Monday, March 29, 2021

ASICS Magic Speed Multi Tester Review: Carbon Plated, FlyteFoam Blast, $150!

Article by Michael Ellenberger and Peter Stuart

ASICS Magic Speed ($150)


Pros:

+Michael/Peter: Fine-tuned fit and upper; blurs the line between trainer and racer

+Michael/Peter: Snappy feel, especially at faster paces


Cons:

- Michael/Peter: Firm midsole, especially in comparison to other carbon-plated options

- Peter: a little slippery on wet pavement

Stats

Estimated Weight: men's 8.35 oz / 237g (US9) 7.6 oz 7.1 oz / 203 g  (US W8)

  Samples: men’s: 8.1 oz / 230 g (US M8.5)

                  women’s: 7.1 oz / 203 g  (US W8)

Stack Height: men’s 29/24  women’s 28/23. 5mm drop

Available April 1, 2021. $150 


Tester Profiles

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 


Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years


First Impressions and Fit


Michael: I received two boxes from our friends at ASICS in one shipment, and I know that at least one of them was the latest and greatest racing option - and, when I opened up the lid on the Magic Speed, I was excited to see a fast-looking, carbon-toting, racer-esque profiling looking back at me. Here it is, I thought, the latest racer from ASICS! 


Indeed, I was wrong when I opened box #1 (or at least, slightly misinformed), because the all-new ASICS Magic Speed is not the top-shelf racer I had expected from ASICS, but instead a more curious - and potentially more useful - offering: a carbon-plated racer that isn’t meant to be saved for race day, but instead put to work in training, as well.

Nonetheless, the Magic Speed still looks, well, fast - and trying it on, it does feel more racer than trainer. Naturally, it was time to hit the roads (and treadmill) and see how this red rocket performed.


Peter: I had the same experience as Michael. It took a minute to figure out which of the two shoes I received was the “super” shoe. There’s plenty of superfoam floating around in both of these shoes. My size 11 Magic speed weighs in at 9.17 oz (260 grams). It’s definitely a stiff shoe with a plate and a good looking racer/trainer. Fit is true-to-size for me and the upper and fit are top notch. No issues at all. Lace ‘em up and go! The stiffness reminds me of the EvoRide line.


Upper

Michael: We’ve been hit and miss with some ASICS uppers lately; the Kayano Lite, Cumulus 22, and EvoRide all come to mind as having middling lockdown or fit issues related to the tongue and laces. I don’t know whether ASICS has been reading RTR (surely they have!) or simply smoothed it out themselves, but the upper on the Magic Speed is well-refined. 


While I don’t think the thin monofilament mesh is quite as luxurious and comfortable as on the new MetaSpeed Sky, it certainly does the trick. Moreover, the heel counter and cup are thin and race-like - compared to a carbon-plated trainer like the FuelCell TC, the Magic Speed certainly feels more racer than trainer with regards to upper.


Peter: I’m so happy to be (seemingly) done with knit uppers. Oy. The upper on the Asics Magic Speed is a lovely thin monofilament mesh. It’s thin and breathable. The entire upper has little raised ridges and tiny little holes for breathability. The tongue is very thin and is also well ventilated. This will be a great shoe to run in the heat of summer. 

The most elegant part of this upper is hidden away inside the heel cup. While most of the upper is relatively formless (but holds the foot just fine), the heel cup is nice and stiff. What really helps lock down the foot is the extra padding hidden inside the heel cup just under the achilles. Most of the ankle collar is thin, but there’s a padded section just behind the heel that servest to lock in and hold the heel in place. I didn’t have any issues with rubbing or irritation at all, but did notice that my foot is totally locked down--in a good way.

Overall, the Upper on the Magic Speed is great. It’s breathable, fits well and holds the foot.



Midsole

Michael: ASICS has brought in FlyteFoam Blast (which we’ve seen in the NovaBlast, DynaBlast, and RoadBlast), which is undoubtedly one of the most compelling midsole compounds out there now. This formulation of it feels firmer and more dense than it did on the NovaBlast, but I imagine that feeling is directly affected by the carbon fiber plate (and we’ll get to that!). Firm or not, the midsole here is energetic and fun, and provides plenty of comfort for easy running (that is to say, as we’ll cover in the Ride section, I think the Magic Speed does handle everyday training runs just fine, even if the midsole is on the firmer end).


How about that plate? It’s primarily in the forefoot, and I think that actually helps the Magic Speed keep its more moderate platform - it’s not overly aggressive (though once you’re activating that forefoot spring, you really can feel the propulsion). The plate is asymmetric which, in tandem with ASICS’s Guidesole technology, creates an oddly stable feel - you wouldn’t necessarily expect stability from this shoe at the onset, given its traditional-racing-flat profile, but I found it pretty even at all paces.


Peter: The FlyteFoam Blast is a nice foam. I haven’t run it before and it’s definitely a more responsive and lighter foam than I’ve found in other ASICS. Between the big hunk of foam and the carbon plate, the forefoot of the Magic Speed does feel quite firm. It took a few miles for them to feel like they ‘gave’ a little and started to feel more comfortable on the run. In looking at the shoe, there’s a pretty remarkable amount of curve in the front. 

The toe-off, particularly at speed, is pretty epic. I think the firmness of the shoe adds to the excitement when at the right paces. 


Outsole

Michael: In the past few months (and I’m thinking specifically of Puma and the Deviate Elite, but there are others!), running shoe manufacturers have started taking outsoles more seriously - or at least finding that balance between weight and grip. 

Here, ASICS has added a full-length ASICS GRIP outsole that should ensure durability over hundreds of miles in addition to grip at speed. 


Peter: There’s plenty of rubber here, so durability and road contact should be excellent. One of the few negatives of this shoe is that it is a bit slippery on wet pavement. It’s not terrible, but there just enough slip to make it hard to keep feeling efficient if the pavement is wet. I think that’s partly due to the rubber used on the bottom and partly due to the stiffness of the shoe. Ultimately I’d be hesitant to race these on a wet day, but other than that they’re fine in the rain. 



Ride

Michael: I touched on it above, but ASICS has crafted a firm, responsive, and often quite fun shoe here - and one that really blurs the line between racer and trainer. Where New Balance’s carbon-fiber-plated trainer, the FuelCell TC, approached this distinction with a soft, comfortable, and almost cushy ride the Magic Speed is certainly more racer than trainer, and feels more like the Adidas Adios Pro or Deviate Nitro than TC. 


Even with a firmer platform, I think the Magic Speed is a compelling option for both training and racing (I’m picturing this being used for time trials and lower-key, tune-up races before the “real” season begins). While I’m not quite back to ripping full workouts, the few tempo runs I used the Magic Speed on - and the long, 200 meter strides where I woefully attempt to rebuild leg speed - were a good sample of what the shoe can do. It does not feel Vaporfly-like in its trampoline effect, but it does feel plated, fast, and agile.


Peter: Great summation of the ride, michael! My first impressions were “ugh, this is so stiff and cumbersome”, but as I got a few miles in them and they ‘relaxed’ a bit I started to have a lot of fun. They were especially fun around MGP. I found myself out on ‘easy’ runs doing marathon pace work because i was having so much fun running fast. For the speed I was running i didn’t feel like I was working very hard at all. 


I totally agree with Michael that these are firmer and less moon bouncy than either the Vaporfly or the NB TC trainer. I would take that NB out for 20 in a heartbeat--but I’d think twice about trying to do an easy long day in the Magic Speed. For tempo training days they are terrific. Sort of reminds me of the Saucony line, except maybe these are more like the Shift than the Endorphin Speed--and the Meta Sky Speed is more like the Endorphin Pro. 


Conclusions and Recommendations


Michael: We’ve been saying ASICS is coming back for long enough now, I think in 2021 we can truly say that ASICS is, officially, back. Between the Magic Speed and the new MetaSpeed Sky (and forthcoming MetaSpeed Edge - though we’ll have to run it to know for sure!), it’s clear that ASICS is a serious contender in the marathon racing space. Add in the already-tremendous Metaracer, the Novablast, and the downmarket Dynablast (not to mention the Kayano Lite and Nimbus Lite)... well, let’s just say ASICS undoubtedly has a high-performing shoe for anyone and everyone. 


As we often see when brands are firing on all cylinders, some of the the Magic Speed’s biggest contenders are from within its own brand. Yes, the MetaSpeed line is priced considerably higher than the Magic Speed, but the Metaracer splits the difference at only $50 more, and provides a slightly more refined, finely-tuned racer performance. I think the Magic Speed will be a more durable option, but the Metaracer is an ounce and a half lighter and just feels a little more competitive in a race setting. Even so, I don’t want to diminish the Magic Speed’s credentials. In what - now seeing the flagship MetaSpeed line - could have been a throwaway shoe, ASICS has actually crafted something really terrific and fun.

Michael’s Score: 9.5/10.


Peter: Asics provides a terrific Trainer/Racer here that is a little too firm to be an easy day shoe, but excels at tempo. It’s comfortable, good looking and a heck of a lot of fun to wind up on the run. The Meta Speed Sky is lighter and more fun, but does feel like a shoe you save for race day. I still need some more runs in both to get a deeper sense of the shoes, but the Magic Speed is excellent.

Peter’s Score 9.6 A little firm and not as fun at slower speeds but a rousing success!


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


ASICS Novablast (RTR Review)

Michael: The Novablast is a terrifically fun, bouncy, light trainer - with absolutely none of the stiffness of the Magic Speed. While the two share a midsole blend, the wobbliness of the Novablast is its (singular!) major shortcoming, and that certainly isn’t an issue on the Magic Speed. While the Novablast is a great lightweight trainer option, I think those who like the idea of a trainer/racer hybrid will have even better luck in the Magic Speed (unless softness is a priority).


Skechers Razor Excess  (RTR Review)

Michael: I had a mediocre experience with the Excess - as with most Skechers options, the midsole is stellar, but I just didn’t find a smooth fit, and experienced some weird rubbing/chafing across the footbed. Hyperburst is the real deal, but I think the more race-ready, locked-down fit on the Magic Speed makes them a better buy (unless you just want a well-cushioned easy day ride).

Peter: The Razor Excess and my foot have a love/hate relationship. I love running in them, but they irritate my feet. Still they are a lighter and more fun shoe to run in than the Magic Speed--but very different. There is more shoe to the Magic Speed and it is a firmer ride. I think this one really depends on personal preference. 


ASICS Noosa Tri 13  (RTR Review)

Michael: Despite the similar midsole stacks, I actually found the Noosa and Magic Speed to run fairly differently - in terms of removal from the road, they’re similar, but the Magic Speed is noticeably snappier and firmer underfoot. I also appreciated the lockdown of the Magic Speed to that of the Noosa. Both are fun rides - our review of the Noosa will suggest that! - but for tempo runs or racing, I’d take the Magic Speed.


Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit

Michael: The Fly Flyknit (version 2) was the last version of the Fly I tested, so my impressions are a bit outdated here. The Fly has a slightly spongier midsole that “hides” the carbon plate a little better than the Magic Speed, but the Magic Speed is a little faster feeling, largely owing to its general stability (compared to the platform-like Nike). I prefer the Flyknit upper of the Nike, as well, but I know many did not like its narrow and snug fit - the ASICS is still quite snug, but should be more accommodating. For training, I’d take the Nike, but for workouts and racing, I think the Magic Speed is a superior choice.

Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)
Peter: The Magic Speed is a stiffer shoe with a more pronounced rocker feel than the Endorphin Speed. The Endorphin feels lower to the ground, provides greater proprioception and turns over more smoothly. It’s also more pleasant at slower tempos. The Magic Speed does, however pack a hell of a pop on toe off and is super fun to run tempo in.


New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 (RTR Review)

Michael: Rebel v2 is very different from the Magic, which is both (a) awesome and (b) very, very soft. I absolutely love the new Rebel and would recommend basically anyone try it - but it's a pretty different feel.


New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Michael: This is what I had anticipated being the most direct comparison, and ultimately it is a close call - but not because the shoes are particularly similar. While both are carbon-plated trainers, the TC is markedly softer and more (for lack of a better term) trainer-ish, whereas the Magic Speed runs more like a racing flat that’s slightly held back. Both are great - as the reviews suggest - but I think the New Balance is a better pick if you’re primarily trying to train. I wouldn’t race in the TC, even for TTs or similar, whereas the Magic Speed would be great.

Peter: Agreed. The TC is a great way to train in superfoam that’s fun and bouncy, but I have a hard time turning them over faster than MGP. The Magic Speed want to go fast and they pop through toe-off like nobody’s business. Fuel Cell TC is more trainer, Magic Speed more workout/racer. 


New Balance Fuel Cell RC Elite 2 (RTR Initial Video Review)

Peter: The RC Elite is a softer and more forgiving ride. They like to go fast and they are super fun to run in. Ultimately I’d go for the Elite over the Magic Speed, but if you prefer a little bit of a firmer ride with a little more pop, I’d go Magic Speed. 


Asics Metaspeed Sky (RTR Review)

Peter: Still getting my head around these, but the Meta Speed Sky is lighter, bouncier and a bit more forgiving than the Magic Speed. Ultimately they’d pair well as trainer (Magic Speed) and racer (Metaspeed).


Puma Deviate Nitro  (RTR Review)

Michael: The Deviate Nitro was such a genuine surprise - an awesome trainer! from Puma! - that I think I often forget its frustrating upper and somewhat stiff ride. Either way, the Magic Speed is better, but this is a genuinely close call, and those who love red, fast shoes may want both in their closet. 


Deviate Nitro Elite  (RTR Initial Video Review)

Michael: With so many fantastic shoes, I haven’t quite put enough miles on the Nitro Elite to say, but I feel confident in saying the Magic Speed is a better hybrid option - it’s just a more generous and forgiving ride than the (fast and fun!) Puma. I need a few more miles - and preferably some quality workouts - to see which is a better workout day shoe… so stay tuned for my full review of the Nitro Elite for that.


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from ASICS. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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13 comments:

Mike said...

Thanks very much for the review. Would you please be able to explain a little more the difference in ride compared to the Noosa 13? I chose the Noosa for its pronounced and stiff forefoot rocker. Is the Magic Speed rocker much different?

Elong56 said...

How does this compare to the new balance fuel cell rebel v2 or the brooks Hyperion tempo? I am looking for a threshold/workout shoe and think the ASICS magic speed could be a good option.

Michael said...

Mike - Not massively different. I think where I drew the distinction was the cushioning through the midfoot. While they have the same stack, I still felt as though the Noosa was a trainer that had some pep (from the stiffened forefoot that you mentioned). In the Magic Speed, you engage that plate pretty early on in a midfoot or forefoot strike, so it's more of a smooth roll forward. Honestly it's probably not as nuanced or different as I had in the comparison - was just trying to find ways to differentiate the two.

Elong56 - Very different from the Rebel v2, which is both (a) awesome and (b) very, very soft. I absolutely love the new Rebel and would recommend basically anyone try it - but it's a pretty different feel. Against the Hyperion Tempo, the midsoles have a similar feel, in terms of density/hardness (despite the Tempo being a Nitrogen-infused compound), but the stack and plate of the Magic Speed make it a much different ride once you've rolled onto the forefoot. I prefer the ASICS there.

ChuaRH said...

May I have a comparison with the Saucony Endorphin Speed? Both seem similar as budget trainer/racers with plates and don't have overly soft yet bouncy midsoles.

Anonymous said...

Would also like to see a comparaison with the Endorphin Speed, especially the toe box room. Thanks

Unknown said...

Is it the same width as the Noosa tri 13? I just don't want it to be to narrow

mshrestha said...

I'd love to see comparison with Endorphin Speed and Zoomfly I feel like they are in same category and will help a lot of people to decide which one to go for.
Thanks

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous and mshrestha,
We have updated the review with Zoom Fly and Endorphin Speed comparisons. Thanks for asking. They are below as well

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit
Michael: The Fly Flyknit (version 2) was the last version of the Fly I tested, so my impressions are a bit outdated here. The Fly has a slightly spongier midsole that “hides” the carbon plate a little better than the Magic Speed, but the Magic Speed is a little faster feeling, largely owing to its general stability (compared to the platform-like Nike). I prefer the Flyknit upper of the Nike, as well, but I know many did not like its narrow and snug fit - the ASICS is still quite snug, but should be more accommodating. For training, I’d take the Nike, but for workouts and racing, I think the Magic Speed is a superior choice.

Saucony Endorphin Speed
Peter: The Magic Speed is a stiffer shoe with a more pronounced rocker feel than the Endorphin Speed. The Endorphin feels lower to the ground, provides greater proprioception and turns over more smoothly. It’s also more pleasant at slower tempos. The Magic Speed does, however pack a hell of a pop on toe off and is super fun to run tempo in.

Sam, Editor

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Wes Arnold said...

How would it fare against the Meta racer for 10k race and track workouts?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Wes,
10K no question at all Metaspeed Sky! Track intervals Metaracer might be more appropriate but haven't tried Metaspeed for that. 5K a toss up and only Metaracer if you like lots of road feel but Metaspeed is so much lighter and more dynamic.
Sam, Editor

Unknown said...

Hey, thanks for he review. On paper the shoe seems very similar to the Evoride 2, but with a different foam and an added plate. How similar does the rocker feel? How about the feeling of the foams? Would love a comparison. Thanks!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Unknown, See comparison to almost identical to Evoride 2 Noosa Tri comparison.
Sam, Editor

Wes Arnold said...

Thanks Sam but it was the Magic Speed I was referring to rather than the Sky. But useful to know anyway :)