Upgrade, or not to upgrade......
I've only been running for 4 years. But the majority of that time has been spent in Asics GTs. 2140s, 2150s, 2160s. They've treated me well, and are certainly my 'go to' shoe.
However, when the marathon training starts hitting 15+ mile runs, it seems I'm always wishing for just a little more cushion. I'm not setting any records, so a couple additional ounces of weight in exchange for less foot pain is OK by me.
I just happen to be up for my free pair of shoes (you know - buy 6 pairs get the 7th free kind of deal) from my local running shop. Perfect time to tryout a more expensive, cushier model.
A couple of searches led me to the Asics Kayano 18. It's in the 'control' category just like the GTs, but is listed as having a little more control and a good bit more cushion. But where I can usually find last years GT model for around $65, the Kayano tends to run around $130 for the current year model. Like I said, good time for a free pair.
On the outer side of the shoe, the first thing you notice is the more prominent gel in the Kayano (lower). Both in the ball of the foot as well as quite a bit more in the heel. Presumably where it gets much of it's additional comfort.
On the inner side of the shoe, you can see the the Kayano (left) has it's support material (the grey firm stuff that keeps you from pronating) run a bit further into the heel area of the shoe. Hence more control that than the 2160.
Looking at the heal structure of the shoes, you can see that the Kayano has a rigid plastic heel 'cup' to help hold the foot in place. Even more control. This part worried me a little bit.
I even scored some free technical Asics socks for buying the Kayanos. Pretty slick. Lots of cushion, support, and abrasion coverage where a runner needs it.
Of course, the only way to determine if the Kayanos would pass the test was to put them to use. My marathon was still around two months away. So I figured that was plenty of time to try em out, break them in for the race, or swap back to my GTs if I had to.
I've now put in 25 hours, and 156 miles of running on the Kayanos, including a full marathon. I have to say I'm pretty happy with them. The thing I noticed when I first ran on them, was that I didn't notice anything. This was exactly what I hoped for. I certainly didn't want the shoe to feel drastically different in a way that would alter my gait.
What I did notice is that on my longer runs, 15+ miles, that the extra cushion helped make things a little more comfortable. But even more helpful was that additional support. After running for 3+ hours, your muscles don't necessarily keep your feet striking and pushing off the way they should be. For me at least, it seemed that the extra support in the shoe prevented me from sliding too much out of line.
I don't know if I'm willing to pay the extra bucks for the Kayano on the next go round. I already bought me another $65 pair of last years GT2160s. But it is good to know that I have another option if needed.