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Runners tend to show a great deal of loyalty to brands or even a particular line of shoes once they find one they like. That’s even more true for runners who use stability shoes because there are fewer options, and Asics’ Gel-Kayano line has long been a preferred pick for runners who overpronate, which means they excessively roll the foot inwards upon landing.
The Gel-Kayano 26 corrects overpronation through a series of additions to the midsole and outsole of the shoe, along with Asics’s Metaclutch heel counter. In fact, the shoe is so laden with additions to help guide your foot into a neutral position that I feared that it would be both heavy and uncomfortable to run in.
Fortunately, it was neither. The Gel-Kayano 26 is reasonably heavy at 315g (men’s) but feels far lighter than that on the foot. I used it mostly for steady runs along with some shorter, faster stuff and it didn’t feel clunky at all. It’s not an out-and-out speedster, but overpronators can feel confident they’re getting a shoe that will work for both training and racing.
The Gel-Kayano 26 is at its best when you up the distance. That’s partly because it’s comfortable, with the various stability features incorporated into the shoe in a non-intrusive way. The Gel-Kayano 26 gently guides your foot into the right position for a smooth heel-to-toe transition without you noticing. I’m a neutral runner and found the Gel-Kayano comfortable to use regardless.
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I was less keen on the ride of the shoe, however, but I prefer softer midsoles with plenty of bounce in them, like those in the New Balance FuelCell Rebel or Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2. The Gel-Kayano 26’s Flytefoam Propel foam midsole is quite firm, which contributes to the shoe feeling lightweight and snappy when running, and also helps with the stability of the shoe. I can see why an overpronating runner might not want to use a squishy shoe but I didn’t find the Gel Kayano enjoyable to run in, especially when heading out for an easy run.
The midsole might ease up as your Kayanos rack up the miles, but there was little sign of that after the 50km so far, so if you’re planning on training for and running a marathon in this shoe, you should be aware that you’re in for a quite firm ride. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 is a stability shoe that has a softer feel, so if you don’t like the sound of the Kayano’s ride it’s worth trying that shoe on.
The Gel-Kayano 26 is a solid update to the line that will not disappoint those who have used the shoes in the past. Asics has done little to change the shoe, apart from small tweaks to make it more comfortable, and the Kayano 26 is an even better option for long-distance running as a result. The stability features on the shoe get the job done without feeling intrusive and while the ride is a little firm for my taste, it’s a shoe that will work well for a range of training and racing.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.