A win in this year's OCC shows that the FujiSpeed 2 is fast. Is it for everyone?
FujiSpeed 2 – Fast and Furious
Setting out to rule the world of lightweight, super-foamed and carbon plated trail race shoes, Asics bring us the FujiSpeed 2. A large slab of FF Blast + encapsulates a full length carbon plate to push you to your bests around the trails. The shoe is very race oriented. This is shown in both the design of the midsole and the upper. Both of which are narrow. If you are looking for a trail shoe which offers stability, keep on clicking. This is not the shoe for you. However, if you want a fast, wild ride keep reading!
I will start by saying that I didn’t really enjoy the first version of this model. I had high hopes that this shoe would perform better. My initial thoughts when unboxing it were positive. But what about the rest?
Weight in Asics’ sample size: 243g (8.57oz)
Stack height: 35mm heel and 30mm forefoot for a 5mm drop
Upper – Thin and race ready
Stepping into the Asics FujiSpeed 2, you can instantly feel that the shoe is designed to be race ready. None of the wide toe box, relaxed fit of an all day trail shoe here. Narrow, snug and very fitted. The tapered to box is designed to hold you in place for the wild ride ahead. Whilst the upper is super thin and designed for lightness, it is not the most comfortable of materials. The mesh is quite stiff and doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre with the foot.
On the positive side, the upper is vegan friendly and the gusseted tongue does a good job of wrapping the foot for security. The laces in the FujiSpeed 2 are more akin to those found in the Alphafly than most other trail shoes. They do a very good job of holding tight. They did not cause me any issues with coming undone. All along the lace, the serrated stitching helps to add friction and keep things tight and right. Asics have also included a lace loop on the tongue to stop the laces from flapping, snagging and tripping runners while on the trail.
Around the upper, we have several overlays which add to the stiffness of the construction. On the lateral side, we have a large Asics logo. The medial side finds a mirror image of the logo to give more structure to the already stiff material. Along the toe box, we find more synthetic cover in the form of the Mount Fuji logo. This adds some toe protection as well as structure. For a race focussed shoe, the heel cup is fairly well padded and stout. There is a prominent pull tab on the back to assist with sliding the torpedo shaped shoe on.
This is definitely a narrow and snug fit. Race ready like Andy wrote. Unlike the first version, this shoe offers a little bit of padding around the heel and overall the upper feels more pleasant. Kudos to Asics for bringing these textured laces to this shoe, they do a much better job that the previous lacing system.
My biggest concern with this upper and fit is around the ankle. The geometry of that heel cup is relatively round but sits quite low around my ankle, thus making it less comfortable than it looks.
Midsole – Stiff for some, springy for others
The overriding adjectives to describe the midsole in the FujiSpeed 2 are stiff and narrow. When stepping in, the stiffness of the sole and carbon plate combination is very apparent. There is almost no give or flex, Out on the trails, the Fujispeed 2 translates this stiffness into a wildly unstable ride. My usual preference in shoes are for those which lack stability. However, when running through sections of the UTMB course around Chamonix which featured steep descents and rocky surfaces, I was genuinely too nervous to open up. I found the stiffness of the midsole and plate causing me to pronate wildly with each rock and roll pushing my ankles from side to side. Far from assisting my fast running, I found myself backing right off in speed in a sense of self preservation.
Along with instability, the stiffness of the plate means that there is little to no ground feel in the Fujispeed 2. Whilst the 5mm drop does not seem that aggressive, it certainly feels such when combined with the foam and plate combination. I can’t say I personally enjoyed the ride of the FujiSpeed 2, although, while in Chamonix, I saw plenty of accomplished runners flying both up and down the rocky paths while wearing them. Perhaps the issue is with my trail ability rather than the design of the FujiSpeed 2. It’s definitely fast but I never felt confident enough in my foot placement with the narrow and stiff sole to really take advantage of the mechanical assistance offered by the build.
I see what Andy means when he says stiff. Yes you can feel the carbon plate and the shoe isn’t flexible. But somehow for me the first word that comes to mind is “springy”. The shoe feels very dynamic in the forefoot and FF Blast + does a good job at offering some cushion despite the relatively low stack in the forefoot. The shoe loves picking up the pace and while it feels quite flat (i.e. not very rockered), it transitions nicely to the forefoot. This would all sound very promising but then comes what Andy perfectly describes. The lack of confidence. And I would even say the fear that this shoe creates in some instances.
I took it for a couple of runs in the Alps and all I can remember is how much I feared twisting my ankles. The platform is narrow and the shoe doesn’t offer enough support medially nor laterally. I would simply use it on light, gravel trails. As long as they’re flat – which isn’t ideal for a trail racing shoe.
Outsole – Asics Grip holds you tight
A full covering of Asics grip is there to ensure that you stick to the trails. On the underside of the FujiSpeed 2 you will find a range of lugs which are around 4.5mm high and offer good grip on dry and dusty terrain. When the going gets wetter and muddier, I have found that the shoes begin to slip a little which does not help when mixed with the overall instability of the shoe.
From road to trail, the outsole will hold you where you need to be unless conditions become very inclement or technical. However, if you live in a place where mud is the order of the day on most of your runs, it would probably be wise to look elsewhere for your traction needs.
Conclusion – Not for the faint of heart or weak of ankle!
Asics set out to create a fast trail running shoe. Stian Angermund proved that they managed this with an excellent win at OCC this year, albeit in the women’s colourway. However, in creating a super fast, aggressive trail shoe, they seem to have left out some of the comfort and security that mere mortals like me enjoy. The incredibly stiff midsole and carbon plate lead to a real instability in the shoe which meant that on rocky trails, I wasn’t confident enough in my footing to really get the most out of the platform. I also found that the narrow, tapered fit of the shoe meant that I couldn’t spend too much time in it before my feet began to nag at me and feel pinched at the toes.
With the much wider range of carbon plated trail racing shoes available nowadays, it is worth looking to see what is available to suit your needs. The price of €160 does make it competitive in the market as most of the other trail super shoes come in around the €200 mark or more. However, is the saving from your wallet worth the extra weight on the mind which comes with attacking trails in unstable shoes? For me, the answer is no.
I see this shoe as a nice yet unfinished step-up for Asics. They addressed a lot of issues that the original shoe had. It’s a better shoe for sure. But I just can’t see myself recommending it because of what I experienced. The shoe has some fatal flaws and while I agree that the price tag is good, I would go all day every day for the chunkier but so much more reassuring Asics Trabuco Max 2- a shoe that I actually do enjoy a lot (see Youtube review here).