First Impressions: ASICS Gel Quantum 360 Knit

Over the past 2 weeks I've had the opportunity to try out the new ASICS Gel Quantum 360 Knit. This is arguably ASICS's first formal foray into the now fairly crowded knit-upper marketspace. First introduced by Nike in 2012 in the Flyknit racer, the knitted upper is now being used in various forms in the following brands in no particular order: Adidas, Altra, Hoka, Brooks, Reebok, Skechers, Under Armour, and now of course ASICS as well. The Gel Quantum 360 itself is not a new shoe, and came out (IIRC) around the end of 2015, utilizing a thin midsole of Solyte sitting on a large and heavily segmented wedge of Gel. 

So what's new about this version? Of course that would be the knit upper. I must confess I never tried the original Gel Quantum 360, so i can't really provide any sort of comparison of the knit upper to its predecessor.


What ASICS says:
"With 360 degrees of GEL-Cushioning, the GEL-QUANTUM 360 KNIT is the ideal running shoe to meet the active urbanite’s demands of superior performance and endurance. The full length Trusstic System delivers support and a spring-loaded ride to power through each workout for a high-octane run. The advanced, nearly seamless FluidFit upper is constructed to provide strategic support for a great feel while running, it is now updated with a seamless upper knit, which perfectly combines style, ComforDry comfort and ortholite lasting X-40 Ortholite Sockliner."

Official specs:
Heel stack 22mm
Forefoot stack 12mm

Weight (for US10): 376grams / 13.26oz


I was sized up a half size for this shoe and whether intentional or not, I think it turned out to be the right choice for me. I get about a finger breadth of spacing at the front of the shoe and my toes get sufficient space to splay in thin or thick socks. there is also the right amount of width and volume in the arch and the heel. I even tried going sockless with it one day for casual use and it felt fine (i.e. not sloppy); no hotspots or abrasions. 

Let me say this up front that I have only put a handful of miles in this shoe, and so the review will not be as detailed as my usual reviews. 

UPPER

I've been fortunate enough to try knitted uppers from quite a few brands so far: Nike (Flyknit racer, Flyknit Lunar, Flyknit Free, Lunarepic); Adidas Ultra Boost v1; Skechers (GoMeb Speed 4, GoMeb Razor). The ASICS Dynaflyte might even count as a semi-knitted upper. This forms the framework of what I think knitted upper can and cannot do, what they excel in, and where they may fall short. 

In many ways, the knitted upper is to a running shoe what carbon fibre is to bicycles. How dense, elastic, or structured you want it to be can be completely customized to the specific needs of a specific part of a shoe. How long more before big brands will offer bespoke fully customizable uppers? Need more elasticity at the pinky toe but more structured reinforcement at the 1st metatarsal? How about asymmetrical flywires? Experience more heel-slippage in one foot than the other? How about asymetric knitted heel collars? Would you pay US$250 for 4% better comfort? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the potential of the knitted upper, and why so many people are investing in it. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it feels great (when dry).

So what's the downside of knitted uppers? It is this: I have yet to see a shoe that was lighter with a knit upper than with a traditional engineered mesh, at least not one that will be made commercially available to the public. 

That said, how does the ASICS Knit upper on the Gel Quantum 360 feel? I must admit I was a bit wary of the potential overheating issue with this shoe. I experienced some of that with the Dynaflyte upper, and all that Gel underfoot seemed like a great heat insulator. 

The Gel Quantum 360 Knit upper breathes surprisingly well and does a pretty good job of sweat absorption. My socks and feet felt relatively dry in all the runs i did with the shoe. This is not an elastic type of knit upper, and there is some structure around the mid-foot and heel cup so there is no sense of the foot sliding around in the shoe. By comparison, i would say it is probably closest to a Flyknit Lunar type of upper feel. 

RIDE

Walking around in the shoe feels great. The Ortholite X-40 insole sinks in with each step and gives a very nice cushioned feel. On my first run, I had no problems getting the lacing tension just right on the first try, and things felt great for the first three kilometres. the shoe actually feels a lot lighter than it weighs on paper. With my eyes closed, I could not tell you the difference between this shoe and a Nike Pegasus 33, or Adidas Energy Boost v2. However, over the next couple of kilometres, things started to heat up, literally. By the end of the short first run of 8km, all I could think about was the burning sensation on the soles of both my feet. My fastest lap for that (flat) 8km run was in the 4:30 range, so the shoe can handle the pace if you wish to pick it up. Once I got the shoes off, I immediately took the insoles off to inspect, and they were warm, probably upwards of 50 degrees Calsius. I probably should have checked them before the run, but the insoles were very thick Ortholite insoles, much thicker than any Ortholite insole i'd seen before, maybe 20% thicker than the "thick" insoles that come with a LunarEpic. For subsequent runs, I tried using a variety of different EVA-based insoles with the shoes and none of them caused any recurrence of the burning feeling in my feet when i ran. 

Another highlight of the shoe is the excellent outsole grip. There is a lot of durable rubber underfoot, and you really feel confident running on wet terrain. 

Overall the shoe is a pretty good cushioned neutral daily trainer that will do well as a casual sneaker. I think the fact that it weighs more than it feels on the run is down to good execution of the balance of weight throughout the shoe. I've encountered a few instances where you have a very light and breathable upper sitting on a solid but relatively heavy midsole/outsole platform, and the shoe just feels sluggish and heavy. A good comparison is the Saucony Freedom ISO vs the Adidas Boston Boost 6. Both are near identical in weight for a US9.5, and yet the Boston feels lighter and easier to accelerate in, and many people would have no qualms about racing a marathon in the Boston Boost 6. I, for one, do not feel that midsole qualities of the Freedom pale in comparison to the Boston. The Freedom afford less ground feel and a smoother, more flexible transition, yet many people will prefer the ride of the Boston. I think a similar comparison can be made between the Quantum 360 Knit, and the Adidas UltraBoost. With the UltraBoost, you have a lot of Boost under a very elastic and unstructured layer of knit upper, and that can feel like you have a lot of weight under your feet when you run. By comparison, the Gel Quantum 360 knit, which is 2 ounces heavier than the Ultra Boost actually feels easier to run in. Go figure. The balance of the shoe matters more than the sum of its parts. 

For my part, I am more inclined to use it as a casual shoe than a daily trainer, even if it performs well for easy runs. I sweat quite a lot even on my easy runs, so for me, a shoe is either for casual wear or for running, and i tend not to mix the two because a shoe you sweat in will smell eventually, and a knitted shoe you sweat in will smell even more. Unless I'm prepared to thoroughly wash the shoe every week, which I'm not, I'm going to keep it for casual wear while it still doesn't turn heads in a packed elevator 👃👀👍

The ASICS Gel Quantum 360 Knit was provided by ASICS Singapore for the purposes of a review. It currently retails for S$289 in ASICS Concept Stores in Singapore.


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