The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Asics Gel-Kayano 21 Review

Top Pick Award
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Price:  $160 List
Pros:  Ridiculous out-of-box comfort, no break-in period, silly upper comfort, high stability
Cons:  Low responsiveness, durability, and breathability
Manufacturer:   Asics
By Jimmy Elam ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 17, 2015
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77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Responsiveness - 15% 7
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Landing comfort - 25% 9
  • Upper comfort - 15% 10
  • Breathability - 10% 6

The Skinny

The Gel-Kayano 21 is Discontinued
Through the years we've seen how many awards the Asics GEL-Kayano has won and the critical acclaim it has received. We are happy to report that we aren't let down after spending some time and miles in the most updated version, the 21. Now we know first-hand the extent of how great this shoe is. For the stability class, it's light and comfortable, and we definitely notice this once they are on our feet. Often, shoes need a few miles to break-in, but this is by far the most comfortable road shoe we tested straight out of the box thanks to the Asics GEL cushioning in the midsole. Unfortunately the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 doesn't provide the level of responsiveness we like to see in an Editors' Choice winner like the Brooks Ghost 8.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Asics Gel-Kayano 21 is the lightest as well as most comfortable of the stability shoes we tested, coming away with our Top Pick award in the stability road running shoe category.

This stability model compares most to two other stability models in our review: the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 and the Asics GT 2000 2. These models are designed for over-pronators who want a little more support and stability in landing. The Gel-Kayano is our favorite of this specific style.

Performance Comparison


The author going for a Salt Lake City stroll in one of his favorite road shoes  the Top Pick for a stability model  the Asics Gel-Kayano 21.
The author going for a Salt Lake City stroll in one of his favorite road shoes, the Top Pick for a stability model, the Asics Gel-Kayano 21.

Responsiveness


We clearly feel the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 gives us a slower stride turnover and is less responsive when we compare it to some of the other stability shoes we tested, such as the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15. We believe this is due in part by its highly cushioned landing, which creates the lack of responsiveness and the absence of the "pop" feeling we get in other shoes like the highly responsive Mizuno Wave Rider 18. The heavier weight also detracts from the responsiveness score. We understand that most folks don't look for high responsiveness in a shoe like this though, with their main focus being on a dense, stable midsole to offset their over-pronation.

We notice the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 having added flexibility  specifically in the forefoot  compared to the Kayano 20.
We notice the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 having added flexibility, specifically in the forefoot, compared to the Kayano 20.

Landing Comfort


The landing comfort on the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 is tip-top. We rate it as the second comfiest shoe of the group, behind the Brooks Ghost 8 by a very slim margin. To attain this wonderful cushioning, Asics uses their patented GEL cushioning system in the rearfoot and forefoot along with their FluidRide technology. The GEL cushioning looks and feels beefed up compared to the previous version, though we don't notice much of a difference in the landing comfort between the two. The FluidRide is a newer technology that was first used as an upgrade on the predecessor to this shoe. Located through the middle of the midfoot to forefoot, Asics features an extra wide Guidance Line which provides this road shoe with added flexibility. Looking back to when we tested the predecessor, the upgraded Guidance line on the 21 is even wider and slightly longer. Those who plan to do a fair amount of walking, standing, or other typical daily activities in their running shoe should know that we feel this shoe is perfect for that as well. Also, it is worth noting that the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 is the only shoe in our test group to be awarded the Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Clearly seen on the outsole of the runner's right foot  the yellow highlighted guidance line provides added flexibility and efficiency in your gait.
Clearly seen on the outsole of the runner's right foot, the yellow highlighted guidance line provides added flexibility and efficiency in your gait.

Upper Comfort


The Asics Gel-Kayano 21 earns 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, and we can tell. 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. The upper fit on the heel isn't quite as secure and locking as the on the Mizuno Wave Rider 18, which comes in a very close second on this metric. We believe the fit might be too snug for those with wide feet, though there are other widths available.

A plush  well designed inner liner contributes to the high upper comfort score we give the Asics Gel-Kayano 21.
A plush, well designed inner liner contributes to the high upper comfort score we give the Asics Gel-Kayano 21.

Breathability


Asics uses a stretchable mesh for the upper on the Gel-Kayano 21. 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 when designing this shoe.

Weight


The Asics Gel-Kayano 21 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 shore up the gap between the forefoot and heel. Asics uses a lighter and low profile design in this version, which we also find to be effective. Even with all this weight saving technology, the Gel-Kayano 21 is still right in the middle of the group on this metric because of the dense, hefty foam used to prevent over-pronating.

Durability


Based on our testing, we feel the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 does not have as good durability when compared to many of the other shoes. After just over 50 miles logged in the 21, we start to notice 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 one of the most durable shoe we tested, check out our review of the Brooks Ghost 8.

Old vs. New Versions


Logging miles in the three most current versions, we feel there are a few considerable differences worth noting. First and foremost, the 21 does not have as high out-of-box comfort as the 20 or even the 19. Though, in relation to the rest of the group, the 21 still takes the cake for highest out-of-box comfort which we feel is one of the main reasons this shoe so popular. After four or five runs the two most current versions end up feeling similar, though we do prefer the overall ride and comfort of the older versions as well as the color scheme and overall design of the 19 the most.

Best Applications


This shoe best serves over-pronating road runners and walkers who want an extremely comfortable and supportive shoe in one package. It also makes a good choice for heavier runners or walkers. Asics uses their DuoMax technology for the medial posting, which is a dual density foam that increases support and stability. If you're looking for the highest amount of stability, give the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 review a look.

A side-by-side view of our top stability shoes. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 on the left provides the highest amount of stability of all the shoes in our group  while the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 on the right has the highest out of box comfort.
A side-by-side view of our top stability shoes. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 on the left provides the highest amount of stability of all the shoes in our group, while the Asics Gel-Kayano 21 on the right has the highest out of box comfort.

Value


At $145-$160 this shoe is more expensive than you were probably hoping for, but we don't think you'll be disappointed if you're looking for a top-of-the-line stability shoe with a super high comfort rating.

Conclusion


The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on this shoe is its luxurious landing and upper comfort. We also notice quite a bit of positive user feedback from some heavier runners that enjoy having the extra dense midsole that helps correct over-pronation. We give this shoe our Top Pick Award for our favorite stability shoe.


Jimmy Elam