Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Ridiculous out-of-box comfort, no break-in period, silly upper comfort, high stability
Cons: Low responsiveness, durability and breathability
Best Uses: Road running for over-pronators
Through the years we've seen how many awards the GEL-Kayano has won and the critical acclaim it has received. We weren't let down when we first took the Kayano 20 out for a test run. Now we truly understand the extent of how great this shoe is. For a stability shoe, it's light and comfortable, and we definitely notice it once it is on foot. Many shoes need a few miles to break them in, but this shoe was by far the most comfortable road shoe we tested straight out of the box thanks to the GEL cushioning.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is the lightest as well as most comfortable of the stability shoes we tested.
We clearly feel that this shoe gives us a slower stride turnover and is less responsive when compared to some of the other stability shoes we tested, such as the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14. We believe this might be in part due to the super cushy landing, which creates the lack of responsiveness and the lack of a "pop" feeling we notice in other shoes, like the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3.
The landing comfort is tip top. We rated this shoe the second comfiest shoe of the group, behind the Brooks Ghost 6 by a very slim margin. To attain this near perfect cushioning, Asics uses their patented GEL cushioning system in the rearfoot and forefoot along with their FluidRide technology. The new FluidRide is an upgrade to the 20. Those who plan to do a fair amount of walking, standing or other daily activities in their running shoe should know that we feel this runner is perfect for that as well. Also, it's the only shoe in our test group to be awarded the Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association.
This has the highest score in upper comfort. Asics decided to go all out to make sure it has better upper comfort than any other shoe out there. This shoe comes with two layers of memory foam that secure your heel and individualize the fit. Asics coins it as their Personalized Heel Fit. We notice the fitted upper being perfectly snug and wrapping around the foot nicely. This fit might be too snug for those with wide feet, though there are other widths available.
We give the 20 the second highest stability score of all the shoes we tested. Asics uses their DuoMax technology for the medial posting, which is a dual density foam that increases support and stability. It's a very well balanced stability shoe. Based on our ratings, the stability to weight ratio is higher in this shoe than any other shoe in the group. If you're wanting something with less support but an even more comfortable landing, give the neutral Brooks Ghost 6 review a glance.
Asics uses a stretchable mesh for the upper in the 20. In our test runs we noticed below average breathability when compared to the rest of shoes in the group. Our feet usually finish a run warmer and sweatier in these shoes. We believe Asics took precedence in upper comfort over breathability with this design.
This is the lightest stability shoe we reviewed and third lightest of the whole group weighing, in at 10.9 oz. It uses a lighter weight midsole material than traditional EVA and SpEVA called Solyte. Though lighter, Solyte maintains the cushioning and durability that the heavier midsole materials have. Another way Asics cuts down on weight is by using what they call their Space Trusstic System. Typically trussics are thick and sturdy to provide extra support while preventing torsion, and also "shoring" up the gap between the forefoot and heel. Asics uses a lighter and low profile design in the Kayano 20, which we find to be effective.
Based on our testing, we feel it does not have as good durability when compared to many of the other shoes. After just over 50 miles logged in the 20, we started noticing wear in the forefoot of the shoe. Asics claims to use High Abrasion Rubber in the outsole of the heel, but we don't believe they specify if they use the same on the forefoot. We're guessing not, since the heel looks just fine with minimal wear. If you're looking for the most durable shoe we tested, check out our review of the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3.
Old vs. New Versions
Logging miles in both the Gel-Kayano 19 and 20, we feel there are a few considerable differences worth noting. First and foremost, the 20 does not have as high out-of-box comfort as the 19. Though, in relation to the rest of the group, the 20 still takes the cake for highest out-of-box comfort. After four or five runs the two versions end up feeling similar, though we do prefer the overall ride and comfort of the 19. Also, we prefer the color scheme and design of the 19.
This shoe best serves over-pronating road runners and walkers who want an extremely comfortable and supportive shoe in one package. The Kayano 20 also make a good choice for heavier runners or walkers.
At $145-$160 the Kayano 20 is more expensive than you were likely hoping for, but we don't think you'll be disappointed.
The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on the 20 is luxurious landing and upper comfort. We also notice quite a bit of positive user feedback from heavier runners.
The Gel-Kayano 20 - Women's, $160, are the women's version of this shoe.
The Gel-Kayano is also available in a wider version, the Gel-Kayano 20 2E and the Gel-Kayano 20 4E.
Another version of the shoe is the Gel-Kayano 20, Lite Show, $170, which a special edition of the Gel-Kayano 20, featuring glow in the dark reflectivity.
— Jimmy Elam
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Most recent review: March 4, 2014
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