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Road Running Shoes • July 3, 2023

Asics Gel-Kayano 30 Review: Thirsty Thirty

asics gel-kayano 30 - feature

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What You Need To Know

Weight

10.7 oz. (303 g) for a US M9,

9.3 oz. (263 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

40 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (10 mm drop)

Best For

Daily training for those who need stability

Key Features

Flytefoam Blast Plus Eco midsole, softer medial support, PureGel layer inside the heel

On The Run
Smooth stability Great structure around heel A bit blocky underfoot
Price and Availability

Available now for $160

Intro

SAM: If you’ve read any review I’ve worked on before (you can also go read them now), you may notice that I’m a fan of history. With that in mind, this review will start with a throwback to Roman historian Pliny the Elder (turns out it’s not just a popular beer). Stay with me, I’m going to tie it all together. 

According to his Wikipedia entry, once upon a time in ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder’s friend Nigidius saw a strange beetle with large mandibles and named it Lucanus Cervus after both its habitat and its deer-like horns. Eventually this beetle became known to us as the Stag Beetle, a large beetle with technology (large mandibles) on its side.

In the early 90s, Asics designer Toshikazu Kayano was tasked with making a cutting-edge running shoe inspired by the beetle. What he ended up with is the original Gel-Kayano, a shoe he named after himself, and one that has taken on the Japanese spirit of Kaizen, meaning “gradual improvement” (this info comes from this High Snobiety article which is a great read).

Since then, this shoe has been updated 30 times. Does it still exist as a symbol of gradual technological improvement? Does it slightly resemble the stag beetle? Is it even a great stability shoe? Let’s find out.

asics gel-kayano 30 on a dirt road

Now with 40mm of stack height in the heel

MERCER: The Kayano 29 and the Kayano Lite are some of my favorite shoes, and I would wear them like there was no tomorrow. But, about halfway through my outdoor season, I decided to give the Gel-Nimbus 25 a shot. With a colossal update that essentially turned it into a max cushion shoe, I thought I should see what the hype was all about. And they felt good, for sure, but this isn’t a Nimbus 25 review. But in a way, it kind of is, because the Gel-Kayano 30 may be the love child the Kayano 29 and the Nimbus 25 and– holy shit– this kid is a part of a new generation.

ROBBE: I’m not a stability guy, but for the sake of reviewing I’m willing to run in anything (including Allbirds and Nobull). And certainly there are worse neutral shoes, or stability shoes, than the Kayano. I also wanted to see how this one felt with some of the major changes including a full 40-millimeter stack of Flytefoam Blast Plus Eco midsole and a hidden Gel piece (finally!), which is a bigger deal than you probably realize for Asics.

woman in black shorts and top running down a dirt road with blue skies in background

Meg on Mags

What we like about the Asics Gel-Kayano 30

SAM: To reach a wider run audience, this shoe was created with stability in mind, and is still a shoe geared towards neutral runners and overpronators alike. Unlike the spirit of kaizen this shoe is based on, the stability shoe world spent a long time in the dark ages without much improvement.

Fast forward to now, and most brands have abandoned the hard plastic medial posts in favor of “light stability”– shoes with stability features, but that even a neutral runner can wear.  Asics has finally captured the spirit of improvement with this shoe. Simply put, this is one of the best if not the best stability shoe I have run in.

I say this as a pronator who has lost months to injuries like stress fractures and plantar fasciitis. I don’t think any other shoe geared towards stability performs even close to this. Let’s get into why.

asics gel-kayano 30 heel section

No more visible Gel

The star of this shoe is the brand new 4D Guidance System. The 4 D’s are dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge (not true, but I hope that reference made sense). In reality, the 4D Guidance System is a technological update from the LITETRUSS system found in past Kayanos, which was a firmer piece of foam on the medial side of the foot.

The 4D Guidance System improves on that by placing a softer piece of foam right underneath your arch with the goal of adapting to your foot and your running gait in order to provide adaptive stability that improves throughout the life of the running shoe. When combined with an increased heel bevel, sculpted lateral midsole, and wider base, you have a smooth and comfortable ride that feels nothing like traditional stability. I don’t think there was a point where I felt that I was wearing a stability shoe, and it was a key part in me coming back from 2-3 months off with plantar fasciitis. The proof of concept is there. 

Other improvements in this shoe involve a massive increase in stack height. The Gel-Kayano 29 had a 25 mm heel and a 15 mm forefoot (they didn’t measure insole or outsole, so in reality it was closer to 32/22), while the Gel-Kayano 30 has a hefty 40 mm heel and a 30 mm forefoot of Flytefoam Blast Plus Eco cushioning.

Weight-wise, it only adds around 0.1 oz in weight from the 29. This drop in weight comes from the last technological advance involved, the PureGel cushioning under the heel. The cushioning that makes the Nimbus a hit is also present in the Kayano, and it makes this shoe extremely comfortable to run in while keeping it at the same weight as the Kayano with a huge increase in stack height.

Finally for all you eco-friendly folks, with the air quality issues on the east coast hopefully there are more of us, this shoe is also the first trainer marked with Asics CO2e designation, where the Ortholite sockliner shows you that 10.7 kg of carbon dioxide was emitted to make this shoe, which is 14% less than the industry standard. With incredible stability, a light weight for its stack height, eco-friendly materials, and a smooth and comfortable ride, this is one of my picks for the stability trainer of the year.

MERCER: This ain’t your dad’s Kayano anymore. Everything has been changed from the rubber and the laces to everything in between. Many of these changes have already been seen in the brand-new Nimbus such as the implementation of the PureGel but with the addition of the new 4D Guidance System, the shoe is just a little beefier for all of your support needs. 

To start off we now see a full midsole of FF Blast+ as seen in a lot of Asics models recently which is going to give everyone a whole lotta cush. For the first and second pieces in the 4D Guidance System, Asics watched Ghost because they got some pottery going on in this FFBlast+. Shaving a nice chunk of foam on the inside gives runners a nice bit of compression and cushion on the outside counteracting the pronation, combined with the big-ass heel to help absorb impact and guide your foot into the other steps of the 4D system. Both of these systems combined with the FFBlast+ feel like butter no matter the distance and speed. 

In combination with the midsole sculpting, Asics went backward with stability. Everyone forever and ever has made the medial posting harder but Asics decided to go crazy and make it softer. Now, why the hell would they make it softer? Probably for shits and giggles but it works– trust me. Having this softer and more energetic foam underfoot bounces your foot back into place instead of stopping the foot from going in. This makes it feel like there is no stability whatsoever, but it is stable. And whenever a stability shoe feels like a neutral shoe, it’s a good day for the stability community.

The upper is pretty stellar, though I prefer the knit upper from the Nimbus because it’s a little more forgiving. But don’t count this upper out. Keeping with a simple engineered knit, the shoe locks and holds you down much better than the knit version in the 29 did. The Kayano 30 compliments the huge heel bevel with an equally large heel counter and collar. These are both going to keep you locked into the shoe mile after mile.

This shoe pretty much disappears on foot and that’s what I really love about stability shoes these days. You’re getting all the support you need without sacrificing any comfort.

asics gel-kayano 30 - outsole

Not a trail shoe, but works on dirt

ROBBE: This is definitely one of those shoes that you’ll get your money’s worth. With more midsole, a generous layer of rubber, PureGel in the heel– it’s going to give you that same value that the Kayano always has. Hundreds of training miles.

Removing the visible Gel finally happened, and I’m glad it did. The Japanese aren’t traditionally known for breaking tradition, and I have to give a shoutout to the brand for taking risks that have brought Asics back to the greatness they once knew. The last remaining domino in that old guard was the visible Gel. It disappeared from the Nimbus, and now it exited side stage from the Kayno. Yes, Gel is finally gone. Of course it happened at the same time that legacy Kayanos are now coming back into fashion, so what is even the point of life?

The ride of the shoe is what you want from a daily trainer and, again, will provide you with some comfortable miles no matter the distance. I also appreciated the solid lockdown, specifically in the heel counter, which really keeps your heel and ankle area quite stable (as it should).

Shop Kayano 30 - Men Shop Kayano 30 - Women

What we don’t like about the Asics Gel-Kayano 30

SAM: I really do not have much to gripe about here. If you are expecting a do it all shoe, this is sadly not it. The trade-off for an extremely comfortable and supportive ride with a huge increase in stack height is that this shoe does not get you up and moving into your stride. Previous Kayano models accomplished this through a sleek and low-profile build with a lower stack, but that is gone here. For everything outside of race days and workouts the Kayano 30 has got you covered, but you will need to look elsewhere to get speedwork in.

My other gripe is that the colorways are more traditional Asics when compared to the fresh colorways of the Nimbus. I believe appearance does play a role in how you feel in a shoe, and Asics did not capture the spirit of Kaizen in their Kayano colorways. I had the white, black, and green colorway, and was envious of everyone I saw in that sweet white/grey Gel-Nimbus 25. But, if the only complaints about a high stack stability trainer are that the colorways could be better and the shoe is not suitable for workouts, I think you have yourself a winner.

MERCER: So, you may have noticed I listed three out of the four items from the new ASICs 4D System in The Good section. And that last one is the absurdly wide footprint of this shoe. With the retirement of that Litetruss system, the shoe has to carry itself on a much larger platform. Instead of it feeling like a nice fat tire mountain bike, it kinda feels like carrying a granite countertop underfoot.

asics gel-kayano 30 - both shoes

ROBBE: It could be that I’m not a stability guy and don’t run in many stability shoes, but to me, this shoe just feels… average? It’s on the heavy side, but I’m trying to not care about weight, because sometimes it’s not as big of an issue as we think. Also, I think the weight-cutting wars has led to some low-lifespan midsoles and non-existent outsoles. But it’s still pretty heavy.

I get a little skeptical (okay, a lot skeptical) whenever I see ‘Eco’ in a midsole, and it’s no different here. The Eco-friendly, part bio-based Flytefoam Blast Plus Eco just is not as bouncy and comfortable as traditional Flytefoam Blast Plus. Every brand will tell you that their Eco midsole is the same energy return and comfort as their fully-synthetic midsole of the same name, and every brand is lying. Vibram Megagrip Eco is not as sticky as Vibram Megagrip. On Cloudboom Echo 3’s bio-based Pebax is not as bouncy as full Pebax. The list goes on and on. Feel free to feel good about being eco-friendly, but know you’re not getting the same level of performance. Look, I get it– stability shoes need a firmer midsole foam for stability, but if you’re expecting the same feel of shoes like the Gel-Nimbus 25, you just won’t find that here.

Mercer’s description of midsole slab underfoot is pretty spot on, it just feels a bit bricky, due in part to the overly-wide platform design. The upper feels very warm to me, but I was running in like 90% humidity so I’ll give it a pass. I also got a bad hotspot on the medial ball of my foot during a 6-mile run that would’ve turned into a blister if I kept going.

Shop Kayano 30 - Men Shop Kayano 30 - Women

Asics Gel-Kayano 30 Conclusion

SAM: According to the Wikipedia article, Lucanus Cervus were used as amulets during the time of the Romans. Is the Gel-Kayano 30 going to be your good luck charm? I would say yes. If you carry this shoe everywhere you go, you can have a sound mind knowing that you are finishing each run with a sound body.

If the colorways were better, I would argue that most runners should choose this shoe over the Gel-Nimbus. For the same price, you get a high stack of FFBlast Plus with PureGel, an efficient drop, a comfortable upper, and unmatched, smooth as silk stability that will help you prevent injuries as you rack up easy miles and long runs. There is not much I personally ask for in a daily trainer. Mr. Kayano, you hit it out of the park with this one.

MERCER: This is a huge step forward for the Kayano line while it may alienate a large group because of the sheer amount of updates in the shoe, this update is going to push the industry forward and draw a new crowd to the 30th model of the Kayano. Shoes that are going to be fairly similar to the Kayano 30 are going to be the Saucony Tempus and the Hoka Arahi.

ROBBE: I’m going to leave it to the stability experts on this one. While I thought the shoe performed okay as a daily workhorse, if I’m a neutral runner I’m spending the extra dough and elevating to the Superblast. If I’m a stability runner, well– apparently you have a new champion and you should grab this shoe the first chance you get (though I’d go with the Saucony Tempus).

You can pick up the Asics Gel-Kayano 30 now for $160 from Running Warehouse using the shop links below.

Shop The Shoe

 

asics gel-kayano 30 - shop men 1
Shop Asics Gel-Kayano 30 Men
asics gel-kayano 30 - shop wmen 1
Shop Asics Gel-Kayano 30 Women
asics gel-kayano 30 - meg and mags

Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.

4
Comments

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Flatfoot says:

    For me, the “overly-wide platform design” is by far the most desirable feature of the K30. Reason being, I am a ‘traditional stability’ user with an overly-wide, overly-flattened foot. The Saucony Tempus is too ridiculously soft, and narrow under-foot to do me any good. Everything depends on who you are. Just keep in mind that when you bully manufacturers into narrowing every single shoe (saving them manufacturing costs, and official “weights”) you are also absolutely destroying people like me.
    The ‘NB More v3’ is one of the only truly wide platform options left which keeps me moving. Would it be so terrible if you allowed a few stability models to also use the very effective ‘wide platform.’ They are not meant to be narrow, neutral sprint shoes, last time I checked.

  2. Michael says:

    After my first run in this shoe yesterday (6 miles easy), I love it. Super soft and plush feel compared to the much firmer, responsive feel of the Tempus (I am on my 3rd pair of these) and even the Superblast (2nd pair). Perfect for easy miles. I can see myself picking up an extra pair of these once prices go down.

    Question, what is the difference between the mens and womens models? I don’t really like the mens colorways, so I was wondering what if anything would be different if I bought a women’s size 11.5 instead of my normal mens size 10.

  3. Michael says:

    I’ve just returned my 30’s to ASICS after the insoles on 3 different runs heated to the point of becoming unbearable to wear after 40 minutes. I can only assume that the 4D referred to was partly to blame combined with perhaps a manufacturing issue with the gel – shoes were fine for the first 30 minutes on reach run and then increasingly got warmer so it would have to be a gel reaction as it shaped.

  4. Candace says:

    I cannot stand the 30. I have run in Gel Kayanos for the past 3+ years – they were my go-to. The 30 feels terrible. I’m training for ultras, so I put in a lot of miles and now that Asics has done this I am going to have to stock up on the 29s. I can’t stand the huge soles and high stack height that has taken over running shoes in recent years.

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Authors

sam sheldon3
Sam Sheldon
Baltimore Road Reviewer
  • Strava

Sam tried every other sport before settling on running as a senior in high school. He’s never looked back. He can be found doing workouts in Patterson Park, talking shop with the Faster Bastards, or hitting long runs on the NCR trail. When not running, Sam is a teacher in the Baltimore City Public School District. His other loves are cooking, coffee, breweries, books, basketball, and alliteration. 

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, Nike Vaporfly Next%, Asics Novablast 3

More from Sam
Shoe Size

9.5

Fav. Distance

Mile

PRs
  • 2:54

    Marathon
  • 1:10

    Half Marathon
  • 14:58

    5K
  • 4:21

    Mile
mercer
Mercer Alden
College XC/Track Reviewer
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Mercer is a collegiate athlete at the University Of Lynchburg, majoring in being awesome. He’s also extremely talented at folding shirts during GRIT packing at the Believe in the Run HQ.

All-time favorite shoes: Asics Gel-Kayano Lite, Hoka Clifton 6, On Cloudmonster

More from Mercer
Shoe Size

9.5

Fav. Distance

5K

PRs
  • 57:50

    10 Mile
  • 15:55

    5K
  • 9:01

    3K
  • 4:35

    Mile
Robbe Reddinger
Senior Editor
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.

More from Robbe
Shoe Size

7.5

Fav. Distance

13.1

PRs
  • 3:27

    Marathon
  • 1:30

    Half-Marathon
  • 40:36

    10k
  • 19:17

    5K
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