax plate.


Bryan: The ride is stable and consistent regardless of the pace, and somewhat reminds me of the Kayano Lite 2 but more muted. Even without a Trusstic System component or Duomax, the most symphonical aspect of midsole would be the stability created through the use of the Pebax plate and dual density foams. As a neutral runner, the stability aspect to the shoe is extensive

As mentioned, no break in period was required. The consistency and ample cushion is reminiscent of the Kayano 28, but the protection provided is next level. 

Back to the ride, the toe-off was surprisingly nimble and responsive with the Lite Blast and FF Blast combo, but the overall responsiveness in my transitioning was muted due to the midfoot Gel insert, which is separate to the Gel insert used in the rear. There was enough flex overall notwithstanding the Pebax plate.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Bryan: If Occam’s Razor, and in ASICS speak the Kayano Lite 2, had an antonym, this would be it. There is so much going on with the shoe that the shoe generally does not work for me. It revives the Kinsei DNA in being tech and componentry heavy, and I feel like that is a bygone trait for running shoes. Fortunately the ride is somewhat enjoyable due to the ample protection and cushioning it provides, but it is not the most inspiring nor exciting. It feels very safe! In that regard, the shoe has succeeded in purpose. The Kinsei Blast would best suit a heel striker.

The upper is top notch. I hope that ASICS will incorporate the design and function that the upper offers in shoes down the line. It is plush, easy to wear (of course!), true to size and seamless in fit. This is how a knit upper should be done.

I think the USD$150 retail (against the $180 retail for the Kayano 28) presents fair value. In Australia, the Kinsei Blast is priced AUD$20 more than the Kayano 28, which I think is difficult to justify given that the latter does the same job and perhaps better. In saying that, you will recall that I mentioned that this shoe is intended to be a premium everyday mileage and lifestyle trainer. As an all-rounder, it will do the job well. Anecdotally, the shoe is popular in Australia.

Design and style wise, the Kinsei Blast is a winner, and I would imagine it to pose a threat to shoes like the Ultraboost 20 and 21.

Bryan’s Score: 7.70/10

Ride: 6.5 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 7 (15%) Style: 8 (5%) 


ASICS GEL-Kayano 28 (RTR Review)

The Kayano 28 shares a lot of commonality with the Kinsei Blast in a functional sense. It offers stability and protection, and both utilise FFBlast in conjunctions with another foam and GEL. I think the Kayano 28 is more refined and a shoe more suited for a running enthusiast who prioritises performance. I was able to maintain tempo paces and quicker easily in the Kayano but not in the Kinsei Blast. The Kayano is a far more versatile running shoe.

ASICS Novablast 2 (RTR Review)

In terms of maximalist shoes, the Novablast 2 shares the pedestal with the Kinsei Blast. However, this is where they depart. The Novablast 2 is lighter , more nimble and performance oriented. It is suitable for use in most settings, from recovery runs all the way up to a Parkrun 5k if you must. The Novablast 2 is more stable than its predecessor, but naturally cannot compete with the Kinsei Blast in that respect. I would pick the Novablast 2 over the Kinsei on any run.

Adidas Ultraboost 20 (RTR Review)

The Kinsei Blast would be ASICS equivalent to the Ultraboost. The Ultraboost 20 reminds me of the Kinsei Blast with its knit upper, but falls far short in terms of performance therein. The knit upper in the Ultraboost 20 was one of the very few uppers which caused me great discomfort. For a shoe that is heavier, the Kinsei feels more balanced in weight distribution, whereas the Ultraboost feels very bottom heavy. Ride wise, Boost and the torsional system within the midsole has a superior ride. In terms of overall performance, the Kinsei Blast has the edge, largely due to the superior upper.

Mizuno Wave Rider 25 (RTR Review)

The Wave Rider is a very different shoe to the Kinsei Blast but both share the usage of a Pebax plate in the rearfoot. The Pebax plate in the Wave Rider is far less intrusive than that in the Kinsei Blast, and did not appear to have an impact on the flex of the shoe. The Wave Rider 25 is one of my all-time favourites. It is simple, lightweight, flexible and importantly (to me) has ground feel. The two shoes couldn’t be more different bar the plate! 

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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