Asics 33 Minimalist Shoes: “A Cushioned Ride From Heel Strike All The Way Through Toe-Off”

Asics Gel Blur 33 Asics is set to join the “minimalist” running market with its “33” collection of running shoes. The collection will initially include two models: the Gel Blur 33 (see photo at left) and the Gel Rush 33. According to the video below, the name “33” was “inspired by the fact that there are 33 joints in the human foot.”

Though efficient foot function and natural foot movement are repeatedly emphasized in early marketing materials, it’s interesting that they tout the gel pod in the heel of the Gel Blur and talk about how the shoe was designed to offer “a cushioned ride from heel strike all the way through toe-off.” Apparently Asics has a different view as to what constitutes natural running form than those who run most naturally, i.e. those who habitually run without shoes (see second video).

“Natural running” by a habitually unshod adolescent Kenyan:

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. Sergio Souza says:

    It seems that they are really behind other manufacturers in this movement. Tsc, tsc… what a shame!

  2. Ef Romero says:

    Wow! What a colossal let down. There is actually nothing about that shoe that is truly minimal. It’s even further behind the Nike Free line, and that was introduced years ago.

    • Charles Therriault says:

      I can’t agree with you more.

      They don’t mention heel to toe drop once and getting under 10oz by no means is minimal.

      I won’t even get into the mention of heel strike.

      This is truly out of touch with the minimalist movement. They really just look like casual kick around shoes and I think the guy mentioned something like that a few times.

  3. Pete — What’s the heel-toe drop on the Asics 33? I can’t find any information on this? Is it more or less than the Nike Free 3.0 v3 ?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I think it’s in the 10-12mm range. I saw them at Dick’s the other day, and the heel was pretty substantial, and they weren’t nearly as flexible as I suspected. Certainly nothing like the Nike Free.

  4. Lino Plescia says:

    I am on my third pair and love them.. Long distance runner.. I use them in all my trainings and racing.. Used them in marathons, half irons and Ironmans… to me they are like wearing slippers and believe it or not they are now appearing in stores like TJ max! LOL seems like Asics is not making enough money on this shoe .. so they wanted to end this product line.. I just love them… good bang for your buck… I used to used the nimbus and realize they were too bulky and heavy…

  5. briderdt says:

    For a company that has a HUGE history of real minimalist shoes, this seems backwards.

  6. Robert Osfield says:

    Hi Pete,

    I’m suprised you haven’t mentioned the new Inov-8 Road-X series, launched this spring:

    link to inov-8.com

    The launch comes with some sound, and some rather foolish promo materials. I’ll forgive the some of the silly stuff as the shoes deliver a racing flat with an anatomical last – something I’ve been waiting several years for.

    I bought the Road-X 233 soon after launch and now have about 60 miles on them. To run in them they are feel like a slipper with a sticky rubber sole. I also have a pair of Sucaony Kinvara’s but far prefer the fit of the Road-X 233, the width of the forefoot and arch fix both the main flaws of the Kinvara.

  7. Marketing FAIL.

  8. I just bought a pair of l blur 33 due to all of the positive feedback I read about them online. I bought a size bigger since everyone says they run small. They were still too small and so tight there’s no way I could wear them. Even loosening up the laces didn’t help. One would need to get a wide width shoe just to make them comfortable, but I imagine that would increase the price as well. I didn’t notice a cushioned “gel” feel either, they felt as hard as a rock to me. I guess my poor feet are destined to a life of misery, since I’m on them all day and can’t seem to ever find a comfortable all day shoe to wear.
    Lisa

    • Pete Larson says:

      Try the Nike Free Run or Saucony Kinvara if you need a comfortable shoe for all day wear.
      Sent from my iPad

  9. rugbyref says:

    Gents, don’t forget that the much loved Kinvara has a heel cushioning unit and it’s initial video posted on Saucony’s website showed all runners heelstriking. Any idea when they’ll be released?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes, and to be fair I pointed that out in my original post on the Kinvara:
      link to runblogger.com….
      To Saucony’s credit though, the Kinvara came out a year ago and was one of
      the first shoes of the type from one of the big shoe companies – a lot has
      changed in a year. Saucony is releasing a zero drop shoe very soon.

      Don’t know what the heel drop data are for the Asics shoes, but the Blur is
      supposed to be in “selected stores” this month.

      Pete

  10. Thanks for the video of the Kenyan runner. Beautiful form. Is he wearing something on his feet? It’s hard to tell. You can see the white squares, but I am sure they are just bits of tape for the camera. It almost looks like he is wearing some type of minimalist sock/shoe like the ZEM, but it’s probably just my imagination. One the one hand, videos like this and the one from a few days ago are wonderful to see. On the other, they sort of depress me because I know I will never achieve such perfect running form and speed. That said, I will keep trying.

  11. This must be a late April Fools Joke. Any idea what the heel to toe drop is? I don’t even know where to begin with all of the red flags that popped up for me during this video.

  12. Andrew W. Lischuk says:

    Asics has touted the “gel” product in the heel pad in the same way Nike has touted “air”, adidas has their “adiprene” and so on and so forth. It is amazing, but to not tout the gel would probably mean acknowledging that for years they have been wrong and that their other products are wrong and why would they admit that when those products still sell. There is no honesty in capitalism.

  13. Cant quite figure out who they are trying to make the shoe for..seems like they are trying to throw out a few current catch phrases and make a bunch of stylish shoes more for fashion than the serious runner crowd, minimalist or not.

  14. Did everyone catch what he said at the end of the video “designed for the low mileage runner.” Seems to me that they’re trying to market it with the catch term “minimalist” for those who know nothing about running shoes (or running for that matter).

  15. We had the chance to test the asics excel 33 (German market name) and we really happy with them, just it is not really natural running, something between more like a Nike Free 7.0 or something like that. But it felt and still feel really good… 

    For all the German Guys here is the test: link to joggen-online.de

  16. wojtek1425 says:

    Calling these “minimalist” is like calling tomato an orange.
    These appear to be transitional/conditioning towards natural running.

  17. Fail.

    There are 33 joints in the human foot and Asics has successfully ignored every single one of them.

    Next!

  18. Companies like Asics spend millions on R&D, market research, marketing and advertising. They’re well aware of which foot strike pattern is more bio-mechanically correct.

    More importantly, they’re not blind to what’s unfolding on the foot strike – shoe design time continuum. Asics and others recognize (correctly I think) that we’re closer to the launch than the apex of the minimalist trend.

    It took forty-years to drive a stake through the Bowerman heel strike, and it will take several “decades” to re-educate/educate the public on proper running form (perhaps even a bit longer, as it does take considerable effort for most).

    The 33’s simply reflect this understanding. If “that color is perfect for you!” sells, then so be it. Unfortunately, there will more “33 like units” sold before the average rec runner asks for the latest zero heel drop model.

  19. Drmclaws says:

    Yea Andrew we should long for the good old communism and the real “selection” the politburo would give you.  Yea that beats capitalism!

  20. Anders Torger says:

    Seems to be a nike free type of shoe, with the stupid big-company type of marketing we all love to hate. Large companies tend to assume their customers are idiots, and adapt their marketing (and products) for that.

    Personally I don’t believe in the concept of cushioning + flexibility, it gives you an unstable shoe which can behave really bad for many individuals (greatly exaggerate some foot movements even compared to barefoot). I think if you make a shoe very flexible you should also take away the cushioning, it will make up a safer shoe.

  21. Heheh, they said “heel strike”…
    I used to wear Asics once upon a time, then running perceptions changed in a big way, but Asics did not.

  22. But, but, the fun colors! Never mind the lack of minimalism, the shoes have FUN COLORS… (rolls eyes).

  23. Rwalker88 says:

    Foot gel promotes natural function?! Are these companies incompetent or just stuck in their ways?

  24. Ericj076 says:

    i manage a running store. one of my contacts at asics told us that the 33 shoes are going to big box stores right now primarily, while they work on their “real” minimalist line. apparently, that line will be released in 2012 at running specialty shops. that’s the rumor anyway.

    what is clear from asics is that when you are big enough, you don’t really have to try new things until they are proven by everyone else. i have the same, “we don’t really care” attitude from another big swim brand that will remain nameless…

    it’s also interesting to report that while asics used to be our #1 brand BY FAR year in and year out, in 2011 saucony has pulled ahead…we are selling almost twice as many saucony’s as last year. the saucony mirage is our #1 shoe.

    and, incredibly, our vibram sales went from $1500 from feb 1-march 31 last year to $20,000+ this year! granted, over half of those folks aren’t running in them. but the trend is telling. our industry magazine reported that minimalist shoes were 11% of all sales in 2010 and in january 2011 that had jumped to 20%.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Sounds like Saucony is benefiting from taking a risk and being an early
      adopter – I give them credit for that. As the trend sells, the trend grows!

      Pete

  25. I know this is something of a dead horse, but Asics already makes low drop, lightweight shoes designed to facilitate efficient running — racing flats. Other than the barely there barefoot-esque stuff, most minimalist shoes are less minimalist than those, regardless.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Very true, as do nearly all other manufacturers. What I see as a main
      problem with many racing flats is that they tend to be on the narrow side,
      sometimes exceedingly so (i.e., most Nike flats). I’ve come to the
      conclusion that a more anatomical last is one of the most critical features
      to look for in a “minimalist” shoe that supports more natural foot function.
      Most racing flats fail this test. The Mizuno Wave Universe is one of the few
      exceptions.

      Pete

      • Anders Torger says:

        Racing flats also have some compromises that may not be ideal for a regular training shoe, for example the durability is usually poor since the shoes are made for racing where low weight is more important than durability.

        Additionally, racing flats are not completely zero-drop either, and possibly that could also be seen as a racing compromise, offloading the achilles somewhat in the race situation might be good even if you train in zero-dropped shoes.

        • Heel/toe offset is something to be noted, when looking at flats as well. Not all are totally flat, of course, but most are way less than 10mm; many are closer to 5. As for the narrow toe box, the Asics Hyperspeed is another flat that gives a lot of room for toe splay.

  26. gym junkie says:

    My boyfriend bought me these for Christmas. They look good but thats about it. Comfortable for walking but not for high impact. Do a lot of step classes at the gym and my feet always cramp when I wear these.

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