"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Asics Gel Fuji Racer - First Impressions

Purple shoes eh?
**  This review seems to be getting a lot of traffic so I will continue to update it, based on my experiences with the Gel Fuji Racers.  These will be marked with asterisks  **

You can read my review of the Gel Fuji Trainer 2 here: trainer 2 review

I must admit, the shoe I was most looking forward to in 2012 was the New Balance MT110.  I dont think that I was alone in anticipation, however, there are quite a few new light-weight shoes to be excited about that are being released this spring.  Included in this is the first lightweight trail racer from Asics, the Gel Fuji Racer.

After running quite a bit in the 110, I was curious as to what other shoes this spring had to offer, perhaps after realizing there is no way I could run 100 miles in the 110s.  This led me to look for shoes with a little more substance underfoot, and sported a 4-8mm drop.  Fitting directly into this category was the Fuji Racer.  Weighing in at about 9 ounces and sporting a 6mm heel to toe offset, this shoe reminds me a lot of a road shoe that is close to my heart, the Asics Gel Hyperspeed (Ryan Hall's preferred racing shoe).  It has a wide forefoot, and a stable feel underfoot.  One of the things I noticed right away was that this shoe was light and surprisingly flexible for a trail shoe with a rock plate.

Multi-directional lugs and drainage holes
The light weight is achieved through several modifications.  While the Fuji's sport a fairly well built heel counter, the rest of the upper is soft and contains minimal materials and overlays.  The second way the light weight is achieved is through several cut-out vents or drains placed in the bottom of the shoe.  This styling can be found in several other Asics models, and its main purpose is the provide weight savings.  However, for me, this also serves as a drain so that the shoes can drain quickly after a water crossing.  That being said, I always noticed rocks stabbing my feet through the holes in my gel hyperspeeds.  Asics solved this problem but reinforcing the drains with plastic to help support and strengthen them.  I have yet to get stabbed with a rock through the holes, so I figure it works.

Pretty flexible in the forefoot
Traction on this shoe is modest, the multidirectional lugs stand out from the outsole enough that they get good grip in light mud, but not enough that they can compare to a fell shoe or true mud specific shoe.   On hardpack trail these shoes excel, and I havent had the chance to try them on anything super rocky yet, but I dont expect them to be as sticky as the rubber on the MT110. 

Probably the strongest assets the Fuji Racer has to offer is that 1) they have plenty of cushion in a light weight package 2) they seem very flexible in the forefoot and 3) they transition nicely onto road surface.  In fact they work so nicely on roads, that I have been running my road runs and occasional treadmill runs in them.  The Solyte eva compound used in the midsole is plenty forgiving.  They also seem to have a very durable rubber on the outsole, as I don't see any substantial wear despite taking these shoes off-trail.  I plan on getting in some real longs run wearing the Fuji Racers in the next couple weeks, so I will update this review with a more substantial review of how the function on long trail runs, but I have high hopes.  They are incredibly comfortable, have a gussetted tongue, a small lace garage, and can be tied down tightly without bruising my feet on downhills which really helps the agile feel of the shoe.

The only downside of the shoe so far is that the heel feels a little chunky, sometimes getting in the way of a clean midfoot strike.  The wide heel does provide a nice stable ride though.
Wide heel and two more vents/drains in the midfoot

Check back later for more thoughts.

****  So I have had these shoes for a couple weeks now, and have had the chance to log some miles.  Overall I think the Fuji Racers have great potential to be a durable every day trainer type trail shoe.  They dont really excell well at any particular type of terrain, but rather are proficient on most types of trail I have run.  The negatives of these shoes include the strange drains in the bottoms of each shoe.  The ones in the forefoot become palpable with your feet due to the plastic supporting them.  2)  The vents in the bottom of the shoes let in cold mud/slush from trails and dirt roads which is unpleasant.  Hopefully the drains are helpful in the summer when the feet heat up otherwise they are pretty useless.  They are plenty comfortable and protective to be a very usable shoe, but dont really inspire me to run fast or push hard for some reason (this might be a good thing!).****

****  Ran the entire Winona Lake 50 mile wearing the Gel Fuji's.  Never had to change socks or shoes.  A little more debris came in through the bottom vents than I would have preferred, but the cushioning, protection and flexibility was excellent.  Any small niggles from the shoe did not get magnified over the course of the race.  ****

Has anyone else tried these out?  What do you think?

9 comments:

  1. Really- nice blog that useful for me....
    Asics

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  2. These look like a solid bet. Had the NB 100s and loved them but their support on off camber stuff was pretty weak.

    I enjoy my Inov-8 F Lite 230s but they are not suitable for over 15km unless you are a freak / full time runner.

    I loved my Asics Gel Trail Sensor 4's for multi day 40km plus runs - surprisingly low and light and flexible for a full on trail shoe. Asics seem to fit the shape of my foot nicely. I run on the road in Hyperspeed 4's and love those.

    Will probably give these a go as I cannot find the 110's here in South Africa and the Puma Faas 250 trail feels lacking in upper support and the Saucony Kinvara feels a bit narrow.

    Cool blog, keep it up!
    Andrew

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  3. felt great in store but after walking around for just an hour my feet were too fatigued to continue. when took them off every time i bend forward and turn even slightly i have extreme sharp heel pain, brand new injury. what happened?

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  4. Using now for 6 months same pair, everything from 5 k races, to 24 miles on rail to trail, half marathon at Fredericksburg. Good cushioning, durable shoe . Occasional rock comes up through the sole drain hole and has to be removed. Kudos for a well built light shoe

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  5. I've been wearing mine for about three months now and, interestingly, mostly on road. Absolutely loving them! Nice review - thanks.

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  6. Can anyone measure real length of racer's insole please ? I can't find them in stores where I live, and I'd like to compare it to official asics size chart. Thanks

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  7. What are they like on wet rocks? My old pair were dreadful. Ran in the lake district and nearly killed myself.

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    Replies
    1. Horrible, horrible, horrible on wet/loose rock

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  8. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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