Brooks vs Asics: Which Running Brand Is Best for You?
Published on: 12/15/2022
Asics and Brooks are some of the most instantly recognizable brands in the ever-growing market for road running shoes. Both have a great history and some excellent performance shoes, and both have made some significant progress in developing trail running shoes to rival some of the most established manufacturers in that area.
How can you choose between Brooks and Asics shoes for the road and trail? Which manufacturer you should go for depends on your goals (racing or training, speed or endurance), the terrain you’ll tackle (road, trail, technical or smooth), weather conditions, experience, and fitness levels.
In this article, we’ll aim to give you an overview of both Brooks’ and Asics’ best features and our top shoe choices from each brand. Read on to find out which brand is best for road or trail, training or racing, and how their credentials stack up against values, durability, and more.
A Quick History of Two Famous Shoe Brands
With a history dating back to 1914, Brooks became one of the most popular running shoe brands in the world in the 1970s. Significantly better known in the US than in Europe, they were the first shoe manufacturer to use the EVA foam, creating bouncier shoes that made them popular for comfort and energy return.
Since 2017, Brooks has produced more performance road running shoes and had a huge PR benefit from Des Linden (1) winning the 2018 Boston Marathon (2) in the brand’s Hyperion Elite featuring a carbon plate. They’ve also been pioneers in shoe development for track events.
Hailing from Japan, Asics’ story begins in 1949 with the creation of Onitsuka Co., Ltd (whose name will be familiar to those who appreciate the super popular Onitsuka Tiger shoes). The Onitsuka name was associated with martial arts star Bruce Lee before they merged with fishing and sporting goods company GTO and uniform maker Jelenk to form the Asics Corporation.
One cool fact: ASICS stands for the company’s motto, “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano,” – meaning a sound mind in a sound body.
Main differences in Brooks vs Asics shoes
While both brands have a long history and are iconic for their road running shoes performance, there are still some differences between them. They both use technological research and continue to innovate in design, with Brooks shoes moving away from traditional support methods to create interesting new shoes for those needing more arch support, for example.
Brooks is also traditionally thought of as roomier, with a more laid-back design, while Asics models are known for a snug fit, especially in the midfoot. Runners looking for a wide toe box should opt for Brooks shoes first, although sizing advice is that you should go up half a size compared to your regular if you’re buying their running shoes.
Asics running shoes have become famous, especially in the road running scene, for their GEL technology which provides excellent shock absorption. The Asics Flytefoam technology combined with GEL offers cushioned support with a bit of bounce.
That doesn’t mean that Brooks shoes don’t have adequate cushioning either; quite the contrary. Brooks uses two types of technologies for their cushioning: DNA LOFT (a soft cushioning that adapts to the runner’s profile and stride or running style) and BioMoGo DNA (also adaptive cushioning that provides more spring).
We should also mention AHAR, Asics’ high abrasion rubber that has equipped the Japanese brand’s shoes for decades and ensures optimal durability, especially on urban surfaces.
All in all, we would say that the key differences between these brands are the different stability shoe designs and the more narrow fit for Asics shoes over Brooks.
Let’s look at the top running shoe in each type of road running, from everyday trainers to the best stability shoes and the best racing options – including what could be your next favorite road marathon shoe.
Which Shoe Brand is Best for Road Running
Daily running shoes
Asics shoes provide a snug fit and good midfoot support, with their star daily running shoes being the Gel Nimbus collection. With Flytefoam and gel technology that help beginner runners increase their mileage in comfort, the Gel Nimbus has now reached its 24th iteration. It continues to sell well compared to any other shoes in its category. And, for a shoe with a lower carbon footprint, there’s also the Gel Nimbus Lite, made with 75% recycled materials.
As for Brooks, their sta neutral running shoe is the Ghost. With a smooth heel-to-toe transition and soft cushioning using the technologies we mentioned above, the Brooks Ghost 14 offers a generous 12 mm drop to allow all runners to feel comfortable. Their segmented crash pad design encourages a natural foot movement, helping you “roll” forward.
One of the big differences between Brooks and Asics is how the brands approach stability running shoes. Brooks believes in stabilizing or guiding your stride as you run rather than correcting for over or under-pronation. Their design based on GuideRails technology claims to flexibly adapt to your stride to have the best possible alignment for the hips, knees, and ankles.
The best running shoe that Brooks produces in the stability area is the Adrenaline GTS aka “go-to shoe” for everyday running but with added support. Users call it a “Ghost for overpronators,” and it’s generally considered a great blend of support and lightness, all with a 12 mm heel-to-toe drop. For longer runs, Brooks offers the Glycerin 20, a super soft shoe that now boasts a nitrogen-infused DNA Loft v3 foam to make it supportive, comfortable, and a go-to marathon shoe for medium-speed runners that aren’t looking for top speed.
Both the Adrenaline and the Glycerin are considered clunky when running faster, so we wouldn’t recommend them as racing running shoes.
What about the Asics stability running shoe range? The best and comfiest stability option from the brand is the Gel Kayano 29, which is great for neutral runners and for overpronators. The Flytefoam Blast+ cushioning makes this a high-mileage shoe, but it’s also quite responsive to allow for speedier runs.
Moving on to the faster, more competitive offerings from both brands, you’ll be spoilt for choice with Asics, who have invested significantly in research and development in this area. The Asics Magic Speed 2, newly released, seems to aim for super shoe status but falls a little short in some areas despite the carbon plate – you can read a full review of this shoe here. The best option is the Asics Meta Speed Sky, an elite carbon plate shoe with superb cushioning and great energy return.
There are many variations of the Meta Speed Sky, which features a high stack, a new nylon-based Flytefoam Blast Turbo cushioning, and a low drop (5 mm). And you can expect even more exciting innovations from the other Asics carbon fiber plate shoes as they keep adding to this category.
For Brooks, it’s taken a while to nail the carbon shoes, but the current Hyperion Elite 3 is a superb racing option with a snappy toe-off and a responsive and stable ride. This is one of the most expensive Brooks running shoes, but it’s also one of the best performing, designed with a marathon PB in mind (see Des Linden’s success above). It is packed with tech innovation and sits alongside the Saucony Endorphin Pro and Nike Vaporfly/Alphafly.
A more affordable Brooks shoe that’s built for longer distances, so possibly a better racing option for less advanced runners, is the Levitate. This shoe gives a smooth ride with DNA AMP cushioning protecting you for long distances. It is flexible and adaptable to wider feet while also being breathable and soft. A great option for long races.
Trail Running: Brooks vs Asics
Brooks and Asics shoes are less popular in the trail running scene than their better-known competitors, such as Salomon, Hoka, or Merrell. However, with recent branding efforts from Brooks, they’re making big inroads into drawing attention to themselves as a trail running shoe brand. On the other hand, Asics has always had a relatively high profile in European trail running, especially as they used to be the shoemaker of choice for French trail star Xavier Thévenard (3). They are also sponsors of one of the highest-profile French trail races, the Asics SaintéLyon (4).
As for Brooks, their biggest name association has always been with trail and ultra-running legend Scott Jurek (5). The American record breaker has been the face of the brand for years on end, and he even had a hand in designing the best Brooks trail running shoes, the Cascadia 16. More recently, Brooks partnered with rising star and former The North Face athlete Hillary Allen (6).
ASICS Trail Shoes
So, what are the best trail running shoes from each brand? Asics leads the way with the Fuji range, among which the Fuji Lite 3 is an excellent choice for shorter to medium trail runs and races. With only a 4 mm drop, these Asics running shoes are made for undulating terrain. They are lightweight, have aggressive lugs to maintain grip in the mud and on wet ground, and the FlyteFoam Eco foam gives them some bounce without making them too heavy.
When it comes to affordable, all-around performance, Asics also offer a good value gel running shoe – the Gel Excite Trail, which retails for under $60 on some websites. This is a great road-to-trail shoe with good shock absorption, durable, and grippy on all terrains.
Finally, your Asics running shoes for longer runs and ultras should be the excellent Gel-Trabuco 10, which presents an excellent grip, supportive structure, and great cushioning. They combine a GEL capsule to protect the heel with a DuoMax posture control that helps with stability. They’re comfortable for long days on the trails with an 8 mm drop and soft FlyteFoam midsoles.
Brooks Running Trail Shoes
Turning to Brooks, the Catamount has long been hailed as excellent for speed and comfort on less challenging terrain. These Brooks running shoes are great for road-to-trail transitions, hard-packed trails, and easy miles. They can be considered the trail version of the Hyperion Tempo, designed to go fast, so they can be great in shorter trail races.
The Brooks Cascadia was built for long distances and designed with Scott Jurek’s help for comfort and durability. It’s extremely comfortable, long-lasting, and suits runners of all levels and abilities. The Cascadia 16 has excellent grip, features a rock plate to propel you forward, a wide toe box to suit ultra runners, and a great lockdown to resist through the miles.
Overall, Brooks trail running shoes feature a ballistic rock shield between the outsole and midsole, giving you extra protection from trail debris, and a TrailTrack rubber outsole with excellent grip in most weather conditions. They tend to be slightly more durable than Asics, who offer more lightweight shoes.
Brooks vs Asics on Values
Beyond the technical specs, you may be wondering about these manufacturers’ brand values and ethics.
Brooks has a history of donating gear and money to companies that align with brand values and offering significant support to its community. They also encourage staff to take time off to volunteer by offering them additional paid leave. At the same time, they’re making efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their product: as such, the Ghost is Brooks’ first carbon-neutral running shoe. You can read more about the company’s commitment to responsible sourcing, its climate action initiatives, and how they engage with the community here (7).
On the other hand, while Asics today show a lot of transparency around responsible recruitment and supply chain practices, they’ve suffered from some controversy. In 2017, there were reports of employees in Cambodia fainting from bad working conditions (8). In 2021, while many Western clothing brands stopped using cotton from the Xinjian region of China (9) amid allegations of forced Uighur labor, Asics continued to do so.
At the same time, the company displays a commitment to sustainability by creating 90% of its shoes in 2021 and 2022 with recycled materials, spending close to half a million US dollars on community support, and aspiring to transparency and equity, according to their CSR reporting (10).
Brooks or Asics – How To Choose
Overall, it is difficult to choose between Brooks and Asics when it comes to great-quality shoes on the road or trails. Both brands have a great history of producing popular running shoes that have delivered some fantastic performances. They both have varied enough ranges that you could pick a favorite, depending on your running goals, fitness level, size, or shoe preferences.
The key difference is that Brooks has more picks in the stability domain and an interesting, innovative approach. For more lightweight running shoes, you’re likely to find better options with Asics, but you may find them less durable. Both have affordable pricing points and high-end carbon-plated models on offer. At the end of the day, you should definitely try the shoes you’re most interested in the stores, and don’t forget to also compare to other shoe brands before settling on a favorite (if anyone ever does?!?).
Des Linden (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Boston Marathon (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Xavier Thevenard (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Asics SaintéLyon (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
New pathways with Jenny and Scott Jurek (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Hillary Allen Sponsors (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Running Responsibly: Our People and Planet Path (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Cambodian female workers in Nike, Asics and Puma factories suffer mass fainting (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Xinjiang cotton: Western clothes brands vanish as backlash grows (retrieved on 12/02/2022)
Asics Sustainability (retrieved on 12/02/2022)