"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Asics Gel Fuji Trainer 2 Review

I was very impressed by the Gel Fuji Racer, which caused me to be quite optimistic about the new Gel Fuji Trainer 2, a midweight trail shoe from Asics that fits into the Gel Fuji line of shoes.

The geometry of this shoe is quite appealing to me.  A decent stack height with the forefoot being spec'd at 19mm and the heel at 25mm.  Overall, creating a 6mm heel to toe drop.  Furthermore, the lugging pattern looked much more aggressive than the Gel Fuji Racer, and the weight wasn't too crazy (under 10oz)

I ordered a size 11.5, which seems to be the typical size I order these days.  It is also the size I wear for the Gel Fuji Racer, and lengthwise I would say these shoes are very comparable in fit, and just right for me.  However, the Fuji Trainer 2 feels much wider throughout the midfoot and maybe a touch wider in the forefoot, something I found a little disappointing.  I should mention, I hated the skinny black laces that came with the shoes and swapped them out for a pair of old MT100 laces.

While most Asics shoes fit my feet like a glove, with a nicely tight midfoot wrap, the Fuji Trainers felt loose and baggy.  Combine this with the fact that the lacing system is a little unique (and strange), I have found it hard to really get these shoes to be tight enough without cutting off circulation to my feet.  I think this is magnified by the fact that there is not a traditional lowset eyelet and the end of the eyelets, which usually allows for the lockdown style of lacing.  Honestly, the little cloth lacing eyelet seemed kinda useless and stupid.  Thinking about it harder, I think because of the wide base of the shoe, the overlays aren't as useful as the typical Asics overlays; maybe if my feet were a little bit higher volume this wouldn't be a problem.
No eyelet for ankle lockdown lacing
Very roomy around the ankle (a little too much) (ignore the saucony insole)

Careful study of the shoes has led me to conclude that the entire area from the tongue to the heel collar is very large and open, thus if you have somewhat skinny bony ankles like myself, there is a lot of room for your feet to move around.  I am unable to get my heel to lock down even though the length of the shoe is perfect.  It hasn't caused me too much grief, except for the fact that debris enter the shoe a little too easily.  Also, there is a perforated, removable insole, which I swapped out for my favorite Kinvara insoles.

Traction on these shoes is pretty awesome.  The lugs do exactly what you'd expect.  Combine this with a full contact outsole and a wide platform and I found that they bite into just about any type of trail I have available to test them on.  The wide platform really helps give the foot a stable landing pad when running through sandy sections of trail.  The lugging almost reminds me of the Speedcross, except they aren't quite as tall.
Lug height isn't crazy, but its enough

However, towards the heel, Asics implemented a series of offset square lugs rather than the winged lug pattern found on the rest of the shoe.  I think this is to help de-couple the heel if you're a heel striker, but what I have found is that these guys really suck up mud and don't shed it well.  I've ended up with clumps of my stuck only to my heels on several wet runs.

Mud sticks to the heels a little bit
Along with the traction, the ride and underfoot feel of the Fuji Trainer 2 is probably my favorite aspect.  They are protective without being sluggish, firm without being too solid, and the 6mm drop really feels smooth when running fast or slow.  There is no rockplate, but the foam is fairly firm and I haven't noticed any problems when running across gravel on dirt roads (my nemesis).  They are moderately flexible, but nothing compared to the Fuji Racer.  I have about 150 miles on my pair, and when I definitely feel as though they have been getting a little more flexible as I break them in.  I have noticed that when running across road or very firm trail, the lugs seem to add more cushion, but also a slightly unstable feeling.  It is nothing series, but I just thought I should mention it.

As of right now, I like this shoe, but its not quite what I was expecting.  The fit and lacing issue is a big disappointment on what otherwise is a very solid offering from Asics.  If you have wide feet, high volume feet, I could see this being a great shoe.  I have since tried to add an eyelet of my own in order to help secure my heel, and it has helped, but for some reason I can't help but think Asics could have done a better job of this than I did.
Added my own eyelet

Because of the traction, relatively low weight, and the comfortable, protective ride, I can see these shoes being a great choice for a long race such as a 50 or 100, especially one that has mixed terrain.  If these fit your feet properly, I think they would be an amazing shoe.  I still enjoy mine, even though I can get irritated that with the roomy feel.  I just wouldn't expect them to fit like a pair of Fuji Racers.

Questions?  Comments?  If there is anything I haven't covered, or if you have experience with these shoes, please leave a comment to help anyone else out there, looking for...  The Perfect Shoe.


  1. I was ready to love this shoe...felt flexible in the forefoot and not to bulky in the store, but on a moderate trail it proved unstable,seemed like I was sitting on top instead on in the shoe and no matter how I tied my shoe, my heel kept sliding up.
    By the end of the run the soles of my feet were sore, and I may have a a black toenail... I normally wear a 7 in asics but went to a 6.5 as the 7 felt too long...
    so I'm taking these back
    now I'm trying to decide between a 6.5 and 7 speedcross as I need a roomy toe box

    1. I've spoken to a couple other folks who did not find the gel fuji trainer 2 to fit well. bummer, because you're right, it had some redeeming qualities. I'd suggest a 7 in the speedcross as I feel they are somewhat narrow down in the toes. hope this helps!

    2. 1 year out post revival ! but they arent so many trainer2 reviews out there... just ordered pair of trainer2 on top of the speedcross that I save for orienteering and adizero XT for muddy conditions. I have a high forefoot, so I hope the trainer will fit me well. the aim is to use the trainer2 for dry to dryish conditions. I was initially shooting for pair of peregrine, that I'm still longing to try out.
      Toe, how about the aging of the T2?

    3. By T2 I assume you mean trainer 2 (or T2 Kinabalu?). Nonetheless both shoes aged well, although the Kinabalu wore faster than the Trainer 2. I guess it also highly depends on what sorts of terrain you run. Shoes with exposed lugs seems to get shredded pretty quick when I'm not using them in muddy conditions. Probably only put between 100-125 miles on my Trainer 2's before getting fed up and shelving them so I can't give you anymore specifics.