* Prices may differ from that shown
With my first half marathon coming up in March and a set of crunching, painful knees, at the end of last year I thought it best to upgrade my running shoes. I've been pounding the pavement in my Women's ASICS Gel 3020's for a few months now and although my knees have yet to fully recover I have plenty of positive things to say about these little gems...
~~ The road to running... ~~
I took up running at uni early last year after my trusty bicycle became plagued with endless broken bits and I ran out of patience (quite literally). Deciding that my own two feet wouldn't let me down I began to have gentle jogs every day to break up the monotony of research, cup of tea, research, cup of tea, research... well you get the picture. I was happily improving, satisfied enough jogging for an entire 2 minutes (never one to push myself!) before needing to walk for a bit. It didn't bother me that every now and then a dog walker would overtake me. Then summer happened... Heading off to sunny climes with the excuse of a thesis, I left behind my running shoes and looked forward to a daily diet of snorkelling and diving to keep me fit. However, I didn't plan on spending two months living in a hut with an international female rower from the US, who was utterly obsessed with keeping fit. Before long I started to feel guilty snoozing in my hammock whilst she undertook a daily hour of gruelling press-ups, sit-ups and various other sweat-inducing-ups. So before I knew it I was getting up at 5am every morning to run along the beach with her for an hour before brekkie. No more of this run-walk-run malarkey, she turned me into a proper runner, yay! But I digress...
~~ Time to find some decent footwear... ~~
Running along that beach in a pair of Converse Chucks (cue shocked gasps from all runners reading this) had not done my feet or my knees any favours. Upon returning back to Blighty I resumed running on the solid pavement in my old Nikes. But it turned out that now I had abandoned my running style akin to Phoebe from Friends, and started upping the mileage, my poor old knees couldn't take the strain. After some self-diagnosis on the interweb (come on we are all guilty of that) I decided I was an over-pronator (low foot arches mean the foot rolls inwards) and needed 'mobility control' trainers. ASICS seemed to be the brand of choice on the Runners World website so in my usual spirit I selected their most expensive and up-to-date offering in the 'mobility control' category... and then hunted high and low online to find them at a price I could actually afford. Anyway, that's quite enough about me, you're reading this because you're thinking of buying the ASICS Gel 3020's, so what do you need to know...
~~ Where can I buy them and how much do they cost? ~~
The RRP for the Women's ASICS Gel 3020's is £99.99. But as we all know, a bit of shopping around online will guarantee to save you a few bob. Right now they are in the sale at SportsDirect.com and Field & Trek for only £65.00. Before long no doubt they will only have the ridiculously small or large sizes left, so if you miss out you can get them online from Amazon, Wiggle, Sport Megastore and Totally Shoes from £70 - £90. If you prefer to try them on then these are the latest model, so I'm sure they will be available at sports shops on the high-street. Or if you are lucky enough to be close to a Runners Needs shop then you can have your gait analysed by video whilst you run on a treadmill and they'll recommend your ideal running shoes (of course it might not be these - and if it is then from what I have heard, they will most likely be available only at the RRP). I took a gamble and ordered mine on Ebay from a shop that sold 'sales samples'. These are pairs of shoes sent out pre-release to the stores and sports journalists so that they can have a test run. Luckily mine had never been worn - only handled, and they arrived in perfect condition and of course with identical specifications in all respects to the general release ASICS Gel 3020's. I would recommend this to everyone and would definitely buy 'sales samples' again if I could as the savings are immense - my Asics cost £35! The only hitch is that ladies, your feet must be a size 5, as that is the only sample size sent out by the manufacturers.
~~ How comfortably do they fit? ~~
The Women's ASICS Gel 3020's are true to size. They come in sizes 3 - 9 and include half sizes. They fit like a glove and mine were comfy from the moment I put them on, no need to break these in. I was lucky enough to find them fitting perfectly without trying them on first - but of course no two feet are the same, so I'd advise trying before you buy if possible. My feet are fairly wide but near the front of the shoe upper are flexible soft material panels. This means that the upper stretches perfectly there and allows my wide feet plenty of space so they don't get sore. The only drawback is that these panels are not waterproof or wipe-clean, so be prepared for soggy feet if it's wet out, and a bit of scrubbing to keep them looking nice.
The back of the foot is heavily cushioned and utilises thick memory foam, which works really well. The only problem here is that it is covered in a woven silky fabric which started to look really frayed and tatty after only a few weeks of wear. Inside the shoe is a removable 'ComforDry Sockliner', which is basically a thin innersole. It's designed to create a nicely cushioned platform so your feet don't get as sweaty. It seems to work for me and it's also handy to be able to remove it if my shoes are soaking wet or need a wash. So many times I have found the first thing to wear out on my shoes is the inner sole, so I imagine it will also be handy to be able to replace this easily when the time comes. The shoe also has a 'Bimorphic Fit' which means the upper moves with the foot as it bends, instead of bunching up or rubbing. Finally the 3020 has a gender specific 'Dynamic Cradle' which is a moulded midsole taking into account the fact that women have a narrower heel to midfoot than men. It certainly feels like a nice snug fit throughout the shoe so this feature seems to have worked nicely. All these features make for a super comfortable running shoe that I would wear all day if I could.
~~ How well does the mobility control system work? ~~
The first time I ran in these it felt great. Having worn down the same trainers for 5 years (albeit mostly around a gym) I was always going to notice the difference in support. But even better, I could feel the ASICS 3020's guiding my feet into a more sensible position. I had become very aware of how my feet were rolling inwards and my knees were too close together before. But now everything seemed to be much more as it should, and I wasn't even making a conscious effort to keep it that way. Admittedly whilst I was waiting for these to arrive in the post I had begun a regime of knee strengthening leg exercises which I have carried on doing daily, and are probably contributing a great deal to the decrease in knee problems. But I still believe the Asics are offering enhanced support to deal with these over-pronation issues. I'd expect nothing less than this from their abundance of features designed to offer mobility control.
Firstly the 'DuoMax System' means the midsole is made from several different materials of varying densities. A more solid material under the arch gives increased support for flat footed, over-pronators like me. I've found this to be supportive without feeling too solid. Secondly the 'I.G.S.' (Impact Guidance System) means all the components of the sole work together, and according to ASICS they complement rather than correct how the feet and legs move. I think this is preferable to a shoe which simply forces my foot into the correct position. I've read reports of runners being able to switch over to 'normal' trainers after wearing these 'mobility control' ones. And I'd like to think that I was helping my feet and legs to strengthen where they are lacking, so that the over-pronation issue is solved in the long term rather than just when I wear the shoes on a run.
I would love to promise that these shoes will cure all runners' knee problems, but I'm not so sure. In fact after very long runs I'm still getting knee niggles but nothing like I was before I started wearing the ASICS 3020's. I expect I need to get properly designed orthotics and switch up my muscle strengthening exercises, or perhaps just see a trained physiotherapist instead of attempting self-diagnosis and treatment!
~~ How much impact support do they offer the feet and legs? ~~
ASICS really know what they are doing when it comes to their research and development. When I did a little online research before buying the 3020's I found that ASICS were one of the first running shoe brands to realise that the structure of men's and women's shoes must be fundamentally different and not just sized smaller or larger. With the 3020's, ASICS have actually lessened the forefoot cushioning in the women's shoe to take into consideration that women are generally lighter than men. I've found this means the shoe feels as though it is adequately cushioning my impact on hard ground but not so much that it dissipates all my energy into the squishy sole instead of into my next step. Don't get me wrong the 3020's haven't made me run faster (I wish!) but I feel like I'm flying along with much less effort than before.
Additionally the 'Trusstic Device' and 'Space Trusstic System' are designed specifically for women. ASICS have taken into account that increased oestrogen levels in women throughout the month, lead to more relaxed soft tissues. Therefore these two features of the shoe allow for increased flexibility throughout the running motion. Technical stuff aside, I have definitely found that the ASICS bend with my feet and even just taking one of the shoes off and flexing it demonstrates how much more bendy these are than my old Nikes. Taking a closer look, there is a clear plastic bridge that crosses over the sole under the arch of the foot and this flexes in a really satisfying way whilst maintaining full support. Personally I think this is the one feature that has helped save my knees a little.
The really obvious impact support is the gel in the rearfoot. It's also in the forefoot, but it's hidden away there. ASICS have left the gel pockets exposed on the heel for no other reason I imagine than to demonstrate to owners how nice and cushioned they are. I can never resist having a satisfying little squish of the gel when I put these on and it gives me reassurance that no matter how hard the ground is, my delicate feet bones will not bear the brunt. Before I wore these I used to really notice the difference when I ran on pavement as opposed to the soft underfoot environment of the woods. My heel and the ball of my foot used to feel a bit bruised and sore to walk on after a long run on the hard concrete. In the 3020'2 I don't find this at all, so the gel is obviously doing its job well.
~~ Any other nuggets of useful information? ~~
* The 3020 is covered in patterns of reflective panels and strips which really increase my visibility at night. They are designed to fit right in with the colour scheme though, and I think these are a really attractive looking shoe.
* The majority of the shoe upper is coated in tough plastic panels which make it very easy to wipe clean. After a run in the woods I like to take out the innersole and give them a good wash in some soapy water. They do take a long time to dry out but they come up looking like new. I wouldn't recommend machine washing these however.
* When I first got these I worried that the vast amount of different panels and therefore stitching, on the upper, would mean greater opportunity for it to fall apart. However, so far my fears have been unfounded and the shoe is obviously made with durability in mind.
* The sole has brilliant traction, with a decent pattern of treads and has so far kept me upright even when there is a little bit of ice or frost around. I do get small stones stuck in the grooves sometimes but they are easily removed by hand post-run.
* Considering all the technical features these shoes are relatively light. They don't feel clumpy on my feet and I certainly don't feel like I'm dragging them during a run.
~~ Overall ~~
I'd highly recommend these to all ladies out there who are looking for a supportive 'mobility control' running shoe. Judging by my experience of these, I'd say to any men reading this that the Mens ASICS 3020's would be worth a look at too. With their abundance of well thought out features and the noticeable improvement in my running style, I would happily have paid a lot more than I did for the ASICS Gel 3020's. They are easily worth their premium price tag and I can't think of any reasons why they don't deserve the full five stars. In fact I'd give them six if I could!
Thank you for taking the time to read my review. I hope it has proved useful and left you inspired to don that lycra and feel the wind in your hair!
This review is posted on both Dooyoo and Ciao under my username sbeach000.