In my last shoe review there was mention of a shoe that I thought was one of the best racing flats for the half marathon distance. That shoe is the Asics Gel Fujiracer. Yes, a trail racing flat for running and racing on the roads. This shoe is part of the Asics Trail collection. Not only do I think this is an awesome racing flat I also think it’s a very, very good training shoe, I’m that impressed with this shoe. This shoe has even been spotted racing on the feet of some ITU athletes. I’d like to thank the ABQ Running Shop for sending me a pair to test.
When you first pick up this shoe you notice a few things. There are holes in the sole, the Solyte midsole material extends the length of the shoe, it has a toe bumper, a nifty little pouch on the tongue to tuck your shoe laces in to keep them from getting snagged by a thorn bush and it’s even lightweight. If you are someone who demands feather weight racing flats this shoe is not going to make you happy or excited. But the average runner probably shouldn’t be a feather weight shoe freak and yes this probably means you.
If you are running in Asics this shoe will feel like an Asics shoe. The fit is true to size. The way this shoe runs says Asics. The way the shoe transitions from landing to toe off is Asics but with a firmer ride then you will find in many Asics shoes. That’s due to the Solyte midsole material which runs the entire length of the shoe. Quite frankly I love how the Asics’s shoe line feels and to me this shoe feels as good and in some respects, better then the DS Trainer 18’s which I reviewed here and still run in. If you like the DS Trainer 18’s there is a good chance you will like the Gel Fujiracers. How do I know this?
These two shoes are close enough that if you traced the outline of the shoes they would overlap, the insoles actually do overlap. The Gel Fujiracers insole is thinner, lighter and has a mesh backing that would seem to allow for better drainage and faster drying times. The internal stitching is done in identical patterns. In fact with some minor changes to one shoe or the other they could be siblings. They may not be siblings decked out as they are, but they are cousins and they run comparable.
The Gel Fujiracer’s handle trails with ease, they also handle running on the road equally as well. It’s truly a shoe that can do double duty, triple duty actually. The shoe rides low to the ground, it’s flexible, fast and firm. More firm then you are used to from Asics. It’s the one thing that stands out immediately and stands out in a good way. This shoe became my go to shoe for fast runs on the groomed trails around Tucson. It handled the loose, sandy trails with ease, maintaining excellent traction and allowing for a solid toe off at speed. It’s handled the uphills and the downhills around Asheville, NC equally as well. You can take this shoe out for an interval set on the track, a threshold run on the streets, a trail run or just for a run around your favorite loop and be happy that you chose this shoe. It runs fast, feels good, is solid under your foot, supportive without being bulky or stiff. it’s low to the ground but not a zero drop shoe. It has gentle pronation support but not burdened with lots of wedges or motion control supports. Did I mention how nice the extra firmness feels in this shoe when you run? I was surprised how it felt and it was a pleasant surprise.
This shoe also works great as a racing flat. If you are a just a road racer and have been using a light weight trainer/racer type shoe, this shoe is a must try on shoe the next time you go into the running shop. If you are a triathlete, this shoe could be the perfect solution for half ironman’s. No matter which sport you do, or if you do both, this shoe is fast and fast to get on. It’s very comfy and it runs fast very well. Given that it’s a firmer shoe then many racing flats, I suspect that it may do a better job absorbing shock over the long distance races compared to a light weight flat. This may reduce your soreness those first few days after you race. This shoe could even make for a great stand alone marathon racing flat. The majority of triathletes will be better off using a shoe with more support then this for an Ironman though.
Now for the downsides of this shoe. If I were running or racing in the rain there are two drawbacks to this shoe. The first is the drainage holes in the bottom. In shoes drainage holes work in both directions. It allows water to drain out and they also allow water to drain in. We’ve gotten a lot of rain here and there are no shortage of puddles and no shortage of socks with three tiny wet spots on them. I’ve purposely run through a lot of puddles to test this out. It’s not the water flowing down the street or little depression in the road puddles that do this. It’s the quarter inch deep or deeper step in the puddle and send water splashing everywhere puddles that will leave you with wet socks. But this only happens in the drainage holes in the forefoot, not the midfoot or heel. I’ve yet to encounter in 20+ years of running a shoe that didn’t drain water unless it had holes cut into the sole. In my opinion drainage holes are more about gimmicks an less about function.
The second issue I have with this shoe also happens only in wet conditions. When running on stone or concrete that is slick with biomass and wet this shoe tends to spin out. Much like a car tire when you stomp on the gas and it’s wet, this shoe tends to do the same thing. It’s only on toe off that this has happened and it’s easily managed. I’ve never had this happen with another pair of Asics. Now maybe it’s because much of the rock around here is old and has a moss like substance growing on it, but it’s also happened on concrete sidewalks that had that same sort of growth. On wet roads I’ve not encountered this problem. In fact on wet roads I’ve not given this shoe a second though or had a concern for traction. It wasn’t enough to stop me from picking up another pair of these shoes. It is something you need to be aware should you run in a damp to wet area with some sort of biomass growing on some of your running surfaces.
If I were Asics, I’d take this shoe, remove the toe bumper, plug the drainage holes, change the forefoot outsole to make it less slippery when wet then sell this shoe as a lightweight trainer/racer or racing flat. Given how similar, dare I say identical, in some respects to the DS Trainer 18 the Gel FujiRacer is, I suspect that someone at Asics already figure this out in reverse. I suspect they took the ever popular DS Trainer line and figured out how to turn that mold into a trail racing shoe. That it also doubles as an awesome road training and racing shoe is a positive unintended consequence.