If you are a runner, you’ve heard of two of the most popular running shoe brands on the market: Brooks and ASICS. What is the difference between them? Why would a runner choose one over the other?
Although both Brooks and ASICS are known for their quality shoes and there’s a shoe for you made by either brand, they do offer distinct options and design. Understanding these differences will help you identify the best shoe for you.
Brooks puts a lot of effort into the technology in their shoes. Brooks shoes have a great overall fit and cushioned midsoles. They also have a different mentality for stability and have moved away from traditional support methods.
ASICS generally have a snug fit, especially in the midfoot and heel. They also use a classic medial post design in their stability shoes.
ASICS has broken their running shoes down into four categories: cushion, stability, compete, and trail. Brooks has four categories as well: cushion, energize, connect, and speed.
The main difference here is that Brooks has leading stability versions of each type of shoe (a cushioned stability shoe, energizing stability shoe, etc).
When you look at the layers that make up a shoe: the upper, insole, midsole, and outsole, the midsole is really what separates and defines these two brands.
Both ASICS and Brooks use OrthoLite sockliners in many of their shoes. These act as a moisture barrier between the foot and shoe and give a plush feel.
Here’s a deep dive into the general differences between the two lines to give you an idea of the right brand for you.
Shoe Construction and Fit
ASICS shoes have a snugger fit, while Brooks is known for a larger toe box. Brooks still recommends that you go up a half size compared to your normal dress shoe size.
ASICS generally fit tighter in the midfoot and heel. The unique FluidFit in ASICS shoes anchors your foot in place with elastic and non-elastic mesh. The 3D Fit print mesh is the equivalent in Brooks, supporting and hugging the feet, providing structure and keeping them locked in. The addition of engineered mesh on many of their shoes makes it difficult to find a Brooks shoe that isn’t breathable.
For runners with excessive pronation, ASICS shoes are straight. While if you’re looking for cushioning or a blend of cushioning and motion control as a neutral runner, the shape of the shoe is generally semi-curved.
You’ll find ASICS shoes classified into either cushioning for little support, structured cushioning for mild overpronators with a bit more support, and maximum support for severe overpronators.
Brooks makes two versions of most shoes. They create a model of each shoe that meets the needs of both stability and neutral runners. There used to be a huge difference between their stability and neutral running shoes, however over time the differences have shrunk.
Brooks has really focused on increased flexibility and weight reduction when it comes to their uppers. Most of the materials are stretchy and conform to your feet well, but are still durable.
Both companies are moving towards a sock-like or second-skin type of fit overall. The sock liners in both ASICS and Brooks models are super comfortable and combined with Brooks’ soft collars, you get an especially plush, comfortable fit for your entire foot and ankle.
The major difference between midsoles can be summarized as ASICS gel midsole versus Brooks polyurethane insoles.
Brooks midsoles are designed for comfort and durability, and you can easily find lots of cushioning in many models. Based on the type of running experience you want, Brooks caters to you in different ways with their midsole technology.
Brooks cushioning gives really good responsiveness under the energize category. The DNA Amp midsole returns 10-20% more energy (70% total!) than average shoes on the market. Brooks has switched to polyurethane midsoles, which hold up better over time over the standard EVA midsole.
ASICS uses small pockets of gel in the forefoot and heel of the midsole in most of their shoes to reduce heel strike and create a smooth transition.
ASICS Flytefoam is similar to Brooks’ DNA Amp midsole, but gives a little less energy return, at about 60-65%, which is still excellent. For the same effect with less weight, ASICS shoes with Flytefoam light are about half the industry weight standard but still provide a long foam life. SpEVA is also a more responsive version of EVA, giving you a higher energy return with each step.
If you like a snug fit, specifically in the heel and midfoot, then try on a pair of ASICS. The notable heel counter designed in ASICS locks your heel down to keep it firmly in place and act as an anchor of support.
Brooks has a different mentality than ASICS when it comes to stability. Their Guide Rail technology helps keep your foot in alignment by preventing pronating too far in one direction.
These guide rails are a “holistic” approach to stability. They only impact your stride if you need alignment, and are less noticeable than traditional stabilization shoe technologies.
Brooks’ mindset is that the shoes you wear should help guide and stabilize your stride, but not “fix” it. The extended progressive diagonal rollbar is excellent for overpronators and people who spend a lot of time on their feet. This tech guides the body to move naturally.
ASICS, on the other hand, reduces stress on the foot through more traditional medial posts (Duomax), which is high-density foam on the inner side of the midsole to stop the shoe from collapsing. They also utilize an external heel counter to maintain natural foot movement while running.
If you have just a slight overpronation and do not need support all the time, Brooks are less intrusive in your running style.
Both companies have rubber-based outsoles. In general, Brooks have pure rubber throughout the entire outsole. ASICS splits the rearfoot and forefoot outsole with a Trusstic system. This gives their shoes additional stability by preventing twisting, and is tailored to the purpose of the shoe.
ASICS split outsoles are made of AHAR or AHAR+, which increases durability and provides great traction.
Since Brooks has moved away from medial posts, they’ve developed alternative ways to ensure stability. The ‘dual arch pod’ replacement still provides stability but offers runners more forefoot flexibility.
For running off-road, Brooks’ trail models include a ballistic rock shield placed between the midsole and outsole which protects feet from sharp objects. The TrailTrack rubber provides more traction for running up and downhill.
Brooks tend to be more durable than ASICS. ASICS in the past had more lightweight shoes, but there are reports of issues with durability to achieve this. The new mesh upper on Brooks shoes has helped increase durability quite a bit. Brooks is also striving to create more lightweight shoes.
Thinking about returning your shoes? ASICS offers a 1-year warranty for factory defects, but not wear and tear! Brooks, on the other hand, offers a 90-day trial through their True Blue Guarantee! You can try shoes out and return them if you decide you don’t like them.
When it comes to cushioning, Brooks excels. Both companies offer really good cushioned shoes. Brooks has focused on creating shoes that hug your feet, giving you a plush feel, and provide super-soft transitions.
Outside of ASICS FlyteFoam and Brooks DNA Amp, there are a few other technologies that ASICS and Brooks use.
For runners who prefer a cushioned ride, Brooks’ cushioning midsole technology includes the DNA Loft and BioMoGo DNA. Both give you really smooth heel-to-toe transitions.
DLA Loft is the softest midsole compound in any Brooks shoe, delivering comfort and protection with a mixture of foam, rubber, and air. We love this midsole because not only is it extremely soft, but very durable and holds up over time.
For neutral support, BioMoGo offers runners a cushioned step by blending the DNA cushioning into the midsole versus using inserts. You get a soft feel that adapts to the surface you run on, blended into the entire midsole.
You can’t forget about ASICS classic gel technology, which provides excellent dampening.
Gel has been in ASICS shoes for over 30 years because it works. The two areas of gel in the rearfoot and forefoot work together quite well to reduce the sheer force you place on the shoe during every step.
Brooks and ASICS are priced similarly, but there are many more ASICS that are below the $100 price point.
If you are looking for a newer model, high-end running shoe, plan to spend about $120-$160 with ASICS and $120 to $180 with Brooks.
You can always pick up last year’s model for a huge discount!
If you do go cheaper, pay attention to which features the shoe does not have, so you can decide what you really want.
Now that you’ve learned about the technology and design in each brand, you can make an informed decision when purchasing running shoes.
Both companies approach running shoes from a scientific viewpoint, with the end goal of helping you run further, faster, with more comfort.
Recently Brooks has come up with new tech to focus on creating comfier, lighter shoes with more room in the toe box. They have excellent innovation and have started creating shoes with more color options that are more visually appealing. The 90-day return policy is also nice!
ASICS is also producing new technology with Flytefoam. If you like a tighter fit with generally more traditional technology, ASICS could be the shoe for you.
Don’t be afraid to try these brands on and see what you prefer!