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Carbon-plate speedster: the Asics Metaracer

A close look at the fastest racing flat Ascis has ever made.

Asics launched the carbon-plate Metaracer at the end of March. A look at the company’s new flagship racing flat.

In the good ol’ days before there was a Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic (remember those?) we were all looking forward to the Olympic Games this summer. Those games, which will now be held a year later in Tokyo, are a big deal for Asics – the company is one of the partners in the Games.

Which is why it was really important for the company that it had a shoe that could compete with Nike’s Vaporfly – it wasn’t going to sit well if athletes wearing Nike shoes were going to dominate the podium in Tokyo. Asics was gearing up to pull out all the stops for the launch of its new shoe – the plan was to fly journalists from around the world for an “Asics Innovation Summit” in Tokyo in March to show off the company’s Institute of Sports Science and launch the new shoes.

As the world shut down, Asics had to shelve that plan, but came up with an alternate option to launch its new flagship racing flat. The company delivered Virtual Reality headsets to journalists around the world, providing a demo of the new shoes. As my wife and dog tried to figure out what on earth I was doing in our living room with the VR kit on my head, I was introduced to the new Metaracer in a truly unique way.

Jan Frodeno’s prototype shoes were kept in a display case leading up to the race.

Related: Frodeno’s Fast Footwear

I’d seen an early version of the Metaracer in Kona last year at Jan Frodeno’s pre-race press conference. Frodeno introduced a prototype of the new shoe, but it was kept in a glass display case. A few days later the German would go on to set a new course record in Kona wearing the shoes, running a 2:42:43 marathon on his way to a 7:51:13 finish.

The official shoe looks somewhat similar to the one Frodeno wore in Kona last year, but comes in a flashy Sunrise Red to symbolize the city of Tokyo and Japan. The Metaracer features a lower profile than many of its competitors and weighs just 190 g in a size 9.

The Asics Metaracer retails for $260.

One of the biggest advantages runners have touted with the carbon-plate shoes on the market, especially Nike’s Vaporfly models, has been how the shoes appear to conserve energy. The Metaracer continues with that trend – this is a shoe that’s designed with the last quarter of the race in mind. Where you might normally start to fade, you’ll feel like you have a bit more energy to get to the line.

That’s all possible thanks to the three-part cushioning in the midsole of the Metaracer. The first part of that cushioning system comes from Asics’ Guidesole technology, designed to promote efficiency.

“Guidesole gives the shoe a noticeable rocker, which improves a runner’s toe off, which in turn reduces the load on the calf muscle by up to 20 per cent,” says Canadian Running Magazine’s Madeleine Kelly, who had a chance to run in the shoe. “Less wear and tear on the body means less wasted energy, which makes for better times over the course of a marathon. The rocker pushes you forward, but doesn’t feel like it controls your movement. The rolling motion takes pressure off the big toe, which by extension, takes pressure off the entire chain of muscles.”

The second part of the cushioning system is the Flytefoam midsole. Asics uses Flytefoam in many of its shoes, but this is the lightest version of the responsive foam.

The final part of the midsole mix is the carbon plate, which runs through the entire shoe and gives the Flytefoam layer the structure it needs to perform.

One complaint we’ve heard about other carbon-plate racers is the lack of traction in wet conditions. Asics has covered that issue thanks to the wet grip outsole used on the Metaracer. The outsole is surprisingly thin (no-doubt helping to keep the weight down), but remains durable and becomes tackier as the ground gets wet.

It comes as no surprise that a shoe used to set a new record in Kona would be breathable, and the final version of the Metaracer maintains the breathable engineered mesh upper we saw in the prototype.

Triathletes face a challenge that road racers don’t typically have to deal with – they’re starting the run on relatively tired legs after swimming and biking – which is why a shoe that can provide a bit of a break to your legs is much appreciated. Asics appears to have done all that without an abundance of midsole material.

“It’s a very bouncy shoe that really does feel like it’s saving your legs from the forces of running,” Kelly says. “This shoe will especially interest those looking for a carbon-plated shoe, but who also want a relatively minimal stack height.”

This story originally appeared in the May, 2020 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada.