April 19 2018
Once you find your sole mate, never let it go.
Our current vast array of fit options for running shoes reminds me of Charles Dickens’ gripping opening to A Tale of Two Cities—
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…
Nike’s Odyssey 2 has a drop height of 12mm, similar to Gel-Kayano’s heel down-to-toe shift of 13mm, but I find them to be best suited for opposite types of training runs (NOTE—The men’s version of the Odyssey 2 has a drop of 10mm). I’ll share my experience in case it may help you in your quest to finding your perfect running shoe.
Both shoes have a lovely snug fit from heel through midfoot and into toe box. (If you want the snugness throughout but with a more roomy toe box, I recommend adidas’ Sequence 9). Both shoes use new technology in their uppers to achieve the comfortable, supported wrap-around: The FluidFit upper of Kayano was revamped in the last version to fit like a glove (and has been modified only to make it more breathable in this latest edition). Nike maintains their sock-like feel in Odyssey 2 with their Flymesh upper. It is interwoven with Flywire cables that wrap around the laces to provide customized lockdown. The cables in this second version are flat and wide on the lateral side and divided out with two cables per lace, medially. This secures the upper more comfortably than did the version in the first Odyssey.
After the upper fit and drop height, perhaps the similarities end. If you’re familiar with Nike’s ability to provide a ride that offers a feeling of connection with the running surface, you know what I’m saying when I tell you that Odyssey has this feel in the forefoot but with a bulked-up heel. It seems to encourage me to rise up and run fast, which unfortunately gets in the way on longer runs. Odyssey 2 has become a favorite shoe for me for track workouts and fairs well on runs under 6 miles. After this point, the sock-liner of the shoe compresses leaving little arch support and a pronounced drop down from the heel. It’s not as cushioned or high in stability as I prefer for long runs. It did whisper, “Do some speed work,“ to me on our first run together and has continued to function exceptionally well in this capacity.
ASICS’ Gel-Kayano, on the other hand, maintains its signature stability and moderate cushion in this 23rd version of the style, while changes to the layout and material of the midsole provide a more smooth transition. Kayano 23 delivers on its promise for increased bounce-back during repeated pounding. ASICS is pioneering their FlyteFoam in the Kayano 23, a new technology of foam that offers the benefits I’ve come to expect from Kayano, in a lighter design. I can also tell you that the GEL® technology in the heel has been moved posterior and medially from previous versions to allow for a more forward distribution of weight. Also, the midfoot shank has been shortened just enough to provide the same stability with a more smooth transition. So there you have it: the Kayano’s function and breathability has been improved in a shoe that fits and otherwise feels very similar to the previous version. This is a shoe that says, “Keep on running; I’ll keep on supporting you.”
In this experience of running in two similar-on-paper shoes, I’ve come to prefer Odyssey for fast running and Kayano for mid-to-long distance runs.
I have a medium-width and medium-arch-height foot, by the way, should you be looking to see how these shoes may fit you. If you’ve had the same or very different responses to these shoes, please share in the comments as your foot type and preferences may be what someone needs to hear!