ASICS GEL-Kayano 31 Review

The ASICS GEL-Kayano 31

All shoes are reviewed by the Fleet Feet tester team, which represents a wide variety of goals, foot shapes, running locations and terrains. Reviewers pound the pavement, climb the hills, tackle the trails, then come together to compare notes. Debates ensue over the feel of the cushioning, the purpose of the shoe, and how it compares to last year’s model. While each reviewer has their own individual preferences, we hope that capturing our debates will help you make an informed decision.

Change can be scary. It’s why people stay in the same jobs, the same relationships and the same towns they’ve been in for decades. But we’re not here to give you a lecture about trying something new. If you’re in need of some inspiration, look to ASICS, a company that’s taken huge risks (and seen huge rewards) by overhauling their legacy line.

Last summer, ASICS disrupted the stability shoe category with a complete overhaul of their bestselling stability shoe, the Kayano. Made with a brand new 4D Guidance System for enhanced support, a lighter midsole foam and an internal GEL cushioning compound, the Kayano 30 shocked and awed Kayano-loyalists across the globe.

Built on the success of the Kayano 30, the Kayano 31, available June 1, continues the evolution with some tweaks to the upper and an improved outsole design. But is newer always better? Read on to find out.

Tech Specs

ASICS GEL-Kayano 31

Weight 9.3 oz (W), 10.8 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot) 39 mm/29 mm (W), 40 mm/30 mm (M)
Heel-to-toe drop 10 mm
Category Stability
Surface Road
Price $165
Comparable to… New Balance Vongo v6, HOKA Arahi 7

Ride

Cushioning

Energy

The softest stability shoe yet?

The heel of the ASICS GEL-Kayano 31.

The words “soft” and “stability” don’t usually go hand in hand when speaking about running shoes. However, that may change with the GEL-Kayano 31.

“The softness of the midsole became evident as soon as I started running,” says Spencer, who runs exclusively in stability shoes. “I love the incredibly plush landing, which lasts through the entirety of my runs. As a higher cushion model, the Kayano 31 runs quite efficiently. The tall stack height still offers a lightweight feel instead of a clunky experience.”

Max agrees, saying “The Kayano 31 feels softer underfoot than its predecessor while still remaining responsive and supportive. The 10-millimeter heel-to-toe drop provides a really soft landing pad in the heel.”

While the Kayano 31 feels softer than the previous model, ASICS claims the same exact foam is used in both versions–FF BLAST PLUS ECO foam, their softest and most energetic midsole foam made with 24 percent bio-based content. They claim the foam has “cloud-like softness,” and we have to agree. The foam, combined with the gel-cushioning system in the heel, create a smooth underfoot feel.

But runners seeking out the Kayano and other shoes like it don’t just want softness. They want supportive stability features that will offset the effects of overpronation, the excessive inward rolling of a runner’s foot. That’s where ASICS’ 4D Guidance System comes in.

First introduced in 2023, the 4D Guidance System offers four key elements:

  • A flared midsole to add stability during landings and toe-offs.
  • A wide base for a balanced platform.
  • A rounded heel bevel to control and disperse impact upon landings and ease with toe-offs.
  • Energetic medial foam to guide your feet after each landing.

“I don’t usually enjoy running in stability shoes, but this one came as a joy to run in,” says Brandon, who prefers neutral running shoes. “Not only does the Kayano 31 have the underfoot cushioning that I typically enjoy, but the 4D Guidance System allows me to run freely without altering my foot strike. The Kayano feels like a slightly firmer and more stable version of the Nimbus 26. Overall, I enjoy the feeling and support that the Kayano provides and would recommend this shoe to individuals who need stability but want a highly cushioned option.”

One notable change to the Kayano 31 is a different outsole material that ASICS calls HYBRID ASICSGRIP™. It’s a combination of their ASICSGRIP™ and AHARPLUS™ materials. You don’t need to worry about the technical names or trademarks for these materials, just that ASICS claims the new outsole is grippier without compromising the softness of the shoe.

“The grip is solid, yet not too firm or aggressive,” says Spencer. “The materials feel quite sturdy, and I can tell this model is built to last plenty of miles.”

New mesh upper feels toasty

The ASICS GEL-Kayano 31.

As mentioned before, the main updates to the Kayano 31 are a new outsole and upper design. While the new outsole is a hit amongst reviewers, some of us weren’t a fan of the new mesh upper that replaces the engineered knit upper used in the Kayano 30.

“While the upper is super plush and feels luxurious, it uses a lot of fabric and material which reduces breathability and adds weight,” says Max. “While the subtle stability and softness of the midsole provided one of the better underfoot experiences I’ve had running in a stability shoe, I found myself wondering ‘what if they were able to make this shoe lighter?’”

Spencer agreed about the lack of breathability, and also felt that the shoe felt a bit too tight for comfort.

“The ASICS Gel-Kayano 31 fits snug in my opinion,” he says. “While the width is relatively true to size, my instep feels tight against the shoe’s tongue, although my feet are not restricted or compressed while running. I would recommend the ASICS Gel-Kayano 31 to someone with a narrow foot shape, both in width and height. Generally speaking, low-volume feet [feet that don’t take up much space within the shoe] might feel best in the Kayano 31 because the shoe doesn’t have a ton of extra space.”

Spencer, who used to fit customers at the Fleet Feet Greenville store, was spot on with this assessment–our narrow-footed reviewer Max found the fit to be perfect.

“The Kayano 31 fits true to size in both width and length in my opinion,” he says. “The super soft heel collar and tongue really make the shoe feel plush all around.”

The ASICS GEL-Kayano 31 is offered in narrow and wide sizing for women and narrow, wide and extra-wide sizing for men. If you aren’t sure about the width or volume of your feet, your best bet will be to head into your local Fleet Feet to try on the shoe in-person. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height, so you can learn a lot about your feet while you’re there.

ASICS GEL-Kayano 31 vs ASICS GEL-Kayano 30

Tech Specs

ASICS GEL-Kayano 31

ASICS GEL-Kayano 30

Weight

9.3 oz (W), 10.8 oz (M)

9.2 oz (W), 10.6 oz (M)

Stack height

39 mm/29 mm (W),

40 mm/30 mm (M)

39 mm/29 mm (W),

40 mm/30 mm (M)

Heel-to-toe drop

10 mm

10 mm

Price

$165

$160

Overall, the GEL-Kayano 31 is largely the same as it was last year but with a grippier heel and a different upper. The latest model is ever-so-slightly heavier than the Kayano 30, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’d be able to notice this on foot. Some reviewers also noticed that the 31 felt a bit softer, despite using the same foam as last year.

“Although the midsole is apparently the same as the previous model, the 31 felt a tad bit softer – to the point that it feels more similar to the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 26 than the Kayano 30 felt to the Nimbus 25,” says Max.

However, reviewers did prefer the engineered knit upper from last year’s model to the engineered mesh used in the latest version.

“The biggest difference for me between the 30 and the 31 is the tighter fit. The 30 was more spacious, whereas the new model is a close all-around fit,” Spencer says. “Moreover, it seems like the 31 does not have as much ventilation. My feet were noticeably heated by the end of runs.”

The ASICS 4D Guidance System.

How does the ASICS GEL-Kayano 31 compare?

We took a look at some comparable models to see how they stack up against the ASICS GEL-Kayano 31. Here’s what we found.

Tech Specs

ASICS GEL-Kayano 31

New Balance Vongo v6

HOKA Arahi 7

Weight

9.3 oz (W), 10.8 oz (M)

8.5 oz (W), 10.6 oz (M)

8.1 oz (W), 9.9 oz (M)

Stack height

39 mm/29 mm (W),

40 mm/30 mm (M)

38 mm/32 mm

34 mm/29 mm (W),

37 mm/32 mm (M)

Heel-to-toe drop

10 mm

8 mm

5 mm

Price

$165

$165

$145

We found the ride of the ASICS GEL-Kayano 31 to feel most similar to the New Balance Vongo v6 and the HOKA Arahi 7. All three shoes offer relatively thick cushioning and innovative stability technology.

The Arahi 7 uses HOKA’s J-Frame technology, a J-shaped hook of foam that wraps around your heel and lines the medial side of the shoe. The Vongo v6 uses New Balance’s Stability Plane Technology, a thin, rigid, plate-shaped EVA film that keeps the shoe steady when a runner overpronates.

Out of all three shoes, we definitely think the Kayano is the softest. It offers the highest stack height, however it’s also the heaviest. If you prioritize cushioning over weight savings, the Kayano 31 is a great choice.

The ASICS GEL-Kayano 31.

Who is the ASICS GEL-Kayano 31 best for?

The GEL-Kayano 31 is a great option for runners who need some extra support but don’t want to sacrifice softness. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to soft-to-firm ratios in their shoes and, I’ll be honest, as an avid squish-fan, it’s hard to find stability shoes that suit my tastes. To hear that the Kayano 31 is the softest stability shoe yet gives me hope.

Overall, the Kayano 31 is a solid option that epitomizes the evolution of the stability market. While the shoe won’t give you any special speed advantages, it's versatile enough to handle a range of paces thanks to its energetic FF BLAST PLUS ECO foam.

“The Gel-Kayano 31 is tremendous for any type of distance running, whether it be ranging from 5K to marathon training,” says Spencer. “There was more turnover than I expected when I increased my cadence, and the shoe invites for a little bit of speed on account of its slight forward tilt. It’s agile enough for quick, short runs but durable enough to put miles and miles into.”

Keep Reading