Asics spared neither foam nor rubber in constructing its latest marquee stability trainer.
The RW Takeaway: The Gel-Kayano 26 features a softer heel but retains its stability features and high-mileage construction.
- The new heel has more gel and a softer foam compound for a plusher touchdown.
- The slightly reworked upper features an external heel counter that locks your foot into the shoe.
- An EVA-elastomer midsole and gratuitous, high-abrasion outsole rubber prepare the Gel-Kayano 26 for the long haul.
Weight: 311 g . (M); 260 g. (W)
With its penchant for incorporating stiff soles and high-density medial posts into its creations, Asics seems to love classic stability shoes. And the Gel-Kayano reigns over them all. At $260, it’s the company’s flagship stability trainer, which means you get plenty of visible tech (read: Gel) and a posh, high-quality construction. What’s new with the 26th iteration is the revamped sturdy midsole, the collar with just slightly more foam, and the EVA sock liner, which is 1mm thicker than the GT-2000, the brand’s $200 mild stability shoe. In other words, it’s the deluxe package, and most of our testers lauded the immediate comfort of the plush upper (although a couple noted that the shoe felt small for its size).
The midsole at the heel has soft FlyteFoam Lyte cushioning beneath a thicker layer of visible Gel, which manifests as softer compared to the previous generation. Beneath your arch, a high-density medial post and a plastic truss prevent torsional flexion, quelling overpronation forces. Directly beneath your foot is a layer of Asics’ EVA-rubber blend, a high-rebound material that isn’t quite as soft as traditional EVA foam—since the Gel and FlyteFoam are only present toward the back of the shoe, some testers felt the forefoot lacked cushioning compared to the heel.
On the run, the Gel-Kayano 26 feels substantial and stable, traits you might not like if you’re used to springy trainers with lightweight foam midsoles. But for overpronators who want support and enough cushioning to run long, the new Kayano should be a trusty companion.
Same Stability, Softer Heel Cushioning
There’s a lot going on beneath your foot in the new Gel-Kayano 26. Starting from the top down, your foot rests on a 5mm-thick EVA foam sock liner that’s been contoured for an anatomical fit. Beneath it, a layer of FlyteFoam Propel provides responsive cushioning, thanks to the rubber Asics added to the foam (which shouldn’t pack out as quickly as traditional EVA foam). The Propel variant of FlyteFoam isn’t as immediately plush, however, and some testers felt that the shoe’s forefoot softness didn’t live up to the heel cushioning (although RW lab testing showed similar cushioning scores for both ends of the shoe).
Speaking of the heel, there’s now more Gel and soft, low-density FlyteFoam Lite beneath it, giving you two additional layers of shock absorption in the rear. The medial side is designed to be much harder. A high-density medial post and a plastic truss beneath the midfoot work together to firm up the shoe against the twisting forces of an overpronating foot. Our testers unanimously agreed that the shoe felt highly stable, which comes with a trade off, as some felt that stability yielded excessive stiffness. “Compared to other shoes I have run in, this felt very stiff,” said one tester.