THOMAS: Old school meets new school in the latest carbon-plated race day shoe. ASICS history is well-documented. After all, ASICS founder Kihachiro Onitsuka may be the OG king of sneakerheads– after all, he laid the entire foundation for Phil Knight’s Blue Ribbon Sports.
There are a lot of Onitsuka legends out there behind his designs, including a suction cup outsole on basketball shoes after an inspirational meal of octopus. In any case, he went on to design the next revolution in running shoes, and if you were a runner in the late 1960s and ’70s, chances are you were wearing his shoes.
The ASICS METARACER is another chapter in the ASICS story, and another subheading in the current carbon-plate craze. Where other carbon-plate shoes rely heavily on the plate to stabilize high stacks of midsole foam, the METARACER mimics a more traditional style racing flat design. Point being, if you are looking for their version of a Nike Vaporfly, this isn’t it.
In short, the METARACER takes the traditional racing flat and elegantly infuses new materials and geometry to create a race day shoe that feels familiar and excitingly new at the same time. The METARACER is unique and different among racing shoes right now. But don’t get me wrong, it belongs on the same start line.
THOMAS: The METARACER is a stripped-down pure racer. A single layer of hydrophobic engineered mesh peppered with vents/holes ensures that this tiger is built to breathe. The paper-thin tongue is also as airy as a trailer park screen door.
You won’t find any extra materials or overlays weighing down the METARACER. In talking with the ASICS design team, the focus on keeping the foot cool is fully intentional. Cooler overall body temps lead to lower heart rates and better efficiency/economy. There is even a vent on the front toe of the shoe (it’s not a micro-USB port) that pays homage to an old Onitsuka design of the classic Magic Runner. (The other legend is that he had the idea of putting holes in a shoe after sitting in a hot taxi and cracking the windows open).
The midsole is the relatively new FLYTEFOAM and has a softness that I wasn’t expecting. The cushion feels like it might not be enough for 26.2 when you first start running, but that’s when the magic happens. It turns out it is the right amount of cushion to protect your feet and legs without being overly thick.
I initially was worried about having enough Flytefoam under the ball of my foot; however, the further I ran the more I noticed the flex and bottom-loaded plate kept the turnover quick and my legs feeling fresh. The GUIDESOLE technology had me landing behind the ball of my foot rolling off the toes.
ASICS claims this reduces the load on the calf muscle by 20% making the runner more efficient. The cushioning there is just right. You may have caught that I mentioned the “bottom-loaded” carbon plate. Most of the super shoes we are seeing have the plate sandwiched in foam. The METARACER has the plate on the bottom of the forefoot between the FLYTEFOAM and the outsole of ASICS GRIP and WET GRIP Rubber Sponge. The plate is shaped like a double-sided lobster claw and extends from the midfoot to the toe (smaller in the midfoot, larger in the toe). Essentially so there are cutouts allow the cushion to compress between the plate, softening the landing.
The outsole looks smooth, but it has teeth. The lower stack (but with a 9 mm drop) and secure footing will have you going into turns and accelerating through them.
The performance of this shoe is like a hybrid between traditional racing flats and the newer style of carbon plated marathon shoes. You don’t get the bouncy feeling that you feel in the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% or Saucony Endorphin Pro, but the shoe feels more nimble and stable. I did an 11-mile tempo run, 8+ mile hill workout, and some easy miles in the METARACER. The feeling I took away from all the runs was enjoyable. The light weight, paired with the quick toe-off, makes for some fun fast miles.
Also, the design of these is just pure classic Onitsuka. Wait ‘til you see the white and orange colorway coming to Running Warehouse.
MEAGHAN: ASICS designed the METARACER with the elite athlete in mind. It’s a fast shoe. The upper is exactly what you want for race day– minimal and very breathable. The thin mesh is sprinkled with air holes to keep your feet cool throughout the run. The simple lacing system locks the foot down and the structure through the heel and collar provide some extra support.
The GUIDESOLE technology (rocker design) paired with the carbon fiber plate gives this shoe its fast, smooth ride. As Thomas noted, the carbon plate is stuck between the bottom of the midsole and top of the outsole. It’s not nearly as noticeable as other carbon-plated shoes I’ve worn, and I’m guessing that’s due to the placement.
The FLYTEFOAM midsole material was much squishier than I was anticipating. I expected a firm ride, but it felt pretty soft out on the roads. I was also surprised by the amount of grip and traction the outsole provided. Even on the slick, wet roads around Baltimore, I felt confident picking up the pace and turning corners.
These shoes are crazy light! My W7.5 came in at 5.55 oz.Shop ASICS Metaracer – Men Shop ASICS Metaracer – Women
THOMAS: The only knock on the METARACER is more of a trade-off. With the minimal upper you lose a little bit of structure. At slower speeds I found the rear of my foot wanting to slide towards the medial side of the heel. Not necessarily bad, but I received a 10 to review and I am normally a 10.5. The 10 fits perfectly. You may want to try a half size down. I have narrow feet and a high arch so that could play a factor too.
MEAGHAN: The METARACER doesn’t quite work with my feet. My main issue was the softness underfoot, particularly on toe-off. I have wide feet (also bunions… I know, hot, right?) and my big toes felt sore when I got home from a couple runs. I am pretty sure this is a “me” issue, so don’t shy away from this shoe because of my unfortunate, misshapen trotters. Unless you also have those.Shop ASICS Metaracer – Men Shop ASICS Metaracer – Women
THOMAS: The ASICS METARACER has basically created a new category in the super shoe lineup. It isn’t trying to be like the others; instead, it’s staying true to the Onitsuka vision, but with a modern update. The shoe is definitely going to appeal to the runner that likes a hybrid between the past and the future.
If you find the stack on the other offerings too aggressive, you will appreciate the METARACER’s more stable feel. I was hoping to try the METARACER out at a local St. Paddy’s Day 5K, but the race was one of the first event casualties of the coronavirus. Hopefully, soon we will be able to all get together for races and show off all these sweet racers coming out in 2020. Pair the METARACER with the ASICS EVORIDE and or the GLIDERIDE to cover all your training needs.
MEAGHAN: The ASICS METARACER is definitely a top contender of the carbon-plated shoes. It’s extremely light, breathable and has a smooth, fast ride. This isn’t your super-cushioned race day shoe like we’ve seen with the Nike Vaporfly and Saucony Endorphin Pro, but something between those and a traditional racer. If you like more ground feel, but want the benefit of a carbon plate, I would definitely suggest this shoe.Shop ASICS Metaracer – Men Shop ASICS Metaracer – Women