Thursday, June 09, 2022

ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ In Depth Review – Is More Better?

Article by Nils Scharff

ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ ($250/250€)


Introduction

I love the ASICS Metaspeed Sky! Last year I ran a new marathon PB in it - twice! - plus personal records over 10km and the half marathon distance. Unfortunately they are sold out in my size here in Germany, therefore I had to decide on a competitor's product for my spring marathon in Copenhagen. My test pair was worn out. 


But now ASICS is back, right in time  for the upcoming World Athletics Championships in Oregon! The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ and its quite different sibling the Metaspeed Edge+ (RTR Initial Video Review) were revealed last month as part of a launch event - the Meta Timetrials - in Malaga, Spain, during which various ASICS athletes proved that you can definitely run fast in these shoes. 


So the signs are good that the designers at ASICS haven't messed up my favorite shoe of last year. In fact, the changes are so minor that the decision was made to just add the plus (+) to the previous product names instead of calling for a second iteration of the Sky although the Edge gets significant changes including 5mm more foam all around and a lower carbon plate location. In the article  you will find  out what has changed, whether it is still worth investing in the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ and how it fared on the feet of amateurs like me. Please read on to find out what I discovered.



Pros:

Just like its predecessor, one of the best racing options on the market!

Energy return and liveliness underfoot are unbeatable and even slightly better than the predecessor!

Great long run cruiser!

The upper has become a little softer and more comfortable!

“More" foam in the forefoot area is clearly noticeable - this means that the Sky+ offers more cushioning, stability and bounce in the forefoot!

The steeper rocker in the forefoot increases the bounce and rolling sensation even more!

Outstanding outsole!

The toe box is higher than its predecessor and therefore no longer poses a risk to toenails!

Light!


Cons:

For me a bit too much volume in the upper - this causes (not disturbing) wrinkles when lacing!

For short distances, the predecessor might work a little better for me!

A little heavier than its predecessor!


Tester: Nils Scharff

I am 32 years young, located in Heilbronn – Germany and married to my beautiful wife. I’ve done all sorts of sports all my life, often 5-7 times a week. But my running career just started 5 years ago with a company run which I joined together with some colleagues. From there I never let go. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in 2018 and 2019. I've run 8 marathons to date with a PR of 2:52. My other PRs are 17:32 for the 5k, 36:12 for 10k and 1:19:35h for the half. But besides chasing PRs and dreams on roads and trails, especially getting outside and escaping my desk is what makes my love for running (and other outdoor sports sucb as hiking or climbing).


Data

Weight:

  Official: 205g (men US9) 

Test shoe:: 217g (men EU 44.5 / US 10.5)

Drop: 5mm (39mm heel / 34mm forefoot)

Release: available from June 14th. in specialist shops for 250€

First Impressions and Fit

The original ASICS Metaspeed Sky already looked amazing in my book. But the release color of the Sky + is even better! The color gradient from turquoise green (velvet pines) to neon yellow (safety yellow) just looks awesome! For me as a European it’s hard to tell, but green and yellow seem to be the “official colors” of that track city and University of  Oregon. So everything here has been decked out for the upcoming World Championships in July and I’m here for it!

Incidentally, the glowing shoe comes in an inconspicuous ASICS standard box and no longer in the glossy box of last year. This is very commendable, as it sets high standards in terms of recycling.

From a purely visual point of view, the fact that the forefoot platform looks somehow wider than on the predecessor is immediately obvious. ASICS confirms this - 4% more foam is said to provide a springy feel in the forefoot - more on that later.

Apart from that, hardly any change from Sky to Sky+ can be seen with the naked eye. You need to step into the shoe in order to realize that ASICS has taken another step forward in terms of the upper. The mesh used is softer and more comfortable on the foot. 

In addition, the toe box is designed a little higher and since the original Metaspeed Sky cost me two toenails, that's a very welcome change!


As with most other ASICS models, the fit seems to have somewhat harmonized. I wear a US 10.5 / EUR 44.5 in almost all brands. I now fit  true to size with the Metaspeed Sky+, while I was still on the edge of a EUR 44 / US 10 in the predecessor. 

The forefoot and midfoot are pleasantly wide for a competition shoe, therefore many feet should be happy here. Personally, I almost have too much room for my rather narrow foot. But the material can still be tied together securely with the help of the beautiful, ribbed laces. All in all, the first impression makes you want to run in the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ immediately!




Upper

Just as the upper of the Metaspeed Sky was an evolution of the Metaracer’s, the resemblance in the new Metaspeed Sky+ is striking. As in the previous year, the base material is a transparent mesh material that can hardly be made more breathable. The stitched-in cross braces can also be found on the outside, which give the material structure and robustness. But these struts have become narrower in the Sky+. Especially over the forefoot more of the translucent black base mesh material can be seen. As a result, the entire upper material is less stiff and nestles more comfortably against the foot - all in all a very successful revision.

By the way, there are no additional, reinforcing layers on the upper material. A soft toe protector is the only exception. It is internal and slightly rubbery. However, since I would not recommend running the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ barefoot anyways, the choice of material makes no difference there.

The padding around the heel and entry is identical to the previous model. There is exactly as much as you need here - no more and no less. But here, too, the liner over the padding feels a little finer and smoother - the heel padding also appears to be of higher quality and more comfortable. The effect is also corresponding: Where I still had to put blister plasters on my heels as a preventive measure in last year's Sky, this problem has disappeared in the Sky+.

The heel cap in the rear area of ​​the shoe has changed - if one can speak of an explicit cap at all. But the heel area is definitely stiffer and offers more support and stability. A small but very welcome change!

The tongue of the Metaspeed Sky+ consists of a wafer-thin layer of suede-like material. Unpleasant pressure from the laces is still not felt, even though I have to tie the shoe together quite a bit, especially in the forefoot for my narrow feet. The lockdown in the forefoot and midfoot area is still top notch and even the slight compression of the material has not led to any loss of performance or comfort. At the same time, there is more than enough room for wider feet, so ASICS seems to have gone in the right direction here.

Keyword shoelaces: I was already a fan of the waxed version from last year. But the serrated or knurled laces that are now used are the best I've had in any running shoe. The only exception: The Nike Alphafly, because it uses exactly the same laces.

Last but not least, the toe box of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ is cut a little higher than the previous model. Since I wasn't the only one of our testers who lost a toenail on the Metaspeed Sky (1), this change was necessary. Black toes, including any losses thereof, should be a thing of the past.


Digression: Stride-Style-Runners vs. Cadence-Style-Runners

Last year, with the introduction of the Metaspeed Sky and Edge, ASICS put forward the theory that there are basically two different types of runners: stride-style runners and cadence-style runners. These two types differ in how their stride length and cadence changes as they increase their running pace. Stride-style runners increase their stride length disproportionately compared to their stride rate, while cadence-style runners also increase their stride length, but in a similar proportion as their cadence changes.

The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ with its high level of cushioning, the aggressive rocker design, the relatively low drop and the strong "bounce effect" in the forefoot is better suited for stride-style runners and was specially developed for them.

A counterpart for Cadence-style runners is of course the logical consequence. This is the Metaspeed Edge+ and of course I hope that ASICS will also provide me with the second rocket in the arsenal for a comparison test. This year, this comparison seems even more interesting than before, since the Edge in particular has been massively revised and brought to the same cushioning levels as the Sky although with an 8mm drop vs. 5mm for Sky with the same 39mm heel height in both. 


So while last year the Sky was often interpreted as a long-distance option and the Edge for short distances, this time around the message is very clear: There are two equal competition shoes for different types of runners. For reference: Nike does something very similar with Vaporfly and Alphafly (more on that later), even if the brand with the Swoosh never communicated a reason for the different models.


Midsole

On paper, not much has changed in the midsole of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+. Just like last year, ASICS' FlyteFoam Turbo is used. Even if ASICS doesn't say this anywhere, from a chemical point of view it is probably a PEBA foam (polyether block amide). Not only the unmistakable smell speaks to this, but also the haptic impression, feeling under foot and actual noise. Therefore it is very comparable to competing products such as Nike's ZoomX or Saucony's PWRRUN PB. According to ASICS, FFTurbo offers excellent properties in terms of weight, bounce and energy recovery and I can only confirm that after more than 60km in the Metaspeed Sky+.

The level of cushioning in the Metaspeed Sky+ also remains the same. ASICS treats us runners with 34mm of FFTurbo foam in the forefoot and 39mm in the heel area with a resulting 5mm drop. This is at the upper end of what World Athletics allows for professional use in order to offer athletes maximum protection and performance.

But you probably already guessed it from my introductory words,  the devil is in the details! ASICS’ research has shown that the mentioned differentiation between stride and cadence style runners should be even more pronounced. And that's exactly what they worked on with the two Plus models. By changing the placement of the carbon fiber plate and a correspondingly adjusted distribution of the midsole foam, the specifics of the two models and thus their suitability for stride or cadence style runners should be yet more focused.

For the Metaspeed Sky+, this means moving the plate closer to the runner's foot while placing more foam in the forefoot under the plate. As a result, the cushioning foam can be compressed better and more bounce can be generated - and thus the stride length of the stride-style runner is increased even further. They are kind of imitating the Nike Alphafly with its extreme bounce in the forefoot. This of course does not do justice to the immense development effort of the Japanese engineers - and I apologize for that -  but anyone who has ever seen or run an Alphafly knows what I mean.

So there is now more foam in the ASCIS Metaspeed Sky+. 4% more to be exact. These four percent are found almost exclusively in the forefoot area. 

The steeper roll-off angle in the forefoot contributes to this, as does the slight widening of the midsole. 

The entire sole geometry has thus become even more aggressive and is designed yet more for the forefoot striking runner.


In addition, the guide groove on the underside of the midsole has shifted slightly. It is moved away from the heel and further towards the midfoot. I suspect that this will further optimize the compression possibilities of the foam under the forefoot and midfoot. Unfortunately, I can't judge how heel runners get along in the Sky+. However, I suspect that the new Edge+ would be a better choice.

Outsole

Just like the midsole, the outsole of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ hasn't changed much at first glance compared to last year. And that's good, because the predecessor had one of the best outsoles of any marathon racer.

However, the outsole of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ now consists of three and no longer two different materials. First there is the exposed FlyteFoam Turbo midsole material in the heel and midfoot area. Sure, there is some wear and tear here, but after more than 300km in the Metaspeed Sky (1) I can say that it hasn't affected the performance of the shoe in any way. I’m confident that this will also be the case in Sky+.

Second, there is the outsole in the forefoot area, which is still made of ASICSGRIP. The profile-forming cutouts have grown a little compared to the predecessor - but the concept is the same. Here, weight is saved and traction is generated at the same time. That's what you want from a performance shoe’s outsole. In addition, the cut-out in the midfoot area has become slightly larger to create more space for the changed guide groove.

My very scientific fingernail pressure test tells me that the rubber compound used this year seems to be a bit firmer than what ASICS used in the previous model. That surprises me a bit, because as I said, I didn't have any traction or durability problems in the Metaspeed Sky. Perhaps this is due to the ubiquitous supply chain issues? Firmer rubber could of course mean a slightly poorer performance on wet surfaces. But after it rained right at the beginning of my maiden run at the Würzburg Marathon, I can give the all-clear on this. Traction on wet roads is as good as before!

Last but not least, there is now a white rubber stripe on the medial side of the heel area instead of the previous black one. Surprisingly, this seems to be softer than the black rubber part. I would have expected the opposite, since this is a predestined place for high wear and also pronation. I can't see any effects on the running behavior whatsoever.

The profiling of the midsole foam is continued as if from a single source on the second sole material - ASICSGRIP. There they undoubtedly form part of the profile. Great level of detail!

Ride

After a lot of theory about stride and cadence style runners, I would like to report how the new ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ feels on the run. Since the shoe was waiting for me at home when I came back from vacation on Saturday, I of course did exactly what a runner should not do: I ran a race in the Metaspeed Sky+ on Sunday morning - “Out of the box” - without any break-in-time.

Admittedly, the Würzburg half marathon was not an A race for me. I registered spontaneously because my brother-in-law started the first half marathon of his life there (he did great with a 1:40!). Just two weeks after the Copenhagen Marathon and coming straight from an alpine hiking holiday, my legs were very, very tired from the start. Fully aware of this, I started the first few kilometers at my PB pace (approx. 3:40min/km) - I wanted to test the new shoe properly. 

And what should I say? At that half marathon pace, the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ was a blast! It went so far that, despite the not exactly fast route and windy conditions, I actually hoped for a new PB up to about halfway. Support, lockdown and stability of the shoe never left anything to be desired, even in winding sections and sometimes on cobblestones. Above all, the stability has improved compared to the predecessor thanks to the wider forefoot and the firmer heel cap. The aforementioned bounce in the forefoot was also very noticeable, provided propulsion and made you want to go faster.

Unfortunately, the battery in my legs was really empty about halfway through - anything different would have been a surprise to be honest. That's why I wasn't too annoyed.  Instead I shifted down a gear and finished the second half at about my marathon pace (4:00min/km). Therefore, the second half was no longer about getting the most out of it, but about having fun with my fellow runners and the spectators. During that second half I found that the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ was  excellent at cruising somewhere between marathon and half-marathon pace. At the end it still was a reasonable performance  at 1:23 and a very positive first run in the Metaspeed Sky+.

In the meantime, I was able to do a few more runs in Sky+ and also make a direct comparison with the predecessor. There were a few more insights:

The first thing that became obvious to me was that the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ has two “sweet spots” in terms of pace for me personally. The first one is cruising between half marathon and marathon pace as just described. With my current training level and my forefoot to midfoot stride, this means about 3:40min to 4min per kilometer. At this effort, the bounce of the forefoot, which is explicitly designed for it, can be felt most clearly and the comparison to the Nike Alphafly with its airpods placed in the forefoot is obvious. My later long run test showed, in line with this comparison, that the Sky+ now works better at slightly slower speeds, similar to the Alphafly.

The second sweet spot for me is where I can hardly run any faster. At a speed I would go for in competitions of 5km or shorter (about 3:20min/km or faster). At this speed I explicitly run through the forefoot and the steep angle of the forefoot rocker fully comes to live. The Metaspeed Sky+ is a lot of fun at these all out paces - under these conditions, the shoe and I fit together perfectly.

Unfortunately, where we don't go well together is exactly between these two best sides of the pace spectrum. What I would call 10km competition speed (about 3:30min/km) feels kinda wrong in Sky+. As if I would like to run more on the forefoot, but the shoe does not allow it. Or to put it another way: As if I was “standing too far back in the shoe” and this almost caused a negative drop. I can't explain exactly why that is, but of course I want to share this observation with you. I can only assume that in one sweet spot I tend to run on the midfoot, in the other purely on the forefoot. And the dead point then comes into play somewhere right in between, where shoe and body somehow have different opinions on the correct running style.

In a direct comparison with last year's Metaspeed Sky, I was able to determine that it doesn't give me this on/off feeling, but works equally well for me at all speeds. However, the bounce and propulsion are a little less pronounced than in the Sky+ at both the fast and the slower end of my competition-pace spectrum.

The changed placement of the carbon plate is just as noticeable. The Metaspeed Sky+ feels firmer than its predecessor despite more cushioning foam under the forefoot. This is because the plate has moved up toward the foot, meaning there is now less foam between the foot and the plate. I didn't even notice that without a direct comparison. With one of each Metaspeed versions on each foot, however, the difference was striking and, to be honest, a little more comfortable in the original Sky..

On the other hand, the Sky+ can clearly score in terms of comfort with the upper material. Everything is a little softer and more comfortable, which leans in the direction of the long-distance cruiser for half or full marathon distances as well. This said, the more robust material of the first Metaspeed Sky can be lashed down a little better, which gives me a little more confidence to really step on the gas at shorter distances.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Now that I've described the innovations on the one hand and my personal experiences with the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ on the other, the question ultimately remains: Has ASICS been able to further improve my favorite shoe of last year? Or have they turned into the wrong direction? Luckily I can deny the latter. The Metaspeed Sky+ is by no means bad - quite the opposite. Just like its predecessor, it's one of the best options long-distance runners can put on their feet for the half or full marathon distance. 


FlyteFoam Turbo is still one of two S-Tier cushioning materials. The energy return of the Metaspeed Sky+ is therefore still outstanding and has even been improved a little by the changed sole geometry. The slightly improved bounce delivers more fun on the run as well. 


The outsole is still as good as last year and one of the best on the market. The highly breathable upper has become a bit more comfortable - a quality that should not be ignored for the marathon. 


For shorter distances of 5-10km I would probably have to toss a coin between Metaspeed Sky 1 and 2 (or +). But for the long haul, however, ASICS has achieved its goal and made an already outstanding shoe even better. The question that each of you still need to discuss with yourself and the running shoe retailer of your choice: Which one is the right shoe for you - the Sky+ or the Edge+? ASICS spoils us runners with choices, because I'm sure that the Edge+ is in no way inferior to its twin.


Nils’ Score 9.53/10

Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 9.5 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)


There are small deductions for the dead point on my personal pace scale, for a little too much upper material in the forefoot and because some other manufacturers manage to offer their competition shoes for a little less. I have nothing more to complain about with the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+.

Comparisons


ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ vs. ASICS Metaspeed Sky (RTR Multi Tester Review)

This comparison ran through the entire review, so please read above. In short: More bounce and comfort with Sky+. Both shoes US 10.5.


ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ vs Puma FAST-R Nitro Elite (RTR Mulit Tester Review)

Both shoes have outstanding upper materials that can hardly be topped in terms of breathability and weight. However, the FAST-R is even more secure on the foot and is even more comfortable. In terms of efficiency, the Metaspeed with its 5mm drop appeals to me a bit more - it just fits my running style perfectly. But the FAST-R is very close despite less bounce. Both shoes are about the same price, but the Metaspeed weighs a good 25 grams less. If you look at every gram and also tend to have a lower drop, choose the ASICS. If you prefer a higher drop, just want a comfortable (super) shoe on your foot, or if you want to run technically demanding routes, choose the Puma. Both shoes are US 10.5.


ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ vs. Nike Alphafly (RTR English Review)

It took me a long time to put my feet in the Alphafly for the first time. But when there were no more Metaspeeds to order anywhere in winter, I found an alternative that was at least as good, if not even better. Both shoes use great breathable uppers with good support for the longest efforts. However, when things get a little twistier on course, the Sky+ has slight advantages. When it comes to the outsole, ASICSGRIP is clearly ahead. But no other shoe offers as much bounce and fun as the Alphafly. The Metaspeed Sky+ is the only shoe that can keep up for me in terms of efficiency. But despite the improved bounce in the forefoot, the trampoline effect of the Alphafly is simply even more blatant. Both shoes are very stable against overpronation. Both are very similar shoes. For half and full marathon I would probably opt for the Alphafly. But the shorter the race, the the Sky+ is ahead. Both US 10.5.

 

ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ vs. adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2 (RTR Multi Tester Review)

Both shoes have outstanding upper materials that can hardly be topped in terms of breathability and weight. And while the Adios was still the more comfortable shoe compared to its predecessor, ASICS has caught up with the Sky+ on that front. However, the midsole of the Metaspeed with its 5mm drop suits my running style better and feels more efficient for me. Metaspeed is more about forefoot bounce, adidas is about fast transitions. That's why the Metaspeed is the better shoe for me personally. In addition, it weighs almost 25 grams less in my size, but also costs 30€ more! If you look at every gram and also tend to like a lower drop, choose the ASICS. If you prefer a higher drop and faster transitions, choose the adidas. adidas US 10, ASICS US 10.5.


ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ vs. Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 (RTR Multi Tester Review)

The Endorphin Pro 2 is more stable compared to the ASICS, runs firmer and is not quite as energetic. The EP2 makes more use of its rocker geometry - it's all about fast roll-off, not trampoline-like catapulting as in the Sky+. The EP2 is slightly ahead in terms of support but mainly fits narrower feet. The outsole of the ASICS is way better. The Saucony should work better for heel strikers than the ASICS. But for me, the Sky+ simply feels better on my feet: it's not as rough on muscles and tendons, it's almost as stable and somehow more efficient. Both US 10.5.


ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ vs. Nike Vaporflly Next% (RTR English Review)

The Nike Next% is the benchmark for any race shoe with a carbon fiber plate. But not only can the Metaspeed Sky+ keep up, it actually works better for stride style runners like me! The Vaporfly is softer and provides faster transitions with its higher drop and earlier rocker. However, it cannot quite keep up with the Sky+ when it comes to “bounce”. The Sky+ also has a better outsole. But basically this comparison is about the runner type question raised by ASICS. Sky+ for stride style runners, Vaporfly for cadence style runners (or the Edge+!. I personally get along better with the geometry of the ASICS, which is why I would choose it in this comparison. Both 44.5 EUR.


Our Metaspeed Sky+ multi tester review is coming soon.


Please Watch RTR Editor Sam's Initial Video Review of the Metaspeed Edge+ (14:27)

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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8 comments:

Nils said...

Following

Anonymous said...

Hey Nils, great write up! I’ve looked at my figures from previous efforts and it appears my cadence only going up by 5/6 strides from east runs to my 5k pace, and my stride definitely extends so I would be a stride runner and technically suited to the Sky. That being said, I lad midfoot and slightly further back, I ran a 3:08 marathon in the sky a few months ago when returning from injury so wasn’t actually pushing my pace, but it held pace really well. Now the updates have come, would you say someone like myself who has a long stride but can heel strike would be best in the Sky or Edge? Any comments appreciate :)

Nils said...

Hey Anonymous! Thanks for visiting RTR and the kind words! To be honest - without putting my feet into the Edge, i think it's a toss up. You'll probably have great races in either of the two new Metaspeeds. You'll probably be more efficient in the Sky+ earlier in the race, when your form is good and you are striking more towards midfoot. Later in the race Edge+ might be better for you, when you get tired, the form breaks down and you are probably striking more through the heel. Pick your poison! Best for you would be to find a run specialty store where you can try both.

Anonymous said...

Nils, it sounds like you're saying you are a 10.5 in Sky+ and a 10 - 10.5 in Sky, so Sky+ runs smaller??? It seems like other reviews are saying it runs larger, so I'm trying to figure out what is right. In original Sky, I had to size up from 10.5 to 11.

Nils said...

Hey anonymous,

Sorry for the late reply. No, I think Sky+ is true to size. My Sky 1 sample pair was a half size smaller (10) than I usually wear (10.5). This was okish for most of the runs but cost me a toenail after each marathon i ran in the Sky 1 ;-) So bottom line: I think Sky and Sky+ share the same length. But the Sky+ toebox is higher and the material a bit more forgiving - which should cause less issues compared to Sky 1.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying about the sizing Nils. I ended up ordering both 10.5 & 11. I compared both to the original Sky in size 11 and Sky+ is definitely a half size larger. 10.5 Sky+ & 11 Sky are about the same size. 11 Sky+ is noticeably larger, including in length.

Grégoire said...

Hello, I just discovered your blog, it is a mine of information, thank you very much. I really liked this test, I wore these shoes a few months ago.

Nils said...

Thanks so much for your kind words, Gregoire!