By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
A contributor on the beginnertriathlete.com forum opined that Asics shoe designs had gone “stale”. I gave a one word response: “Yup”.
The Gel Lyte 33 is a completely new direction for Asics, and a needed breath of fresh air.
While Asics is a brand leader in running I must concede that, had Asics released a shoe called the “Asics Gel Whatever 2,349”, the 2,349th version of the same shoe with minor changes, I would have reached for the thesaurus to figure out a way to say the same thing over again. Yawn. That’s notthe case with their new Gel Lyte 33. It’s a completely new design and direction for Asics, and a needed breath of fresh air.
My eyes lit up when I opened the new Asics Gel Lyte 33. This is a different kind of shoe, not just from Asics, but from most other brands. In reverence for their much-needed departure from a rather stale (albeit, still functional) norm, we’re doing a different review. Pull on a pair of these new Asics Gel Lyte 33’s and come for a run with me:
Mon, Jul 16, 2012 6:06 PM Mountain Time: “River Loop” Tucson, Arizona, Rillito River Multi-Use Path.
Deserts don’t have rivers. But it’s monsoon season so there is a trickle in the center of the sandy gash through North Tucson called the Rillito River.
I leave my house just south of the River Path and head north. It’s concrete and asphalt until the first delightful stretch of pea gravel where my knees get a break from the hard pavement. The Gel Lyte 33’s are on, and so is the Garmin 110. It’s 91 degrees, no wind, high, gray clouds broken off a grayer horizon. Maybe rain in the next hour, or after dark. Hopefully. There is a taste of humidity- odd for here.
Pain is common with my first 200 steps. I’m 50. I’m 165 pounds and 5’9″. I’ve also had numerous knee surgeries. I’m not a “runner”, but I still run. Always have. My legs are throbbing from a fast 20 minute bike commute home. This is my daily “brick” training, and I can run as fast off my bike on tired legs, or faster, than I can on a stand alone run- which is to say, not all that fast. A 7:00 pace is almost flat-out.
It’s nice to have a lighter shoe and the Gel Lyte 33 is light. My normal training shoes hold a Green Superfeet insole and are a half motion control/half cushion model, but I switch shoes a lot since I review them for a living. It’s nice to pull on something light, and these are light, Asics says 8.6 ounces but our actual average of three weigh-ins on a tared scale showed only 8.0 ounces measured weight in a size 9.5.
But light weight comes at a price, and that price is usually some surrender of cushion and/or stability. So far though, the Gel Lyte 33 doesn’t hammer me. In fact, it is luxurious. I’m wary of the wobble associated with a cushion shoe, and this shoe has the look of a mid-’80’s Nike Phylon padded shoe. You had to have good balance to run in those. This isn’t that shoe though, and the only thing it has in common are the sole slots and the white midsole color. So far, so good. I expect this honeymoon to end soon though. Part of the ride control comes from a groove in the midsole called the “Guidance Line”. We’ll see how long it works.
These shoes are light. Light is fast. The geometry on these strikes a balance.
Right hand turn on hard pack, big sweeper. Then up to the left and over the pedestrian bridge, a little rise but a nasty ten steps about half as steep as a staircase. These shoes arelight. Light is fast. Lively. OK, they’ll start to hurt soon. You give away weight, you give away cushion and stability. I hit the half mile mark. Quick, tight turn up to the right after the bridge and onto another hardpack gravel section. Perfection. I’m on top of these shoes and they are fast. Most people don’t run on such a perfect surface but this is a good first half mile to warm up. This route is ideal for shoe testing though, there is a little of everything, not all of it pretty.
The geometry on these strikes a balance. I am not looking forward to sore calves (again) from another low drop shoe, but I hope for something more than a full blown 11.5 ounce super-trainer. Can’t there be something tuned perfectly for my weight and speed, or maybe just a little faster?
I’m on the gas and these things are racing flat light. Fast turnover, high knees. Good day today. Mile 1: 7:37. I usually am pretty slow on the first mile off the bike but that split is sprightly. Down under the bridge. My feet keep up with my descent easily since these kicks are plenty responsive. I anticipate wincing with the added footstrike on the downhill. I don’t. BMW ride all the way down under the bridge, push easily like a horse up the other side. So far- excellent. Light, super soft, no rolly-polly. Unusual.
Right turn, hardpack. Picking up speed now. Five miles to go. It’s easy to run fast in these, well, easy right now. The last section is entirely concrete and blacktop into a headwind and over a highway bridge. I don’t anticipate these shoes will be as “sprightly” then since my legs will likely be hammered from an ambitious pace. Two mile mark. 7:03. Bam.
This is an entirely different Asics shoe.
The two biggest climbs are on highway bridges that cross the river gulch. First one. Hard concrete. Dig, dig, dig. It’s easy to bring my legs up in these and maintain turnover, even on an uphill like this bridge. Want a cliche’? Responsive. It’s easy to raise my feet since the shoe is lighter.
Big sweeper to downhill. I’ll likely “run off” the soles of these under hard cornering at the bottom of this hill so I am preemptively cutting it wide. The upper is bantam construction, almost no stitching. My feet have the top down and no seat belts. I turn left to line up with the trail. Laser guided. The shoes stay put, good alignment, good sole angle. Impressed again. This isn’t the old Asics- they are lighter and livelier. Keep the power on.
Blasting off the downhill and onto the flats this is where it gets real. 3 miles. Last split, 7:11- the hill took a little off the pace but damn, that was easy. Plenty of gas in the tank. Minor headwind here, there always is, except when its worse. There is no one to chase so just concentrate. I mimic the African runners from our neighborhood who are presumably in London now. They seem so light on their feet. They run in shoes that are like ballet slippers. These shoes make me feel like they look. Why do I wear heavier shoes? The ride stays guided, light. If this is the “new” Asics; light, cushioned and nimble, it’s an impressive change.
False flat through mile 4 and mile 5. I’m still on top of these shoes, still hitting sub 7:30’s. A lighter shoe, I’m convinced, is a faster shoe. These feel faster. My splits say they are faster. Last mile. My legs are fresh enough to still have a choice of how fast I’m going, and that is what a good shoe design is all about; choice. Knees are still coming up, still a lot of legs left. At the finish a block from my house I was close to a PR on this course without working all that hard. The shoes, I’ll say helped. Lighter than what I’m accustomed to but still absolutely enough control.
This morning I’m not sore. This shoe was enough for me, and no more, and in that it’s a great pick.
The morning after a run in a new shoe can be ugly, especially if it was a fast run. This morning I’m not sore. This shoe was enough for me, and no more, and in that it’s a great pick. The big bonus: I’m running in these again.
Asics took a new direction with the Gel Lyte 33 and it is a fresh one. Lighter, still stable, softer, much more advanced upper design. They did a good job pulling stuff off of this shoe- no plastic heel counter, no plastic eyelets, no multidensity midsole. It is just one simple heel to toe swath of great design. The interior is barefoot friendly and the ride easy on tired legs.Triathletes; you are a pair of speed laces away from a great pair of race day and Ironman shoes. The old Asics you know with a lot of trim and a heavily guided, admittedly “classic” (read: “dated”) design have nothing to do with this shoe. This is an entirely different Asics, and one I will keep running in.