Asics Gel Sonoma 3 - Everyday Door-to-Trail Trainer

80 / 100 by Robert Landauer • Level 2 expert

Advertised Weight: 11.3 oz (size not specified)

Real Weight: 11.0 oz (M’s 9.5)

Drop: 8 mm

Tagline: “Designed to equip the off-road adventurer with more control while navigating the rugged terrain.”

 

 

Fit

As far as sizing goes, the Asics Gel Sonoma 3 is spot on. In addition to correct sizing, these fit well!

Every part of the shoe is comfortably just a little snug without being restrictive or tight in any way. Some runners might prefer a wider toe box than this shoe offers (I don’t).

My feet also run slightly on the narrow side, so a handful of runners would prefer this shoe be wider. Fortunately, this shoe is also available in a larger width. Virtually any runner should be able to find a good fit with this shoe.

I have to take a few points off for one small problem - there’s some stitching on the inside of the shoe that rubs against my left pinky toe. I almost never blister, but this managed to do it. Not sure why my left toe only - my feet are the same size, so perhaps I run slightly asymmetrically.

This may not be an issue for some runners, just as it’s not an issue for my right toe. But I have to grade based on my experience.

I’ve done a little surgery on the shoe and removed only a few stitches, then reinforced the area with super glue. It’s an improvement, but the seam is still there, so I have to wear a small band-aid when running.

Kind of a nuisance, but cheaper than ditching a perfectly good pair of shoes and buying new ones.

 

Upper

Parts of the upper feel a little stiff, particularly around the heel.

This makes it somewhat difficult to put the shoes on, but after only a few runs, it got a little better.

 

 

The upper isn’t as breathable as some others, but I’ve also seen worse. If you’ve run in any waterproof/“breathable” shoes before, it’s at least better than that.

This may not be an issue depending on where you live, but I live in Texas. On top of that, I tend to wear my thicker socks because of the pinky toe issue, making a warm shoe even warmer.

Fortunately, I got these shoes in December, so a large portion of its lifespan will be used up before it gets warm again.

The shoelaces...this is a bust. They’re bulky and they come untied easily. Once my old shoes are officially retired, I’m recycling their laces.

 

Tread

 

 

I, for one, like the understated tread of this shoe. The lugs aren’t deep enough for especially muddy conditions, and it also probably isn’t the best for the most difficult technical terrain.

But what if your daily run doesn’t involve mudholes and technical climbs? If you’re looking to hit the trail in your local park, this is your shoe.

The tread pattern provides plenty of traction without overdoing it. In addition, it performs decently well on pavement without feeling like a tank. In short, this is an excellent door-to-trail trainer.

 

Cushion

For a trainer, I find the Sonoma 3 to have just the right amount of cushion.

Slightly above an average amount, enough that you could train double-digit miles on a daily basis, but not so much you feel like you’re running in sand. Once you get off-road and onto a soft surface, the cushioning feels great.

Recently, some manufacturers have been experimenting with different foams and gels, giving their shoes more bounce and adding an extra spring to your step. These don’t do that.

Asics refers to the foam as “SPEVAFOAM” and the gel as “Rearfoot Gel”, evidently proprietary technologies, but I haven’t found them to feel anything more than standard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; you simply shouldn’t expect these shoes to be “special” in any way. They do their job and do it well.

 

Ride

Like the upper, the ride is somewhat stiff on its first run but loosens up slightly after a break-in period.

These aren’t racing shoes, so they’re not going to be particularly flexible or responsive. I’d like them to be a little less stiff, but many runners might appreciate it.

Asics recommends this shoe for either neutral runners or those who under pronate. I overpronate slightly, but find this shoe to work just fine for me, as most neutral shoes do.

The ride is mostly neutral, with a little bit of general support and stability. Again, these are ideal for use as an everyday trainer.

 

Design/Looks

Dang cool, in my opinion. The Gel Sonoma 3 manages to look rugged while also looking like they could move fast.

I normally hate camo, but this subtle version of it looks great! And, thank goodness, the outsole is black. Anything but a dark-colored outsole is a bad idea, especially for a trail shoe. A white one is idiotic.

 

 

Best Use

  • Everyday trainer
  • Door-to-trail
  • Off-road

 

Pros

  • Good fit overall
  • Comes in different widths
  • Appropriate tread for mixed surfaces
  • Right amount of cushion for everyday trainer

 

Cons

  • A little stiff
  • Stitching causes blister on pinky toe
  • Bad shoelaces
  • Not particularly breathable

 

Verdict

Overall, the Asics Gel Sonoma 3 is an excellent everyday trainer, especially as a door-to-trail shoe.

Most of my daily runs are half on the pavement, half on the trail, so this is exactly what I was looking for. It’s a little heavy, but I prefer my trainers a little heavy.

Heavy shoes make you stronger, and when you lace up something speedier on race day, you’re bound to have a good race. Also worth mentioning, this is the only running shoe I’ve ever had where the actual weight was less than the advertised weight.

I’d like to score this one higher, but the pinky toe blister issue prevents me from doing so. If other people don’t have the same issue, I’m sure these will get deservedly higher marks on average.


Robert Landauer

Robert Landauer • Level 2 expert

Robert "Coyote" Landauer is an ardent long-distance runner on both road and trail, with 27 marathon-or-longer races under his belt. Robert is a mild pronator and generally favors "ordinary" shoes with a touch of cushion and stability, but close to a neutral strike.


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