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The Asics MetaSpeed Sky Is a Worthy Rival to the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%

Our testing shows it's one of the fastest marathon racing shoes you can buy right now.

asics metaspeed sky
Lakota Gambill

The RW Takeaway: A nylon-based foam and carbon-fiber plate make this marathon racer light and snappy.

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  • Designed to help you take longer strides
  • Runs about a half-size short

    Price: $250
    Type: Road Racing
    Weight: 6.8 oz (M); 5.5 oz (W)
    Drop: 5 mm

    Buy Men’s Buy Women’s

    Back in 2016, when Galen Rupp wore a prototype of the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 4% and captured bronze in the Olympic Marathon, nobody outside Nike knew the footwear revolution to come. The Vaporfly upended the sport and, since then, most running-shoe companies have rushed to catch up to Nike and release their own super shoe for road racing. For what it’s worth, the same equipment gap opened on the oval during this Olympics cycle, too—Brooks allowed its athletes to wear any competitors’ track spikes they felt would give them the best chance for success at the Games.

    On the roads, however, brands are closing in on Nike and are now making shoes that lead to sizable PRs for their athletes.

    Lakota Gambill
    Asics MetaSpeed Sky

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    • Fast
    • Lightweight
    • Excellent marathon racing option

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    • Runs about a half size short

    The Sky is Asics’ top model and, based on the results of elite runners like Sara Hall and what we’ve seen in our own testing, it’s one of the fastest alternatives to the Vaporfly so far.

    Sky is the first model available in a two-shoe collection from Asics—the other is the MetaSpeed Edge.

    Why two shoes? Asics believes there are two ways runners can go faster—you either take longer strides or you take more steps. The Sky is built for that “stride” runner. With a 5mm drop and almost uniformly thick midsole from heel to toe, it helps those runners increase their stride length while making them roughly 3 percent more economical—runners use less energy to cover a given distance.

    The Edge, by comparison, has an 8mm drop and a more gradual rocker under the forefoot. Asics claims the design helps “cadence” runners to be more efficient by reducing the number of steps they’d otherwise take (Asics reports a reduction of 750 steps over a marathon).

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    Lakota Gambill

    nike janoski floral orange shop florida locations | It Starts With the Foam

    Before this era of super shoes, midsoles were commonly made from EVA, the standard white foam that was acceptably soft, durable, and cheap for general use. The Vaporfly ushered in Pebax, proving that a lightweight midsole compound could be exceptionally soft but also springy and explosive. Other brands are using Pebax now, while some are experimenting with different compounds that they hope deliver similar performance gains. Asics found its answer in nylon, dubbed FF Blast Turbo, which has properties similar to Pebax.

    Nylon, like Pebax, compresses easily when you land, so it feels really squishy and soft upon foot strike yet firms up for toe-off. But the key difference from EVA is that it springs back to its normal shape, so you get consistent cushioning with every stride.

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    Buried deep in that foam block is a full-length carbon plate. It’s curved to reduce ankle flexion, so you expend less energy from the joint. This is something Asics has tried on shoes like the MetaRide, claiming its “Guidesole” construction reduces energy loss at the ankle by 19 percent. In that shoe, Asics uses an extreme rocker so when you land, your foot rolls directly forward to toe-off, rather than requiring you to stabilize your footstrike.

    Does it Match the Vaporfly?

    Over a dozen runs in the MetaSpeed Sky, I found it to feel—and even sound—quite a lot like the Vaporfly. There’s plenty of comfort and it’s undeniably faster than most other shoes we’ve tried, thanks to a good mix of cushioning and responsiveness. We put it on the feet of 10 wear-testers to get a sense for how it performs.

    Andy Po regularly logs miles in Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% and Hoka One One Bondi, so I set him up with the Sky.

    “My longest test run was 20 miles, which was also my longest run ever,” Andy said. “The Sky isn’t as fast as the Vaporfly—the snap isn’t as snappy. I feel pushed forward more in the Nikes.

    asics metaspeed sky
    Try before you buy. If you’re ordering online, we recommend going up a half size.
    Lakota Gambill

    "The toebox felt generous when I first put them on. It’s wide around the sides, but at the front it gets really narrow so they fit tight.”

    On a recent Saturday-morning group run, I noticed that Andy is a true forefoot runner, which exacerbated his issues with the toebox fit—he was sore after that 20-miler.

    Our recommendation: Head to your local running store and try on the MetaSpeed Sky before you buy a pair—or, if you can’t, go up a half size.

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