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Road Running Shoes • September 16, 2021

Samurai Style: ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast Review

ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast - feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 11.9 oz. (337 g) for a US M9 / 9.9 oz. (280 g) for a US W7.5
  • Design influenced by traditional Japanese samurai
  • Features Pebax plate, Flytefoam Blast, and of course – GEL
  • Basically a souped-up beach cruiser
  • Available now for $180

The Intro

THOMAS: We first saw the ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast a few weeks ago when we swung by ASICS headquarters in Boston for a preview of its upcoming releases. We were excited to say the least, as ASICS has really turned the ship around in the last couple years and is trending in the right direction. When the meeting started the ASICS Kinsei Blast might have been the first shoe we saw. With the Pebax plate, two layers of foam, and GEL (because of course), I was dismissive of the shoe. It just seemed like one of those “hey let’s throw everything in it and charge a lot” shoes.

It didn’t help when ASICS said the GEL-Kinsei Blast was aimed at the same consumer as the adidas Ultra BOOST, one of the heaviest running shoes we’ve ever reviewed. But as our team has learned, despite your initial reaction, you have to put the miles in before you judge a shoe. After all, the Novablast wasn’t considered a running shoe by the team in Japan when it was in development. Fast forward two years and the Novablast has been a massive success in the run space.

ROBBE: I imagine that when the ASICS GEL-Kensei Blast was in its initial design phase, the lead designer laid out all the materials in front of them to see what they could work with while designing a brand new shoe. “Let’s see, whatta we got here … knit upper, Pebax plate (gotta have a plate), Flytefoam (two variations!), GEL (duh), husker dos, husker don’ts, whistlin’ kitty chasers (with or without the scooter sticks) … and so on. Then, like me ordering off a Crown Chicken menu at 3 a.m. after slugging Modelo for the last 8 hours – ”I’ll have one of everything.”

In theory, it’s going to be plenty satisfying. The mind wants what it wants. But is it good for the long haul? Maybe, maybe not.

The ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast does indeed have pretty much everything in it, and its curved plate and streamlined design are a referential nod to Japanese samurai. While it’s not really meant to be a crazy high-performance running shoe, it is meant to be a comfortable trainer you can run in, akin to other trainers like the adidas Ultraboost.

So is this a viable option or a one-and-done? Let’s find out.

MEAGHAN: I’m not going to lie, when the ASICS team showed us the Kinsei Blast for the first time, I cringed a little bit. There is just A LOT going on. A lot of gel, a lot of colors, several layers… a plate?! It’s just… a lot. Could something this wild work well out on the roads? We had to give it a try.

ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast - women

The Good

THOMAS: Kinsei means ‘balance’ in Japanese. At first glance, I thought things were out of balance. There’s plenty GEL, two layers of Flytefoam (Blast and +), a Pebax plate, a knit upper, a pillowy heel counter, and high-tech tongue. This thing is a Double Stuffed Oreo. Give me that icing. (For the record I am a regular stuffed Oreo kinda guy, while Robbe is an Oreo thin lover).

Turns out my preconceptions were off-balance because amazingly, the GEL-Kinsei Blast actually manages to handle everything pretty well. The stretchy knit upper fits as well as any knit upper I have ever worn. The step-in feel is luxurious. Speaking of Oreos, the sandwiched midsole creates a surprisingly smooth ride. I don’t know if the GEL is necessary, but it doesn’t get in the way. The plate wedged in the middle helps keep the shoe rolling through the drive phase of your stride while adding some stability to the high stack shoe. The closest sensation is a mildly firmer and more stable Novabalst.

ROBBE: We actually first saw this shoe at ASICS headquarters and I was immediately intrigued/confused. It seems that over the last year or so, ASICS has focused on dialing back the ridiculously built-up shoes it had been known for in the last decade, and then they go and do something like this. Putting every damn ASICS thing into the shoe. But here we are as shoe reviewers, so I was ready to give it a fair shake. We’re actually in a down period of shoes so I wore the GEL-Kinsei Blast for a lot of my runs over the last few weeks.

As with almost any ASICS shoe, the initial fit and feel is great. The knit upper is very comfortable, and is combined with a neoprene-like padded tongue for a great lockdown. Additionally, the stack of Flytefoam Blast and Flytefoam+ sandwiched around a Pebax layer offers a lot of comfort. Of course, there’s the GEL as well, which some people are sick of, but it doesn’t bother me either way.

I think in the past I would trash this shoe for having so much stuff, and I get the tendency to do so. But the Flytefoam iterations and the Pebax plate actually give it a purpose. It’s a heavy shoe (more on that later), but it’s not noticeable at slower paces, because it’s actually pretty bouncy and responsive. Additionally, the geometry of the plate and the shoe makes for a surprisingly smooth transition, which helps negate a weight that – in other designs – would turn it into a plodder.

Oddly, I felt myself reaching for this shoe a lot on days for filler miles in the 4-8 range, though I wouldn’t take this on long runs because over time the weight does catch up to it. Again, it’s not really meant for that.

The other thing I should point out is that it’s surprisingly stable, which I did not expect. With a slimmer profile and a generally high stack, I thought this was going to be tipsy, but the plate helps stabilize the foam and honestly, I had no issues at all with stability over the course of my testing.

ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast - wall2

MEAGHAN: The Kinsei Blast feels great on step-in. The upper material is an engineered knit that’s super stretchy and will accommodate just about any foot shape. It’s snug, but in a good way. The upper doesn’t look very plush, but ASICS added some ‘hidden’ padding through the collar and heel for extra support and comfort. The flat, stretchy laces are nothing special, but do a good job of locking the foot down.

Beneath the foot is where things get real weird. A layer of FlyteFoam Blast (ASICS’ new foam that’s responsive, light and I love) is met by a Pebax propulsion plate to give you a little extra umf, while the GEL technology provides a cushy landing. It’s built on a pretty substantial platform, 29mm in the heel and 19mm in the forefoot for a 10mm drop. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot going on, but somehow it all works together for a really smooth ride. I found myself ticking off mile after mile and really enjoying this shoe.

The Bad

THOMAS: Yo! This shoe ain’t light. I like lightweight cushioned shoes. It’s a “me” thing. The weakness I found in the Kinsei was at higher paces. Cruising along the shoe feels great, but once I raised the pace for my strides the shoe felt less cohesive. The stretch of the upper was taxed by the weight of the midsole and the whole thing starts to shake like Mater on the new road Lightning McQueen just done made with Bessy.

ROBBE: Like I said, it is not a light shoe. You want a lot of tech and comfort, you’re gonna have to pay the troll toll to get to this shoe’s soul. The good news is that ASICS has cut the weight on almost all of its other models, so if that’s a concern for you, there are plenty of other options that offer plenty of comfort in a lighter weight package (i.e. GEL-Nimbus Lite, or EvoRide/Noosa Tri 13).

The upper is hot as hell, maybe the warmest upper I’ve worn all year. I just took it out again yesterday for a 4.5 mile run in the 80s (at night), and my feet were cooking like a lobster taking a stovetop bath. I couldn’t wait to kick ‘em off once I got in the front door.

For some people, the price may be a little steep at $180. I believe this is the priciest shoe in the ASICS lineup that isn’t a carbon-plated racer. Again, those layers of tech ain’t gonna pay for themselves.

MEAGHAN: It’s pretty apparent from the looks, but this shoe is not light. My W7.5 came in over 10 oz. Also, the knit upper seems to really hang onto moisture (and the associated scents), only adding to the weight. Several miles in humid Florida left this shoe soaked; I had to wrap them in plastic bags before packing them in my suitcase home. You can imagine what a treat it was to unpack them.

ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast - gel women

ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast Conclusion

THOMAS: This shoe is built for the runner looking for style and comfort over PRs. The runs will be nice and cushioned, the shoe will last longer than you need it too, and it has the “What are those?!” comments built in. I would recommend these shoes to the runner that is looking for comfortable miles and doesn’t want to look like they have their parent’s HOKA on. For those of us lucky enough to have a quiver of training shoes, the GEL-Kinsei fits in well as an easy day shoe.

ROBBE: This GEL-Kinsei Blast was a surprisingly good and capable running shoe. I think this shoe will be great for someone looking for something new for ASICS, who maybe want a fun casual shoe that can transition into a running shoe when needed. It really had a lot of potential to suck (other shoes that have tried to throw the kitchen sink into a midsole have failed), but it came out as well as it could have, especially for its weight. I think we’ll actually see a second version of this shoe. Who knows, we actually may even get some whistlin’ kitty chasers (with the scooter stick) next go-around.

MEAGHAN: The ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast was a surprise shoe for me. I really expected to hate it, but I’ve found myself enjoying lots of miles in them. Is it a versatile shoe? Certainly not. But if you’re looking for a solid, everyday beach cruiser, this one checks the box.

You can pick up the ASICS GEL-Kinsei Blast for $180 by using the shop link below.

Shop ASICS GEL-Kinsei – Men Shop ASICS GEL-Kinsei – Women


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


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Logan says:

    “After all, the Novablast wasn’t considered a running shoe by the team in Japan when it was in development.”

    Could you expand on this please? I hadn’t heard that before!

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      Yeah so when we first saw the shoe at The Running Event they were like “yeah, so this a shoe that will be more of a gym shoe/casual running shoe.” And we were like “no… that’s a pure running shoe.” Fast forward… yeah, it’s a pure running shoe.

  2. Mark says:

    Yeah, please. Honestly, do not undersdand ASICS game. It looked they were changing things into the right direction. But simply, they cannot help it. They need their GEL and all the bells and whistles from last decades. So dissapointing!

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