Asics makes its super shoe debut with the MetaRacer Tokyo

Morgan Petruny
·5-min read
Photo credit: Lakota Gambill
Photo credit: Lakota Gambill

From Runner's World

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

  • The FlyteFoam midsole feels springy, moderately soft, and very responsive with slightly more cushioning in the heel than the forefoot.

  • A rockered forefoot with a carbon-fibre 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: £180
Type:
Road
Weight:
6.7 oz. (M), 5.5 oz. (W)
Drop:
9mm

Buy Men’s Buy Women’s

Just when you thought Asics’s legacy was solely stalwart daily trainers, the brand surprises with the MetaRacer, its first carbon fibre-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-fibre 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.'

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.

Photo credit: Lakota Gambill
Photo credit: Lakota Gambill

Springy midsole isn’t lost in softness

Without that extra foam, the MetaRacer has a workaround to keep the ride soft and cushioned for a full marathon. The carbon-fibre 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 fibres and durable Kevlar, FlyteFoam feels much more controlled underfoot with greater resilience to deforming and packing out early.

Photo credit: Lakota Gambill
Photo credit: Lakota Gambill

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.

Photo credit: Lakota Gambill
Photo credit: Lakota Gambill

What Our Testers Said

Kit Fox | Special Projects Editor
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot

“Simply put, these shoes feel fast, super light, and springy. My favorite aspect was the fit. In racing shoes, I typically find that the insides of my feet (which are pretty wide) hang out over the sole. Not so in the MetaRacer—these were the most comfortable and best-fitting carbon-fiber shoes I have worn yet. Compared to Nike’s 4% shoe, the MetaRacer felt much less aggressive, meaning that this shoe doesn’t rock to the forefoot as much. As a mid-foot striker, I found this to be a slightly better—albeit less springy—ride. The MetaRacer doesn’t have the hype that Nike gets with its carbon-fiber family, but I really think these shoes are solid, fast, and will consistently be underrated.”

Chris P. | Tester since 2020
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot

“I loved this shoe’s upper. It breathed very well, only had padding where absolutely necessary, and felt very locked in. I often times have some heel lift on road shoes and experienced none of that at all. Even in wet conditions I had tons of support—no heel slip, no side-to-side movements. It also had been raining a fair amount lately and these shoes drain so well. They almost didn’t feel wet even when soaked; no squishy, wet shoes here. For my preference, the cushioning was just perfect—not too much, not too little. It’s on the firmer side compared to the Nike Pegasus I wore in the past, but Asics found a nice balance here. I wouldn’t hesitate to go for a 5K PR in the MetaRacers, but I’d also run a marathon in them.”

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