By Brian Metzler
ASICS was a little later to the carbon-plated road racing shoe scene, but it has caught up quickly. Its original Metaracer and Magic Speed shoes with carbon-fiber plates contributed to podium finishes for its elite racers, but those felt more like traditional, low-to-the-ground racing flats. However, its more maximally cushioned and stride-differentiated Metaspeed Sky and Metaspeed Edge shoes have led to breakthrough performances for pros and age-group athletes and put ASICS on the same level as Nike and Adidas among elite racing shoes. The Metaspeed Sky+ and Metaspeed Edge+ are the newly released updates that will be worn by several elite marathoners in the mid-July World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon, including Americans Sara Hall and Emma Bates. (The Metaspeed Sky+ is designed for longer-striding runners, while the Metaspeed Edge+ is meant for runners with a shorter, quick-cadence gait.)
What’s New: The updated Metaspeed Sky+ and Metaspeed Edge+ both have thicker FlightFoam Blast Turbo midsole, a new, more pliable engineered mesh upper and adjusted positioning of the carbon-fiber propulsion plates. While analyzing stride data from thousands of runners, ASICS determined the stride style runner needed the plate to be placed higher, to allow for the greater compression of the foam during toe-off to gain higher bounce. The cadence style runner needed the plate to be lower and more forward to facilitate maintaining the tempo and promote easier roll-forward motion. The Metaspeed Sky+ has 4 percent more foam in the midsole, while the Metaspeed Edge+ has 16 percent more cushioning. Both are cushy shoes, but it’s the location of the foam relative to the position of the plates that is the differentiating factor for each gait style.
Why They’re Great: Both of these shoes have a featherweight vibe with a softer, cushier and more energetic ride for each type of gait. The carbon-fiber plate in each model contributes to the maximal energy return by working with the natural motion of each stride style and the hyper-responsive characteristics of the Flightfoam Blast Turbo. That leads to the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer periods of time with greater efficiency and less fatigue.
Fit-Feel-Ride: Both the Metaspeed Sky+ and Metaspeed Edge fit true to size with a medium-volume interior, but with a decidedly narrow heel and a slightly wider toe box. The one-piece engineered mesh upper features what ASICS calls MotionWrap Technology, a perforated fabric construction that provides a bit of comfortable and accommodating stretch, structured support and optimal breathability. The interior feeling is comfortable, but it’s not excessively plush and instead more sparsely appointed like most racing shoes. Both shoes have a rocker geometry, but that tipping point comes sooner in the Metapeed Edge+ than it does in the Metaspeed Sky+ based on the different gait patterns each one accommodates. The ride of the Metaspeed Sky+ feels lively and very bouncy, while the ride of the Metaspeed Edge+ feels energetic but in a more contained way that promotes shorter, snappier strides.
Why You’ll Love It: ASICS isn’t the first brand to differentiate stride styles in two different racing shoes (Nike did it with its Vaporfly Next% 2 and Air Zoom Alphafly), but if you find the shoe that works for your particular gait pattern among these two models, you’ll really be able to get into an almost effortless rhythmic groove at faster paces while racing 10Ks, half marathons or marathons. Aside from racing, you’ll love the Metaspeed+ shoes for tempo runs and long runs.
Weights: 6.2 oz. women’s 8; 7.2 oz. men’s 9
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (33mm in the heel, 28mm in the forefoot)
Weights: 6.4 oz. women’s 8; 7.4 oz. men’s 9
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (33mm in the heel, 25mm in the forefoot)
Pro: The major updates made to the plate, midsole and upper of the Metaspeed Sky+ and Metaspeed Edge+ are performance-oriented improvements that turned two very good racing shoes into exceptional, top-tier speedsters.
Con: The only red flag with these shoes is making sure you get the right shoe to match your gait style. If you get it wrong, you’ll feel horribly inefficient and out of sync, especially when running at race pace. Also, there’s no point (or benefit) of running in either of these shoes at moderate or slower speeds.