10 Best Asics Running Shoes in 2021

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
10 Best Asics Running Shoes in 2021

Asics is a big name in the world of running shoes.

With such an extensive collection of Asics shoes to choose from, there are options for all types of runners. Whether you need a comfortable cruiser for long miles, or a carbon-plated racer for new PBs, or a stability shoe for overpronation, Asics has got them all.

And we are here to help you find the best. Having tested over 100 Asics shoes in our lab and wear tests, here are our top picks in five different categories.

How we review Asics running shoes

With nearly 300 Asics running shoes on the market, our mission is to help you find the best one. We purchase all Asics shoes with our own funds to keep the reviews honest.

Spending at least 7 hours on each shoe, our team of dedicated testers puts it through the wringer in our shoe testing lab:

  • First, we run 30-50 miles on average to test the pair in real-life conditions and provide comprehensive feedback.
  • Second, every Asics shoe is sliced into pieces in our lab. Ever wondered what a Kayano looks like from the inside?
  • We use scales, durometers, calipers, and even a custom smoke machine to measure 30+ parameters. It helps us translate what "durable" and "breathable" look like in concrete data.
  • In addition, over 200,000 user and expert reviews on all Asics shoes are included in our scoring to keep it more objective.

In the end, each Asics running shoe gets a CoreScore. It is a rating from 0 to 100 which shows where the shoe stands compared to others.

Finally, we list the cream of the crop right here.

Best overall

Like a cloud, the Asics Gel Nimbus 23 has comfort written all over it! If there’s one thing our feet loved so much from this shoe, it’s the coziness they felt throughout our playtests. 

Upon step-in, our feet were welcomed with a plush wrap. Even better, the cushy midsole pampered us the whole day, it’s FANTASTIC in muting out the impact. 

We had NO issues with slips too. This shoe is as secure as it can get! The gusseted tongue amped up lockdown. And the upper just molded into our feet. Truly, no one does it better than Asics.

What blew us away was the shoe’s smooth yet supportive ride. Heel-to-toe transitions were seamless and the support was just a solid A1. So much so, it almost felt like the Kayano (its stability sibling). 

From mile 1 to the last, we were surefooted as hell!

And durability is one of a kind. After 50 miles of rough wear testing, we are more than sure that this shoe is built to last. It’s got little to no wear on the outsole, and the midsole is just as lively. 

It’s not a light shoe at 11.1 oz, but with all the comfort and support it gives, the weight is more than justified.

See our full review and facts

We have always been curious as to why runners still pick the Asics Gel Cumulus 23 despite the many advanced shoes on the market today. So, we had to see for ourselves why, and 50 miles later, we’re just as smitten! 

First off, it’s a budget shoe that runs and feels like a premium trainer. It’s comfortable, effortless, and durable. Even better, it’s a generalist! There’s NOT a thing this shoe can’t do. 

It does not skimp on padding, and our feet have been nothing but comfortable. From the upper to the midsole, it’s pillow-like. 

In our lab tests, we have found that average tongues are only 5.4mm thick, but this shoe just loves to stand out - it’s got a whopping 8.2mm thick tongue! How does it feel? Damn good. 

It also locks the feet securely in place. As in, NO excess movements nor wobbling. 

And ooh la la, its flexibility is just off the charts! It’s not rockered, but its flex is there to make the ride buttery smooth. 

Since we love to put our shoes through the wringer, the Cumulus took a serious beating from us. And successfully, it’s proven itself a tank. Contrary to the average outsole (3.7mm thick in the heel), it’s got 4mm thick rubber. 

Whether you’re looking for a shoe for daily runs, jogs, and a shoe that’s going to take you from your couch to your first 5k race, the Asics Gel Cumulus 23 can fit the bill. 

See our full review and facts

Best for race

The Asics MetaSpeed Sky is THE “it” shoe among all the carbon-plated racers. Hands down, it’s the best one we’re tried! 

Even though we really like nitpicking, it was hard to find a flaw in this shoe. It’s insanely bouncy, you can set/break PBs with no sweat! And what’s great about it is that it’s NOT unstable. Despite the spring-like steps it delivers, the carbon plate is there to balance it out. 

Having tested a lot of racing shoes, this is easily the most stable racer we’ve ever come across. And wow, it’s even stable during slow paces! 

To really see the numbers, we had to do our lab tests. And in our durometer test, we have gathered that the shoe has 22.5HA stiffness while the average shoes are at 27.3HA. What does this mean? It’s going to keep the feet supported, and it’s even more stable than the 14.2HA Nike Invincible Run! 

And it doesn’t stop there. Its lockdown is a star. It doesn’t have a lot of stretch, keeping the foot snug in place. There are ZERO slips. 

At 6.7 oz, it’s among the lightest shoes on our roster. It’s almost like we’re running barefoot in this speed monster. 

On wet and dry pavement, it has been nothing but an ace! During sharp turns, it gripped like crazy, making our strides steady and surefooted.

And to really seal the deal, the Asics MetaSpeed Sky is one sexy shoe. It’s a stunner in the performance arena, and it sure doesn’t lag behind in the style department.

See our full review and facts

True to how it's billed, the Asics MetaRacer is an all-star when it comes to propulsion. It’s bouncy, it just made us spring forward! 

Despite it having a carbon-fiber plate, it doesn’t punish the feet. In fact, it’s a champ when it comes to comfort. Unlike other race-day shoes we’ve tested, the MetaRacer is cushy underfoot and it’s superbly breathable too.

And to really take things up a notch, it’s got a TERRIFIC grip. On both dry and wet pavements, the overall feeling is stable and surefooted. No slips nor fall at all. 

This shoe also nails it in support. The upper locks the feet in place, there were ZERO in-shoe movements. Even on sharp turns, maneuvering this shoe has been nothing but confidence-inspiring. 

Although it has a minimalist design, the Asics MetaRacer is BIG on race-ready performance. And if you want to bounce to your next PB or just smash the competition, we couldn’t recommend this shoe enough.

See our full review and facts

Best for trail

The Asics Gel Trabuco 9 sure did surprise us. Having run in a lot of trail shoes in the past, nothing comes close to how great this shoe blends both comfort and trail-ready features. 

Upon step-in, the instant sensation is plush. As in, the upper and midsole work hand-in-hand to encapsulate the feet with utmost softness. 

And if you think it holds back on strength, it does NOT. It’s built like a tank, and even after miles of rough wear testing, it has withstood everything we put it through with flying colors! From top to bottom, it’s still as fresh from mile 1. 

Worried about the jagged rocks and roots underfoot? This shoe has got you covered! Its rockplate is very superb, it ate up everything underneath. 

And the MVP here is the shoe’s exceptional grip! On paved roads, fire roads, gravel paths, steep uphills, and even mud, we had NO issues steering this trail bruiser. 

Even better, it’s everything fast. Among all the trail shoes in our arsenal, this is, hands down, the best when it comes to responsiveness. 

What’s great about it is it’s not at all clunky. Not once did we feel like it was weighing us down. 

Overall, if you’re looking for a running shoe that can handle whatever the trails throw at you, nothing beats the Asics Gel Trabuco 9!

See our full review and facts

It might have a modest price but it’s anything but modest on the trails. After long and heavy excursions on gnarly terrain, the Asics Gel Venture 8 has proven to us that top-notch shoes don’t always come at a steep price. 

This shoe is just incredible, we can’t get enough of it! Putting it to the test, this shoe just stood out with its INSANE grip. On mountain terrain, pea gravel, muddy, and loose trails, this shoe just bit through everything. 

And like a true Asics, it’s got a blend of comfort and support that’s to die for! Every step is surefooted and cushy, it breaks the trail shoe stereotype of being brick solid. 

The lockdown in this shoe is the absolute best! The lacing system and the upper work hand-in-hand to keep the feet tucked in place. It’s SO good, not once did we feel like we were slipping or wobbling. 

Durability? It’s the cream of the crop! We always hammer our shoes to really test out their limits, and boy did this shoe shine. 50 miles in, it’s still got very little signs of wear and tear. Surely, it can last 400-450 miles. 

Apart from its wallet-friendly price, what really took us by surprise is its (light) weight. On paper, it’s one heck of a clunky shoe (12.5 oz), but on the run, it’s anything but heavy. It’s superbly nimble! 

See our full review and facts

Best for flat feet

28 years later, the Asics Gel Kayano still wins over thousands of runners. And without second thoughts, it’s easily among our favorites too! 

That’s not without reason, of course. Hello? We love to nitpick, and this shoe is no exception. But after miles of meticulous and rough testing, this shoe just won us over. 

It’s THE Kayano among the Kayanos. It’s everything a Kayano should and should not be in all the best ways possible. It retains the series’ signature mix of stability and comfort, but this time around, it’s got a more peppy ride. 

Thanks to its more flexible midsole, our runs have been fueled with pop, making it a fun and energetic experience.

And whether you’re out for training or race day, this shoe won’t fail you. It’s a tried-and-true workhorse that’s great at everything! 

Even better, it’s a Kayano on a diet. At 10.6 oz (vs. the average 9.4 oz, in our lab tests), it’s still a bit heavy but it’s no longer as hefty as the past models. Safe to say, it’s going in the right direction. 

And what else is there to say about durability? It made durability. Before any other shoe, the Asics Kayano has been the prime example of strength, and on its 28th edition, it still stays true! 

See our full review and facts

Another stability workhorse, the Asics GT 2000 9 goes head to head with the Asics Gel Kayano 28. Seriously, it was so hard to choose between them. 

If there’s one thing we’re sure of, this shoe is unlike other jack-of-all-trades. It’s not just good at everything, it’s GREAT at everything! From daily runs, long efforts, and tempo training, this shoe swallows them all.

Stability models tend to be stiff on foot, but NOT this shoe. It’s springy and responsive, it’s easy to maintain the pace. And it’s very FUN too! 

Whether you’re on the road or on light trails, this shoe is more than ready. As in, the grip is just hard to beat. It latches to the ground and it latches real good! 

If comfort is what you’re after, this shoe won’t disappoint. From the box to the run, it just cushions the feet from top to bottom. It’s mighty comfy, there’s really no need to break it in. 

And if you think things can’t get better, this shoe will prove you wrong. It kills it in the sturdiness department. After logging 40+ miles, there’s no denying, this shoe is a tank. No scratches, no tears.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

At $65, we can say that the Asics Gel Contend 7 has got what it takes to contend with the higher-end shoes on the market today! 

It’s a surefire winner in the comfort arena. Each step is not only cushy, it’s also very protected, thanks to the shoe’s impact-dampening Gel tech. After long and heavy pounding on the pavement, our feet and legs still feel fresh! 

Even better, it has survived our tough wear testing. And it has done so EXCELLENTLY. The midsole is as responsive and the outsole, unscathed. 

True to its Asics roots, it’s top-tier in support. The upper hugged our feet snuggly, we had NO concern for missteps and slips.  

It’s also very light. During our runs, it didn’t weigh us down, allowing us to focus on the road and completely forget we’re wearing shoes! 

For such a cheap price, the Asics Gel Contend 7 does a lot of things. From daily runs, jogs, walks, and workouts, this shoe rocks!

See our full review and facts

If we had to choose one shoe that’s king in stability but doesn’t dig deep into the pockets, the easy answer is the Asics Gel Excite 8. 

Honestly, it’s just so hard not to love this shoe! For so little price, it’s got the makings of the more advanced running shoes of today. 

Yes, it’s a neutral shoe, but its support is just as good as the dedicated stability shoes in our closet. It’s so darn good, it can even fit into the rotation of runners with bad knees and flat arches. 

And oh my gosh, what a ride! It’s springy, bouncy, and more importantly, it doesn’t load up on the feet. Running in it has been nothing but lively. 

It only gets better.

This shoe is the exemplar of a good combination of softness and rigidity. Yep, it’s cushy on foot, but it does NOT render the ride mushy. Even more, it doesn’t require any break-in period at all! 

And durability is just pure Asics. Miles of beating this shoe and it still looks and runs fresh! The outsole has barely any wear and tear.

See our full review and facts

4 factors to consider when buying the best Asics running shoe

  • Terrain: Will you be running on paved roads or trails?
  • Arch support: Do you need one in running shoes?
  • Distance: How long your runs are going to be?
  • Cushioning: How much cushion will benefit you the most?

The sections below will help you answer these questions and pick the right Asics shoe.

Terrain: road or trail Asics shoes?

Asics’ road and trail running shoes are designed differently. They offer various levels of durability, traction, and foot protection depending on the running surface. Trail running shoes can provide safety and performance that road shoes cannot but they may come with extra weight. Here’s the comparison:

Road vs trail (1).png

Consider arch support and your pronation type

Your arch type and foot mechanism will help you determine the right shoe for you. If you are unsure about yours, here’s a quick guide:

The foot arch wet test

  • Wet the feet, one at a time
  • Stand onto a piece of paper or cardboard (make sure to put your weight on it)
  • Step off and compare the footprint to the ones shown below

Wet test results.png

Asics classifies their running shoes according to users’ pronation:

  • neutral
  • overpronation
  • underpronation.

Recommended road running shoe according to arch type.png

Distance: how far will you go in your Asics shoes?

Consider the average distance you run in a week and if you are participating in a race or just doing it for leisure. These things are important to determine if you need a light and fast shoe or a cushioned pair. 

Depending on your goals, here are the things you need to consider when buying a pair of Asics running shoes:

Daily Training/ Easy Jogs

5K/10K Race 

Half Marathon

Marathon

- cushioned 

- snug in the heel and midfoot

- roomy toe-box

- durable rubber outsole

- lightweight 

- snug fit

- fast

- cushioned 

- durable solid rubber outsole

- forefoot striker: look for added forefoot support

- heel striker: look for extra heel padding

- breathable

- durable solid rubber outsole

- trail: look for a grippy outsole and extra foot protection

See: list of Asics daily running shoes

See: list of Asics lightweight running shoes

See: list of Asics long-distance running shoes

See: list of Asics marathon running shoes

asics-running-shoe-types.jpg

Asics Cumulus (daily trainer), Asics Magic Speed (5K/10K race flat), Asics MetaSpeed Sky (marathon race shoe)

Cushioning level in Asics running shoes

Asics classified their running shoes based on the level of cushioning - regular, extra, and maximum. Here’s how the cushioning level differs:

Regular

Extra

Maximum

  • Characterized as traditional running shoes
  • Cushioning is not too thick nor too thin
  • Average impact protection and flexibility
  • Most often features an 8-12mm drop
  • Added cushioning for comfort and impact protection
  • Ideal for short and long-distance daily running
  • Thickly cushioned for maximum impact protection and plush feel
  • Helpful in reducing fatigue on high-mileage runs
  • Heel height above 30mm; forefoot height above 25mm

See: list of Asics daily running shoes

See: list of Asics cushioned running shoes

See: list of Asics maximalist running shoes

Example of a regular-cushioned Asics shoe (Cumulus):

asics-regular-cushioning.jpg

Example of a max-cushioned Asics shoe (MetaSpeed Sky):

asics-max-cushioning.jpg

Asics running shoe technologies

Here are some proprietary running shoe technologies from Asics that help them stand out:

Outsole

Technology

Description

AHAR/AHARPLUS

The Asics High Abrasion Rubber is a durable outsole material with an abrasion resistance feature. It also delivers the necessary grip.

Wet Grip Rubber

A durable outsole material that delivers excellent grip on wet and slippery surfaces.

FluidAxis

These are irregular-shaped grooves added in the heel area of the sole that encourages stable and natural foot movement.

Guidance Line

It is a vertical groove that runs through the outsole, from heel to toe. It is meant to deliver gait efficiency from heel strike to toe-off.

asics-gel-kayano-28-outsole.jpg

AHAR is Asics’s most durable rubber compound that’s used on premium trainers. See all Asics shoes with AHAR.

Midsole

Gel Technology

A soft midsole material that provides shock absorption and protection. It is placed in the rearfoot, forefoot, and sometimes in both areas. 

FlyteFoam

Made from organic super fibers, this cushioning technology delivers responsiveness and bounce without adding too much weight.

FluidRide

A two-layer foam that is designed to deliver rebound and shock absorption while keeping the shoe light.

DuoMax

Set at a 35-degree angle, this dual-density foam is added in the midsole to give added support and reduce the stress on the foot due to overpronation. 

Trusstic

It is placed in the midsole to prevent the shoe from twisting, delivering a more stable and comfortable foot movement.

Gel Cushioning: Asics best-known innovation

The Gel Cushioning is the brand's best-known midsole technology that has been used in most Asics running shoes since 1986. The soft Gel material is inserted into the midsole to give users shock-absorbing cushioning for a comfortable, smoother ride.

asics-gel-kayano-28-gel.jpg

Premium shoes like Asics Kayano use a combination of Gel and other technologies for maximized cushioning and support.

Also used in some Asics sneakers, the performance and function of the Gel Cushioning are often compared to Nike's Air Zoom technology.

FlyteFoam cushioning

asics-novablast-2-ffblast-midsole.jpg

FlyteFoam Blast is the lightest and most responsive edition of the foam. It's used on the brand's high-end speed shoes like the Novablast.

Upper

Asymmetrical lacing

An asymmetric arrangement of eyelets designed to improve the fit of the upper. 

Discrete Eyelet 

The eyelets are arranged separately to efficiently transmits lacing tension evenly across the foot and deliver a more comfortable, natural fit. 

Kayano, Cumulus, Nimbus: Legendary Asics running shoes

The Kayano, Cumulus, and Nimbus are the three flagship running shoes from Asics. The Asics Kayano is the brand's all-time favorite stability shoes while the other two models are considered the best for the neutral shoe category. The Asics Nimbus is the premium counterpart of the Cumulus series.
kayano-cumulus-nimbus.jpg

Asics Kayano (left), Asics Cumulus (center), Asics Nimbus (right)

cumulus-vs-nimbus-vs-kayano-google-trends.png

All three models have been on the market for more than two decades and Asics continues to release new versions each year.

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.