Are Asics’ $250 MetaRun Shoes Worth the Hype?

Mj 618_348_asics metarun

There’s been a lot of talk in running and shoe geek circles around the Asics MetaRun, most notable the $250 price tag. The sky-high cost is mostly due to loads of tinkering with materials to create what essentially is a concept car for your feet: You can only buy the limited-edition MetaRun through the end of 2015, but we’re likely to see some of these new features work their way into other Asics models down the road. So should you buy them? We took them for a few test runs to find out. Here’s what we think:

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Initially, we were comforted by the cozy step-in feel customary with Asics. The shoes win the “war on the floor” because you immediately say “Oooh” when you slip one on. All that memory foam around the collar and the thick sockliner gives you the impression the shoe will deliver a cushy ride — even if you haven’t taken a step.

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And, in fact, it does. Its new foam composition is said to be half the weight of standard EVA, without sacrificing cushioning and responsiveness. Combined with a repositioning of gel units, the ride is forgiving, but not the marshmallow-like soft variety you’ll find on Hoka One One models or even the slightly spongy ride that the Nike Air Pegasus delivers. Instead, it has firm cushioning that will really be appreciated by bigger-bodied guys who put a lot of force into the foam. Smaller, lighter runners are likely to find the ride a bit stiff. That stiffness is partly due to the shoe’s stabilizing features: It has a stout plastic heel counter that wraps around the back to help keep your foot locked over the midsole. And under the arch is a carbon-fiber shank that prevents the sole from deforming too greatly as your foot rolls in on the foam. Similar features are common on most stability shoes, though with cheaper construction that helps keep the overall cost of the shoe in check.

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The top-notch workmanship continues above the foot, where a two-layer upper includes an engineered mesh shell that offers structure where you most need it, without the use of confining overlays. The inner lining is seamless and so soft against your foot, you can rock these sockless. While Asics claims the fit is “like a glove,” we found it cups the heel tight and wraps snugly through the midfoot, especially at the arch, but there’s plenty of wiggle room in the toebox — and space for the feet to swell on long runs.

The choice to introduce another luxury stability shoe is a curious one. Asics already has the Kayano, which has been successful for more than two decades. And, though it rings up at a hefty $160, it’s hard to beat for runners seeking a soft ride that cradles your overpronating foot. But the MetaRun isn’t likely to make a serious impact on those sales, especially because it’s effectively a short-lived product. [$250;]

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