I’ve tested several trail shoes, and nearly all of them had $100+ price tags.
So when Asics comes to the table with a proven line of shoes at closer to $70 for MSRP, even the veterean trail runners start to consider this as an option.
The Gel Venture 7 fits in at about 10.7 ounces and has a 10mm drop. This places the shoe into the lightweight trail category with moderate cushioning.
Shoes without such a big drop would be the Altra Lone Peak shoes at $120 with no drop and extra grip, or one of the industry leaders in extreme offroad shoes, Icebug, with the $180 Orbi5 with studs in the shoe.
But you’re likely not here to go after the top of the line offroad shoes, you just want a deal and want to know if this shoe is any good.
One price and quality comparison shoe would be the New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi Trail with an 8mm drop, $78 pricetag, and full-length rubber outsole.
The Asics Gel Venture line of shoes is the entry level trail shoe from Asics. It’s designed to be a daily trainer for those who need performance trail running in a proven package.
For those who need more speed and less trail, they can look at the Dynaflyte line of Asics shoes.
Although the Gel Venture is well suited for off road, Asics has a high-end trail shoe called the GT-2000 8 Trail which overlaps in features, but offers more tech (FLYTEFOAM, DYNAMIC DUOMAX) in a more expensive ($150) package.
The previous model of the Gel Venture featured a near identical outsole, similar midsole, and upgraded upper. The midsole changes were mostly aesthetic without much of an effect on function.
The upper features a new lacing system and a few design changes that provide a mild refresh. However, both versions in the same color look almost identical.
This was my first time in trail running shoes from Asics, so I was excited to try out the fit. Everything tightened up well, and the first thing I noticed was solid outsole design ready for trails.
Quite solid, not too much flexibility, and lots of grip. My first run was along the Charles River Esplanade and the shoes felt ready enough for a longer trail run.
I set out over the next 50 miles of testing to see how the shoes held up.
First real test in the shoe was an 8 mile trail run/hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
I found it to be solid across most of the trail, only slightly slipping on sandy rock surfaces which is common for most trail shoes.
The rubber coverage on the outsole made gripping the trail easy, although due to the thicker stacks, you don’t feel 100% connected with the trail which you may get with Merrell Glove shoes.
After finishing this first test trail run, I was pleased since the shoes held up and I had seemingly no problems on my feet.
Just a bit sweatier than normal, but more on that in the rest of the shoe review.
Trail runners should be most focused on the sole of the shoe, this is what you’re (generally) paying extra for.
Asics puts in a fairly aggressive tread pattern on the outsole that features ‘V’ shapes in alternating orientations. This ensures forward and rear motion grip is maximized.
Additionally, the tread pattern sits on top of a layer of more rubber. This reduces “poke risks” where sticks or sharp rocks will be blocked by the outsole material.
The last notable feature of the outsole is a yellow band of rubber in the midfoot that isn’t a new material, but is more of an aesthetic choice.
I personally think this is a grab at trying to make the outsole look like it was made by Vibram (a high quality outsole manufacturer that brands their products with a yellow patch of rubber exactly where Asics placed this band).
Overall though, the outsole provides great traction for standard trail running.
Above the outsole is the thick and sturdy EVA midsole that doesn’t get the weight savings of FlyteFoam, but does provide reasonable support at a reasonable weight.
Additionally, this shoe has Asics’ GEL technology which helps reduce shock in the rearfoot area.
I found pretty much all Asics GEL shoes are comfortable and hard to notice any specific area where there is a GEL patch.
I was ok with this shoe on short to medium runs, but I felt the shoe was too stiff for me on longer 10+ mile runs.
Lastly, there’s an industry standard ORTHOLITE sockliner (insert) inside the shoe which is the first thing you feel when stepping on the shoes.
What isn’t standard about it is the fact Asics put down a layer of adhesive below the insert.
This is something I wish more trail running shoes did, and honestly something I wish more regular shoe companies did.
The adhesive is mild, such that you can still remove the insole, but it keeps the insole in place when removing or putting the shoe on.
Keeping the insole in place is very important when trail running, as you’re often landing in unusual foot patterns that would twist a normal insole around.
The upper starts out with a good addition to all trail shoes that generally helps long term durability: a pull tab to help get the shoes on or off.
Some beefier trail running shoes add more tabs around the heel so you can attach an ankle gaiters (Altra does this on their Lone Peak line of shoes), but we don’t see any of that on this budget trail running shoe.
Surrounding the heel is well-cushioned heel counter that is well made. Inside the shoe, you’ll find the foam is thick at the top of the heel and then disappears at the bottom of the heel.
This helps keep your foot positioned in the shoe and improve fit. However, it also increases weight and decreases breathability.
The rest of the upper around the toebox is well protected on the outside with numerous thick overlays and a foam+fabric upper material above the toes.
That foam+fabric upper material is notably thick, to the point where I saw it as a problem for warmer weather running.
Even when it was 50F (10C) out, I still saw sweat collecting inside the shoe, especially on this foam fabric.
That’s good news for folks with cold feet, and good news for anyone considering these shoes for colder weather.
After my 50 miles of running, I saw normal signs of wear on the the upper, maybe have some concerns with the overlays lasting into 200+ mile range.
The EVA foam in the midsole is maybe a concern, as I had scuffs and mild amounts of abrasive marks on them which may not bode well for more aggressive trail runners.
Considering this shoe is set up for entry-level trail running, it should have enough durability for the market it’s going after.
Can’t hit top speed in these shoes, mostly due to the size of the outsole. It’s set up for more casual running, not necessarily trail racing or quick descents on the slopes.
This does mean the shoe is tailored to a slower cadence, which means you will take advantage of the larger lugs on the shoe since you might have more ground contact time.
Mud was ok in this shoe, would have liked a less complex outer design that’s easier to clean as all the overlays collected dirt and held onto it during and after the run.
Not a deal breaker at all, but something that other more expensive models do a better job at handling. I’d pick this shoe for more hiking/easy trail running opportunities that aren’t too wet or muddy.
These trail shoes feel mostly like a regular pair of Asics shoes with added traction. This is most likely why the Venture line of shoes is pretty popular for trail runners since you get a very familiar platform.
The upper’s midfoot has a slight upgrade compared to the previous model, switching out metal eyelets to a Nike Flywire-like set of loops.
These loops do not wrap around the midsection of your feet (like Nike Flywire), so you’re getting more of a benefit on the pressure reduction side than any fit technology benefits.
I found the lacing system to be adequate, although lumpy around the base of the foot. Nothing enough to cause blistering on my runs.
The GEL technology included in this shoe designed for shock absorption is either seamlessly integrated into the heel, or it’s so subtle of a difference compared to regular shoes that I can’t tell if it’s actually working.
Didn’t add any discomfort, so I’ll call that a success.
Simply put, this trail shoe is full of reasonable features at a reasonable price.
Those new to trail running would have a great time in this shoe, and even experienced runners who just need a spare set of aggressive tread shoes could get a benefit from these shoes at this price point.
Just be aware that the previous model is very similar in design and features at a lower price, so consider that before going after this trail shoe.
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