The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 is a stealth running shoe in more ways than one. The model that I received from Asics arrived in a bold black/lightning/royal color combination that makes it appear more aggressively serious than a daily mid-weight (10.2 ounces) trainer. And then there’s the fact that there’s no visible medial post in this stability shoe – other than a few almost invisible dots in the midsole – but the DuoMax support is most definitely present.
The name does not refer to 33 revolutions per minute. Instead it refers to the fact that Asics’s technology is intended to support the 33 bones in the human foot, and this is the second version of this model (thus, its replacement will be known as the GEL-Neo33 3). This shoe has a semi-curved last and a slip-lasted midsole, something that is almost standard on stability running shoes. The fit is narrow from the ankles to the arch of the foot (providing a secure fit), and allows plenty of room for the toes up front. The heel strike on this model is quite soft, but the cushioning is sterling and the ride is responsive. I encountered no issues with the lacing.
Experienced runners generally have one thing to say about Asics running shoes, “They require no break-in period.” Correct, and this is true of the GEL-Neo33 2. It’s comfortable as a runner from the very first steps and miles. It’s also a strikingly comfortable walking shoe – something that is not unprecedented. I’ve often used Asics 2000 series running shoes as my Friday and weekend walking shoes.
The GEL-Neo33 2 has an innovative 8mm heel-to-toe drop (the traditional standard is 12mm and minimalist shoes tend to have a 4mm or less drop). As such, it’s likely to assist someone intending to transition from a running shoe with a traditional heel height, like the Mizuno Wave Rider 16, to a minimalist-style shoe like the Skora Core.
The relatively flat sole and lowered heel results in mid-foot landings, and rules it out for sprinting. You’ll find your feet staying closer to the ground as you jog along. You may also find yourself running with smaller/shorter and quicker steps, something that’s actually quite efficient.
I found the support on the GEL-Neo33 2 to be more than minimal, in the mid-range stability category. It should work for anyone with pronation issues, which become more important as motion control issues are being phased out of production.
So how does the current iteration of the Neo work on the roads? On crushed gravel it performs like a champ. The fully cushioned insole and the forefoot gel pad unit provide great protection, even on a day when one’s metatarsals are bruised and swollen. On flat concrete surfaces, the Neo delivers both a nice bounce and a satisfying energy return. The shoe does not feel as smooth on asphalt but it’s still a far-above-average performer on this surface.
One thing I almost never risk is taking a new running shoe onto a rock-filled trail, but I decided to do this with the Neo. It worked perfectly well, remaining highly protective (no stone bruises) with minimal slippage – probably due to the unique multi-pod pattern on the sole. Just keep in mind that you’ll be pulling plenty of rocks out of the sole once your day is done!
The Neo should work well for flat-footed runners, because it has an atypically flexible forefoot for a stability shoe and the forefoot bed is flat – no raised areas to contend with.
The Asics GEL-Neo33 2 displays multiple strengths, although those gifted runners unaffected by pronation issues may want to look instead at the sleeker GEL-Lyte33 2 model (8.4 ounces). For many the Neo will serve as a protective and durable trainer, and a shoe that will maintain their running form on race day whether the distance is 3.1 or 26.2 miles.