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Asics Makes Its Super Shoe Debut With the MetaRacer Tokyo

The brand’s first carbon-fiber model is a souped-up, speedy racer aimed at improving running economy.

The RW Takeaway: The MetaRacer delivers a taste of sweet, springy carbon-fiber speed in a more traditional low-stack racing flat style.

  • The Flyte Foam midsole feels springy, moderately soft, and very responsive with slightly more cushioning in the heel than forefoot.
  • A rockered forefoot with a carbon-fiber plate minimizes excess ankle movement for more efficient, smooth, and propulsive transitions.
  • The engineered mesh is light and airy and vented well for exceptional temperature control and moisture management.

Price: $250
Type:
Road
Weight:
190grams (M), 156grams (W)
Drop:
9mm

Just when you thought Asics’s legacy was solely stalwart daily trainers, the brand surprises with the MetaRacer, its first carbon fiber-plated racing shoe. This Tokyo model is a limited-edition release of the standard model and dons a fiery neon upper to celebrate the 2021 Olympics city, but the rest of the shoe is unchanged. It pairs a rocker-style midsole with an aggressive toe spring that’s designed to help reduce excess movement of the ankle, saving runners some energy. That, plus a carbon-fiber plate in the forefoot, help improve your efficiency—quickening your pace wasn’t Asics’s priority. So, when you’re digging for that second-half speed in a marathon, you’ll still have some gas left in the tank to negative split. It helps that the shoe is radically light as well, weighing about the same as the benchmark Nike Vaporfly. “Normally, Asics’s cushioning feels way too soft for me—but these were comfortable to go 26.2 miles without being too cushy,” one tester said. “And wow, I felt fast—like I was ready to put a big race on my calendar.”


Pros

Versatile cushioning for racing 5Ks to marathons

Cons

Some testers found the toe box could rub the pinky toes

Aimed at Efficiency

The logic stands that when you’re moving more efficiently, you’ll have more energy available, and faster paces will naturally follow. That’s why Asics engineered the MetaRacer with better running economy in mind, rather than looking to boost speed directly. This distinct intention calls for a midsole construction that uses less cushioning and has a lower heel stack height of 24mm. Compared to Brooks’s Hyperion Elite (35mm heel), Nike’s Vaporfly Next% (40mm heel), or Saucony’s Endorphin Pro (33mm heel), the MetaRacer feels more like a traditional racing flat. More stable for tight cornering on race day or hugging lane-one turns during track workouts, it delivers an inherently nimble ground feel that doesn’t come with those other tall foam stacks.

Springy Midsole Isn’t Lost in Softness

Without that extra foam, the MetaRacer has a work-around to keep the ride soft and cushioned for a full marathon. The carbon-fiber plate is bottom-loaded in the midsole so it sits farther from the foot, right before the outsole. This makes it less noticeable on touchdown, where your foot immediately meets a thicker layer of FlyteFoam instead. While this material isn’t quite as soft and bouncy as Nike’s React foam in the Vaporfly Next%, it has its own advantages. Made of air pockets wrapped by organic cellulose fibers and durable Kevlar, FlyteFoam feels much more controlled underfoot with greater resilience to deforming and packing out early.

Rain on Race Day?

The upper uses a super airy and light engineered mesh to ventilate your feet as much as possible, and to help the shoe remain lightweight through rain and puddle-splashing. The mesh is treated with a hydrophobic coating to let water droplets bead off the outer surface, and a drainage port on the toe allows any water that seeps in to leak out swiftly. In keeping with Asics’s energy-saving midsole strategy, this helps the upper do two things exceptionally well. First, it keeps your feet cooler. (Any amount of overheating is a drain on your body’s resources that can make you less efficient.) And second, you stay lighter when you’re shoes aren’t soaked and hauling around extra ounces of water.

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