A while ago, the good people at ASICS invited me to go to Berlin with them for the launch of the new Gel Lyte 33 shoe. Unfortunately work commitments meant that I couldn’t go, but my friend and collaborator Catherine Wilding was able to take my place and enjoy some Germanic hospitality. Her write up of the weekend is here.
The whole focus of the weekend was to promote the new Gel-Lyte 33 shoe, which is ASICS’ offering to the natural running sector of the market. Unashamedly targeted at the more serious runner, I was very excited to get my hands on a pair (at least that might make up for not getting to go to Berlin!)
This is actually quite a deceptive shoe. It looks very simple and feels very light, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
The main thing that impressed me from what the ASICS team have told me, is the way that the sole has been developed to take into account the way the foot moves. This is the antithesis of the shoes that are available which try to counteract pronation or supination. This is a shoe designed to go with the flow. There is a groove running all the way along the length of the out-sole which ASICS calls the FluidAxis, which means the shoe allows the subtalar joint to move in any way it wants.
How do they feel on the run?
Catherine and I met up once my shoes had arrived for a run around the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park. It was a really beautiful morning and being a weekday, not too busy.
Catherine was looking elegant and very sporty in her new ASICS gear (lovely jacket for any of you looking for a new one for running this winter) and she said immediately that her Gel-Lyte 33s felt great. I must say that mine did too, but at that stage I had only walked in them.
As we headed off on the run, we started chatting about all the things we had to catch up on. It was probably only after a mile or so that we both thought we should probably think about the shoes we were wearing. And here is the rather pleasing thing for me…
Why I really like the ASICS Gel-Lyte 33s
… I hadn’t really noticed the shoes at all. They are really lightweight so there was no feeling of clumpiness that I often feel with more traditional built-up running shoes. The upper is very light and open, so there was no hot-feet feeling. There is no heel-counter (the rigid plastic bit that sits around the heel in most running shoes) so nothing to irritate the Achilles tendon.
And the FluidAxis groove in the sole meant that there really was no interference with my foot strike. The shoe is cushioned so I didn’t feel like my feet were being hammered by the tarmac we were running on, but not so cushioned that I couldn’t feel the ground.
So my review is this, really: the ASICS Gel-Lyte 33 is one of the few shoes I have run in that does nothing to interfere with my natural gait.
To compare it to other shoes I have run in: the Saucony Kinvara (especially the most recent third version) has a very similar feel to the Gel-Lyte 33 and I love the Kinvara. The Nike Free always felt to squishy underfoot to me and has been relegated to a shoe that I wear when I’m out and about, but not when I am running. The inov-8 Road-X 233 is really hard underfoot – almost too hard for anything longer than 45 minutes for me. And racing flats? Well I think they are something different.
The ASICS Gel-Lyte 33 is going to become a staple of my running shoe collection – a shoe that might not be for beginners or heavier runners, but for those of us looking for a light shoe with some cushioning but not too much, this might be the shoe for you.
But don’t take my word for it, what does Catherine think…?
Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review by Catherine Wilding
With the trend for lightweight minimalist running shoes it’s no surprise that all the running brands are competing with each other to launch a revolutionary shoe with the most innovative technology.
The Asics Gel Lyte 33 is the latest of these minimalist shoes from Asics and they are promising a revolution in natural running with the launch of their Fluidaxis.
To find out more I was privileged to be asked to test the shoes ahead of their launch this month. I considered myself the ideal person. Firstly, in my eight or so years of running I have been loyal to only one shoe brand. I have tried different types of shoe but they have all been Nike. I stuck with what I knew, liked and looked good. Secondly, having had many foot and ankle injuries – all on the same foot – I was interested so see if Asics technology could be the solution to an undiagnosed problem.
The one thing the Gel Lyte 33 (and other minimalist shoes) does is allow the foot to move in every direction and therefore pronate. The Fluidaxis that Asics have developed and introduced with this shoe is based on the natural movement of the foot. Most running shoes allow the ankle joint to move only in an “up and down” movement, however the foot also rotates around different angles and the subtalar joint in the foot controls the side to side movement. When both these movements are combined the ankle and the foot are allowed to move completely naturally. The Fluidasxis is designed around a deep groove in the sole of the shoe which is aligned directly with the subtalar joint axis. This allows the foot to pronate naturally and give the runner a more natural movement in the foot. The design of the Fluidaxis is also based around the re-design of the mid and outsole, where the deep grooves fan out allowing the foot to strike the ground more naturally.
So with the technical stuff out of the way, I was keen to try the shoes – especially as I was easily convinced that there was some intuitive sense to allowing the subtalar joint to move.
The shoe immediately felt nice and light on the foot and the lower heel drop of just 6mm was instantly noticeable. The foot felt much lower to the ground and even just walking around there was a feeling that the foot was moving more naturally. Being a lightweight shoe with no support, I was sensible enough to test the shoe with an easy, recovery run. My running mate (aka: Simon Freeman) and I went for a jog around the Serpentine in Hyde Park. At an easy conversational pace we were able to compare notes.
The Gel Lyte 33 has enough cushioning to enable runners to feel that they have adequate protection and also a little bit of support for the foot, whilst still being able to feel the ground. This gave me more confidence for running in the shoes. Having already been schooled in the motion of the subtalar joint by Asics, I was aware that there was noticeably more movement in the foot and ankle. Rather than being scared by this, I actually liked the more free movement. On a 30 minute run I felt no twinges from any muscles that may have been activated by a change in running gait. However, I would caution any runner and certainly a less conditioned runner to be wary of using these shoes for distance. As with any minimalist shoe with a low heal drop, there is a risk of aggravating the Achilles.
These seem to be a good shoe for training perhaps once a week to transition to a more natural running style. I certainly liked the feel of them and having felt no adverse affects in my foot or ankle following the run, I would be inclined to think that allowing the movement of the subtalar joint is a positive thing. I would happily add these as an additional pair of shoes to my collection. Interestingly, or unsurprisingly, my running companion drew the same conclusions.
My only other minimalist shoe is the Nike Free which I consciously choose not to run in. However, I definitely feel comfortable running in the Gel-Lyte 33. For long training runs, I wouldn’t be tempted to veer from my heavy stability shoe – certainly not yet, but maybe it’s a process of adaptation.
Finally, we compared notes on appearance. There was no debate. The light silver-grey and blue of the women’s shoe definitely scores more highly than the men’s for aesthetic appeal. But when it comes to aesthetics, the Nike Free wins hands-down.