With age comes great wisdom: the ASICS Kayano 20 review

How do you work out the age of a dog in ‘human years’? The rule of thumb is that you multiply the age of your faithful hound by 7. Seven dog years for every human one. Actually that is not particularly accurate because different breeds of dogs live for very different amounts of time. But seven years is not a bad average.

But what about running shoes? Is it fair to suppose that a pair of running shoes lasts about 6 months? Well in that case a ‘shoe year’ is a lot shorter than a human year. So why am I trying to work out the equivalent of a shoe year? Well the ASICS Kayano is on its 20th version and was launched in 1993. According to all the animal year calculators, that means that the Kayano is the equivalent of 650 years old. That is like Yoda-old.

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Old Skool running technology

The shoe is named after its designer and has been sold as a high-mileage shoe since its launch – a marathon runners favourite. The first edition (right), actually called the ASICS GEL-Kayano Trainer, was no feather-light offering. But it did incorporate the latest technology. And it was white. Very white.

Fast forward 600-odd years and the Kayano has evolved. It still retains many of the things that the first edition – and every subsequent edition – aimed to do. But as L. P. Hartley wrote;

the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Now the Kayano incorporates technology that it’s forefathers could only dream about.

I have to say that when I opened the box, the first thing I thought was “Wow! They look heavy”. This is a reflection of the anti-minimalist nature of the Kayano and also the colour. Ironically I think that black, when it comes to running shoes, adds the impression of weight rather than reducing it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 21.15.04However as I lifted the shoes out of the box, I was really impressed. For such a significant shoe, this is as light as you could hope for. At the same time, the lack of weight does not compromise on cushioning. I remember pulling on my first pair of Kayanos at least seven years ago and thinking how amazingly cushioned they felt. The 20th edition does not disappoint on that front. The technology that provides the smooth ride is called Fluid Ride and is based on a 2-layered sole which it is claimed gives the runner improved cushioning and high levels of bounce back.

The top of the shoe utilises ASICS’ Fluid Fit technology, which means the shoe fits like a glove. There are very few seams and the mesh is great for keeping my feet cool and dry (except when it’s raining, obviously!)

ASICS also say that their Dynamic DuoMax technology gives extra support and stability for overpronators and that the Guidance Line guides the foot from impact through to push-off providing a more efficient running style. I usually think ‘bullshit’ when brands make claims like this about their shoes correcting the way people run: a runner hits the ground and a force equivalent to 2.5 times their body weight goes through their foot. So for me that would be 150kg. I struggle to believe that a little bit of plastic embedded in the EVA midsole is going to make much difference to 150kg of me crashing down on the ground. Still, what do I know?

What I do know is that these shoes do exactly what they promise. Exactly what they have always promised. They are super comfortable and perfect for everyday easy runs and long runs, when what you are looking for is the most cushioning for the least weight. The shoes are super-comfortable around the foot, with a lovely padded ankle collar. And they grip really well, even in the wet conditions that we have been enjoying of late. I even took them off-road for a trail run and they coped with the mud admirably. So overall, I’d say that the ASICS GEL Kayano 20 is a great shoe for all your everyday training. I suppose that should be no surprise – they’ve had the best part of 650 (equivlent-human) years to get them right!


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