Running races will hopefully restart in 2021, and when they do, you will need racing shoes to smash that 10k or half-marathon PB. When it comes to the best running shoes for racing, arguably your best options are the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer. Both are excellent racing shoes on their own terms but have significantly different running dynamics.
The Vaporfly needs no introduction: only a year ago, before the Tokyo Olympics got postponed, there was a lot of debate around high-stack running shoes (ignited by the Vaporfly’s success), with some groups saying that the shoes provided an ‘unfair advantage’ to runners wearing them on races.
The ASICS Metaracer was released ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, but while the Vaporfly created a thick barrier between the runners’ sole and the ground, the Metaracer successfully reconnected athletes with the running surface thanks to its more flexible sole.
Two very different speed merchants, then, but which is the best choice for you…?
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer: Tech
With the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, form indeed follows function. The key component is the ZoomX foam, the updated version of the Zoom foam used in the original Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. Embedded in the ZoomX foam, you'll find a full-length curved carbon fibre plate that provides propulsion as you kick forward. The Vaporweave upper is a lightweight woven mesh with moisture-wicking properties, and an asymmetric lacing system helps eliminate the need for an arch band – helping to relieve pressure on the top of the foot.
The most noticeable part of the ASICS Metaracer is the Guidesole, a curved outsole that sits very close to the ground yet provides cushioning and plenty of bounce. According to official stats, your feet are only 15 mm away from the ground at the front and 24 mm under the heel in the Metaracer. Compare this with the 39.5 mm stack height of the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%. Propulsion is provided by the carbon plate embedded in the forefoot section of the midsole. The softness of the FlyteFoam midsole complements the carbon plate; the soft midsole helps the plate bend and bounce back to shape, giving you a bit of a push at each stride.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer: Design
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is a genuinely unusual looking shoe with strange angles, asymmetric design and – especially in the case of the Ekiden Edition – a purposefully odd colour scheme. They might not be the most gorgeous looking shoes, but the bizarre aesthetic will undoubtedly make you stand out from the crowd if that’s what you want.
Whether or not you like the look of a shoe is entirely subjective, but we can all agree that the Asics Metaracer Tokyo is pretty damn handsome as far as running shoe design goes. The original Tokyo colourway, designed for the Tokyo Olympics, is bright, energetic, and has a nice ‘retro’ feel: the off-white/faint yellow colour of the FlyteFoam midsole further reinforces the throwback aesthetics of the shoes.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer: Running performance
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% don't feel like running shoes, more like trampolines strapped to your feet. They roll and bounce to enable runners to keep on going for longer without wasting energy in the process: no wonder people think they provide an unfair advantage. Some energy is lost but far less than using other, less efficient running shoes. The shoes might not be ideal for pronators, given the narrow bridge between the heel and the landing platform at the front.
The Metaracer lets you stay close to the ground and provides a superb ground contact feel. Despite the foam being on the thin side, it feels soft but not unstable. The engineered mesh upper provides a goldilocks-zone type fit: not too tight, neither too loose, providing ventilation and comfort. The Metaracer uses minimal padding, which helps keep the weight low, and thanks to the flexible upper, the Metaracer follows the shape of the foot exceptionally well.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% vs ASICS Metaracer: Price and availability
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% is available at Nike and selected third party retailers for a recommended retail price of £239.95 / $275.
The ASICS Metaracer is available at ASICS and selected third party retailers for a recommended retail price of £180 / $200.
Both shoes can be bought at sportshoes.com.