Initially released in 1993, the Asics Gel-Lyte V was Asics’ follow-up to the highly successful Gel-Lyte III. Originally created as a performance running shoe, the Gel-Lyte V would become iconic in its own right and Asics still regularly releases new colorways and collabs.
For its 30th anniversary, we asked Asics to send over a couple of modern pairs so we could dig into everything the Asics Gel-Lyte V has to offer and check in with how the model is doing today. While Asics provided the shoes, they didn’t get any input into this review and will read it for the first time when it’s posted on the site, just like you will.
With that out of the way, let’s find out if the classic Asics Gel-Lyte V is worth buying and wearing…even with all the retro casual competition that’s flooding the market.
Note: As retro casual shoes have reemerged and skyrocketed in popularity we’ve tried to review more and more of them so you can get a general idea of the comfort, materials, and quality. You can find all of our casual shoe reviews here and our retro shoe reviews here.
Asics Gel-Lyte V
Release Date: 1993
Sizing: True to size
Asics sent the Asics Gel-Lyte V Material Play in Glacier Grey and Steel Grey and the Godai in Terracotta and Bengal Orange. The Material Play version “ is designed with a technical approach that remixes the traditional design with modernized materials” while the Godai plays on the five elements in Japanese philosophy. The colorway I received represents Fire and has a more traditional build with leather, nubuck, and suede overlays.
The colorways are a nice balance between traditional and new and let me see two vastly different ways the Asics Gel-Lyte V is made these days.
Let’s start with the upper. As you can see in the tech breakdown above, the OG Asics Gel-Lyte V utilized a sandwich mesh and leather overlays. It featured very similar construction to contemporary running shoes like the Nike Air Max III and New Balance 990 series.
While that was perfect for a time when the Gel-Lyte V was primarily a running shoe, now that it’s retro casual, many versions feature upgraded materials like the Godai colorway I received. The Godai colorway is mostly high-quality buttery suede (toecap, heel, overlays) alongside two different kinds of leather. The perforated leather on the toe isn’t thick but it’s super soft while a basic coated leather is used for the Asics logo. That’s better than most retros we review and those typically cost a lot more.
The Material Play colorway I received is a big time change up in terms of materials but the construction is still high quality. It brings differing textured meshes to various parts of the shoe while also including a rubberized heel counter and Asics logo. There’s also a pleather overlay that further mixes it up.
But both versions come with the most distinctive feature of the Asics Gel-Lyte V, the sock-like integrated tongue. The Godai colorway’s tongue is a neoprene-esque material while the Material Play colorway is a textured mesh. Both are equally padded on top of the foot and all the way around the collar. It’s the secret sauce that makes the Gel-Lyte V upper so comfortable.
The Gel-Lyte V tongue doesn’t bunch or behave badly when the laces are tied tightly and has plenty of room for high-volume (tall) feet. I wish companies doing integrated running shoe tongues today would go back and mimic this one. Even at thirty years old it performs better than a lot of what we see today.
If you look at the tech breakdown for the Asics Gel-Lyte V you’ll see that the original version included a forefoot P-Gel crashpad and a Gel unit in the heel. Does today’s version still have these? I doubt it.
Update: I reached out to Asics about the inclusion of Gel and they provided this answer, “Every Asics shoe that has GEL in the name, will have GEL Technology incorporated somewhere in the shoe. Today’s GEL-Lyte V features a more updated GEL material and its location is just in the heel of the shoe.”
The midsoles on both my pairs feel like EVA. It’s soft enough to be on your feet all day but isn’t squishy or unstable. It doesn’t overly compress and should handle a ton of casual wear before you feel like it’s bottomed out. It’s more comfortable than the Asics EX89’s FF Blast+ filled rubber cupsole despite the lack of modern-day cushioning tech.
I’ve worn both pairs a lot over the past two months and the cushion has been consistent. It’s not rock-hard like some Jordans. I could wear the Asics Gel-Lyte V to a theme park for a whole day of walking and standing and not regret it. That isn’t the case with many (most?) retros.
There’s plenty of Asics AHAR rubber at both the forefoot and heel with exposed foam throughout the midfoot. I’m not sure how the traction will perform on ice but in both wet and dry conditions, it gripped the pavement well. Being originally built as a running shoe means the outsole will handle most casual wear conditions with ease. And due to the thickness of the rubber, durability won’t be a problem.
Is the Asics Gel-Lyte V wide foot friendly?
Like most 90s shoes, the Asics Gel-Lyte V sports a narrower toe box but the heel and midfoot are fairly accommodating. Most wide footers will need to go up a half size to make the Gel-Lyte V work. Finding a pair to try on may be the best option for those with wide forefeet.
Is the Asics Gel-Lyte V worth $140?
The Asics Gel-Lyte V is worth $140. Among retro models, it’s a mid-tier price point so it’s not a deal or big value. However, the materials and craftsmanship Asics uses (on all the pairs I’ve tried or touched) mean you’ll get fair value in return for the purchase price.
Asics Gel-Lyte V Summary
The Asics Gel-Lyte V is a 1990s classic that fits well with today’s retro craze. It’s got a unique spot as a non-bulky 90s shoe capable of providing all-day comfort both around and below the feet. For actual running, go with Asics’ newer, more capable running shoes. But if you want under-the-radar 90s casual style and comfort, the Gel-Lyte V is a great option.