Monday, March 21, 2016

Guest Review: ASICS MetaRun: Vivid Energy Return, Adaptable. Smooth. A Well Executed Blend of New Technologies

Review by Giannis Papagiannis

Editor's note: All the way from Greece, the birthplace of the Marathon ,we are thrilled to present a review of the ASICS MetaRun by Giannis Papagiannis, an accomplished marathoner and ultra marathoner who has completed the UTMB and Sparathon among many others. Giannis is a co-owner of Pulse100 one of Greece's finest running and endurance sports stores.  Previously Road Trail Run published an initial impressions review by Derek Li of Singapore here. The MetaRun is not currently available in the US but is in international markets including from Pulse100.

As you may know, the ASICS MetaRun was recently released and very quickly drew the media attention due to the new technologies it ntroduced. So, it was more than natural, that Pulse100 was also curious to find out what’s so special about it and how all this new technology works in real-life!

Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis

Starting from our first view on MetaRun, it clearly refers to a typical ASICS stability shoe.
Looking at the midsole, we recognize the thicker Duomax foam under the foot-arch and the AdaptTruss system in the middle of the sole. This type of shank is a different construction in comparison to the Trusstic System, used in other ASICS stability shoes. The new one in MetaRun is surely more rigid, and the highlight is the carbon-fiber reinforcement, directly underneath the foot-arch, which definitely saves some more grams from shoe’s weight.

The new AdapTruss shank Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis

Just above this carbon-insert( the wavy weave), we see a plastic-lamination, which does not contact the carbon-insert. We assume that this construction provides more dynamic-rigidity characteristics to the shoe, meaning that as more pressure is applied, the greater the resistance of the construction. This all new construction gives MetaRun the ability to progressively adapt the supporting function based on type of foot-arch and running conditions.

   Plastic lamination and the gap from the shank Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis

The amount as well as the gel-quality (X-GEL) used is also different from other ASICS models. It seems that less gel and different types is used in MetaRun, placed in specific points of the shoe, mainly in the outer heel-part of the shoe (“landing-zone” for heel-strikers), in the middle of the heel-part of the shoe, as well as underneath the ball of the foot, which serves surely as extra protection and cushioning, but also improves the “windlass mechanism”, a natural mechanism that reduces overpronation. The new gel philosophy saves also some valuable grams.
One of the newest technology applied in MetaRun is the FlyteFoam situated underneath the sole. It is very soft and when pressed gives a clear energy-rebound feeling. Unfortunately we don’t have more detailed information on this, since the particular technology is brand new, but probably has little to do with the classic EVA. According to ASICS, it’s much lighter than the industry standard and it utilizes organic fibers inside in order to achieve greater elasticity after compression, which means more lasting cushioning even after many running kilometers (who doesn’t want this?!). Heel sole-thickness is 30mm and 20mm fore, which calculates into a drop (heel-toe offset) of 10mm, kind of standard.

The upper consists of a brand new, single-layer mesh material, without the outer reinforcements usually seen in other shoes. The material is sinternally reinforced, with differentiated construction in some parts and various openings for improved breathability.

Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis

The thickness of the tongue is not constant throughout its width, but it’s thickness is quite substantial. The internal memory foam lining in the heel collar looks like more “floating” than in other shoes from ASICS, which uses a more rigid form, especially around Achilles tendon. The heel counter (ASICS calls this new construction MetaClutch) is also brand new regarding its shape and it is more flexible. Finally, the laces are thinner than usual, relatively hard, but can slide smoother in the holes, offering a more uniform tightening around the foot.

The new heel counter MetaClutch Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis    

Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis

Detail: the laces are thinner in the part where they enter the holes but wider in the part where you tighten them.

Asics MetaRun. Photo Credit: Giannis Papagiannis
The weight as we measured it, is 302 grams in US 9.

Running the MetaRun…
Surely an objective description of all the technologies embedded in MetaRun is necessary. However, in order to capture the “feeling” when wearing the METARUN, we assigned John Papagiannis (a multi times Marathoner, an Ultramarathoner having participated in UTMB, Spartathlon, IRONMAN races, and an energetic regular in Pulse100!) to share his thoughts and METARUN-experience:

When you first wear the shoes the fit is perfect; you can feel as if foot-and-shoe are one, without any hint of pressure. It is like wearing a kind of foam-sock.
Even more appreciated was the soft feeling around the heel-area, something that many runners with sensitive Achilles tendons will definitely value!
After running the first kilometers, this “foam”-like feeling reduces in strength, so now you feel like wearing “your” shoe, ie a shoe that has somehow adapted to your foot.
Tightening the laces is done easily, without having much in mind to tighten them uniformly, since this is done very easy due to the thin and hard laces of MetaRun that gently slide into the holes. I usually don’t over tie my laces when running long distances and as a consequence sometimes they untie. That never happened with MetaRun.
The feeling after taking the first steps, is that you wear a light, smooth but also alive shoe! I could feel the FlyteFoam retreating under the body-pressure, whilst on lift-off I could feel a pleasant, alive feeling of energy return. I could almost sense every tiny material in the midsole sole “working” for me. In the beginning of every run I could vaguely feel the AdapTruss system. After running the first 2-3 kilometers, the AdapTruss feeling vanished, giving way to the initial smooth and alive feeling. During the first runs, the feeling of each and every material and aspect of the sole, lasted for the first 15-17 kilometers, after which the shoe responded uniformly. Run-after-run, the transition to a more-uniform feeling of the sole was reported earlier and earlier, so after running 60-70 kilometers the shoe was completely “run-in” and the uniform-feeling was there from the beginning of the run. This running-in period is completely normal. The different thing here is that till now the Asics shoes were run-in in shorter distances, for example for Nimbus, Kayano and Cumulus I would need only 20-30 kilometers to run them in compared to i.e. Mizunos where longer running-in distances are usually required.
Another characteristic of MetaRun is the positive feedback you get in every phase of foot movement during running, giving a completely different, new feeling compared with any other shoe I’ve run so far.
In landing-phase cushioning is very good, very smooth, reminding a lot of NIMBUS. I could feel a soft, but not extended, retreat of the sole on the heel-side. In MetaRun, the X-Gel works well giving a soft but, in the same time, rigid feel during landing (the gel-part doesn’t subside that much). The new thing with MetaRun is the feeling of elasticity, like having a tiny, soft spring under the foot. I have run with shoes which provide this feeling of elasticity (eg ON CLOUDSURFER) as well as with shoes that focus in cushioning (eg ASICS NIMBUS). The combination of these two characteristics is not seen often, but in MetaRun is quite clearly present and, indeed, very well balanced. I am not in favor of very soft midsoles and outsoles, because they tend to alter their geometrical characteristics. In extreme cases, you can even feel  the drop changing withevery step! MetaRun provides very good cushioning with a rigid feeling of the sole at the same time and all this in a very smooth way.
As soon as the foot progresses forward after landing, and more body-weight is set on the middle of the shoe, the same smooth feeling is here.
The most interesting part here is the adapting-capability of MetaRun to the runner’s special needs: during the stance-phase a supporting action on the left-foot (which is inherently slightly over-pronating) was felt during the run-in period and also seen in the video-capture. After the run-in period no “correcting” action was felt, whilst the right-foot felt the shoe like any other neutral shoe, since there is no inherent overpronation on this one.

Asics Nimbus 17
Asics MetaRun 

On lift-off-phase the energetic feeling is more than evident. I got a slight, soft energy rebound all the time. It was very positive that this rebound was well-balanced, not at all tiring or annoying while running-distance is cumulating. Not very common with shoes trying to give back energy, shoes that feel very nice in short distances, but tiring the runner at longer distances.  In toe-off phase (the last contact of the foot with the ground when the toes are propelling the body forward), when wearing other shoes with similar sole thickness as MetaRun and especially after the 26-28km of long-runs, I get a slight annoying feeling in metatarsal (classic nerve pain). In the case of MetaRun this feeling is absent up to now.
Proceeding from phase to phase, the shoe gave me a uniform feeling. No difference spotted from heel to toe. As easy as it sounds, this is not common-sense in running shoes. I often encounter shoes with altered characteristics from heel to toe.
Running short distances (intervals – tempo runs) with MetaRun strongly resembles a trainer shoe . This is mainly due to the positive energy feedback and “fast” feeling, as well as the relatively small shoe-volume. Although it’s not lighter than ordinary training-shoes, the feeling is definitely “light”.
In long runs, especially up to 25-26km, I didn’t notice any significant change on MetaRun’s behavior. After this point of running-distance, a very small reduction in cushioning was evident, common in the majority of running-shoes. However, the interesting element with MetaRun is this gentle, alive and pleasant feeling of energy-return, which not only stays mainly unchanged throughout the run, without creating fatigue (unlike other shoes with more vivid energy-return), but also contributes to maintain a steady running-pace during the hard parts of the run!
The outsole of MetaRun does not give the ideal traction in every running surface. I noticed very bad traction in wet asphalt and on the treadmill, average in dry asphalt and exceptional in slick surfaces, eg pedestrian plates and tiles. In track it performed also quite well.
Shoe-fit is impeccable, as if the shoe adapts to the shape of the foot! Laces are tightened easily and remain well-tight, providing a uniform fit all over the foot. Toe-box is spacious enough. Not the widest shoe I’ve ever worn, but due to the great elasticity of the newly introduced materials it never felt narrow or underdimmentioned. The softer plastic material as well as the memory-foam used in the heel-counter provides greater stability lacking any signs of overpressure.

In our first review “MetaRun First Impressions” we have stated that: “If you want to express with only three words the feeling when running with MetaRun, it is smooth, vivid and adaptive”.
After running 220-230km with MetaRun the three above characteristics are confirmed!
MetaRun is a light, long-distance running-shoe. It gives the runner a vivid feeling of energy-return, but still gentle and very smooth. Adaptability is also one of the main advantages of MetaRun, which provides a customized feeling to the runner regarding fit and tread. The only missing link is the poor traction quality on wet asphalt and treadmills.
It can definitely handle light to medium pronation, as well as most of neutral feet. The only thing missing now is to define its performance in heavier over-pronating feet.
New technology materials have been harmonically applied producing a uniform-superior quality product. We can remember past cases of similar “concept” shoes, which presented new technologies, but where more technological-platforms rather than good running shoes, trying to establish themselves as hi-tec products only price-wise. But this is not the case with MetaRun, which performs as a well designed, very well tuned shoe. MetaRun clearly demonstrates the fact that when new-age foams, like E-TPU and OBC, are successfully blended with classical EVA-materials, they can produce materials with outstanding combination of physical properties, not feasible till today!
It is a shoe that made us wonder how it would perform on even longer runs. As the training for the next ultra is starting in 2 months, we are tempted to see it’s behavior in these conditions, since we have the feeling that MetaRun can click the eye to the maximalistic competition!

Reviewer Bio

Giannis Papagiannis is a former track 400 m athlete, who discovered long distance running some 20 years ago. After then he has ran many marathons on road and in trails. Stepping over to longer distances he ran Greek 100 miler ROUT, UTMB, greek DOLIHO 160 miler and wanting to hurt his feet, SPARTATHLON. He has done also the ROTH ironman distance triathlon. As a mechanical engineer and a co-owner of Pulse 100 running shop, he is passionate about the technical properties of running gear and doesn’t miss a chance to test, running the mountains and roads of Athens. With two teenage daughters, he now needs to run even further!

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