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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Asics Launches High-Tech Racer Ahead Of Tokyo Olympics

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A new footwear foam from Asics combined with a carbon fiber plate has given the Japanese brand its latest elite racing silhouette ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The April 1 launch of the Meta Speed Sky highlights fresh technology focused on increasing a runner’s stride length. 

“We are focused toward the Tokyo Olympics and making every athlete go faster,” says Chad Mullavey, Asics global product line manager. “We launched the Meta Racer in 2020 and wanted to challenge how to deliver the best-in-class experience tailored to elite athletes.” 

During research at the Kobe-based Asics Institute of Sports Science, engineers found two distinct types of runners when intensifying their pace: the stride runner who increases their overall step length and the cadence runner who picks up their steps per minute rate. That stride runner spends more time bounding and more time in the air between steps, meaning Asics needed to improve the guidance of getting the runner through the gate cycle and stabilizing the foot. 

To make it happen, Asics created FlightFoam Blast Turbo, an ultra-lightweight, high-bounce nylon-based foam. In the Meta Speed Sky, engineers used two layers of the foam in the midsole sandwiching a full-length, tuned carbon fiber plate. With a slight rocker construction—the 33mm stack height in the heel and 28mm in the forefoot for the midsole cushioning allows for a 5mm drop and weighs just 7 ounces for a men’s size nine—produces additional toe spring to encourage a forward foot strike. World Athletics has approved the shoe for competition. The sidewall features flaring to allow the midsole to compress and redirect energy back up to support that propulsive toe off, Mullavey says. 

With more than 20 elite global athletes sporting the new design, testing was an iterative process full of prototypes and feedback both from the streets and the lab. Changes to the silhouette during creation included delivering a wider forefoot to help stabilize the foot at race pace and a reinforced midfoot to help transition to toe off. The research even spawned a second model, the Meta Speed Edge. 

The Meta Speed Edge, which will release later in 2021 because it was born out of the Meta Speed Sky research, tailors to the cadence runner with a 29mm stack height on the heel and 21mm height in the forefoot for an 8mm drop and a tuned carbon fiber plate, all designed to match the strike point of a cadence runner’ shorter oscillation.

The cadence runner, because they spend less time in the air, required less stack height in an effort to reduce the shoe’s propulsion. The lower height encouraged them to stride farther, ensuring energy redirected in the proper direction. 

“We don’t want an off-the-shelf experience,” Mullavey says about creating multiple products from the research. “We are addressing the broader audience and marketplace.” 

Asics has brought in technology from its trail running to the street, using the Asics Grip outsole for the first time in a street product for improved traction on wet pavement. The upper contains a single layer of engineered mesh designed to bend longitudinally and hold laterally. It is the first runner from Asics with an upper made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester. 

Designed for the elite and sub-elite athlete at the $250 price point, Asics expects the technology to be popular at the marathon distance, but also for those looking for speed at shorter distances. “We are excited to see our athletes perform in this, hopefully in Tokyo,” Mullavey says, “and looking at how we continue to move forward and matriculate (the technology) to more accessible price points.”

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