By Chris Edwards
This fourth version of the Asics Gel Game is the second version I've tested. I fell in love with the Gel Game 3, which was rather surprising, when testing a pre-production pair.
What I love about the Gel Game 4 is that it carries on the soft, comfortable, fast and supportive fit and feel I found in the Gel Game 3. What surprises me the most about this shoe is the level of on court performance it brings for its price.
We all know Asics for its popular top of the line Gel Resolution shoes. Below that, the Gel Challenger offers a great blend of support and durability at an attractive price. My attention, however, keeps getting pulled to the Gel Game series.
I've come to love the Gel Game 4 for many reasons. Those soft and comfortable uppers wrap my feet with a supportive and glove-like fit. My favorite aspect of these shoes is the supportive ride without a stiff feel. During matches my feet felt supported from heel to toe. I was able to cinch the laces securely without any need to really clamp them down like I've had to do with other shoes. There are times when a shoe with a stiff chassis means I have to over-tighten the laces to stop heel slippage etc, but with the Gel Game 4 the shoe flexes with my foot for a comfortable and supportive ride.
I also found the Gel Game 4 to be a very fast shoe, and a lot of that comes from the same flexible feel of the uppers. To go along with the flex up top, the Gel Game 4 offers a flexible chassis and a light and fast midsole and outsole. The resulting package is a shoe with an average weight of around 13.5 ounces (for a size 10.5 men's) that's definitely on the lighter side!
A healthy flex from the chassis of the shoe also means the outsole stays in contact with the court very well. Whereas a stiffer shoe may force the edges of the outsole to lift off the surface prematurely during a lateral cut, the Gel Game 4 offers ample flex to keep all of the rubber connected to the court surface. The result is superb traction. When starting and stopping or when making aggressive lateral cuts, the Gel Game 4 grabs the court well to help the player find all the traction he needs. As for me, I felt like I was moving at maximum speed in this shoe.
The downside to a soft and grippy outsole is often durability, and that was the case here. It is not unusual for me to blow through the outsoles of my tennis shoes, and I did exactly that in the Gel Game 4s. I would say the durability for me was comparable to Asics' Gel Solution Speed or Nike's Vapor 9 Tour. At the end of my month-long test I had worn through the outsole under my big toe on the right shoe. That is a very high wear area for me since I drag that part of my shoe on both serves and forehands. I was happy to get a month of play out of these shoes considering how light and fast they feel. I was also impressed that the level of traction I found remained solid even as the outsoles started to wear down.
Overall, I loved the Gel Game 3 and I'm glad the Gel Game 4 has maintained the same blend of comfort, supportive fit and feel. I'm also a fan of the black and orange colorway of the pair I tested. All too often, the more exciting colors are reserved for only the top tier shoes. It's nice to see cool colors on a sub $70 shoe. I liked them so much, I think I'm going to have to get another pair!