I never had any luck with trail shoes. All my previous trail running events are ran with either trail shoes that I didn't like, ill fitting or one that offered little traction. And when I signed up and learnt about the terrain of the Old Fisherman Trail Challenge at Cape Town, South Africa that I ran last June 2012, I began searching around for one that will fit and suit me nicely, and one that will last me for quite a while.
Enter the ASICS Gel-Fuji Racer, a brand new and lightest model yet trail shoe from the Japanese company. ASICS has never given me the impression of a good trail shoes. But when I read about the Fuji Racer and that most reviews are on the positive side, I quickly hunt them down.
The Fuji Racer is built upon the popular ASICS DS series and I must say its one handsome looking shoe. Weighing in at about 240 grams for a size men US8.5, its a low enough profile trail shoes measuring at a 6mm differential and it offers a rock plate protection, thus offers excellent protection from the rough surfaces but yet satisfying my needs for a minimalist shoe. Don't be mistaken when I mentioned minimalist shoe though as you still can't feel the ground wearing it. I'm rather more emphasizing on the 6mm differential.
The fit was excellent and I did not had any problem with the size. It was true to my US8.5 size and it fits wonderful. Snug but not overly tight, a curled in arch area with the trusstic system in providing a "hugging" feature there and a hardened heel counter for the stability and protection on the Achilles region. And although coming in a "D" width, the toe box has very minimal stitching over it. Instead, most of the cosmetic except for the tiger stripes are welded on it hence minimising seams and also offering excellent flexibility. All these features is already enough to provide me a glove like fit! And yes, no hotspots too, at least from my experience.
Very good flexibility for a trail shoe...
The upper is made upon what ASICS claim to be breathable upper. Built on top a dual layer mesh, I won't say it's very breathable but rather acceptable. I guess not many of us will want a highly breathable trail shoe too, as it will mean debris and moisture entering the shoe. The tongue is also a one piece construction which also offers a lace pocket for inserting the shoe lace in it to prevent it fro being tangle up by branches while running.
The lace pocket...
The midsole is made again of ASICS lightweight Solyte EVA rubber (why can't SpEVA be use more often?), with no pivot nor stability feature built into it. And with ASICS High Abrasion Rubber used on the outsole to offer durability at high wear and tear area, I enjoyed very much every step I made at my ascend and descend at Table Mountain with the shoe as if offers excellent traction and control. Traction is made possible with the tiny "X" shaped lugs founds mainly at the forefoot area. And when I stepped on mud and I must say it was ankle deep, the outsole did not become an instant mud cake. To my surprise, I managed to carry on running with a rather "clean" and "mud-less" shoe. I was impressed.
Closeup on the Solyte midsole and also the upper mesh...
Besides the cushioning offered by Solyte at all around the midsole of the shoes, a rear gel cushioning is built into the rear as like most other ASICS shoes. And honestly speaking, although I know that ASICS are known for their gel cushioning and is a proprietary feature in their shoes, I will rather have the gel removed.
The Fuji Racer has no water repellent or proofing coating like Gore-Tex or Ion-Mask on it, hence water will surely sip into the meshes. However, the outsole also have these drainage ports which allows water to actually escape the shoes. However, it also allows water to enter the shoe, hence one needs to be careful not to run over puddles of water. But I still think this is a very neat feature that I have enjoyed in my previously owned K-Swiss shoes. Drainage ports, yes or not, water will still enter the shoe when it pours or even when the entire shoes goes into say a river. The main thing is, to allow the water to escape from the shoe! And this was proven when I went knee deep over at a waterfall somewhere on top Table Mountain, and ankle deep at a small stream near Hout Bay. Shoes were soaked to the max, but the extra wetness were quickly got rid off as I ran.
With the ASICS Gel-Fuji Racer, my search for my "first" trail shoe is over as this shoe will certainly be my choice for 2 upcoming trail runs. My many thanks to Ms. Kris Lee of ASICS Malaysia for arranging and sponsoring this pair of ASICS Gel-Fuji Racer for my Old Fisherman Trail Challenge and also for review purposes.
The ASICS Gel-Fuji Racer retails at a very reasonable price of RM349.00 and is available at most ASICS authorised dealer.