The world of high-performance running footwear was rocked after Nike released its carbon-plate Vaporfly shoes in 2016. Athletes were setting lots of new records and personal bests, and pro athletes were clamouring to find a shoe that could compete, some even giving up on shoe sponsorships so they could pick whatever footwear they felt was fastest.
By the fall of 2019 there were a few different companies adding carbon-plate technology to their line ups. Triathletes got a glimpse of Asics’ technology in action in Kona that year – Jan Frodeno used an Asics prototype of the Metaracer to set a new course record at the Ironman World Championship. The Metaracer was released a few months later, and Asics no-doubt hoped to see athletes excel wearing the shoe at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympics got postponed for a year, which gave Asics’ scientists even more time to develop an even quicker shoe. Now the Japanese company that has a long history of Olympic success has upped the ante in the high-performance running shoe scene with the launch of two new shoes: the Metaspeed Sky and Metaspeed Edge. What makes these shoes different to the other carbon-plate, highly cushioned performance shoes on the market is that they take into consideration the particular styles different runners use. The scientists at the Asics Institute of Sport Science found that “the type of shoes powering the world’s fastest were only favouring one type of runner – STRIDE runners – those with a long-loping gait with large periods spent airborne who increase their speed by extending their stride length.”
But what if your running style is geared around turnover – what the Asics scientists describe as “Cadence runners?” This type of runner takes smaller steps and utilizes minimal up and down motion when they run. While they increase their stride length when they go faster, the main way they achieve quicker speeds is through faster turnover, or cadence.
Recognizing the two different styles, Asics has come up with two different shoes to accommodate their needs. The Metaspeed Sky is built for Stride runners, the Metaspeed Edge is designed for Cadence athletes. The company’s research has found that either shoe can “help reduce the number of steps for a runner to finish a marathon by over 1.2 per cent.” That’s huge for elite marathon runners, but could even be an even bigger deal for Ironman triathletes – taking fewer steps during a marathon in an Ironman would be a welcome break.
While much of the research and development of these shoes has been done on runners, the technology makes a lot of sense for triathletes who come from a variety of sports backgrounds. Being able to pick a shoe based on your running style could pay huge dividends, especially as the race distances get longer.
Completely new technology
As successful as the Metaracer shoes were for athletes like Frodeno, the new Metaspeed shoes feature a different approach to high-performance. While the Metaracer was designed to save energy at the ankle, the new shoes utilize a different approach to improving speed.
“Metaspeed is a completely new technology based on the idea of extending the stride lengths, an idea we had for a while which started to formalize about a year ago,” says Norihiko Taniguchi, Metaspeed Project Sub Leader, General Manager, Future Creations Dept., Asics Institute of Sport Science. One trait that has continued from the Metaracer is the structure of the upper, which is lightweight and breathable, but still manages to be durable.
Asics is obviously hoping that they’ll see some big results from runners and triathletes using these shoes in Tokyo later this year, but athletes running in prototype shoes have already enjoyed some success. Four-time Ironman World Champion Daniela Ryf wore a prototype of the Metaspeed to win Ironman 70.3 Dubai recently, running an impressive 1:16 half-marathon to easily handle the rest of the women’s field. Some elite runners have already dropped their times considerably in the new shoes, including Sara Hall, who set a personal best by 1:29 to become the second-fastest American woman marathon runner.
The Metaspeed Sky will retail for $325 and will be available on March 31 (men’s) with the women’s models available in mid-April. The shoe will weigh in at just 199 g for the men’s model and 165 g for the women’s version. The Metaspeed Edge is set to be released on June 4 and will also retail for $325. It’s a bit lighter, weighing 188 g (men’s)/ 160 g (women’s). They’ll be available at select running stores and on asics.com/ca.
Both shoes feature FF Blast Turbo Cushioning, a lightweight, bouncy midsole foam designed to generate compression and responsive toe-off. There’s a special curved sole design which helps reduce ankle flexion, thus conserving energy, while the full-length carbon plate helps with stability and driving the body forward. There’s an engineered mesh upper to keep the foot supported and comfortable, while the Asicsgrip outsole is durable and provides lots of grip.
We’ll have a more detailed review of the Metaspeed Sky once we’ve had a chance to spend more time in them, and the Metaspeed Edge once they become available.
The rest of the Speed Series
There are two other shoes in the Speed Series announced today designed with speed in mind that will no-doubt be attractive to triathletes – the Magic Speed and the Hyper Speed.
The Magic Speed will be available mid-May and will retail for $200. Using Flytefoam cushioning in the midsole to provide lots of cushioning and rebound, the Guidesole technology reduces ankle flexion to keep your stride smooth and reduces fatigue. With a 29 mm stack height in the rear and a 5 mm drop, you can’t help but move forward quickly. There’s a carbon plate that starts at the midfoot to provide support and help with toe-off. You’ll also get more wear thanks to the Ahar outsole that uses high-abrasion rubber to extend the life of the shoe. The Magic Speed weighs in at 255 g for the men’s model and 215 g for the women’s.
The Hyper Speed is another shoe likely to be popular with triathletes. It’s available now and will retail for $120. It features a higher stack height to provide more cushioning and, combined with the curved sole and 5 mm drop, makes it easier to roll forward to keep you moving quickly. The men’s shoe weighs in at 210 g, the women’s at 172 g.