|DS Racer 10. Picture downloaded from Shoebuy.com.|
I reported on the New Balance Minimus a few days back, which I will reprise in a phrase: they will have a definite place in my rotation for the rest of 2014 and I may stock the closet with a few pairs for future use.
The Hokas need a little more use before I am comfortable writing them up. Watch this space in a few weeks.
But after a day running errands -- run to doctor, run to metro, run from metro to PT, run to metro, run from metro home -- for a total of ~5 miles, I am comfortable giving a first run(s) report on the DS Race. I like them. They are not exciting. But they are a worthy heir to the Asics racing flat line.
A 10c History of Asics Racing Flats
The following is unburdened by any research, which means two things: it may not be quite accurate, but to the extend it is accurate it is based on first-hand knowledge.
Asics made several versions of the DS Trainer, a light-ish weight high mileage shoe. I started running in them in about 2008, which I am pretty sure was version 14. The shoe has asymmetrical lacing, which I liked but which Asics abandoned shortly thereafter. It was ~10 ounces. I liked it because it was the first time I realized that dropping 1/10 of a pound on each foot could make running feel like flying. Unfortunately, after filling my closet with four pairs at a Roadrunnersports.com "endangered sale," I lost my enthusiasm for the shoe. Spencer, I think, has observed that the shoes feel mushy, which is precisely my more recent reaction. Anybody want a NOS Asics trainer in size 11.5? How about two?
Asics has made the DS race for a few versions as well. I started on them with version 8 in about 2010. I loved them. Who knew I could feel perfectly comfortable without mattresses under my feet when running? Version 8 hugged the feet well and I never experienced "overstriking" problems from the lesser cushioning. If anything, I learned when wearing these shoes how to put my feet down gently. I'm tempted to say they were fast -- V8 was my shoe in two marathons in 2010 and two in 2011, including a PR at Marine Corps 2011 -- but I can't uncouple the shoe from my post-Dublin return to running a lot.
|Racer 8. Photo from Amazon.com.|
Next was Racer 9. This update was a huge disappointment. First, I hate the color scheme. I am reminded of a line of dialogue from an Encyclopedia Brown story that, for some reason, I have carried in my head since elementary school. "Green and blue -- the colors. Ugh! They clash!"
|Racer 9. Photo from Zappos.com.|
Asics also made the Hyperspeed for a few versions. I owned the 5. Currently the 6 is out, but only specialty shops carry them. (I've had good luck with Runningshoewarehouse.com in the past. They have free shipping and appear to be beating Zappos prices by ~8%.) Road Runner Sports does not carry them for reasons that confound me. I once heard that the Hyperspeed was Ryan Hall's shoe of choice, which I cannot confirm. I ran V5 twice in Big Sur. I loved those shoes, although they were black and orange -- Halloween colors! The Hyperspeeds did not hold up well as I have tried in the past two years to relearn how to strike the ground each stride. On the other hand, a 6-ounce-ish shoe that lasted through two marathons is not too terrible.
|Hyperspeed 6. Photo from Zappos.com.|
Version 6 is still visible, but the sunrise yellow is better than halloween orange or whatever you call that blue color on the DS Racer. All I can do as I draft this not to buy the 6, which I had heretofore believed was not available.
Somewhere Asics took a detour into shoes for the triathlon market. I own a pair of the Noosa Light tri shoes. Whomever at Asics was in charge of this disaster should be sent to peel potatoes for a season. They are flat, dull, and ugly. I would not wear them racing triathlon -- Zoot is so far superior that it is silly even to experiment -- and I am not sure I would wear them racing anywhere else. Nope, the Noosa Tri is an ugly footnote that proves to me the limits of internet shopping. Maybe I can use them in a Tough Mudder race one day and then dispose of them.
And finally the shoe of the day: the DS Racer 10. Asics has not improved on the color scheme, except that at least red and yellow go together and silver is a rational color choice for the logo. You can say one thing about shoes that look like this: you are shamed into running faster than you otherwise might.
|Same picture up top. Still looks like a Jolly Rancher.|
The weight is down. I used to think of the DS Racer as a mid-7 ounce shoe. These are mid-6. (The Hyperspeeds, above, were mid-6 when I had them and are now mid-5. All shoes seem to be dieting at about the same 1 ounce/3 years rate.) Kudos to Asics for silk-screening on the logo instead of sticking us with a sew-on appendage that does nothing but add poundage. They feel light on the foot. It is counterintuitive that one ounce (1/2 ounce per foot) matters, but it does, and in particular when I am trying to work on keeping my feet off the ground more when I run. A high kick on the follow-through is easy in these.
Compared to other shoes that I am running in, these swaddle my feet. The Minimus (recent report) grip just enough to keep the foot above the foam, but not enough to avoid blisters on a humid day! The Hokas, which look sort of like a throwback to uber-control and uber-cushion shoes, have a similarly permissive upper. My Zoot triathlon shoes, in which I ran for most of 2013, are quite literally a slipper, with no laces at all. So the DS Racers' more rigid upper, six lace-holes, and narrower construction feel something like lacing into a pair of roller blades. (Yes, when I last roller-bladed we had laces, not buckles.) The good news is that the closer fit permitted me to run today despite a not-yet-fully-subsided blister from Saturday.
In contrast with the blah Noosas, the Racer 10 feels somehow lively. The shoe is not a mere wedge of foam tied onto my feet, but a moving extension of my foot-pad. If I stretch my toes to reach the ground, flex them to gain purchase, or extend them to push off, the shoe moves with them. I like the sensation. A lot. (I need to re-try the Racer 9 to confirm that this is an improvement over that. I think it is.)
The heel-to-toe drop is not huge but neither is it minimal. I don't find it reported -- I suppose when you advertise a shoe as a racing shoe and not as a minimalist shoe you don't get into that kind of reporting. I would say ~7 mm. More than the Minimus 10v2. Less than nearly any running "trainer" on the market. Little enough to be basically meaningless if you are striking fore-foot first.
I will run many miles in these in 2014. I hope a few of them are fast enough to justify the "Racer" branding!