ASICS GEL-Zaraca 4 Neutral Running Shoe Review

This neutral running shoe looks great, but looks aren’t everything. What matters is performance. ASICS is known for their great shoes and even greater customer support, but is this shoe an exception?

The GEL-Zaraca 3 had strong traction, breathable mesh, and the gel in the shoes provided a lot of cushioning. The problem with the shoes is that the upper was weak, and tore over time. One struggle that shoemakers have is trying to build shoes that are both breathable yet strong – it’s not easy. The Zaraca-4 will show the improvements and what ASICS has done to combat this issue.

After spending quite a lot of run time in these shoes, here’s what I’ve found:

Pros:

The shoes look great, and they feel snug. They wrap around the foot and hug them. The uppers have a very similar design to the previous model, and although they are breathable, they are also very thin. This makes them comfortable as they shield over the toes and foot, but they are subject to wear and tear.

Surprisingly, even with such thin uppers they’re warm when needed. At the same time, the GEL-Zaraca 4 can also cool down substantially well on hot days.

They live to their niche as neutral shoes, as they can stand the test to both warm, cold, and wet weather. Drying them takes far less than other shoes because of how easy air can circulate throughout the shoe – in my experience, one night of air-drying after being absolutely drenched led to a perfectly dry pair of shoes. Compared to the Zealot ISO, they’re a dream when out comes to horrible weather.

Their tread design and rubber make for a seriously grippy shoe. ASICS have made sure that these shoes can grab onto track, dirt, gravel, and pavement without trouble. Some of my best times in 2016 have came from running in these shoes. Puddles and wet patches are no match for the traction on these shoes, they just can’t seem to slip.

But wait – they aren’t made for the trails or harsh, uneven ground. Don’t expect as much grip in the woods!

They’re light and very easy to maneuver with. Foot control is something that these shoes have a big plus for. With foot control, it’s easier to bound up hills as you can flick your ankles quicker, driving more power with proper form.

Finally, the heel-forefoot drop in these shoes is apparent, but not a problem even if you have a problem with landing on your heels too much. Maintaining proper running form doesn’t require extra work, and with the lower height of cushioning compared to other shoes it feels more natural.

Cons:

The uppers haven’t changed since the last pair. I fear that someday they’ll rip during a fall or if my shoes catch on something during a run. This issue hasn’t been combated to the extent that it should be. Sure, it’s breathable – but ripped shoes are useless (and even more breathable, but that’s not the point!).

The rubber on the bottom grips very well, but there isn’t much of it. These shoes don’t last long compared to others. Soft rubber is nice while it lasts, though.

Some consider the use of a gel as a cushioning to be cheaply made, as it might not stand the test of time compared to other materials. The name obviously advertises the cushioning though, so if gel cushioning works for you, go for it!

One thing to note is that this shoe will rub the underside of the arches in your feet raw. At least, they will for the first couple weeks as you break them in. These shoes hug your arches, so be cautioned. If you come from shoes that have hugged your arches in the past, you might not have to deal with this as you’ll be used to it.

Lastly, the stack height is low compared to other shoes, so it might not be as comfortable for some – especially when it comes to landing on the trail or on your heels. The lower stack height allows for more foot control, but it reduces shock absorption. This is both a pro and con.

Wrap-up:

Pros:

  • Incredibly Grippy Tread and Rubber
  • Comfortable Upper and Cushioning
  • Ventilates Air
  • Form Fitting
  • Lower Stack Height
  • Allows Easy Foot Control
  • Lightweight
  • Low Heel-Forefoot Drop

Cons:

  • Weak, Unchanged Upper
  • Lower Stack Height
  • Thin Rubber
  • Rubs Underside of Arches
  • Low Heel-Forefoot Drop

The GEL-Zaraca 4 is lightweight, easy to use, very comfortable (after your arches get used to closeness), and have wonderful traction.

They are designed to work well for people with neutral pronation, but runners who do pronate should look for others shoes to get the most out of them.

Two features that are debated as to whether they are a con or pro are the low heel to forefoot drop and the low stack height. These both contribute to the shoes having less shock absorption, especially in the heel. For those that struggle with running form, these will either be a hard teacher or lead to potential injury. Proper running form is very important, and there are certainly variances to it that everyone has a unique style with – everyone has a different body.

With this in mind, the runners here at Runners Equipped would recommend this shoe to all running fans.

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Final Verdict of the ASICS GEL-Zaraca 4 Review:


Caleb Thompson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other Amazon stores worldwide.

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