Asics TartherZeal 3 Review

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The Asics TartherZeal is a remarkably light, well cushioned shoe with outstanding grip on asphalt. The main flaw is that the heel is much higher than the forefoot, creating an excessive drop. If you're transitioning from a more traditional running shoe and are okay with running in high heels, then the Tarther may suit you. I rate the Tarther "worth considering", and it would rate higher if it had less drop. Note that the Asics TartherZeal and the Asics Tarther Kainos are nearly identical twins, differing only in their uppers, with the Zeal being slightly lighter than the Kainos. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.) The Asics TartherZeal and Asics Tarther Kainos are nearly identical twins, differing only in their uppers. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Asics TartherZeal 3 top
Asics TartherZeal 3 bottom
Asics TartherZeal 3 inside
Asics TartherZeal 3 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. If you're okay with running in high heels, then this is an excellent shoe, combining good cushioning with light weight. Its grip on asphalt, even wet asphalt makes it a good choice for speedwork.
  • Cushioning . The Tarther has great cushioning for its weight, but the drop means that there's a lot more in the heel than the forefoot. The foam is Asics' Solyte, which is a lightweight EVA foam, combined with a Asics' Gel in the heel (a silicone based impact absorption material).
  • Drop. The Tarther has 9mm of drop when worn, which is way too much. I believe that running in high heels messes with your biomechanics, as well as biasing the cushioning to the rear.
  • Structure. There is no significant "arch support" to cause problems. The Tarther includes the "Propulsion Trusstic System" which is a plastic shank that links the forefoot and heel of the sole, which seems to be intended to create a little bit of a spring effect. I'm not sure it helps, but it doesn't cause any problems either.
  • Flexibility. The Tarther is reasonably flexible, as you'd expect for a lightweight shoe.
  • Outsole. The outsole covers all the contact patches, and the forefoot has hard plastic "nubs" that provide outstanding grip on asphalt. Shoes with this style of plastic nubs seem to be growing more popular, and they are awesome for speedwork, especially in damp conditions.
  • Shape. The shape of the Tarther does not match the human foot, and narrows in the toe box, and I'd recommend cutting open the toe box open to prevent toe problems. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is fairly thin, with no padding except a small amount around the ankle opening. The upper has some thin strips of plastic re-enforcement, but these shouldn't cause any pressure points. The open weave of the upper is highly breathable.
  • Tongue. The tongue is relatively thin, partly padded, and quite comfortable. It's not a thick plush tongue like you'd get on a heavier shoe, but it does the job nicely. The tongue design is traditional, with no attachments to the upper along the sides. It has a loop to attach it to the laces, and I found it stayed in place without any problems.
  • Lacing. The TartherZeal has traditional flat laces that stay tied.
  • Heel Counter. The heel counter is quite solid and it's a little larger than most. The edges seem quite soft, so I doubt if it will dig in to your foot. I'd classify it as "useless, but mostly harmless."

2 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

2.1 Asics TartherZeal and Asics Tarther Kainos

It seems odd that Asics would make two shoes that differ only in their upper. The Kainos looks like a far more modern shoe, as the reinforcement overlays are thin strips of plastic that are embedded into the upper rather than thick plastic or pseudo-leather strips that are stitched on. I much prefer the look of the Kainos over the Zeal, but the two uppers feel the same. The biggest difference is actually the weight, with the Zeal coming in just over half an ounce lighter. That's not a huge difference, but it's enough to tip the scales in favor of the Zeal. That said, unless you're concerned with the weight because you're choosing a shoe for a race, I'd recommend going for whichever is cheaper.

Asics TartherZeal 3 top
Asics TartherZeal 3 bottom
Asics TartherZeal 3 inside
Asics TartherZeal 3 outside
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 top
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 bottom
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 inside
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 outside

2.2 Asics TartherZeal and Saucony Kinvara

I classify both the Tarther and the Kinvara as good for transitioning away from traditional shoes like the Asics GT 2000. The Saucony Kinvara and the Tarther are close cushioning and helpful in this transition, but they are rather different in style. The Kinvara is a little heavier than the Tarther and doesn't have the outstanding grip, but the Kinvara has a much lower drop. If you're looking for a lighter shoe but maintaining the higher drop, then the Tarther is well worth trying. However, I'd recommend migrating to a lower drop shoe like the Kinvara.

Asics TartherZeal 3 top
Asics TartherZeal 3 bottom
Asics TartherZeal 3 inside
Asics TartherZeal 3 outside
Saucony Kinvara 6 top
Saucony Kinvara 6 bottom
Saucony Kinvara 6 inside
Saucony Kinvara 6 outside

2.3 Asics TartherZeal and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Tarther provides more cushioning and better grip for only slightly more weight than the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. If it were not for the excessive drop, the Tarther would be a strong competitor for the Hyper Speed. So the decision between the two shoes comes down to how you feel about running in high heels. If you're transitioning from a traditional shoe, then the Tarther could be an awesome shoe, but if you want something more natural, then stick with the Hyper Speed.

Asics TartherZeal 3 top
Asics TartherZeal 3 bottom
Asics TartherZeal 3 inside
Asics TartherZeal 3 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside

2.4 Asics TartherZeal and Hoka Clifton

The Tarther and the Clifton are not really competitors; the Clifton is about 30% heavier and provides massively more cushioning. If you're after cushioning then the Clifton is the best choice.

Asics TartherZeal 3 top
Asics TartherZeal 3 bottom
Asics TartherZeal 3 inside
Asics TartherZeal 3 outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside

2.5 Asics TartherZeal and Asics GT 2000

I tend to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 weights just over half as much again as the Tarther, but actually provides less cushioning. The GT 2000 has a more padded upper, but the comfort is not as different as you might think. What the GT 2000 does give you that the Tarther lacks is lots of over engineered attempts to manipulate your stride, attempts that The Science of Running Shoes indicates are all in vain. The main similarity is the drop; both are high heels.

Asics TartherZeal 3 top
Asics TartherZeal 3 bottom
Asics TartherZeal 3 inside
Asics TartherZeal 3 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Asics TartherZeal

How Asics TartherZeal compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Asics TartherZeal compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Asics TartherZeal compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Asics TartherZeal compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes


If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
Benefit Weight
Loaded Drop
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 8.3 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 7.2 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.