Asics Blur 33 vs. Rush 33

Asics Blur 33
The Asics Blur 33 and Rush 33 are available. Finish Line has them in multiple colors and Road Runner Sports is taking orders too. I just happened to go by the local Sports Authority in town and they have two colors of the Blur 33 in stock and one color of the Rush 33.  At the store, I had a chance to try both the Blur 33 and Rush 33.

First, both Asics 33s have minimal to no heel to toe drop. They feel different from typical running shoes where they are supposed to feel natural and free. They are Asics answer to the minimalist running movement, however, they aren't very minimal. The Blur 33 is plush, includes gel cushioned soles and feels similar but not exactly like the Nike Free. In fact, my Kayano 16s feel stiff compared to the softness of the Blur 33s. There is good flex in the forefoot and the tread grips nicely. However, they are not as light as advertised and I am wearing the US9.5 Men's which come close to 11oz each. The shoes are true to size in length and fits a bit snugly around the midfoot with socks but they fit perfectly barefoot. The Blur 33 feel good running and have grown on me with the plush cushioning comfort without any the heel to toe drop. I've also been running in Kayano 16s and New Balance 890s which seem firm after running in the Blur 33s.

Asics Rush 33
The Rush 33, Asics low mileage minimalist shoe is a bit of a surprise and not in a positive way. They are stiffer across the outer sole and has no cushioning. On the ground, impact is not softened, the feel comes through. The Rush 33 are $20-$30 less than the Blur 33, however, the lower cost isn't all positives. It translates in to some attributes that make them seem less. The upper mesh is not very breathable nor does the materials used seem to be as of high quality. The Blur 33 is simply built better, breathable, comfortable, and uses better materials compared to the Rush 33. However if you're looking for a stiff, close to the ground feeling ride, the Rush 33 will deliver. The Rush 33 will make a great gym shoe because they are flat, complimenting a natural stance and help with stability because you can feel the ground through the non-cushioned soles. Two very different shoes in the same Asics minimalist line up but both can serve a purpose and they come in some great colors.

In conclusion, running in the Blur 33 proved they are well cushioned with a very soft, gel feel for those looking for cushioning in a shoe but prefers no heel to toe drop. The Rush 33, the closest to a minimalist shoe that Asics has produced has no cushioning, feels stiff and makes a good gym shoe but it could be improved by using the same light and breathable upper mesh material in its bigger sibling Blur 33s.


2011 Running Shoes - Asics vs. New Balance

Asics or New Balance? Here's what makes them different and both effective running shoes.
Please note, I post mostly men's shoes but all these shoes are available in women's model's as well.

The Essential Comparisons:
The biggest difference between Asics and New Balance are the Asics Gel sole and the New Balance Abzorbs Foam sole technologies. Asics Gel soles give their shoes a plush gel cushion making them soft in sensation. New Balance Abzorbs Foam also cushions well using a foam technology that is equally as effective but not gel like. Depending on your activity you may find that you like one over the other. I simply find them different and they both do a pretty good job.

Upper materials are also somewhat different between the two manufacturers. Asics typically use soft stretcheable mesh uppers in most of their shoes giving them a snug feeling as the material surrounds the foot. This gives them the snug and comfortable feeling to their shoes that they are known for and that many like. Asics also uses something called Ahar Heel Plugs which supposedly absorb shock from heel strikes and less prone to quick wear.

New Balance tends to use lighter materials in the uppers but just as tough and breathable. Although they don't tout a special heel plug the shoes are just as effective. New Balance shoes tend to feel more like a runner's shoe as they are different from the insulated feeling of most Asics. Also, it seems in most cases that Asics technology and materials in the more advanced Asics running shoes are just a tad heavier compared to New Balance of the similar models.

Fore-foot/Mid-foot support
New Balance 890
Asics DS Sky Speed 2
The latest models of the New Balance 890 and Asics DS Sky Speed 2 are direct competitors in the fore to mid-foot support shoe market. They are good everyday runners with sufficient cushioning. They are two very different shoes but are worth every penny for those looking for fore-foot to mid-foot support.

Asics Blur 33
While Asics running shoes have essentially made small changes in recent years and have been typically following innovations they went all out with the Asics Gel-Blur 33 and Rush 33. Asics has come up with something completely different. They have practically no heel to toe drop so they provide a solid, free feeling, and natural experience. The Blur 33 are quite unique with the softest gel like cushioning I've ever felt. The only thing I can compare them to are the way Nike Free running shoes feel.

New Balance Minimus
New Balance has moved forward with new designs and materials with the New Balance Minimus series, which are purely minimalist shoes with little to no cushioning and closest to the barefoot experience, they are comparable to Merrel Barefoot shoes and Vibram 5 Fingers.

While Asics and New Balance may be your first choices for running shoes keep in mind there are other brands such as Saucony, Brooks, Nike and Reebok.  A shoe that is comfortable and doesn't hurt you during activities is a good shoe but if you're looking for performance I recommend moving away from the heavier, typical shoes to newer, lighter technologies.

For Pavement:  
Asics Kayano 17
From Asics, the popular 2011 Asic Kayano 17 provide a lot of support and Asic DS Sky Speed 2 provide good support for fore-foot/mid-foot runners. These two are favored by many for those wanting a good amount of support and cushioning in a running shoe. Asics also released the Gel-Blur 33 the softest gel cushioning I've ever felt in running shoes which have no heel to toe drop for a free feeling running experience.

New Balance 1226

The New Balance equivalent to the above is the new 2011 New Balance 1226, focusing on good foot support and arch support. The New Balance Abzorbs Foam is somewhat lighter than Asics Gel technology. What gets me excited for New Balance are their newer lines of shoes, the Minimus for minimalists and NB890s for those who are not ready to go minimal but want something close with just as much cushioning but lighter than a typical running shoe.

For Trails:
Montrail Mount Mashocist
For trail runners, Asics makes the Gel-Trail Sensor. More popular are the NB101 from New Balance and the trail version of the Minimus. Many ultra runners also consider Vasque, Montrail, Salomon and The North Face as well as many others. From Montrail, the Mount Masochist is a women's Gear of the Year award winner is proven to be a performance trail running shoe which is also available in a highly water resistant GTX version (gortex). Also check out Salomon, another performance trail running shoe manufacturer well known around the world.


Montecito Half Marathon - Challenging and Fun

Kevin Steele Photography
The Montecito-Summerland Half Marathon, 10k and 5k fun run fell on July 16, 2011. There were over 360 participants and sunny weather along with last minute course changes. The course changed from about a 400ft accumulated elevation change to approximately 930ft a couple days before the event. For those who showed up in Summerland on Friday afternoon to pick up their race packets and pasta dinner waited in line for an hour to get their bibs however bout 30% of those who showed up didn't get one. Many runners had driven hours from far of parts of California were instructed to pick them up on the morning of the event. The poor volunteers working the tables took the brunt of some of the complaints. Despite the pre-race preparation issue for some, the event itself was enjoyable and event day was well executed. I'm sure everyone agrees that if this race director can be improve the pre-race organization and hold off on last minute changes, so will the attitude of participants. There's a lot of potential for the race director.

Photos of the event by Kevin Steele Photography

Kevin Steele Photography
During the race, I recognized many of the volunteers along the course from the Santa Barbara Athletic running and triathlon clubs. The weather was beautiful, sunny down below as runners were running in the clouds (literally) as they climbed the 1000 feet up through the Montecito mountains' low clouds where it cooled off at the peak of the out and back course. There were plenty of well stocked aid stations (fruit, pastries, water, electrolyte water, GU and friendly volunteers) to aid runners every few miles along the course. Montecito Police also held traffic at a few busy intersections (Thank you Montecito Police). At the finish, a crowd cheered on runners returning and there was aid waiting as well as an enthusiastic finish line announcer. I ran with an injury but still had a great time, this was a fun half marathon and I was glad the course had changed into a challenging hill climb. As I sat at the Summerland Cafe eating brunch with friends afterwards, we watched the last of the runners trickling in an hour later, finishing the 13.5 mile half marathon course (yes it turned out to be just about a half mile over). Montecito-Summerland Half Marathon turned out to be enjoyable, challenging and fun.