REVIEW: ASICS MetaRun


ASICS strikes me as a brand that wants to maintain that traditional feel in a running shoe. Indeed, their most popular racers in Japan, e.g. the Tarther Japan (one of only a handful of their running shoes still made in Japan, with the others being outsourced to China), have only undergone upper updates for >10 years. It is difficult to deviate from a formula that clearly sells. If you look at the shoe counts at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii over the last couple of years, ASICS has consistently come out on top, all this despite minimalist/maximalist trends.

A brief comparison:


2013
2014
2015
ASICS
17.5%
17.7%
17.5%
Saucony
16.5%
14.5%
14.3%
Hoka
1.9%
6.0%
11.6%



I can only imagine how hard it is to get funding to develop new technologies at ASICS, but they’ve done it. The MetaRun took two years to develop, which incidentally coincides with how long BASF and Adidas have had Boost on the market. In that process, they created two main new technologies: a new Hybrid Gel called X Gel, and a new midsole EVA foam called Flytefoam. They also introduced a carbon fibre medial stability plate and came up with a new one layer upper and a new heel counter. It is a support running shoe. I’ve now put in just a tad over 200km in this shoe, and here are my thoughts.

LOOKS

With the MetaRun, they have gone with a Black/Gold/Onyx colour scheme that exudes sleek elegance. I almost couldn’t bear to put it through its first run which happened to be on a rainy day. Despite the dark tones, the heel-cup does sport a multi-tone reflective fa├žade that should work well to reflect car beams in low light conditions. Despite quite a few wet runs in the shoe, the shoe seems to have lost none of its lustre, and the upper is easily maintained with a wet cloth.

WEIGHT

The Metarun in US9.5 weighs 310g on my scale, and that puts it in line with a Hoka Stinson Lite or a Brooks Transcend. That is probably the upper limit of what I would want to use for long or easy runs. At 310g, it is still lighter than the ASICS Kayano or GT2000 though and could potentially fill the gap between the DS Trainer and these stability trainers. 











UPPER

ASICS in general make pretty good uppers. I like their no-nonsense racing uppers in the Hyperspeed and Blazingfast, and the slightly elastic uppers seen in the latest DS Trainers were a big step in the right direction. With the MetaRun, they went with a single layer asymmetrical FluidFit upper with a perforated mesh appearance. I would categorize this as a medium to high volume shoe. The toebox is certainly roomy and maybe even just a tad long for its size, sort of like a cross between a Hoka Huaka (length) and a Lunartempo (width – if you size up 0.5). The midfoot arch structure is low as well and would be a good option for people with lower arches.


The heel counter is very plush, though I would consider this a high volume heel, and I did have some issues with heel slippage before adjusting the lace tension. After the first two weeks, I started to find that the heel padding was very snug and I pretty much didn’t think about it at all when I was running or hiking or just walking around in them. I take that as a good sign, because what you want is something you wear and forget it’s even there. That’s the hallmark of a good shoe. I don’t know if it’s the lacing tension bedding in, or the memory foam working its magic or just the overall foam upper just losing that initial new shoe stiffness, but it’s really nice.







RIDE

The MetaRun is a support shoe, by virtual of the carbon medial stability plate and the Duomax system on the medial side. Despite it being designed as a support shoe, I did not find that this impeded my running style in any way and I think this shoe could work for neutral runners, much like the Brooks Ravenna. One of the things I like about this shoe is that it feels lighter than it weighs. It is an ounce heavier than a Hoka Huaka or a UA Gemini but they feel like they are in the same weight range when shod. I had the same impression with the Brooks Transcend when it first came out. The Transcend 1 and the Glycerin 11 were roughly the same weight, but the Glycerin felt noticeably heavier and I think it might have something to do with the weight distribution of the shoe.

In my initial first impressions review over at www.roadtrailrun.com, I mentioned that I found the heel to be somewhat firm and a little too harsh for my personal preference. I have since found that I’m not alone in this respect, and Pris Chew (www.prischew.com) also found the heel to be quite firm in her review. The good news is that the heel does indeed soften up a fair bit after the first 60-80km and the overall flexibility of the shoe improves as well. The heel softness is now closer to a Brooks PureCadence type of feel. The downside, is that right now at the 200km mark, I am feeling less rebound and pop in the forefoot from the Flytefoam than when I first got it. I am still unsure if this is a result of the foam bedding in to its natural characteristics, or whether I prematurely wore it out due to excessive forefoot striking, as I was prone to do with this shoe, to avoid the overly firm feel of the heel. I do not see any significant signs of creasing in the FlyteFoam, but the initial bounce I got from it is dulled somewhat. As you can see, the majority of the creases appear in the thin black layer of foam. The combination of the softening of the heel and the changes in the forefoot feel have changed the overall feel of the shoe significantly for me. The heel to forefoot transition seems to have slowed and the overall feel is softer. It no longer gives me the impression of an uptempo shoe but more of a daily trainer, a la a Brooks Glycerin. This could be a good or bad thing for you, depending on what you are looking for. I’m more inclined to think that ASICS intended for this shoe to be used more as a premium daily trainer (given its price point). The new softer feel with slower transition certainly makes it much more pliant for long and easy runs but the downside is that I feel like I’m fighting the shoe a little more when I try to pick up the pace, compared to when I first got it.

DURABILITY

Durability is fair so far. I’ve used the shoe for runs mainly on tarmac, but I also did quite lot of walking both on road and on some rough trail over the past few weeks and the grip on the shoes is excellent. The main areas of wear appear to be on the outer lateral heel (which is typically a high wear zone for heel strikers) and some parts of the mid-forefoot (which is normal for me as I tend to pull my feel along rather than rely on a strong push off at the toes).
 I expect to get a couple hundred more KMs from this shoe before the outsole goes. Outsole durability was a bit of a concern for me when I first examined the shoes, because the shoe uses a lot of blown rubber, and in this case the blown rubber patches appeared to be especially soft and compressible, but overall it is not as bad as I expected. There is still good grip in the shoes.

PROSPECTS

People hoping for the technology to trickle down to other shoe models needn’t wait too long. At the recent “The Running Event” in Texas, RunBlogRun posted pics of a beautiful trainer on their Instagram page with #TRE2015. I have reproduced it here for you. 

photo credit: RunBlogRun Instagram

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