Monday, June 6, 2011

Shoe Review: Asics Gel-Bandito

First impressions can often be deceiving, so while I continue to get accustomed to my new Saucony Kinvara 2's, I thought I'd post a review of the shoe that they will largely be replacing: the Asics Gel-Bandito.

In brief: the Bandito is my favorite running shoe that I have worn to date. Unfortunately, they were discontinued at the end of 2009, and while a few pairs can still be found in odd sizes around the internet, there aren't any that my feet will fit into. My pair doesn't have too much more life left in them, so it's about time to move on.

I bought the Bandito about a year ago, when I wanted to start moving away from motion control shoes, but I wasn't willing to give up support altogether. At that time, I also was looking to move into a lighter shoe than what I had been wearing. The Bandito is a lightly posted shoe, and Runner's Warehouse weighed the size 9's in at 7.9 oz, so they fit the bill. (As for the other significant stat: RW measured the heel height at 19 mm and the forefront at 10 mm. So, while the heels are not as built up as most, those who obsess about heel drops will probably lose interest right about here.)

The biggest reason I love these shoes is their breathability. I've run in them as far as 18 miles, and even on warm days, my feet never come out feeling hot or wet. The reason for this is the very open mesh upper. You can see the light shining through it in the picture below:

What's more, the shoe even has small holes in the sole:

All of this means that this is the only shoe I have worn that can almost guarantee me a blister free run. (I say "almost" because the one time I splashed through a few puddles, my feet quickly became soaked, leading to eventual blistering -- that's the downside of the mesh.)

Despite the very lightweight material, my feet stay nicely locked in these shoes. Part of this is due to the overlays, but I think the biggest factor is the laces. Unlike other shoes I have worn these laces don't stretch, and they have no give. Moreover, except at the very top the shoe has an extremely thin tongue; just more of the same mesh material. This means you have to pay extra attention when lacing them up: tie the laces too tight, and your foot is going to be in serious pain after a few miles, as I learned the hard way during a few early runs.

By the way, notice the faux-snakeskin that the overlays are made out of. Whoever designed these shoes included some seriously cool details. They don't make shoes like this very often.

But perhaps all these details made them too expensive to manufacture, because ASICS never came out with a "Gel-Bandito 2". Instead, they just began channeling people into other models. For a while, I was thinking about buying the Gel-Speedstar 5, but there have been too many reviews complaining about how those shoes don't breathe at all. Hopefully, ASICS will return to Bandito-style mesh soon.

The other factor for me is that I wanted a shoe with more cushioning. Although ASICS billed these shoes as "long distance racing flats," once I started getting above 15 miles, my feet started hurting. Surely, part of this is because the padding was already a bit tired by the time I started running so far. And an even bigger part is because my feet are still weak. In any case, I decided to look for a shoe with more padding, but still lightweight and breathable. I'll let you know if the Kinvara 2 fits the bill.

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