Category Archives: Running Shoes

Gear review : ASICS Gel-FujiElite trail racer

Slurp, squelch, slide…fall. Bugger. It’s muddy out on the trails at the moment and even the hard packed gravel trails have become impassable for my road shoes. Time to get some trail shoes!

ASICS UK came to my rescue and sent me a media sample of the ASICS Gel-FujiElite trail racers to test and review. The FujiElite is a new release and is part of their ‘speed’ range of shoes featuring a racing last. I’ve now done over 100km in them, ranging from 5km races at my local Parkrun to 20+km training runs and have found them to be much more multipurpose than just the ‘racing’ tag-line they are marketed with.

ASICS-Gel-FujiElite-split-view

A low drop (6mm) racing shoe for trail, with a host of features made for trail

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Running recap, and : Still learning from my mistakes…

Life has been hectic lately, but I’m still getting some running in. It doesn’t resemble my marathon training plan that much, but at least I’m still running. More than I’ve been blogging at any rate…

Another thing I’ve noted is that I’m still learning. Unfortunately, largely through making mistakes…
Since my last post I’ve managed to keep up my ‘two-for-Tuesday‘ workout of hard run (usually hill sprints) followed by Yoga. I really like this combo – a hard run after my rest day, followed by an hour of enforced stretching and core work. I’m the first to admit it, I don’t stretch or do enough core work, so yoga is a good way for me to get in a flexibility and core workout.

Mental note #1: Stretch more. Like everyday, not just after a run.

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ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 review

As many of you know I’ve been running in ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 trainers for almost a year now, and with over 1000km across three pairs, including a marathon, I thought I’d better get off my bum (or should that be my feet?) and write up my full review of them.

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-sole

Boring in white…, but a very capable shoe. Most of the cool stuff is happening underfoot where you can’t see it in any case…

My thoughts on the ASICS Gel-Excel33 2:

The Gel-Excel33 2 is a great trainer for frequent runners and high mileage. It is a capable, comfortable long distance trainer and race shoe and I would recommend it to any midfoot/forefoot runner looking to move away from big support/stability ‘battleship’ shoes towards a more natural ride.

Positives:

  • Neutral shoe with natural feel promoting midfoot/forefoot landing
  • Really nicely fitting upper, good midfoot support
  • ‘Natural’ feeling midsole with 10mm drop, lots of bounce but with a firm base
  • Super high-wearing outsole, well suited to road, pavement and dry gravel

Negatives:

  • Upper of the shoes wear around the foot flexion point after about 300km (but no further degradation and no effect on shoe performance)
  • Store price is high compared to other comparable shoes, but Internet prices similar
  • White colourway is boring but other colours often slightly more expensive
ASICS Gel-Excel 33 2 special edition counter

The ‘special edition’ colour. £10 more expensive but they look WAY cool…
The heel clutch system is visible as the plastic wrap around the heel extending to just below the ankle.

ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 – General Info:

A few years ago ASICS started the ‘33’ line of shoes based on providing a more neutral ride and support of the natural motion of the foot. Named for the 33 bones in the foot the shoes are designed to protect and promote natural movement in, this was a departure from ASICS normal line of technically superior ‘full support’ and ‘stability’ shoes.

The first releases were already competent shoes thanks to ASICS focus on science and technology, but with the second iteration of the Gel-Excel33 2 it would appear ASICS have been learning some lessons about ‘natural’ shoes and have been applying these to an already competent shoe. According to ASICS, upgrades to the shoe include the introduction of FluidAxis (deep flex grooves in the outsole to allow for a more natural motion of the subtalar joint), changes to the trusstic system, improved responsiveness in the mid-sole and slightly more room in the forefoot.

ASICS have for some time been at the forefront of marrying science and engineering to make highly capable shoes, and it appears that using this philosophy on more ‘natural’ shoes is paying dividends.

ASICS Gel-Excel 33 2 – Out of the box:

First impressions are positive. The shoes are light for the amount of cushioning they have, with good flexibility and, above all else, simplicity. The white colourway is a pretty boring looking shoe, but other colourways are available for both men and women.

On putting the shoe on I found the fit to be excellent, very comfortable and quite cushioned. It just felt ‘good’ as soon as I put it on. The heel counter is stiffened on the outside for a very solid grip on your heel (ASICS call this the ‘heel clutch’ system) and overly padded, however the blurb about the shoes notes there is memory foam in the heel to ‘personalise’ your fit so it is will mould to your heel and provide a superior fit.  There is an EVA sockliner moulded to the shape of the foot, which can be removed to accommodate a medical orthotic or, as in the case of the photo below, your fitted insoles.

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-side

Lightweight shoe, lots of cushioning. Note the massive padding to the heel counter before breaking the shoes in.

ASICS Gel-Excel 33 2 – The shoe itself:

The upper of the shoe is made from a lightweight mesh with ASICS trademark intertwined ‘hashtag’ logo in stiffer material to add structure to the shoe. The tongue is very padded, and like most trainers the shoe has two eyelets at the top to allow for butterfly lacing and people with small ankles. The mesh looks the same as the previous shoe, but with a bit more of it to add room in the forefoot over the metatarsal area.

As mentioned before the ASICS ‘heel clutch’ is utilised over a traditional heel counter and I have always found it a good system at locking my heel in position.

The midsole of the Gel-Excel 33 2 is similar to the v1 edition, being composed of two different foam materials sitting on top of each other. Directly under the foot is the spEVA layer for improved cushioning and comfort. The bottom layer is made of SoLyte which is denser and more resilient, also offering better energy return and stability. By using both foams together it provides a solid platform on the ground with consistent energy return, while reducing impact and stress into the foot. There is also a gel pod in the heel to assist with cushioning in the event of heel strike; however it is not as prevalent as with other shoes in the ASICS line. It’s basically there to absorb heel impact and to allow a smooth transition to mid-stance, but not for serious protection for heel-strikers.

ASICS guidance line, FluiAxis and Trusstic all on display. What all this means is a flexible shoe with a smooth transition, good support and energy return

ASICS guidance line, FluidAxis and Trusstic all on display. What all this means is a flexible shoe with a smooth transition, good support and energy return

In the v2 edition of these shoes the Trusstic system has been retained under the arch of the foot to mimic the plantar fascia area however ASICS say the Trusstic system has been extended to aid in propulsion. It’s not really noticeable at low speed, but at high speed when you really flex the shoe you notice a ‘spring’ effect at toe off.

Thanks to the splitting of the outsole by the Guidance Line (a long split to help separate the shoe along its axis) and the split segments running across the shoe there is good flexibility from the midfoot to the toe. When running forefoot these shoes feel light and responsive and natural. However, as the midfoot is stiffened by the Trusstic system it has very little flexion through this part of the shoe. Not an issue if you are a midfoot striker, but when I deliberately tried running heel striking you notice the shoe feels a bit ‘dead’ until you get past mid-stance and the flexibility increases. Again, this isn’t really a bad thing as the shoes are designed to promote a more natural midfoot and forefoot stance.

Very flexible forefoot, but the Trusstic keeps the midfoot very stiff which can make the shoe feel slow if you're a heel striker

Very flexible forefoot, but the Trusstic keeps the midfoot very stiff which can make the shoe feel slow if you’re a heel striker

The outsole is quite thin but is made of ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR) which is extremely durable. I did over 500km in one pair and the wear was minimal. The outsole is also split into little triangles, allowing a quite stiff rubber to flex easily along with the rest of the sole. Aside from the durability, I found the sole to be quiet, smooth with good traction even on wet surfaces and gravel. Off-road the shoe is capable, but only for compacted gravel trails or reasonably solid leaf litter. Larger stones can be easily felt through the sole and traction in mud is limited. However, I found it more than capable for dry off-road running and even did a quite technical segment of the ‘path of the Gods’ in them without any issues.

They're not designed for it, but you can still go through the mud in them. Expect wet socks though...

They’re not designed for it, but you can still go through the mud in them. Expect wet socks though…

Asics Gel-Excel 33 2 – On the road:

As I mentioned, I’ve now done over 1000km in these shoes across three pairs. Out of the box the shoe is very padded. The tongue and heel counter are especially soft. This would normally put me off a trainer as it can make the shoe ‘wallow’ because of the lack of compression between the foot, the upper and the heel. However, in this shoe the tongue sets down quickly and thanks to the memory foam of the heel counter the breaking in period is swift. On all three pairs it took three runs and roughly 25km before the shoes were fully broken in, after that they went on like a slipper and stayed nicely attached to my feet.

The shoes fit really well, have good room in the toebox, feel light on the feet, and when running swiftly feel flexible and really responsive. On the long slow runs the deep cushioning keeps muscles and joints protected and ready to back it up the next day. Also, I have custom insoles which I use in my ASICS Kinsei. In the Gel-Excel I tried them for the first run and took them out as soon as I got home, as they killed the ride in the shoe and were providing too much arch support. The supplied EVA insole is lighter, flexed better and worked with the mechanics of the shoe and I’ve not looked back!

Durability wise, the outsole is fantastic with 500km+ without any significant wear. One thing I noticed is that the shoes bounced back run-after-run until the runs starting going past 25km in length or 60km per week. After that point they appeared to deteriorate quickly. One pair I had was approaching 400km as I went into the big end of my marathon preparation and four successive runs over 25km with a last 32km left them feeling ‘dead’ and I retired them after about 500km total. This isn’t great for an expensive pair of runners, but I feel like up to about 40km per week these shoes could last for 700km or so. However, as testament to the fit of these shoes, my new pair arrived only five days before the marathon and I got little over 10km to bed them in before the race. They performed well in the race and left me with no blisters, no hot spots, and crucially, no black toenails. Also, they didn’t get that ‘dead’ feeling after the race and some 200km on they still feel good.

One negative point is the durability of the upper. After about 300km the flexion point around the forefoot shows wear through the mesh. It is only the very upper layer, the structure appears intact, and I didn’t notice any further wear after that, nor any impact on the performance of the shoes.

Cool shoes, but the mesh shows signs of deterioration around the foot flexion point after about 300km

Cool shoes, but the mesh shows signs of deterioration around the foot flexion point after about 300km

Asics Gel-Excel 33 2 – Bernie’s verdict: 9/10

I find this a great trainer for me, and I think it would suit other neutral or mild over-pronating runners seeking a good road shoe for serious mileage. I was impressed by the flexibility, the natural feeling while running and the easy transition through the toe-off phase. Price wise they are a bit expensive for the apparent ‘simplicity’ of the shoe but are still a fair bit cheaper than top of the line support or stability models in the ASICS stable or competitors shoes.

Do you run on ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 trainers? Let me know your thoughts on them below!

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Running shoes : less, more, how many is enough?

Her – “Now you’ve finished your marathon, can you do something with your shoes?”

Him – “What do you mean, they’re fine?”

Her – “Bernie! Look at that pile!”

Him – “Oh, wait, I see what you mean…”

I’m sure every runner has had this conversation at some point, either (reluctantly) with their partner, or (even more reluctantly) with themselves.

Maybe you have a race coming up. You get a new pair of shoes because your careworn runners are looking ragged, but you don’t throw out the old ones. They’re backup. Insurance in case you don’t get on with your new trainers.

Or maybe you’re upping the mileage so you go to a two-shoe routine, alternating pairs so your shoes can dry out and the foam has time to recover between runs.

Or maybe you’ve introduced speedwork into your runs and you’ve added a speedy pair to your stable. Or spikes for track, or studded for trail.

Or maybe, you’ve done all three…

What constitutes too many shoes, anyway?

What constitutes too many shoes, anyway?

The trainer jumble starts to evolve, spill out of its tidy little storage place, but what do you do? Are you ready to part with the old pairs? Are some of them being worn as utility trainers for gardening or perhaps the cool ones double as casual wear?

It’s a conundrum that all runners have to face at some point. Which trainers need to go to the giant shoe box in the sky, which will pass inspection and live another day.

For me, today is not that day. I’m putting it off and procrastinating. By looking for new shoes.

I’m after a pair of road/trail hybrid shoes which will give me better grip in the muddy parts of the Heath but not feel like running in treacle on the pavement while I’m getting there, while suiting a neutral runner with a mid foot strike. Anyone have any suggestions?
Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Running Gear : New Shoes for the Marathon

 

Every runner loves a new pair of shoes…

I’ve (finally) received the delivery of my shoes for the marathon – a new pair of ASICS-GelExcel33 2. They’re even in snazzy ‘limited edition’ blue and green. Because this will of course make me go faster on race day…

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-2-special-edition

 

 

Keen readers will note that apart from the colour difference, these are EXACTLY the same pair of shoes that I talked about buying last time I posted a shoe review. What can I say, I’m a runner. There is one thing I’m NOT going to do just before a marathon and that is change my model of shoes!

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-2-special-edition-sole

 

 

So, while these aren’t the fastest of shoes, they seem to work well for me and I have a new pair for the marathon, still full of support and shock absorption. I would have preferred to have had them last week so I could do about 50km in them, but internet deliveries which say 4 days, sometimes aren’t.

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-2-special-edition-counter

However, this is the third pair of these shoes I’ve had, so I know my feet fit them fine and, crucially, they don’t give me any hotspots. Just to be sure I’m going to wear them as much as possible between now and the marathon, along with my 3 easy runs this week, to help bed them in.

Seeing as I’ve had three pairs now I guess I should probably get around to giving  review of them. But that can wait until after the marathon where we’ll see if blue and green do go faster than boring white…

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Want to see what/where/how I’m training? View or ‘connect’ with me on my Garmin profile to see what’s been going on

 

 

 

Natural Running : Initial thoughts on the ASICS Gel Excel 33

ASICS Gel Excel 33 counterHooray, just in time for the weekend! A post that is about leaving plantar fasciitis behind!

Well, enough to allow a return to running a few times a week and to clock up about 50km in my new ASICS Gel Excel 33 trainers. I figure now I’ve had the chance to go for a few runs it would be a good time to do a quick review of my experience of them so far.

First off, I rate this shoe highly. Great fit, good cushioning (but not too much), flexible and light, and well suited to my mid-foot to forefoot strike.

When walking the low heel drop feels strange at first, probably because I’ve always had ‘regular’ trainers, however when you are running you don’t notice the heel drop – just the ease with which you can land on your mid-foot and transition forwards onto your toes for the toe-off. I’m not sure these would be suited to pronounced heel strikers, the low drop seems to make it take longer for your heel to hit the ground, which could lead to over-striding. Certainly I noticed this on downward slopes at least.

I will put up a more detailed review once I have done some more miles, but in the meantime these shoes are shaping up to be a good solid pair of high mileage trainers.

Which means (checks to see if girlfriend is reading over shoulder) I’m on the lookout for a new pair of shoes for my fast runs and speed work…

Happy running for the weekend everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

Natural running continues : A shiny new pair of ASICS Gel Excel 33 for me!

Who doesn’t love a new pair of running shoes? The shine, that new-shoe smell, bright white foam…

Ok, ok, I’m getting carried away…

ASICS Gel Excel 33 side view

ASICS Gel Excel 33

As I said in my previous post I have been looking into natural running. Not barefoot running – that is definitely a step too far for me – but natural running. Natural running shoes have a low heel drop, only about 5mm from heel to toe, which encourages mid-foot and forefoot running. This is a lot less than regular trainers which have around 10mm or more drop. They are also ‘stripped’ back and feature less motion control features, thereby not impeding the body’s natural biomechanics.

Given my ASICS Gel Kinsei were well beyond their use-by date I took the opportunity to get myself some new running shoes. Well, that and I just wanted a new shiny pair of trainers! So why after years of running in ‘normal’ trainers have I opted for a completely different type of shoe? 4 reasons:

  1. I have a neutral gait – Meaning I don’t over-pronate or supinate, so shoes with masses of cushioning in the heel don’t provide me with extra protection, just extra weight.
  2. Natural running shoes have a low heel drop – A flatter shoe encourages mid-foot and forefoot running, which is my natural gait. Warning – If you over-pronate then you should approach natural or minimal shoes with extreme caution. They are not designed with motion control or other systems to control over-pronation, so your risk of lower limb injury would be much higher in this sort of shoe.
  3. I am in the recovery phase of plantar fasciitis – This sounds counter-intuitive, however my theory is that my current mileage is very low, making this a perfect time to get into a new ‘genre’ of trainers because of the need to always transition slowly when moving from ‘regular’ trainers to ‘natural’ trainers. Please note that if you are like me and have tight calf muscles then natural shoes will put more strain on them due to the flatness of the shoe. Pay special attention to this and to your static stretching routine so you don’t strain your calves or encourage a spell of plantar fasciitis
  4. Additional foot strength – Plantar fasciitis is often caused or exacerbated by weak musculature of the foot and lower limbs. Shoes designed for natural running encourage your feet and lower limbs to get stronger because of the minimal approach to motion control. My theory is that in the long run if I have stronger feet and lower limbs I will be better able to keep myself free from plantar fasciitis. But it is a long road…

Anyone reading this and thinking along similar lines, I stress again the importance of transitioning slowly. Natural or minimal running shoes are very different from regular running shoes and you will take time to adjust. From my research I have found that all manufacturers of natural or minimal running shoes have noted to add these shoes into a rotation, and keep your regular runners for long distances. This will assist with the transition without needing to drastically cut your mileage and let you get used to the new shoe. I suggest you read this great article from Competitor.com – Safely Transitioning To A Minimalist Running Shoe – Competitor.com.

So why did I go for the ASICS Gel Excel 33?

ASICS Gel Excel 33 counter

ASICS Gel Excel 33

Simple really, I tried on quite a number of shoes in the ‘natural running’ style – Newton, Mizuno, Adidas, Nike – but I guess I found the ASICS fit and feel to be what I am most used to and the most comfortable for me. I got my shoes from Sweatshop because they tend to have staff who are runners themselves, as well as the massive benefit of being able to try the shoes out by running on a treadmill in store while the assistant watches you for gait or pronation issues. In the UK another good store Runners Need also have treadmills so you can try-before-you-buy.

A little advice/rant here – apologies in advance – while you will pay more for shoes from the store instead of the internet, go to a dedicated running store where the staff are knowledgeable and you can try the shoes out on a treadmill. Walking around a shop floor for a few minutes is not going to give you an idea of what the shoes feel like when running! And be a nice person, if your assistance has given you good service, useful advice and the benefit of running on a treadmill, buy the shoes from them. Don’t go home and buy the same shoes on the internet. If everyone does that, the additional service which is so important to us all will just disappear. I only ever buy shoes from the internet when replacing shoes I already have and trust, because nothing compares being able to try them on and crucially, try them out, while in the shop.

ASICS Gel Excel 33 sole

ASICS Gel Excel 33

For me, it’s time to start running again as my plantar fasciitis recedes. I will update you here after I have put some miles in my new ASICS Gel Excel 33 and provide a review. In the meantime, safe running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running

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