When it comes to new running shoes, 2020 has had its fair share of impressive launches, but if there's one area that stands out as the defining focus for running shoe brands around the world, it's carbon plates. The Asics Metaracer Tokyo is one of the latest to hit the stores and it comes with its fair share of anticipation from us runners.
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There have been some winners and some losers in the quest to be the next carbon plate shoe to own, however, it's a goal that's far from easy to take on. For the most part, most runners associate carbon plate shoes with Nike's Vaporfly range, desperately hoping to find a new, superior option from one of the many brands entering the market.
Just because a shoe has a carbon plate doesn't mean that it's competing with the Vaporfly though. It's just one element of how a shoe is built. The Vaporfly isn't the best shoe at what it does purely because of the plate.
So how does the Metaracer fair in the increasing list of carbon plate shoes? We've spent a few weeks testing it out to see if it's worth your hard earned money.
Price: $200 | Weight: 190g/ 6.7oz (men) 168g/ 5.9oz (women) | Type: Road/Race | Stability: Neutral | Heel to toe drop: 9mm | Sizing: True to size but quite narrow | Alternatives: Hoka One One Carbon X, Saucony Endorphin Pro, Nike Vaporfly Next%, Nike Alphafly
There's no denying that the Asics Metaracer Tokyo is a nice looking piece of footwear. The launch model looks fast as soon as you take it out of the box and that bold colorway, both on the upper and the rubber covering the outsole, makes for one eye-catching shoe. But looks aren't everything. In fact, they count for very little when it comes to performance shoes.
The technology behind the Metaracer isn't all new, with many of the design features a progression from previous shoes that sit within the range, specifically the Metaride and the Glideride. The most significant aspect of the shoe which takes learning from those previous models is the Guidesole technology.
Guidesole is a design feature that is significantly more pronounced in the Metaride and Glideride. A curved rocker that rolls the foot forward with each step promoting greater running efficiency. It's both meant to reduce ankle flexion and provide more shock absorption, meaning there's less fatigue on the muscles and joints.
In those previous models, it's an acquired taste; some runners think it does an amazing job, others really don't like the way it forces the foot into a specific movement pattern.
As well as the carbon forefoot plate, the midsole is made from Asics' FlyteFoam, a material designed to offer bounce and responsiveness. This is covered by a generous layer of wet grip rubber for durability.
The upper of the Metaracer is a lightweight mesh built for breathability. Like most racing shoes, it's a thin perforated material that helps to both keep the weight down and help keep your feet cool when you're going at it full speed.
The fit is noticeably narrow, so for anyone with wider feet you may struggle with the shape, although we did find that the length was true to size.
The first thing you notice about the Metaracer is that it's not a Vaporfly alternative. In many ways, it actually resembles a racing flat instead of what most people would expect from the latest carbon plate shoe. That's not a bad thing β unless you want a Vaporfly experience.
Both the carbon plate and the rocker are barely noticeable, especially if you've tried the Glideride or Metaride, and you'll instantly realise that the Metaracer is purely designed for speed. At slower training miles it offers little in the way of cushioning or comfort.
When you start upping the pace, things start to become clear. The hard level of Flytefoam cushioning, the carbon plate and the rocker design kick in and you begin to feel the benefit, albeit one that's very subtle. For those who want a fast racing shoe but still need some light cushioning to take the edge off, it's a great option.
We tested the shoe from short speed sessions to half marathon distance training runs. At race pace, it delivers extremely well and for those who like their shoes minimal, it will probably deliver the goods up to marathon distance. For those need a bit more cushioning for longer races, it's probably best up to 10ks or even half marathons.
One of our favourite aspects of the shoe was the thick layer of rubber on the outsole. It's not often you find a carbon plate shoe that can be classed as durable, but after 70km of running the Metaracer is showing very few signs of wear.
The Metaracer isn't a shoe for everybody, especially if you're looking for a carbon plate shoe that has a lot of bounce and energy return. It's a shoe that fits closely with more conventional minimalist race shoes, offering a modest level of springiness and propulsion when you need it.
As an outsole rubber that has an impressive level of traction on wet roads, it's a durable shoe that we would expect will sit in your race arsenal longer than many of the shoe options with exposed midsoles.
Our main issue with the Metaracer, however, is the price. At $200 it's cheaper than options like the Saucony Endorphin Pro or the Vaporfly, but in reality, it's not a shoe comparable with those. It shares more similarities with more conventional racing shoes like the Adidas SL20, the Saucony Kinvara 11 or the New Balance Rebel, all of which come in significantly cheaper.