These Old School Asics Sneakers Are Making A Comeback

To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
Recently, I was tapping through trainer Megan Roup's Instagram story as she answered questions from her followers. Someone asked what kind of shoes she wears, and she identified them as Asics GEL-Kayano, which struck me as surprising. Asics is known for being kind of basic, and this particular chunky shoe is a little, I don't know, geriatric? Then, I suddenly saw these all-black or all-white Asics sneakers everywhere: at an Equinox workout class, on the subway, and on the feet of other Instagram influencer types. So, clearly they are back.
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When the GEL-Kayano was first introduced in 1993, it was revolutionary for the time, because it featured gel in the sole for "premium cushion and support," says Paul Lang, merchandising manager at Asics. There have since been 25 editions of the GEL-Kayano, and Asics is currently working on the 2019 version, he says. "While Asics offers footwear across a broad spectrum, the GEL-Kayano will always feature our newest technologies and innovation," he says.
Technically, the GEL-Kayano is a running shoe that's ideal for logging lots of miles, but it's also good for strength-training, because it provides lots of stability, Lang says. For someone like Roup, who's on her feet dancing all day, it makes sense to wear a shoe like the GEL-Kayano because it has more substance underfoot, he says. But we had to put these sneakers to the test to see what all the hype was about.
It's been a minute since I've worn Asics GEL-Kayano sneakers. When I first picked up running a few years ago, I got a pair of these bad boys because the person at the running store told me they'd be better than the Nike Frees I was wearing at the time. Theses Asics look big and clunky, but feel supportive on my foot. Unlike other cushioned shoes, which tend to be lightweight, these are hefty. I wore the Asics GEL-Kayano 25 on a few runs (between three and five miles), and really liked how they felt when my foot hit the pavement. They have a springy quality to them, but also feel substantially supportive. Since I usually pronate (run with my weight on the inside edge of my feet), it seemed like they almost course-corrected my feet, but some people might not like that.
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Rebecca Farley, entertainment editorial assistant at Refinery29, wore the GEL-Kayano's running, and found they were "too heavily supported in the back." Lots of runners make a big fuss about whether you should strike (aka land) with your heel first or the middle of your foot. Landing on your heel is believed to put more pressure on your knees, while striking midfoot puts more strain on your Achilles tendon and calves. Rebecca is a long-distance runner, so this is something that she cares about when choosing sneakers. "I found myself striking on the heel more than I liked — I know the debate on heel striking is still raging," she told me. "The reality is that my right heel is a little bruised right now, so I have to really keep my stride lifted." She usually wears the Brooks Revel, for what it's worth.
So, these might not be a fit for all runners, but they are great for other types of workouts. I wore them to a dance cardio class, and appreciated how bouncy they are, even on a hard studio floor. However, my toes fell asleep at one point in the class, which is probably a sign that they were too narrow for me. Rebecca wore them for a few strength-training sessions and thought the firm sole helped keep her weight centered. "I noticed during my strength workouts that I felt particularly stable in them, especially when squatting, jumping, or doing burpees," she told me.
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The fact that practical shoes are suddenly trendy might make some running purists roll their eyes, but it's kind of sweet because it means there are more opportunities to style them outside of the gym. "These are already my go-to weekend shoes," Rebecca said. "Last Thursday, I paired them with a pastel dress and a ponytail, deciding that I didn't feel like wearing sandals to the dusty Biergarten where I was headed."

So, should you buy these sneakers?

For $160, you can feel good knowing you're investing in a reliable pair of sneakers that you can actually run in. If you're a beginner runner, or just want a new trendy workout shoe for boutique classes, definitely consider these. They're functional, comfortable, and honestly kind of fierce. But if you're a pretty advanced runner and are looking for something that will help you build speed or finesse foot strike, you're probably better off with a different shoe.
There is a lot of product out there — some would say too much. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team, but if you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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