As a competitive road runner, I’m always in search of a new racing flat that can help drop my times and edge out the competition. While there is a huge selection of flats on the market, I’ve always been enthralled with special edition racing flats worn by Japanese runners competing in famous races such as the Hakone Ekiden or the Tokyo Marathon. But until recently, these performance racing flats have only been available for purchase in the Japanese market. Running Warehouse has exclusively picked up four ASICS Japanese racing flats for runners in the United Satates. At first look, the four shoes seem very similar, but after trying them on and putting them through their (my) paces, the differences became apparent.
ASICS Tarther Kainos 3 and TartherZeal 3
The competitive runner looking for a fast, responsive flat will want to take a look at the Tarther series. Both the Tarther Kainos 3 and TartherZeal 3 utilize the same tooling (7mm heel-toe offset) which provides a go-fast feel ideal for races from 5k-10k. When I think of a really fast 5k flat, I think super lightweight and responsive. The Tarther Kainos 3 and TartherZeal 3 are not the lightest flat on the market, weighing in at 6.3 and 6 .0 oz respectively, but the snappiness of the shoe makes up for the extra weight. The feel of this shoe is on the firm side but the smooth transition at fast paces make the shoes an optimal choice for higher intensity efforts.
While the Tarther Kainos 3 and TartherZeal 3 offer a fairly identical ride quality, each shoe offers its own unique upper that creates a slightly different fit as well as an aesthetically different look. The TartherZeal 3 offers a classic look in a performance package. Boasting a red and gold upper with ecsaine suede overlays, this flat provides great mid foot lockdown and an overall snugger fitting experience. The Tarther Kainos 3 is modern styled racer. A lightweight breathable mesh with synthetic overlays offer ultimate comfort and a slightly higher volume forefoot provides the shoe with a more adaptive fit.
ASICS Skysensor Glide 3
While running fast is fun, a firm, minimally cushioned flat is not for everyone. Runners looking for a highly versatile racer that can be used over a wide range of distances should consider trying out the ASICS Skysensor Glide 3. A mix of slightly soft yet responsive cushioning makes this shoe a great choice for half marathon racing, but the versatility of the shoe will allow it to go up or down in distance. With a 15mm forefoot stack height (10mm heel-toe offset), this shoe has plenty of cushioning to rack up the miles. From an underfoot feel, the shoe is going to have a similar feel to the New Balance 1400. As you go through your strides you can feel the underfoot protection, and even runners who are not quite “elite” status can still feel confident racing in longer distances.
Not only does the Skysensor Glide 3 offer a highly versatile ride, but it also offers an extremely adaptive fit. With the highest volume fit of the four ASICS Japanese flats, the Skysensor maintains a little extra room in the midfoot/toe box while still maintaining great lockdown. Along with a great fit, we also see another classic use of ecsaine suede materials used throughout the upper.
ASICS LyteRacer RS 4
For optimal performance in your next long distance race, you may want to consider the ASICS Lyteracer RS 4. With a forefoot stack height of 16mm (9mm heel-toe offset) and a weight of 7.3oz, this flat offers a lighter and faster race day option over the Skysensor Glide 3 while still providing cushioning to go the distance. The Lyteracer RS 4 offers a more curved shoe shape that gives it a more aggressive feel and a midfoot TPU unit further increases rigidity. While this shoe is still a still a versatile shoe, to me it feels more geared towards the serious racer looking for a shoe to PR in distance from the half marathon to marathon distance.
Compared to the Sky Sensor Glide 3, the Lyteracer RS 4 is also going to have a more streamlined upper. While we still see classic ecsaine suede overlays, the overall fit is more snug and provides a more glove-like fit. The upper material is also softer to the touch and delivers a nicer on foot experience.