ASICS Gel Fuji Trainer 3.0 ReviewMarch 21, 2014
- Excellent general purpose trail shoe and long distance racer
- Well balanced in nearly every aspect
- Excellent value
- Decent speed and turnover considering its comfort
- Slightly wide fit in the forefoot
- Traction is less effective on mud and snow
The Fuji Trainer 3.0 is an excellent all-around shoe that provides enough protection and comfort for long days on the trail without completely sacrificing handling and responsiveness. It’s a viable option for runners who want one shoe to cover all of their trail running needs. The downsides are a somewhat large fit in the midfoot and reduced traction on mud and snow.
What stands out the most about the Fuji Trainer is its balance. Shoes in this category are trying to balance multiple competing design objectives, and the Fuji Trainer pretty much gets all of these right.
There’s enough foam underfoot to keep the feet from getting beat up on long runs and downhills, but the midsole is still responsive enough to mitigate energy loss when picking up the pace. The shoe is protective without being overbuilt, and as a result holds its own when the trail gets technical and demands more precise foot placement. The outsole is effective on a range of surfaces, but sufficiently low-profile that the ride stays smooth, even on pavement.
Put all of this together in a sub-10oz platform and the result is a very compelling choice for general purpose trail running, long distance adventures, and (ultra)marathon trail racing. For shorter distance races (marathon and below) it would do the job for mid-packers, but competitive runners would probably want something lighter and faster. This shoe also will appeal to ASICS brand-loyalists who want to venture off pavement.
Comfort & Protection
The Fuji Trainer is comfortable enough to wear around all day long and not really think twice about it. There does not seem to be a rock plate but the foam is dense enough to provide good push through protection.
Similarly the toe bumper and upper material are heavy enough to protect against the majority of trail hazards, but not so large that they significantly affect weight or handling. Although there are definitely more protective shoes available, it’s hard to imagine circumstances in which the protection offered by the Fuji Trainer would be inadequate. The fact that it weighs less than 10oz is a nice bonus for a shoe of this type.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of the Fuji Trainer is the wide midfoot, in particular the front half of the instep and around the ball of the foot. Multiple testers reported excessive foot movement that negatively affected agility and handling. The interior foot bed also seemed to require a longer than average break-in period, which may have contributed to foot movement in initial test runs. On the other hand the simple lacing system is very easy to tighten and seems to stay put, which is a nice change from the gimmicky lacing systems that seem to be showing up in a lot of shoes these days.
Speed & Energy Efficiency
In absolute terms, this is not a fast shoe, but compared to others in this category it holds its own. The shoe generally stays out of the way, which is about the most one can reasonably expect. The Fuji Trainer has enough stiffness to provide reasonable energy transfer when climbing. It also is not as mushy as a lot of cushioned trail runners. The result is a relatively responsive ground feel, but without totally sacrificing comfort either.
Agility and Traction
The 6mm heel-to-toe drop, low-profile outsole, and moderate torsional stiffness make the Fuji Trainer very controllable in technical conditions. While it can’t compete with a trail flat in this department it definitely fares much better than the average cushioned trail runner when it comes to twisty, obstacle-rich singletrack. Which again basically means that the shoe stays out of the way. On the other hand traction was lacking on mud and snow, although to be fair this is hard to accomplish without deep aggressive lugs.
There are not many cushioned trail shoes that retail for $90. The Fuji Trainer is a darn good value.