Everyone knew Eliud Kipchoge’s feat of running a marathon in under two hours on October 12, 2019, would change things. We didn’t anticipate it would set off a dominoes that started with speculation about the mysterious Nike shoes he wore and ended with brand after brand releasing running footwear laced with carbon fiber plates.
The crucial piece between? The creation of new rules by the race governing body World Athletics stating that a running shoe must be available to all consumers for four months before competition. With the 2020 Summer Olympics set to begin on July 24 and few months to spare, Nike unveiled the commercial version of Kipchoge’s shoe, the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, and Adidas, New Balance, Brooks and Saucony followed suit with carbon-equipped footwear of their own.
Notably absent from the pack was Asics. The company still had time to get a shoe on shelves before the four-month deadline arrived. Then race organizers limited the field and effectively canceled the Tokyo Marathon — a race Asics sponsors — in late February amid growing concerns of COVID-19’s global spread. Postponing or canceling the Olympics became a top concern that only recently played out; the games have been rescheduled for next summer.
Thus the race to release carbon-fiber running shoes ended without ceremony. Nevertheless, Asics has revealed its latest piece of footwear, the Metaracer. The official launch, initially set for an Innovation Summit in Tokyo, took place inside the pristine walls of a futuristic foyer, beamed into the heads of industry insiders via VR headset. “Meta” couldn’t be a more appropriate prefix.
The Metaracer’s unique feature set includes not only a carbon fiber plate, as expected, but also Asic’s lightweight FlyteFoam, an engineered mesh upper and the company’s proprietary Guidesole technology, which helps propel runners forward from one stride to the next.
If the new shoe came last in terms of its release date — it won’t be available until June 26 — it might be first in revealing a new turning of the running world; one in which we witness innovation milestones through made-up digital worlds rather than from the sidelines of landmark events like Kipchoge’s breaking of the two-hour marathon barrier.
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