ASICS Metaracer Review – Key Specs
Weight: 250 grams (men's UK10)
Drop: 9 mm (24mm/15mm) [manufacturer numbers]
Colour: Sunrise Red/Black (Tokyo), White/Sunrise Red
Characteristics: ground-contact, carbon-plate, curved sole, breathable
I first learned about the ASICS Metaracer in March, at the beginning of those turbulent times we live in now, and got instantly excited about them. Remember, early 2020 was all about the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% and how it provides "unfair advantage" to its users. On paper, the ASICS Metaracer looked like it could take on the Vaporfly and might even come out on top in that battle.
Just by having a quick glance of the specs sheet, the ASICS Metaracer 'only' seems like a competent Nike Vaporfly alternative from an established running shoe manufacturer but thankfully, ASICS didn't just copy the Vaporfly-recipe. Instead, engineers and designers at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science built a fast road running shoe that hands the control back to the runner and builds on the foundations laid by the ASICS Metaride and Glideride models.
The result of the tinkering is one of the best running shoes I tried in recent times; definitely the best one from ASICS in the last 12 months. The ASICS Metaracer is fast yet fully under control of the runner, providing second-to-none ground contact in its category.
Asics Metaracer review: the tech
When it comes to tech, the ASICS Metaracer's most noticeable part 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 is only 15 mm away from the ground at the front and 24 mm under the heel in the Metaracer. Compare this with the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% and the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro, both shoes having a stack high of 39.5 mm.
Propulsion is provided by the carbon plate, embedded in the forefoot section of the midsole. The softness of the FlyteFoam midsole is ideal, coupled up with 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.
Whereas the stiffness of the Saucony Endorphin Pro diminished the integrated carbon-plate's propulsive energy, that's not the case with the Metaracer. The sole is not too flexible yet the ground contact feel is spot on, something I appreciated in Mizuno Wave Skyrise when I tested those shoes early 2020.
Asics Metaracer review: the ergonomics
After my recent running experience in the ASICS Novablast that uses the FlyteFoam Blast midsole, I was expecting high stack, very soft running shoe, but instead, the Metaracer surprised me with its low profile and the sensation of direct ground contact. Despite the foam being on the thin side – maybe not as thin as the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite (opens in new tab)'s 3 mm – it feels soft but not to a level where it might sacrifice stability.
The engineered mesh upper provides a goldilock-zone type fit: nor too tight, neither too loose, providing ventilation and comfort. I appreciate a tight-fitting racing shoe, such as the Hoka One One Carbon X, but admittedly, if you get hot and your feet expands during longer runs, they might get uncomfortable if they are not the perfect fit to start out with.
I went with a true-to-size option in the case of the Metaracer and found it perfectly apt for my feet. There is a little wiggle room in the toebox area but not as much so your feet would slide around in the shoes.
When it comes to padding, the Metaracer goes absolute minimalist: apart from the padded collar around the ankles, which is a thin strip, there isn't much padding going on elsewhere. This helps the keep the weight of the shoes to the minimum and thanks to the flexible upper, the Metaracer follows the shape of the foot extremely well too.
Asics Metaracer review: the aesthetics
I admit, whether or not you like the look of a shoe is entirely subjective but I think we can all agree that as far as running shoes design goes, the Asics Metaracer Tokyo is pretty damn handsome. The original Tokyo colourway, which was designed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (now 2021), is bright, energetic and has a retro feel to it.
The shape of the ASICS Metaracer reminded me of the classic running trainers from ASICS in the late 70s; the off-white/faint yellow colour of the FlyteFoam midsole further reinforces the retro aesthetics of the shoes. It's like the game Shovel Knight (opens in new tab): it makes you think it's retro but without it actually being horrible dated. Basically, dream-retro, with all the benefits of the era and none of uncomfort and lacklustre ergonomics.
The traditional lace-closure compliments the looks as well as the almost-smooth ASICSGrip outsole, coloured similarly to the engineered mesh. A brilliant design decision and a functional one too!
Asics Metaracer review: the verdict
The ASICS Metaracer is a brilliant road running shoe that combines sublime ground contact feel, impact force reduction and dynamic propulsion to create the best ASICS running shoe I tested in 2020 (maybe even 2019).
The FlyteFoam midsole is soft under the heels and lets you steer your feet effectively while the embedded carbon plate at the forefoot pushes you forward as you effortlessly cruise through your long distance runs, let it be a race or a tempo run.
The engineered mesh upper is flexible, following the contour of the foot closely and despite the minimal amount of padding involved in these shoes, the Metaracer is comfortable to wear and there is no sign of rubbing anywhere, even after longer distances. For the record, I haven't done a marathon-distance in the shoes (in one go anyway).
All this running-goodness comes assembled in an attractive package, with bright colours and a chunky-looking midsole that's further emphasised due to the contrast between the off-white sole and the bright-red upper.
These shoes are made for running and you will want to run in them as soon as you put them on. They might not be cheap but the ASICS Metaracer is worth the price and will delight your feet as well as make you faster on the road.
Recommended for: mid-to-long distance runs, tempo runs, race days.