Asics Gel Kayano 20 Running Shoe

Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Running Shoe Review

Published On January 7, 2014 | By | Researched Gear Reviews, Reviews

Information! This is a researched gear review for the Asics Gel-Kayano 20 running shoe. Researched gear reviews are based solely upon information and critiques found online. We take the time to read, sort, and make sense of all the voices out there – providing you with a well-rounded review of the gear you’re interested in.

The Asics Gel-Kayano 20 running shoe ( Men’s & Women’s ) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, still enjoying a loyal fanbase and commanding a jaw-dropping price tag.

When training for my first marathon, I naively stumbled into the Gel Kayano X for $10 in the Ebay deal of the century (two brand new pairs of shoes for $20!). My Gel Kayanos easily guided me through my first running summer and marathon. Having since headed down a more minimalist running shoe road, I’m still curious to look into v20 – especially if they give me the ability to race birds:

Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Specifications

The Asics Gel-Kayano are considered a stability running shoe, meant for neutral to mild over-pronators (learn about choosing running shoes). In plain English: if your ankle tends to roll mildly inwards while running (most people’s do), these shoes are a great option for you – especially if you are looking for some extra comfort and support.

  • Average weight: 11.3oz 
  • Heel-to-toe drop: 10mm
  • Redesigned upper and new midsole components
  • Rearfoot and forefoot Gel® cushioning
  • Asics High Abrasion Rubber outsole
  • FluidFit™ upper technology combines multidirectional stretch mesh which creates a glove-like fit

Perhaps the most fascinating discovery made while researching the Kayano, is a marketing video which manages to bring a new angle to the heel striker versus midfoot/forefoot striker debate (also see Harvard biomechanic videos). Notice how the beginning of the video shows a perfect midfoot strike, introduces the idea of lateral ankle movement, and then transitions to shots of heel strikers wearing Gel-Kayano 20s!

I understand why the video shows a midfoot strike (looks better), but Asics should have shown someone heel striking barefoot. Here’s why you need our cushioned shoe, because you’ll break your heels.

Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Overview

Any shoe line which lasts 20 years must be doing something right (see images from all years).

Any shoe with the word “gel” in the name, ought to be comfortable and the Gel-Kayano 20 delivers.  The web is littered with 4 and 5 star reviews using terms like Cadillac when referencing the shoe’s comfort. One reviewer mentioned barely even feeling the shoes. Cushioning is gender-specific, believe it or not, and the uppers are made of a flexible mesh which give a more snug, glove-like feel.

Diehard Kayano fans seem a bit more discriminatory than new adopters.  A number of  people complained about toe box and cushioning reduction from versions 18 to 19 to 20.  One reason I switched to a different shoe after my Gel-Kayano Xs wore out is because the next couple versions didn’t feel quite the same to me, like there was too much monkeying around with the shoe.

Plenty of sizes and widths do exist though, so tinkering until you get the perfect shoe should be possible. Most sites say the 20 runs true to size with RoadRunnerSports suggesting runners buy the shoe 1/2 size up from measured foot size ( men’s sizing and women’s sizing charts ).

All of this comfort may come at slight expense to the perceived performance of the shoe. An apt comparison is a minivan to a sports car. The Gel-Kayano is definitely more of a minivan – a bit sluggish, but steadfast, comfortable and enduring. The agility and thrill of the sports car may be missing, but the minivan owner gets something more practical and functional – the type of vehicle built to go 200k (the van might look awful when you get there, but you’ll be there safely).

For those logging lots of repetitive miles on reasonably normal terrain, there should be no major concerns. A little extra cushioning and support for long miles is nothing to scoff at. One reviewer said he had sworn off Gel-Kayanos in favor of minimalist shoes, but couldn’t resist grabbing a pair of the 20s once he tried them on.

It’s relatively early to know of any major durability concerns with the Kayano 20, but the general consensus is consistent with previous pairs – this is a solid shoe, made for miles.  I easily put 500+ miles on my pair of Gel-Kayanos (probably more like 700 or 800, didn’t track shoe miles back then).

Color-wise, the Gel-Kayano 20 offers something for everyone. Kudos to Asics for offering muted versions of their shoes! Some people don’t want to wear neon, and have principles when it comes to fashion (ie: the ability to match clothing). When compared to many other running shoes on the market, the Asics simply aren’t “cool” looking, but they aren’t terrible either.

Men’s Colors:

Women’s Colors:

Asics Gel Kayano believers are used to the higher than average sticker price of their beloved running shoe. In fact, Kobe Bryant’s latest overpriced basketball shoe comes in cheaper than the $160 Gel-Kayano 20 – ouch. Maybe I’m simply getting old, but paying $160 for a pair of shoes borders on unethical. Still, before writing the shoe off as overpriced marketing, weigh the following considerations:

Are you a beginner? If so, don’t assume an expensive shoe isn’t for you. Beginners may stand to benefit the most from a properly fitted, supportive shoe. An I don’t deserve it unless I earn it mentality might be a good policy for expensive gadgets, but may not serve beginning runners well.  Deals can be found on good shoes, but grabbing a random $30 running shoe off the shelf at the local outlet isn’t usually the best way to find a shoe.

How often do you plan to run? If you plan to run frequently, amortize the cost of the shoe over 500 – 750 miles of running (at least that’s how far I usually take a shoe).

What type of running are you planning to do? If the majority of your running will be on hard surfaces, frequent and possibly longer distance – consider the reduced wear and tear a supportive, cushioned shoe may provide.

Regardless, the Gel-Kayano 20 IS expensive. My suggestion is to visit a local running store which can analyze your gait and let you test out a variety of shoes suitable for your mechanics.  If the Kayano happens to be the best shoe for you, Mr. Budget gives the green light, and your conscience doesn’t condemn you – go for it.

Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Pros

  • Extremely comfortable, great fit
  • Good road shoe, good for high-mileage
  • Available in widths, large sizes and normal colors
  • 20-year resume and thousands of satisfied fans
  • Lightest Gel-Kayano ever
  • Good for larger runners (big people like me), supportive

Asics Gel-Kayano 20 Potential Concerns

  • Ground feel is a bit sluggish (Think minivan with automatic steering one reviewer states)
  • Budget-busting price tag
  • Heavy when compared to many other running shoes


These running shoes have a 20 year history for a reason, and even at the crazy price tag most runners will get their money’s worth.  This is an expensive outdoor purchase which can definitely make running more enjoyable, and reduce running impact.  I’d compare the cost of the shoe to the (realistic) potential mental and emotional benefit gained by such a purchase. Will you be more motivated to exercise?

Check out the Mens ASICS GEL-Kayano 20 Running Shoe on Road Runner Sports:

Check out the Womens ASICS GEL-Kayano 20 Running Shoe on Road Runner Sports:

Bonus Goodies

The making of the Gel-Kayano

Finally, I found a YouTube video series where turning on captioning is needed.  Gel-Kayano designers Toshikazu Kayano and Yoshiyasu Ando discuss 20 years of innovating one shoe.

You Might Also Like:

New Balance Minimus 20v3 Cross-Training Shoe Review
A Day with Fred Beckey in the Dolomites
Xero Shoes Barefoot Running Sandals Review

About The Author

Brian Erickson
The only noteworthy facts about RYK's founder, Brian, are his height (6'7"), and his fortunate status as a cancer survivor. Otherwise, he is an average guy who works hard, enjoys adventures (trail running, backpacking, biking, hoops), and makes his living as a graphic and web designer. Brian is heading towards his 10 year wedding anniversary with his high school sweetheart. Connect with Brian on Google+
  • Oswald Cobblepott

    The best 150 bucks you’ll ever spend on something used everyday, I don’t even shop other styles or brands this is the best as the 20th anniversary is evidence that the people continue to wear it