Podiatrist Chris Petropoulos reviews the Asics Gel Lyte33

At the Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre the Podiatrists are constantly advising on the merits of a plethora of running shoes.

With the debate regarding minimalist footwear continuing, I thought it would be a good idea to road-test some of the prominent models.

Recently I was invited to evaluate a pair of Asics Gel Lyte 33’s which are one of the more popular minimalist shoes on the market. 

The shoes themselves are fairly light, with a flexible outsole. Their distinguishing feature is a groove-line in the heel, which is meant to mimic the axis of the sub-talar joint (STJ) a significant joint below the ankle which, at the risk of over-simplifying its definition, governs some of the pronation and supination available through the foot.

As per the manufacturers claim, the shoes are designed to adapt and respond to the exact load and positional changes of the foot. Although this design and definition make some broad conclusions about foot function, they were worth a test run.

A quick profile on my ageing self:   I probably head out for 2 slow trots a week, maybe 3 on a good week. . I generally do about 4-6 km’s each time, mostly on the footpath or road.  I’m about 82 kg’s and I have a less than 100 % healthy left medial meniscus which is why I normally run in a more structured shoe with my rear posted orthoses. I tend to strike on the rearfoot and believe it or not, am not the world’s most efficient runner.  This makes me a perfect candidate to test these shoes. 

I did all my running in these shoes alone, no orthotic, and didn’t use them for anything else.

In the beginning I was very pleasantly surprised.  I had no knee pain.  I loved the lightweight nature of the shoe.  I had no problem transitioning straight to them. 

I then started thinking about the axis position. The axis of the sub-talar joint can vary greatly from person to person.  In this shoe it is set at 45 degrees away from a straight line of progression. This will suit some feet very well, others less so.  

At 200- 250 km’s into the shoe’s life, I was still experiencing no issues, and if anything my times were improving (there was plenty of room for improvement trust me!).  I think I may have found a comfortable style, and the light weight of the shoe continued to be a plus. I looked forward to running. I did however notice there was notable wear on the medial aspect of my left heel, telling me that my left foot (sore knee and more pronated side) was dictating how I landed in the shoe.  However, I still had no pain; perhaps I had developed more strength whilst running in the minimalist footwear. 

Almost 400km’s into their life I did start to feel some ‘fatigue’ in the shoe.  I noticed the lateral heel was wearing and compressing, and this was translating into some peroneal and lateral hamstring discomfort the day after my runs (but still no left knee pain!!).  Also when I tried to sprint, which meant more mid or forefoot strike, I experienced more general discomfort in my arches and medial shin muscles. 

I suspect this supports the rearfoot focused technology that has gone into the shoe, as I felt more symptoms without the aid of the STJ flex zone when moving onto my forefoot (that and the fact that I can’t run very well!). 

So who will benefit from these shoes?  I think the efficient runner will love these shoes due to the lightweight materials, and those runners who have a STJ axis that aligns with the flex-groove in the sole in theory will function well.  However I think those with significant rearfoot pathology and more promimal issues will have to be mindful, especially in the latter part of the shoe's life, but one again, I can recall I have no knee pain wihch I thought I may have experienced.

Hopefully this will help with the understanding of how a less structured shoe like the Asics Gel Lyte 33 works, and who may benefit from it the most.  

If you have any questions at all regarding these or other footwear please call our podiatrists on 9650 9372 or book online.

Look out for more footwear reviews to come, and keep running!

If you wish to book online to see Chris Petropoulos, the author of this article and you are an existing patient of The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre or the co-located Midtown Medical Clinic please click here.

If you wish to book online to see Kathy and you are a new patient to The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre or the co-located Midtown Medical Clinic please click here.

Alternatively feel free to phone us on 9650 9372.