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Shoe Review: ASICS Magic Speed 3 ($160)

By: Brian Metzler

What’s the newest trend in running shoes? Shoes with carbon-fiber propulsion plates designed for training and racing at mid-range paces. How new is the trend? Well, the vastly updated ASICS Magic Speed 3, which I describe in this review, hits running stores and online sites this week!

This revamped model utilizes a rigid carbon-fiber plate embedded in a midsole made of a soft, hyper-responsive foam. However, the Magic Speed 3 isn’t quite as light, isn’t quite as maximally cushioned and the plate isn’t quite as curvy as the ASICS MetaSpeed Sky+ racing model. It is nonetheless more durable, softer and arguably more comfortable, and it costs $90 less than the top-tier racing shoes. Ultimately, the Magic Speed 3 is part of the democratization of shoe technology trend, allowing middle-of-the-pack runners to enjoy high-end performance that is optimally appropriate for their paces. The bottom line is that if you’re a 3:30 or 4:30 or 5:30 marathoner, you can save a lot of money by investing in a shoe that’s going to help you get through your race better than a top-tier pro model shoe that costs $250.

What’s New: Several key improvements make the Magic Speed 3 one of the best updates of the year. The new version of this shoe has a full-length carbon-fiber propulsion plate (embedded in a two-layer FlyteFoam Blast+ midsole) that acts as a firm lever as the foot rolls forward to the toe-off phase of the stride. (The Magic Speed 2 had a slightly more flexible plate made from carbon-fiber and TPU and only a partial segment of FlyteFoam Blast+ foam.) The Magic Speed 3 also features the ASICS MotionWrap upper, which comes from its high-end racing models and does a better job of securing a wide range of foot shapes down to the chassis for better control and proprioceptive feeling for the ground. The bottom of the midsole/outsole has also been sculpted out more, giving it enhanced contraction/propulsion capabilities. The best part, though, is that the new version is also more than a half-ounce lighter than the previous version of the shoe.

Fit/Feel/Ride: The Magic Speed 3 fits true to size, but it has a medium-narrow interior volume and a fairly snug toe box. (You might want to consider trying on a half-size larger than your normal size.) The step-in feeling is sparse like a lot of performance shoes, definitely not soft and plush. It’s just as comfortable and accommodating as it needs to be, and that’s OK, because when you’re running fast in a workout (or racing long), you’ll notice that less than the efficient, quick-response action of the carbon-plated chassis. The ride of the Magic Speed 3 gives off a smooth, energetic and almost effortless rolling sensation with a hint of soft cushioning included in the mix. It’s very lively, and not excessively bouncy, but (fortunately) lacks the dramatic or harsh snappy feeling of some race-day shoes. For all those reasons it’s a happy medium between aggressive all-out racing and smooth, soft, controlled fast running at more moderate paces. Whether it’s a fast training shoe or your choice for racing is up to you.

Why It’s Great: It’s a fun, cushy performance training shoe that’s capable of fast tempo runs, long intervals and all sorts of racing. The full-length FlyteFoam Blast+ midsole provides a good amount of softness (especially when your foot hits the ground) that blends well with the forefoot responsiveness served up with the carbon plate. If you like the feeling of the semi-rigid nylon-plate of the Saucony Endorphin Speed performance trainer, you’ll appreciate the Magic Speed 3 for its similar soft, energetic flow, but also because it’s a touch more energetic. I’ll definitely use this for 5K to half marathon races, but I probably wouldn’t wear it for a full marathon.

ASICS Magic Speed 3 ($160)

Weights: 6.5 oz. (women’s size 8), 7.7 oz. (men’s size 9)

Heel-Toe Offset: 7mm (36mm in the heel, 29mm in the forefoot)

Why You’ll Love It: With all of the performance-oriented technology and features this shoe packs, the relatively moderate price tag of the Magic Speed 3 makes this shoe a steal of a deal. Seriously, it might have the best performance-to-price ratio of any shoe available at running stores right now. Yes, I understand that $160 isn’t pocket change for any of us, but compared to the high-end shoes that cost $100 more or the typical training shoes in the $150-$160 price range, this Magic Speed 3 is an amazing bargain.

Pro: The thin, smooth and soft gusseted tongue does a great job wrapping around the foot for a cohesive locked-down feeling with the slightly stretchy but reliably secure upper.

Con: The only drawback to this shoe is that it lacks versatility. Unlike the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 that I mentioned earlier, the Magic Speed 3 isn’t a do-everything shoe ideal for everyday training because it’s too rigid for slower paces and recovery runs. It feels great at moderate to fast paces, but it feels awkward at slow/easy jogging paces.


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