Wednesday, February 27, 2019

ASICS MetaRide In Depth Review: Rock n' Roll to a Max Cushion, Zero Drop Beat!

Article by Sam Winebaum


ASICS MetaRide ($250)
Introduction
After 2 years of effort, scientific studies at the ASICS Institute of Sports Science, 3d party analysis, seven prototypes and over 70 tested samples, ASICS launches the innovative MetaRide. Yes, while there is still ASICS' patented GEL in the mix but now in a new thin asymmetrical heel insert, the MetaRide is unlike any previous ASICS trainer or for that manner any heavy duty trainer I have tested.
It is a zero drop shoe with a stiff sole and a pronounced forward rocker. The MetaRide is superbly crafted, durable, and while not light at a touch over 11 oz. fun and easy to run.
The shoe, the first in a line of three expected over the next year, is scientifically designed via its patent pending GuideSole technology, a precision curved sole to:
  • Reduce the energy taken away on heel strikes
  • Improve propulsion by optimizing efficiency (primarily for heel strikers) by keeping the angle of ankle dorsiflexion ( flexing ankle up) and plantar flexion (flexing toes down) constant during the gait cycle with a stiff sole while using the significant forward rocker to propel toe off. The idea is to reduce energy loss at the ankle joint and shift the body forward. Initial studies show a reduction of ankle joint energy loss of 19% vs. conventional shoes in the category. 
  • Move the center of mass further back than normal so as to reduce the pendulum at the rear leg and thus the effort to swing the rear leg forward to next stride.
The official press release announcing MetaRide with details on the technology is here
Does it work in practice with a 40-50 mile per week older runner whose training is in the mid 8 to 9 minute pace? I ran about 40 miles in MetaRide the last couple of weeks to find out. Read on to find out more.

PROS
  • Smooth, consistent easily repeatable gait cycle with effortless toe off from rocker
  • Superbly fitting and performing knit upper. Pure class!
  • A very well cushioned, dense, stable and responsive ride without any shock. No mushiness, no harshness and no discontinuous feel as often in ASICS or other such heavier trainers.
CONS
  • Weight & price are both heavy but this is a spectacularly crafted and I expect it to be a very long lasting proof of concept shoe with a massive amount of cushion from its 31mm stack.
  • Midfoot underfoot on the medial side, in a departure for ASICS known for its rigid Trussic plastic is a bit soft, creating a very slight hitch in transition to the rocker 
  • Forefoot feel is a bit firm ,thin feeling way upfront. A bit of final toe-off flex needed?
Stats
Estimated Weight: men’s 11.2 oz US 9 /  317 g US9, women’s 8.9 oz / 252 g US W7
Sample Weight: 10.8 oz / 306 g US M8.5
Stack Height: 31mm / 31 mm, 0 drop
$250. Available February 28 at asics.com, Running Warehouse here and select run speciality stores.
Watch our YouTube Review 

First Impressions and Fit
MetaRide is massive in appearance with a beautifully sculpted and colored midsole profile with fluid lines echoing the promised ride, a stunning shiny all red outsole and a classy upper. It is a very distinctive shoe top to bottom.
The step in feel particularly the resounding thunk when you slide the heel in is most pleasing.
The fit is true to size for me and with various thickness socks. The knit upfront stretches vertically while retaining shape horizontally with less stretch, to accommodate I expect a wide variety of foot shapes. Basically the upper disappears on the foot and my occasionally troublesome bunion was most satisfied.,
Upper
The upper is made of a soft circular knit with the only overlays the classic ASICS Tiger logo.
The top of the toe box is very stretchy with the sides and toe bumper a considerably denser knit with less stretch, the white vertical lines highlighting the denser areas which extend to the mid foot as well providing very compliant seamless feeling support front to back. There are no stiffeners in the toe box beyond the knit. As such we think this shoe will fit a wide range of feet extremely well. We tested with both thin and thick socks and had an equally fine foot hold. Overall this is the best and most effective knit upper we have ever tested.


We have been frequent critics of the overbuilt rear of ASICS shoes with their high ankle collars and overdone METACLUTCH external exoskeletons.


In the MetaRide, while ASICS did not lower the ankle collar they made the achilles collar more rounded and slightly broader than say that of the Nimbus 21. The foot slides in with ease and then a resounding thunk as it settles below the collar. The rear hold is far more comfortable yet equally as secure. But there is more actually affecting the run feel to the rear of the shoe.


The exoskeleton is asymmetrical with the lateral side rising not as high as the medial side.
Lateral side (shown above) rises not as high as the medial side (shown below). The higher medial side exoskeleton provides some early pronation support.
The wings rise towards lace up and forward in the direction of travel instead of pointing downwards as in the Nimbus 21. The result is great support but not a straight jacket at the rear of the shoe allowing the foot to flow forward.
The achilles and ankle collars are well and softly padded with the padding tapering thinner along the ankle and matching very well with exoskeleton wings. The tongue is soft but not overly puffy.
MetaRide is very easy to lace just right with no pressures. The upper wraps perfectly with the lace throat only slightly more substantial than the upper itself and has its third lace hole offset further down the upper for some additional support.  The laces themselves have some very subtle raised or denser fibers dots in their knit (yes looks like knit) which provide a great non slip grip and hold throughout the run even when the shoe is wet as I found out on several runs.


Midsole
The midsole and its geometry is clearly the big innovation. The MetaRide is a completely stiff zero drop shoe with a pronounced rocker for the reasons described above. There are no plates or plastic pieces in the mix, It is massively cushioned at a 31 mm of stack but in no way mushy and on the run is smooth and responsive despite the shoe’s weight and stack height. The effective drop feel for me is somewhere between 4-6mm.


There are three midsole materials in the mix.
Below the foot a layer of FlyteFoam, the black highlighted red above, a resilient foam used in many recent ASICS. Below the top FlyteFoam a layer of FlyteFoam Propel a somewhat bouncy foam also found in the Nimbus but in the inverse order at the heel there with Propel as the first layer. ASICS famous shock absorbing GEL is still in the mix with the new very thin RearFoot GEL insert between the top FlyteFoam and Propel at the heel. It is totally effective in reducing shock and not in the way or noticed as a separate layer or element as is often the case with GEL for me.
The The FlyteFoam Propel layer of the midsole is highly beveled especially at mid foot  where it is also sculpted out. I think this bevel contributes to reducing weight and making the relatively dense and firm layers shock free and also stable.
The Rearfoot GEL is asymmetrical with a longer insert of the lateral side (photo above) than medial side (photo below).
Unlike any previous ASICS trainers I have run in recent years the cushioning feel at the rear of the shoe is completely seamless, extremely well cushioned, stable, totally shock free even with almost all my test runs at temperatures below freezing, quite dense in feel and decently responsive. There is no disjointed feel between layers.


In addition to the pronounced front rocker a key feature in the smooth easy transitions of such as massively cushioned stiff shoe, and I believe essential to moving towards that rocker in a repeatable easy to find way, is the 3D Guidance Line.
It starts a tunnel at the rear to help decouple the heel.
The tunnel then goes through the midsole extends all the way to the midfoot where it emerges and joins a deep wide decoupling groove running all the way to the front of the shoe. The result, in combination with the rear center of mass, is an extremely easy and smooth transition for such a massive stiff shoe.


In my call with ASICS where the shoe was presented to RoadTrailRun by Westin Galloway - Global Product Line Manager for Performance Running and AJ Andrassy - Global Director, Performance Running Footwear, I asked about the distinctive hole through the mid foot.
Turns out it is intended to reduce weight and also provides a visual design highlight. I welcome the weight reduction and the approach stands in sharp contrast to other ASICS shoes which very often have a rigid plastic Trussic piece for midfoot stability. I say good riddance to that in neutral shoes for sure but here while the arch of dense FlyteFoam provides some support I notice a very slight hitch on the medial side, a slow down in transition from essentially what is the softest least structured part of the midsole. While FlyteFoam is a very resilient dense and cushioned foam, it is relatively heavy. I wish ASICS could get some of  the weight reduction and then some from lighter more modern foams. For example, the equivalent 31mm stack zero drop Altra Duo weighs close to an ounce less.
Outsole
The outsole is made of a new proprietary compound  called ASICS Grip. It is formulated to be highly durable and light.
The material is very tacky with a distinct sticking sound which was noticeable on wood floors and on the road. In no way is this a slapping sound often found in stiff shoes. On the road it actually provided a metronomic audio input I found pleasing and useful.


Traction on dry and wet pavement, and even the always tricky wet road paint, was superb. Traction on slushy snow given the relatively flat profile and the rocker was scary poor especially where the rocker begins.
The outsole durability about 40 miles in has been superb. My usual high wear spots at the heel are barely scuffed with zero wear. Very unusual.  This outsole likely will last well, well over 500 miles for many runners.


Ride


There is no mistaking the MetaRide for a performance trainer and more moderate paces are its forte but...the MetaRide sure is smooth and easy to run for such a massively cushioned and heavier shoe. The zero drop was hardly noticed but clearly this is not the usual 10mm or more ASICS. My 35 miles in the little more than a week I have had them have gone by with ease at a variety of mostly slower paces down to about 9 minute miles. The week of training totaled 50 miles including a ten mile race and I used the MetaRide for all my slower runs that week. My longest run was about 8 miles.


As promised, the constant ankle angle and particularly the rocker up front produces a stable, well cushioned and easily repeatable gait cycle.  While a completely different shoe for a different purpose, the drop down and forward to toe off reminded me a lot of the Nike Vaporfly and Zoom Fly although there there is no rocker in the Nike. They have a stiff, curved carbon plate sloping down to just above the outsole sandwiched in soft bouncy and less stable overall foam, so both more suitable for racing than every day training for many runners, unlike MetaRide


The weight of the shoe was only really noticeable towards the end of longer runs.  I do wish the shoe was a solid ounce lighter. The zero drop is effectively less pronounced than many low drop Altra because of the dense rear cushioning and full coverage superb outsole not compressing. Quite frankly,  if I did know otherwise. MetaRide felt like a 4mm or even greater drop shoe as the heel just didn’t collapse with forces and I got forward quickly. The decoupling tunnel, rocker and finally the rear center of mass for the rear leg swing  had me moving me off the heels to toe off then to the next stride quickly at any pace, even very slow ones exactly as intended.


Conclusions
ASICS is shaking things up (at ASICS and in the run trainer space) with the MetaRide. The teams at the new design studio in Boston and at the ASICS Sports Institute in Kobe, Japan took the bold step to create something really different here using a bio mechanically inspired and innovative design focused on reducing heel strike energy loss, an efficient and dynamic propulsion phase using the rocker and by locking ankle angles at their optimum from landing to take off with the stiffness of shoe,and finally the swing phase with the mass concentrated further back than normal.  

While concept shoe pricey in this first model in the series (follow on models to be lower priced), I think the design accomplishes the goal of creating a no compromises, smooth running, highly cushioned yet also responsive heavy duty trainer which stride after stride stays consistently and efficiently in the line of travel. It is a very fluid “ride” echoing its visual design cues. It has the most effective easy to run rocker in a max stack shoe I have ever tested. GEL is still in the mix and well implemented to reduce shock while the ASICS trademark “clutching” rear of the shoe hold is refined and is now no longer what often feels like a stiff straight jacket.

Not merely an underfoot platform with upper as afterthought, the circular knit upper is superb in its comfort and security. Time will tell but the tacky outsole may be one of the longest lasting ever created.

If your preference is for highly cushioned and highly protective daily trainers but you have found other options boring and cumbersome to move along consistently and fluidly to toe off and want a shoe with some spark, particularly at slower paces Meta Ride is for sure a great new option to consider.

If you are neutral runner or mild pronator who is rough on all or any including the midsole, outsole, or upper and want what should be a super durable, and beautifully assembled package, the MetaRide may be a great option.  

Finally if you are a fan of the new and special in running shoe tech and design the MetaRide is a worthy addition to your collection. But please make sure you run them!

Sam’s Score  9.6/10
I am not deducting for price here. You absolutely get what you pay for: superb and effectively executed design and materials, an innovative new approach,  and I expect very long durability l from upper, to midsole to outsole.
-0.3 for weight. Lighter foams please. If ASICS can create that incredible outsole they surely can create lighter yet still resilient foams as well. At 10 oz. the MetaRide would be a home run.
-0.1 for some ride tuning.. The somewhat soft mid foot platform at the see-through hole puts a tiny hitch in transitions felt on the medial side. Yes, it does save weight and looks cool but…The forefoot is a bit tiring and a touch firmer than the heel area and could be softened or maybe have a touch more toe off flexibility at the very front. The stiffness at very front of rocker may be what I am feeling.


Comparisons
GEL-Nimbus 21 (RTR review)
I’ll take the slightly heavier MetaRide its the far more fluid ride, more consistent feeling cushion and considerably easier toe off  especially at slower paces. What does that weight also get you? 3mm more heel stack and a whopping 13 mm more front stack although it does taper dramatically towards the toe. The hard part..the $100 difference in price...
ASICS MetRun
We did not review the MetaRun. Priced identically it is a 10mm drop shoe with a lower forefoot stack and with some pronation control from a Duomax midsole and a carbon Trussic plate. I would expect the MetaRide to run far more smoothly and easily but if you really, really need pronation control MetaRun is the premium option from ASICS.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 (RTR review)
The Paradigm is about 0.5 oz and has a similar stack height at 30mm, zero drop.
It includes some light stability elements which the MetaRide does not have and it has no pronounced rocker making it noticeably flatter on the ground and not as easy to transition. It's EGO midsole is bouncier and softer. Overall the Paradigm is less responsive and dynamic.
Saucony Triumph ISO 5 (RTR review)
A heavyweight bout! At a touch heavier yet the Triumph has a slightly bouncier and softer Everun midsole and is clearly more flexible. All of our reviewers even those who shy away from big shoes loved the ride here. It’s upper while mighty fine is not quite the smooth polish of the MetaRide’s. The MetaRide has more dynamic performance oriented ride and if price is no object would get a slight nod.
Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit and Vaporfly (RTR review)
Completely different weight classes here with MetaRide getting towards twice as heavy. Why the comparison? They all share a drop down and forward to toe off feel. The MetaRide could be a good recovery and easy run compliment with far more stability to the Nikes.
adidas Energy Boost 2017 (RTR review)
The similar weight Energy Boost is another shoe with a center of mass towards the rear, the way rear with its overhanging midsole and shares similar 30mm plus rear heel stack. Unlike the MetaRide it is a 10mm drop shoe. At slower paces the softer Energy Boost is hard to get off the heel, unlike the MetaRide, and at faster paces while bouncy it is less responsive. It’s overbuilt upper and approach to an exoskeleton at the heel is crude in comparison and not nearly as of a piece or comfortable.
adidas Solar Drive (RTR review)
At equivalent weights take your pick: the softer easy going not particularly dynamic Drive or the more dynamic and decisive MetaRide. Both are very well cushioned but I found the MetaRide easier to run consistently at all paces due to the rocker and its somewhat firm overall ride. While the Drive has a fine comfortable and roomy upper it does not quite have the smooth and secure lock down up front of the MetaRide’s.
Brooks Levitate 2 (RTR review)
The Levitate has a flatter, despite its higher drop, more pneumatic rebound and softer feel. It is not nearly as dynamic but is highly cushioned and protective and a bit easier on the forefoot. Its upper is denser and more rigid than the MetaRide's with not nearly as smooth an execution of the ankle and achilles collar A close call but nod for me to MetaRide

The ASICS MetaRide will be available 2/28 at asics.com, Running Warehouse, and Run Speciality Stores.Please see below.
Sam Winebaum, Editor and Founder
Sam is a 1:38 half marathoner on a good day and didn't mind at all going into his 60+ age group in 2017. Update: maybe he can still run fast as he clocked at 1:35 recently and a 3:40 Boston Marathon qualifier, surprising him.  He runs 30- 40 miles per week along the New Hampshire Seacoast and on Park City, UT trails. He has been running for 45 years and has a very dated marathon PR of 2:28. Always a geek, Sam was the Senior Contributing Editor for Wearable Fitness Technology and Music at Competitor Magazine and has written for Motiv Running and China Fire Bulletin.
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
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11 comments:

geomaz said...

Honestly...I would like to ask you how much better this shoe is in comparison with the altra paradigm 4? Thank you for the very nice review!

suzy said...

Thank you for a really comprehensive look at the Metaride. Looking for an alternative to the Vaporfly for more daily training. Do you have the specs on the women's version? Wondering the weight. Thanks!

sam winebaum said...

Hi Suzy,
Thanks for kind words. Women's weight is listed in stats section as follows: women’s 8.9 oz / 252 g. I am not sure on size used for women's weight.
Hi geomaz,
Thanks! Good comparison the Paradigm. I have added to comparisons section.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews.
Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Greg Simmons said...

Is this a joke? No wonder they are losing soo much money. Hoka cornered the big cushion market and 250 bucks is outright ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Why no comparison to the Bondi in the comparison section? Seems like it's a similar market, no? Expensive (although the MetaRide is still significantly more), not light-weight, very cushioned trainers for all day running comfort. Or am I missing something?

Thx!

Jim Beam said...

Hi Sam, would you recommend that shoe to a mid- to forefoot runner? You write the forefoot is thin, firm and inflexible - doesn´t sound good for us forefoot runners or does it?

Eric said...

Were you given a timeline from Asics of when the following lower priced models will be released?

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous re Bondi,
I have not run Bondi since v1. I found its rocker difficult to activate as it requires knee lift in mix which I have little of. MetaRide is very very easy to rock and up and away although if memory serves it may be a bit more cushioned in the forefoot.
Hi Eric,
The timeline is as Asics gave it to me, a total of 3 models over the next year should come to market.
Hi Jim,
MetaRide is totally stiff and relies on the rocker for toe off. The thin firm part is in relation to the heel and I thought a bit firmer than I would like. A touch of flex way up front might help. I think a midfoot striker could do OK in them as the entire platform from heel to the beginning of the ramp is consistent other than a bit of mid foot softness as described above. This said ASICS told us it is a shoe designed more around heel striking which the vast majority even mid foot actually do, if for a short moment. I am not sure it would be a good shoe for a prominent forefoot striker.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews.
Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

John said...

How do you think this compares to the Kayano? Been using them for years and might want to give this new shoe a try.

sam winebaum said...

Hi John,
In many ways a very different shoe as the Kayano is a resolutely pronation control model and MetaRide is more neutral. I have never run Kayano and likely never will. The Kayano is yet heavier and while I like a touch of stability it is to much shoe for me. I am betting the MetaRide would be way easier to move along!
Sam, Editor

GJvdB said...

I love RTR, but this is the first time i strongly disagree with a review. I tried these yesterday and the ride felt extremely artificial. The rocker felt like a V-shaped lump underfoot. I realize it's a different concept but the vaporfly's way of moving my striking point forward and creating forward motion felt much more natural. Asics' solution makes me very conscious of every step, which can't be the point. I'm sure these will work for some people and they are beautifully made, but i'll pass.