Tuesday, August 25, 2020

ASICS GEL Fujitrabuco Pro Multi Tester Review - A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one!

Article by Nils Scharff & Johannes Klein

ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro (£120)

Introduction

Nils: ASICS was never a trail running brand for me. I've always seen the Japanese shoes on the average city runner's feet on sidewalks, bike paths, and in parks. However, I have never associated ASICS with outdoor adventures. In my running shoe internet bubble, there was nothing to be seen of reviews about ASICS, let alone eulogies, of ASICS trail shoes although several times UTMB winner Xavier Thevnard runs ASICS.


When Sam approached me and told me that we wanted to expand our cooperation with ASICS in the trail segment, I was a bit surprised at first. I first had to read up about the ASICS trail line, since the naming in the ASICS trail range, which at first glance seemed a bit adventurous, meant nothing to me. The first shoe that Johannes and I were given to review was the Fujitrabuco Pro. It is a moderately cushioned shoe with an aggressive outsole, which is supposed to be the racer among ASICS trail shoes.


Johannes: If I am to be absolutely honest: I have never been an ASICS runner. At least since I learned a little more about running shoes and assured myself that there are more suitable alternatives for my wide feet and mid-to-forefoot gait. But now, with the Fujitrabuco Pro, there is a shoe that wants to teach me better! 


As long as I can remember, the regular Fujitrabuco has been one of the most popular trail and hiking shoes on the German market. Narrow fit, Gel cushioning, lush upper material, solid outsole - a classic ASICS. In my opinion, the Fujitrabuco Pro does not share many features with a ‘typical’ ASICS shoe, which I think brings some benefits in its intended market niche. A shoe for competition that promises speed despite its solid construction: let's put it to the test!


Pros and Cons


Pros:

Nils: Aggressive outsole with good grip!

Nils: Good flex point in the forefoot that is perfect for steep terrain

Nils: Good fast lacing system

Nils: The shoe fits like a sock


Johannes: High build quality

Johannes: Relatively light (especially on the foot)

Johannes: Natural ride despite stone protection plate

Johannes: The outsole offers a secure hold on any surface

Johannes: Very secure, albeit tight fit


Cons:

Nils: Uninspiring midsole

Nils: Upper material hardly breathes at all and is MUCH too hot in midsummer


Johannes: The midsole isn’t very lively

John. Warm, partially restrictive upper material


Reviewer: Nils Scharff

I am 30 years young, born in Kassel, married to a wonderful wife and have been making Heilbronn and its surrounding vineyards unsafe for 5 years now. I've done all sorts of sports my entire life, often 5-7 times a week. Besides running, climbing and bouldering have been my sports for several years. I've only seen myself as a runner for three years. It all started with a company run that I didn't want to start completely unprepared. From that point on, I just didn't stop. In 2017 it was "only" just under 1000 kilometers, in 2018 twice as much, in 2019 already three times as much. During all these kilometers, it is important to me, whether on the trail or on the road, to switch off and exercise in nature. You will rarely see me on the treadmill or with headphones. In the meantime I have run four marathons, I set up the PB of 3:14:49h this year - despite Corona - as part of a #stayathomemarathon. In competition, I basically run all distances from 5km (18:14 min), 10km (38:17min) to half marathons (1:28:18h) up to the marathon. The first little ultra is planned for autumn, which is why there are more mountains, trails and trail shoes on the menu.


Reviewer: Johannes Klein

Johannes studies at the University of Mannheim and discovered his passion for running while participating in the Baden Marathon in Karlsruhe (team relay) in 2016. There, he found that the 14 kilometers into which he plunged more or less unprepared, were not as bad as expected. If he's not chasing the next personal best (current goal: 10K in under 40min), he can probably be found somewhere else outside, hiking, playing basketball, or just taking a walk on the banks of Rhine. In addition to field paths and roads, he has been making the low mountain ranges of the region unsafe at least once a week for a good year in order to whip up his trail legs for the next half marathon in Heidelberg (600 vertical meters, personal best: 1:50). Since Johannes started selling running shoes in a Mannheim sports shop, he has developed a minor shoe problem and is always on the lookout for hot goods that he can put through their paces.

He is also a foster father to two cats - a hobby that is very dear to his heart and will (hopefully) stay with him forever, just like running.


Stats 

Weight: 

  Official:  men's 9.7oz / 270g (EU 42.5 / US 9)  /  women's 7.8oz / 220g (EU 42 / US 8)    

  Samples: men’s 9,75oz / 276g (EU 44 / US 10) / men’s 10,6oz / 300g (EU 45 / US 11) 

Midsole Stack Height: men’s: 18 mm / 12 mm, 6 mm drop, women’s: 17 mm / 11 mm,

6 mm drop

Available now for £120


First Impressions and Fit

Nils: When I first took the ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro out of the box, I didn't really know what to think. In general, I like bright colors, but the sock-like construction around the ankle seemed strange at first. 

I also had mixed feelings about the quick-lacing system at first, as I have never really made friends with them, even in Salomon shoes - and there, it is one of the in-house specialties. However, it shouldn’t be just about the appearance, but above all about how the Fujitrabuco Pro feels on the foot. Two pull tabs on the tongue and heel help you slip into the neoprene sock. The quick lacing is tightened easily. After the first few steps, the pressure is distributed away from the instep and the shoe actually feels like a sock! Wow! If the shoe can maintain this level of comfort on the trails, then it is definitely a step ahead of many competitors!

 

The fit is quite narrow, especially in the heel and midfoot area. That suits my foot, but it is certainly not for everyone. There is just enough space in the forefoot, so that the toes don't feel constricted. But I wouldn't speak of a wide toe box. I wore 44 EUR in my test shoe, which for me means half a size smaller than most other running shoes. For a fast shoe that I probably don't want to wear for runs that are longer than 20K, there is enough space in all directions in this size.

Johannes: The first thought that crossed my mind when I tried it on out of the box: a “real” trail shoe sporting a stone protection plate, lavishly reinforced upper material and 6 mm rubber lugs, the Fujitrabuco Pro feels surprisingly light on the foot. The low instep (don't be fooled by the raised neoprene socks!) could be problematic for some runners. 

The fit is narrow. There is not much room for movement in both the mid and forefoot, which on the one hand supports the foot well on uneven ground, but also restricts the toes a little (at least for runners with a splay foot, like me). However, the tightness does not affect the overall performance of the shoe. The Fujitrabuco Pro is not necessarily recommended for overpronators, as the platform with the heavily tapered metatarsal area and the narrow toe box does not offer much stability. All in all, I was rather skeptical about how the shoe would work in conjunction with my foot. Fortunately, as you will see below, my doubts were largely unfounded.


Upper

Johannes: The upper is probably the category in which the Fujitrabuco Pro could best be described as a classic Asics shoe. It's a multi-layered, reinforced mesh that offers great foothold even on steep uphill and downhill runs or uneven terrain. Unfortunately, all the layers that enclose and support the foot so well make the Fujitrabuco Pro a warm shoe, especially in summer. Unfortunately, due to the lack of rain, I could not test the shoe in wet conditions, so no statement can be made here about water resistance. The fast lacing system is effective, but has to be re-lashed every now and then after very technical sections of the route. In rare cases, the laces slip out of the tab in which they are supposed to be stowed. However, you usually notice that immediately, because they start dangling around wildly.


Nils: I have to contradict Johannes a little. Although the lavishly used reinforcements are rather plasticy and look very robust (I would find that typical for ASICS), I have never seen the upper material itself, which ASICS describes as a multi-layered mesh, in any ASICS shoe. The material is very reminiscent of a neoprene sock and behaves in a similar way. It is difficult for water and unfortunately also air to get in or out. This is very good for moderate conditions - light rain is kept outside, for example. However, if it gets really wet, e.g. when crossing a stream, and once water gets into the Fujitrabuco Pro, it stays there. Most manufacturers are now taking a different approach and making the upper materials of trail shoes very permeable. Water gets out as quickly as it gets in. The shoe dries quickly, preventing blisters from forming in damp shoes - this is the train of thought. Nice side effect: these shoes are often very breathable at the same time. The Fujitrabuco unfortunately follows the opposite principle, which is why the shoe is almost impossible to run in the current midsummer temperatures - it gets so hot in the shoe. That is a shame, because the feeling on the foot and the grip given, as Johannes describes, are really great. You feel right at home there. So I'm already looking forward to running the Fujitrabuco Pro in cooler temperatures. I can imagine the shoe very well on cold, dry winter days, where it might even warm you a little.

I found the quick lacing system used by ASICS to be surprisingly well designed. In my opinion, the pressure distribution works better than in the last Salomons I ran. Unfortunately, there is only one tab in the forefoot area to clamp the laces underneath. That leaves them at a risk of getting caught on something. A lace garage in the tongue would therefore be a better choice.


Midsole

Johannes: FlyteFoam, an EVA material found in various types in current ASICS, gives the shoe enough cushioning for longer runs. The rather high energy return, however, comes more from the proximity to the ground, which is due to the low stack height. Despite the stone protection plate in the forefoot, the Trabuco Pro is quite flexible in the midsole, which results in a surprisingly natural feel (for a trail shoe). Here, the Fujitrabuco Pro also benefits from its low drop of 6 millimeters (for an Asics shoe). I wouldn't rate FlyteFoam as the liveliest or springiest of midsole materials, but it does its job in terms of protection and doesn't get in the way at higher speeds, which is of course an advantage for a racing shoe. In conjunction with the outsole and stone protection plate, the midsole offers enough protection against sharp stone edges.

Nils: I totally agree with Johannes here. The FlyteFoam material used in the midsole does its job, but not much more, which is a shame because the midsole design works really well otherwise. The flex point in the forefoot is very distinct despite the stone protection plate. As a result, the Fujitrabuco Pro runs very naturally even on asphalt and is especially fun uphill on steep trails. The stone protection is more than sufficient for everything I've run on so far and the specified 12mm of cushioning in the forefoot and 18mm in the heel are certainly sufficient for distances of 20-30km (in the women's version, by the way, 11 / 17mm). However, the Fujitrabuco Pro is not the most comfortable. That's simply because ASICS are using a relatively uninspiring midsole foam, despite the fact that they have newer materials up their sleeve, with FlyteFoam Blast coming to mind. 

Finally, it remains to be mentioned that the sole platform - just like the entire Fujitrabuco Pro - is unfortunately a bit narrow. On the one hand, that goes wonderfully with my foot. On the other hand, there is a lack of stability, especially in the heel area.


Outsole

Johannes: The AsicsGrip outsole is definitely one of the shoe’s strong points. Here, we find 6 mm deep, robust lugs made of hard rubber, some of which point in different directions. The result is a grip that I have never seen in any other running shoe. Whether the ground is mud, grass, gravel, rock, sand or roots, the Fujitrabuco Pro doesn't care. And I mean that as I say it: Absolute top-notch grip on any surface. The shoe also proves to be a loyal companion on steep slopes, when running downhill or cross-country. Road running is (obviously) not recommended on those deep lugs. Unfortunately, due to a lack of experience, I cannot give a judgment on running in wet conditions, but I do not expect any decrease in grip here. The outsole shows no significant abrasion after 35 kilometers, which, judging from the hardness of the rubber, will remain that way for several hundred kilometers.

Nils: Agreed! The ASICSGrip sole is a great feature of the Fujitrabuco Pro. The 6mm deep studs literally bite into the trail - and are really fun! The rubber compound hardly needs to hide from Vibram Megagrip or Inov-8s Graphene Grip. In dry conditions, the ASICSGrip deserves an A+. On wet trails, you will notice a small difference, especially on the most critical surfaces - wet rocks and roots. But even there I would still describe the traction as good. The deep lugs make a very good impression in muddy conditions, too! And even on my 2km asphalt to the trail, they don't feel annoying.


Ride

Nils: The ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro is a lot of fun thanks to its great sole design, especially on steep, short and fast runs or sections, although it loses some points in terms of midsole material. I have fond memories of a run with 10x100m sprints and 8x12sec mountain sprints on trail near my home. If you really step on the gas,the stone protection plate seems to develop a slightly springy effect and thus provides the additional propulsion that the FlyteFoam unfortunately lacks. For more leisurely tours on the trails, there is enough cushioning and vibration dampening and the natural flex point definitely makes you want more. But for this purpose, the midsole should be a bit softer for my taste and offer more energy return. The narrow platform also speaks against longer distances for me. Especially when my legs get tired and running style suffers, I would like a little more stability.

Johannes: The Fujitrabuco Pro runs like no other trail shoe that I have ever met. That's probably because I've never run in a trail shoe that was designed for competition. The ride definitely feels close to the ground and the lightness of the shoe (on the foot) tempts you to pick up the pace. The midsole is not very explosive, but the shoe gives some energy back, probably due to its flex point in the mid- to forefoot and the stone protection plate. At the same time, the shoe does not impose itself on the runner due to the moderate drop of 6 millimeters. You don't automatically walk on the ball of your toes and you can lean back and slow down a little, especially after steep, strenuous sections. The upper material secures the foot well on the platform, which is in turn very narrow in the midfoot. Therefore, the Fujitrabuco Pro is not the most stable of trail runners when it comes to pronation.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Nils: The ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro was a real surprise for me. I haven't had any experience with ASICS trail shoes so far, but I hope after this entry that there will be more. The Fujitrabuco Pro does a lot of things right. My highlight is the midsole construction, which creates a very natural running feeling and excellent mountain running properties. The sock-like fit and the support in the upper material are excellent and the outsole in particular leaves little to be desired. 


On the other hand, there is a midsole material that needs an update - especially since the right materials are already in use at ASICS. The biggest drawback of the Fujitrabuco Pro is the much too hot upper material. Maybe the shoe arrived at the wrong time, but when the outside temperature was around 30°C, I definitely preferred to pick another from the shelf. 11 out of 12 months a year, however, this will probably not be a problem. That's why I can still recommend the Fujitrabuco Pro with a clear conscience to anyone looking for a fast shoe with stone protection and a great flex point at the same time. Especially those who are out on steep trails or prefer an aggressive outsole will have a lot of fun with the ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro.


Johannes: I can say with a clear conscience that the Fujitrabuco Pro has exceeded my expectations so far. Fortunately, my initial fear that my feet would not get used to the tight fit were unfounded. The shoe does not have the character of the regular Fujitrabuco line and surprises with its lightness and agility. Due to the narrow platform, I would not recommend the shoe for runners who excessively roll inward (“overpronate”). However, I cannot use that against the shoe, since it is advertised as neutral and - with the label ("Pro") - addressed to runners with an effective stride. Since the Fujitrabuco is rather slightly dampened with its low stack height, I would not use it in a marathon or even ultra-marathon, but rather use it for distances of up to 20 kilometers and fast, shorter trail workouts.


Nils: Rating 8.9 / 10 (-0.5 for an upper material that is neither water- nor air-permeable; -0.3 for a midsole that is not very inspiring; -0.2 for poor heel stability; -0.1 for the lack of a shoelace garage)

What would I wish for in an ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro 2? The easiest thing to do is to first create a storage space for the laces. It also seems easy to implement to use one of the newer midsole materials available from ASICS. FlyteFoam Blast in particular comes to mind. Since it is significantly softer than the previously used EVA foam, a wider platform should then be used to create the necessary stability. And last but not least, ASICS should take a look at what they have advertised extensively in their roadrunning line including their flagship racer the Metaracer: Foot climate is a key factor in running performance! I would like ASICS to use a robust but permeable mesh that breathes well and at the same time does not absorb water, but leads it through the shoe quickly.


Johannes: Rating 9/10 (-0.25 for the not fully thought-out lacing system, -0.25 for the not very explosive midsole, -0.5 for the warm and tight upper material)

Nils gets right to the point here: A few small but effective changes, concerning the upper, platform and the midsole, could turn this 9 into a 10/10. We are excited for the next version of the Asics trail racer!


Comparisons


ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro vs. Nike Terra Kiger 6 (RTR Review German RTR Review English)

Nils: Even if the manufacturers’ specifications differ significantly, both shoes are similarly cushioned for me. Both shoes fit well, but the Kiger is significantly wider in the forefoot and the upper is much, much more airy. The Fujitrabuco wins in terms of grip and climbing characteristics. If you are looking for exactly that, you should go for the ASICS. For everything else, the Kiger is the better all-rounder. Fujitrabuco 44 EUR, Kiger 44.5 EUR.

 

ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro vs. Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review English)

Nils: The flex point in the forefoot and the outsole speak for the ASICS. The much more breathable upper material and, above all, the new midsole in the Sense Pro make it a more diverse and better shoe. Both in 44 EUR.


ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro vs. Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 (RTR Review German, RTR Review English)

Nils: For £ 20 more, the Terraultra is perhaps the best trail shoe of the year. Unfortunately, the Fujitrabuco Pro doesn't have much to counter this, except that it fits better on narrow feet. ASICS 44 EUR, Inov-8 44.5 EUR.


ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro vs. Salomon Sense Ride 2 (RTR Review English)

Nils: Two shoes that are very similar for me. Both sport a rather firm and direct ride. The Fujitrabuco does better on fast runs or when a lot of grip is needed. In the Sense Ride, longer distances are certainly more pleasant. Both in 44 EUR.


ASICS Fujitrabuco Pro vs. HOKA ONE ONCE Speedgoat 2/3 (RTR Review English)

Nils: Very different shoes, so just a word about fit: The Hoka is even narrower than the Fujitrabuco Pro, especially in the toe area, but otherwise fits similarly. Speedgoat 44 ⅔ EUR, ASICS 44 EUR.


The Fujitrabuco Pro is not available in the US but is available in Europe and Australia
at Running Warehouse below

The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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5 comments:

Nils said...

Following

Anonymous said...

"your cooperatin with Asics"? I thought this was a review site, not well masked advertisments...
Guess I´ll have to read shoe reviews elsewhere.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this review. Can you give some further feedback about sizing. I live in the UK and I have difficulty getting running shoes which fit well because I have a fairly long but fairly narrow foot. In reality I am probably most often a UK12.5 but that rarely exists! I note that this shoe is naturally quite narrow which doesn't concern me. Would I be correct in assuming that it maybe runs slightly long anyway (I note the reviewer takes a half size smaller in this shoe compared with many). If that is the case I may be able to order a UK12 and be ok. Thanks for your help!

Nils said...

Hey Anonymous, Cooperation means that ASICS sends shoes to us, which we run in and review. They don't get to see any of the reviews before they get published and the experiences and opinions which you can read on this site are just our own!

Nils said...

Hey Unknown, What you say is correct. I wear 44.5 in most of my shoes, but the Fujitrabuco fits perfectly in 44. Therefore I would say give the UK12 a try. Do you maybe have some references which shoes you wear in which size? That could help to give a better advice.