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Road • October 26, 2020

ASICS GEL-Kayano Lite Performance Review

kayano lite

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 9.9 oz. (281 g) for a US M9 / 8.9 oz. (252 g) for a US W8
  • 80% of shoe construction is made entirely out of recycled material
  • Men’s 10 mm drop (31 mm/21 mm), women’s 13 mm drop (33 mm/20 mm)
  • Stability is sexy again

THOMAS: Why two Kayanos? You got the 27 and the Lite, what’s the dealeo? It is like the past and the future is comingling, but the universe isn’t tearing itself apart. Why have a heavy version and a lite version? “There’s that word again. ‘Heavy’. Is there something wrong in the future with the earth’s gravitational pull?” No, Doc Brown, the gravitational pull is fine. There is just a market for the traditional stability packaged in the Kayano line. Plus, not everyone is ready for the future, and the GEL-Kayano Lite might be a big leap for some Kayano fans. It is a leap I think people should take. Let’s get the review up to speed. “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.”

ALDREN: Based on the standards of being eco-friendly, on a scale from 1-10, I’d say I’m about an 8. Like, I’m not Greta Thunberg wagging my finger at billions of people, but also if I see a candy wrapper on the ground, I’m more than likely going to pick it up. All I’m trying to say is that I’m a big fan of this Earth and I think we should try taking care of it when we have the chance. Our friends out at ASICS have been really pushing that mantra and with their Lite series, as seen in the Gel-Nimbus Lite, everyone running in a pair ASICS is leaving their own ecological footprint (literally). So, as Captain Planet once taught us, “we’re the Planteteers, you can be one too, because saving our planet is the thing to do!”

ASICS has dropped some real bangers in 2020 and they’re keeping the ball rolling with the new Gel-Kayano Lite. At 9.9 ounces in a size 9 US (2 whole ounces less than the Gel-Kayano 27) this daily trainer packs a really “lite” punch. 

The issues I’ve had with the Kayano line in the past have mainly been because the shoe felt like it never wanted to move with my foot. With the updated Gel-Kayano 27, we were given this more flexible max stability shoe. Turning over to the Gel-Kayano Lite, we’re looking at an even more flexible shoe with the silhouette of the Gel-Kayano 27. We have a fully recycled, one-piece mesh upper and a one-piece Flytefoam lite midsole. Peace out Trusstic system! Also with a slightly roomier forefoot and wider landing platform, this shoe is looking to be the go-to grab for an easy long run to a 15k tempo.

JARRETT: The Kayano Lite only comes in standard with. I was able to get miles in, but just know this isn’t a true wide review from me.

kayano lite

The Good

THOMAS: Take all the visible tech on the Kayano and toss it out the window. The Kayano Lite strips away the reinforced plastic heel counter, \ hard TPU Trusstic, dual-density foams, and exposed GEL, and replaces it all with a new kind of stability that gives the runner a more natural underfoot feel. The eco-friendly FlyteFoam midsole is made with cellulose nanofibers (CNF); essentially a byproduct of sugarcane refinement. The CNF, while being good for the environment, also adds durability to the FlyteFoam. But who cares if the shoe doesn’t feel good for miles and miles? The midsole works and ASICS has been able to play with the formula to adjust the firmness and softness (durometer), so this midsole is different than the Nimbus Lite and Metaracer. Aldren goes into more detail on how the Kayano Lite provides the same stability as the traditional Kayano below. 

What I like about the Kayano Lite is how unobtrusive the stability tech is when your running. This is a shoe that a neutral runner will enjoy just as much as the runner needing stability. This shoe is good for the easy day runs when your legs are tired and your form breaks down. The Kayano Lite’s gentle stability will guide you into better form. At 10.76 oz/305 grams for my size 10.5 the Kayano Lite, it isn’t flyweight, but compared to the Kayano 27 at 11.9 oz, the Lite is a full ounce and some change lighter. The Kayano Lite is well cushioned and the toe is flexible enough to give the shoe an unexpected peppiness.

The upper fits well and has good toe down appeal. The padded tongue and heel counter make the upper feel luxurious. My narrow high arch foot felt right at home in the Lite with no hotspots and the sizing was true to size. Go with your regular running shoe size. The men’s version is a 10 mm drop while the women’s model is 13 mm. When we spoke to ASICS they cited a study that showed that women are more likely to suffer from Achilles related injuries, so the higher drop is easier on those tendons, resulting in fewer injuries.

ALDREN: For us in the stability crowd, instead of relying on the Trusstic system and Dynamic Duomax support system, we have the introduction of the 3D Space Construction to slow the rate of pronation. There’s also a much wider landing platform to keep you consistent through your gait without rolling too far inward and giving a lot more ground contact. This different approach to stability works like magic and with your foot sitting lower in the shoe, I feel like I’m strapped in and ready for take-off.

The midsole is now a one-piece construction of FlyteFoam lite which is also the same midsole found in the ASICS METARACER. This produces a solid bouncy sensation for your forefoot/midfoot strike and a smooth heel strike to toe-off type of ride. Then with your foot sitting on a bed of Ortholite, this supplies a softer underfoot cushioning. And of course the Gel. ASICS can’t get enough of that Gel. Anyway, there’s a slither of Twist Gel right under the ball of your foot to absorb all that force applied on impact with the ground. 

Like I said before, the upper is made from fully recycled material. This is where the design and concept of the shoe kind of intertwine. The breathability of this kept my foot cool without sacrificing any of that lockdown that stays consistent in the Kayano line. The design looks like it’s paying homage to the ‘going green’ idea that ASICS is pushing. It’s kind of like if ASICS took a Mango La Croix and put that design on a shoe and this was the result: an Earth Day inspired Gel-Kayano.

JARRETT: The best part about the Kayano Lite is the lite. For realsies. A size 10.5 (standard width…) weighs only 10.7 oz. It’s over an ounce lighter than the Kayano 27 and 860v11. I’ve worn some neutral shoes recently that have been heavier than this.

As I’ve said in the past, ASICS has the upper game on lockdown. This time they are using an engineered mesh made from recycled materials. If you hate saving the world, this shoe ain’t for you. The soft upper, padded tongue and padded heel combine to provide an ultra-comfortable fit. For added foot support, a firm heel cup won’t allow movement and the one-piece ASICS logo overlay on both sides of the midfoot doesn’t stretch. 

Like many other ASICS models, the midsole is made of FlyteFoam. It’s not the softest midsole, but for what might be the first time ever, I think I actually notice the Gel in the forefoot. And I like it.

3D space construction makes its debut in the Kayano Lite. This creates geometric shapes on the midsole that help to slow the rate of pronation. Additionally, ASICS states the concave shape on the lateral heel and convex shape on the medial heel helps generate more compression during the landing phase, which increases the resistance when the foot starts rolling inward at mid-stance. ASICS is finding creative solutions to add stability without adding heavy pieces.

The outsole uses high abrasion rubber for durability. While there is full ground contact, the forefoot has grooves to allow for more flexibility. For a high stability shoe, the Kayano Lite rides pretty smooth. I still get a little bit of slap while running, but it’s way better than my previous Kayano runs which could have woken the neighborhood. 

Lastly, I like to give a lot of shoes a hard time for all the gray. These are primarily gray, but the pop of lime and blue provide some nice color that isn’t obnoxious. I’ll accept this colorway.

Shop Kayano Lite – Men Shop Kayano Lite – Women kayano lite

The Bad

THOMAS: This shoe is Lite years ahead of the traditional Kayano. I don’t really have a bad thing to say about this daily trainer. I hope that ASICS continues to work on getting the weight down on this shoe and keeps moving the styling into the future.

ALDREN: I like where ASICS is going and I’m super excited for what will be coming in the future. The introduction of the Lite series gives me hope that the GEL-Kayano line won’t only be worn by geezers winning their >80 age group. 

That being said, ASICS could probably shed more weight off by reducing the amount of rubber. Maybe replace the AHAR+ found in the heel and toe of the shoe with the AHAR sponge that’s secluded to the forefoot.

JARRETT: If the Kayano Lite was a few bucks cheaper, it’s an even easier sell. At $160, that’s a lot of doll hair. However, for those needing stability and only rock one pair of shoes at a time, this could cover all the bases.

Ugh, I wish this came in wide. Maybe I’ll just start binding my feet until this is no longer an issue…

Shop Kayano Lite – Men Shop Kayano Lite – Women kayano lite

ASICS Kayano Lite Conclusion

THOMAS: Both of the Lite series shoes (this and the ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite) have moved ASICS in the right direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if consumers put the old Kayano and Nimbus to bed and chose the Lite over the classics. Normally, I wear stability shoes for our reviews and then never again. I will be keeping the Kayano Lite around. Hands down it is my pick for stability trainer of the year. Great Scott!

ALDREN: It seems like every time I throw on a new pair of ASICS, they start to feel more natural as opposed to a boot with tiger stripes strapped to my feet. I normally rotate my shoes so that I never wear the same pair every day but I found myself grabbing these boys much more than I intended. This is a huge step in the right direction for ASICS and I think anyone in need of a stability shoe will love this update. The shoe fits like a true ASICS and rode smoother than most stability shoes out there. There’s something special about having a pair of shoes knowing that they’re helping out the Earth. It’s another special thing about having a well-performing shoe that’s helping out the Earth. 

If you’re looking for a lightweight, max cushion, and max stability daily trainer, this is your guy. It’s soft, responsive, and Earth-friendly with a nice ground feel that can handle your faster fartleks.

JARRETT: Honestly, it’s tough for me to recommend the Kayano Lite to the wide foot fam. I found it rather tight in the midfoot and became uncomfortable after 6 or so miles. On the Cumulus 22, the ASICS logo on the midfoot isn’t one solid piece, allowing it to stretch. I think that’s why I was able to wear it for up to a half marathon. 

Since the Kayano Lite only comes in regular width, I’m just not getting the room I need. Yeah, it works a bit, but the regular Kayano comes in multiple widths. Cutting weight, in my opinion, isn’t worth sacrificing the comfort of having a shoe fit properly. 

That being said, I firmly believe the Kayano Lite is better than the regular Kayano. The weight loss alone brings the famed Kayano back in to the picture and when it comes to stability options, the Lite is a top tier choice. I’ve got my fingers crossed that next year ASICS decides to cater to us flipper feet and provide at least one extra width.

You can pick up the ASICS Kayano Lite at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Kayano Lite – Men Shop Kayano Lite – Women

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. TH says:

    Not an Asics/Kayano fan but since the women’s version has a different drop, it would be good to have a female reviewer chime in on this shoe too if possible

  2. Mark says:

    Yet another cool shoe they don’t offer in Europe. I just don’t understand Asics.

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