Asics Gel Kayano 21

ASICS Gel Kayano 21 Review

Asics Gel Kayano 21 Review


I don't think the Asics Gel Kayano 21 reaches its full potential.  With new additions to comfort/cushioning, as well as the sockliner, this shoe continues to make advancements for stability shoe runners.  As far as stability runners go, the Gel Kayano 21 is probably the best shoe yet in the series. However, its stiffness leaves some unsatisfied runners. To top that off, a $160 pair of running shoes should not offer any short-comings in terms of durability. Running shoes at that price need to hold up better than the Asics Gel Kayano 21's are known for, and for those reasons, it's difficult to recommend these shoes unless you're wallet can take a punishment.

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Asics Gel Kayano 21’s Updated Sockliner

I really wanted to start with the sockliner because it is a bit of an unnoticed change for past users in the Kayano series. Within the Gel Kayano 21 is the ComforDry X-40 Sockliner. It offers a bit more cushion and plush and is supposed to create “40%” more bounce back.  Keep in mind that 40% is not 40% greater than the Kayano 20’s sockliner but “standard sockliners.” Do not let that number fool you too much.  I cannot say I experienced nearly 40% more bounce back, but a runner of the series should be able to see the improvements.  For some runners this feature will be all good.  For others, it may cause a sizing issue.  If you look at and their customer reviews of the shoe, which is currently sitting at a 4.6 out of 5 rating, literally all the negative reviews reflect on this model feel like the sizing is tighter. This is because of the sockliner. With the additions to the sockliner, the shoe definitely will feel a little tighter, especially in the toebox. I would recommend getting either 1/2 a size up if the Kayano 20 was fairly tight on you or possibly upgrading in width size if you believe that is where the problems will be encountered.  I have very narrow feet myself so i did not need to upgrade in size. In fact, it’s actually a more comfortable fit for me. I might recommend 2E for D-size wearers and 4E for 2E-size wearers. For those already using 4E in the Gel Kayano 20, this may be a bit too tight for you and may just have a longer break-in period.

Asics Gel Kayano 21 Updated Features

The only change to the outsole in the Gel Kayano 21 is at the heel of the foot in the crashpad. The crashpad, which is designed more towards stability runners this time around, offers a bit more cushion and durability at the heel of the foot. That doesn’t mean if you aren’t a complete heel-striker, you will have problems. It is just that heel-strikers will have an even easier time in this shoe than the last model. It should be a smoother transition from heel to toe regardless of foot-strike motion.

The fluidride midsole is actually slightly lighter this time along with an increase in midsole cushion. This is one of the reasons the Gel Kayano 21 beats outs its predecessor’s in terms of cushion and overall comfort.

Finally,  the last hugely noticeable update for most runners will be the heel-clutching system. ASICS is using the Exoskeletal heel-counter. For those who have run in the Nimbus 16 will be familiar with this heel-clutching system. Instead of a hardened plastic under the nice comfort mesh, it is now more of a plastic frame. The intent is to have a better locking of the heel for those runners who may have heels slipping out. I personally did not notice much of this in the Gel Kayano 21.  This is probably because I typically do not have any heel-slipping issues in most shoes.  I will say it does not feel too tight on my heel, a big thanks to the comfort and cushion of the Gel Kayano 21.  The rest of the review will likely be a lot of the same from past models but will still be very helpful for those less familiar in the series.

Asics Gel Kayano 21 Upper

Made of the same material of the Kayano 20, the fluitfit mesh is going to feel wonderful on your feet. You will be able to stretch your toes and the fit should be nice and tight. Along will come with the same level of breathability as past models which I rank at a decent level but don’t expect to get blown away.

Asics Gel Kayano 21 Performance

I am really liking the performance in the Gel Kayano 21. With the added weight and cushion in the sockliner and the slightly lighter fluidride midsole, the Gel Kayano 21 actually weighs slightly less than the previous model, the Kayano 20. Frankly, the change in weight should be just about unnoticeable because it’s so trivial.  The full transition from heel to toe is better than ever. This is probably the best improvement in terms of performance.  I love how I feel on longer runs. I have a very smooth ride with these and I feel so refreshed after my long runs. (My typical longer runs are 10 miles or so) In terms of runners, I would highly recommend this shoe to those looking for comfort, cushion, and a smooth transition. Really the biggest knock on this shoe would be the shoe’s lack of flexibility which may limit some options in terms of tempo running/training.  I would say this shoe is more for those that run at a constant pace, especially for longer runs. This is a shoe built for long consistent runs, especially for some heavier runners.

Buying Options for Gel Kayano 21- Price, Colors, and Sizes

Those that try to knock the Gel Kayano 21 will try to criticize the MSRP, but that is nothing new to the series. The MSRP sits at $160 but there are handful of options to lower the price depending on your situation. First, the base model comes in about 6 different colors. Some are brighter and some are more bold. You’ll have to check them out and judge them for yourself. Style is really dependent on an individual basis. I can get my sizing, which is 9D, at a price at about $91 with free shipping and returns through Amazon in their black color. That was a huge price decrease for me since I have not been able to get these for testing through ASICS. They also have a few special edition models, such as the Light-Show model which is made for runners who want to be seen. This is especially useful if you run in the dark and would like to be seen by drivers and such. With reflective properties and a glow-in-the-dark gel-midsole, it will be hard not to be seen in this special pair.  Overall, you should be able to find plenty of size/color options for the Gel Kayano 21.

 Gel Kayano 21 Pros Vs Cons



*Great Overall cushion and transition.

*Performs excellent for long-mileage running.

*Improvements for heel-strikers and stability runners.

*Slightly lighter than previous model.


*Lack of flexibility for fast paced tempo runs and/or workouts.

*Higher MSRP than most running shoes.

*Other Runners have noted a lack of durability