Asics Gel Fuji Racer Review

There is a fine line between trail shoes marketed as minimalist that are functional and protective enough to run an ultra, and those that seem to be either training tools or passing fads. As someone who enjoys minimalist footwear, there are quite a few shoes I get to review that I would not put on for anything over ten miles on mellow trail. Needless to say, it is always rewarding when a new trail shoe comes along and seems to inhabit that magical niche that has me feeling like I can wear it for a long day on the trails and not come home with beat up feet.

I have to admit, I’ve never been impressed with Asics trail shoe offerings, until now. The Fuji Racer ($110) is their first trail shoe offering weighing in under 10 ounces (8.8 oz) with a fit and feel that is reminiscent of Asic’s very popular racing flats.

Asics Gel Fuji Racer

Upper

One of my favorite aspects of any Asics shoe is the fit and last, which seems to be largely consistent throughout their line. Fans of Asics road shoes will be pleased that the fit of the Fuji Racer maintains that feeling of a snug heel that widens into an accommodating forefoot. A breathable dual-density mesh supported by traditional, sewn-on overlays provides a simple and effective upper that drained well on wet runs during my testing. Well-placed welded overlays reinforce the upper over areas of high wear on the outside of the toe box and a reinforced toe rand offers some protection from toe stubbing rocks.

Asics Gel Fuji Racer - upper

The Asics Gel Fuji Racer's upper.

The lacing system is traditional with the appreciated addition of skinny oval laces that stay tied wonderfully well while feeling very snug and secure throughout the midfoot. Curiously, the tongue features a lace garage which is well designed, but superfluous. Compared to other Asics shoes I own, the 9.5D I tested in the Fuji Racer runs true to size but the fit is snug, more like a racing flat. This didn’t bother me much, but I accommodated the tighter fit throughout the midfoot and heel by wearing very thin socks.

Midsole

Asics utilizes a full-length Solyte EVA foam throughout the Fuji Racer to give the shoe a firm, yet very nimble and responsive ride. Again, comparisons to a racing flat come to mind, but the difference is that this layer of foam provides adequate protection for all but the burliest of rocky trails. A thin rock plate offers some protection but doesn’t seem to decrease the high level of flexibility in the forefoot, which was appreciated on cambered trails and uneven ground.

Asics put a Gel cushioning unit in the heel wasn’t especially noticeable other than the Fuji Racer handled steep downhills exceptionally well without leaving me feeling vulnerable to sharp rocks or beat up feet. A torsion control Trusstic System is placed in the midfoot and is usually exposed on Asics shoes. It was very appreciated that this thermoplastic unit is covered by the outsole rubber and in my opinion this torsion system is pretty minimal compared to those found on most Asics trainers. Some support is offered by this Trusstic System as the supportive plastic extends to the medial and lateral sides of the outsole. I think that slight overpronators could get away with this shoe for training and the Fuji Racer could really be enjoyed by any foot type for shorter distance trail racing.

Outsole

Asics High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR) is featured throughout the full length of the shoe and a simple, yet effective, lug design adds a good deal of traction. These X-shaped lugs feature a small rubber nub in the middle which is still present after 200+ trail miles. Noticeable diamond shape cutouts in the forefoot and midfoot of the outsole go through all the way to the footbed underneath the insole to increase drainage. To aid in this, the footbed underneath the insole is made of light mesh and the insole itself is perforated. These features were effective and the Fuji Racer seemed to dry out very quickly after splashing through creeks or slushy snow. I also appreciated that the shoe was always dry the next morning after a particularly wet run.

Asics Gel Fuji Racer - outsole

The Asics Gel Fuji Racer's outsole.

Overall Impressions and Performance

I don’t want to give you the impression that the Fuji Racer is a minimal shoe. Asics certainly didn’t just take a popular racing flat and glue on a rugged outsole. The Fuji Racer is an 9 oz, 6 mm drop agile and well fitting trail shoe. Not to mention its durability. Typically, I look for wear signs such as snags in the upper, outsole abrasion, and wrinkles in the midsole EVA after 100 miles or so on rough trail. My Fuji Racers are right at 200 miles and this shoe looks like its been out for only a couple runs.

The question is how well the Fuji Racer will protect you over the ultra distance. This is a shoe that would be first in my lineup for up to 50k, but I would hesitate to wear it past that distance personally. However, runners who can wear a shoe like the New Balance MT110 will find similar protection in the Fuji Racer. Where I feel that the Fuji Racer excels is on long ascents where its light weight and effective traction were very appreciated, and technical trails requiring a lot of careful foot placement and rock hopping.

Whatever your taste in trail shoes, the Fuji Racer is one of the most exciting and simply designed trail shoes I have gotten to try for 2012, and a legitimate lightweight trail runner/racer from Asics.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

Have you run in the Asics Fuji Racer? If so, what do you think?

Ps. Thank’s to Running Warehouse for providing the Fuji Racers for testing!

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar’s Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 34 comments

  1. David

    Good review. I was excited for this shoe, unfortunately my foot just doesn't line up properly – my heel was sliding off center.

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Michael-

      Its rubber, but not that hard. Good amount of stick though. No exposed plastic on the bottom of the shoe, but some gaps that do pick up rocks at times.

  2. Joel

    I just purchased these about two weeks ago after a few seasons in PI Synchro Fuels and Peak II's. My local running store recommended them as a good replacement for the Synchros, which I've lost the love for after their last update.

    I'm not an Asics guy, or at least I wasn't before I tried this Fujis. They're light like the Peak II's but seem to offer way more protection. My two complaints so far: the gap in the heal – I've gotten large stones stuck thee on one or two occasions, and the color – purple and yellow, ugh. The shoe's performance moe than makes up for these minor issues.

    1. patrick stewart

      Joel, I'm in the same boat with the PI shoes. There are some things I love about them, but I'm still not 100% sold. The upper just seems a bit too sloppy.

      However, I've been using Asics shoes for road running (DS Trainer and DS Racer) for a few years now and have never had an issue. I'm excited to try out the Fujis.

  3. Ron

    Good review. Thank you. I've been wearing these for about a month. They work pretty well on non-trail surfaces, too. They fit sort of like the NB 101s, I feel, though a bit narrower, a little lower in the heel, and a lot more cushion throughout. (Runningwarehouse has a very good, and frank, user video of them and you can see that they really compress upon landing throughout the users' gaits, although they don't at all feel to me to be overly cushioned or uncontrollable.) For whatever reason, the different muscles of my feet feel sort of tired and sore after wearing them for more than an hour and a quarter or so. Maybe it is because they compress so much. This has gotten better the more that I wear them, but I have to write that it is the first shoe that I've experienced this with. I have to write, too, that the first time that I wore them on trails my feet were sort of worn out because, I felt, the 'trusstic system' didn't seem to flex enough for me on uneven terrain. After a few weeks, though, they felt better on the trails. In sum, I very much like them for their cushioning, light weight, lower heel drop, good grip, good transition and propulsion without being overly done (as Asics and other major companies tend to do), and the ability to wear them on and off trails. I do think that they take a little breaking in, though, and they do exercise the different parts of my feet in a curious, but not awful, manner. In other words, though they aren't stiff at all, I wouldn't wear them for my longest run straight out of the box, sort of speaking.

  4. Andrew

    Very very keen to get some of these. I used the Asics Gel Trail Sensor 4 for some long back to back 40k races in the Drakensberg, shorter (25k) races and the Salomon Skyrun (I only did the 65km) here in SA and they ere incredible. Stable, low and superb cushioning for someone on their first season of long runs.

    The Fuji racer felt perfect when I tried them on and I will definitely buy a pair now that I have found a store that sells them for the equivalent of $ 100, not $140 like the first place.

    I truly believe that for 95% of people, Inov-8 (have the 230s) etc, will actually slow us down in a 40k plus pure offroad race – the Fuji racer has a low profile hile keeping the cushioning you need when the form goes south and you have a 15km mountain pass to bomb don to get home!

  5. Lindt

    Hi Tom. Thanks for a great review. I have wanted to purchase these for quite a while. They guy at my local shoe store recommended that I buy a different shoe if I am looking at running longer than 20 km. I see that you would personally use this shoe up to 50 km’s. I am used to running in a more minimalistic road shoe (Saucony Kinvara's) and would like to know if these shoes are recommended for trail races up to 42 km.

    1. jhon pao

      like does it offer good traction on the road?

      any kind of reply appreciated…

      i recently misplaced my asics racer and is thinking of either getting the recent new acis racer (9), the asics fuji racer, or just go with my friends discount and get some nike frees..

  6. Ric Moxley

    Great review. I've had a pair of these for a few weeks now, and the one thing that I feel is worth adding is that, to my experience, they have very little traction on wet, hard surfaces, whether pavement or a large rock. On either, I've gotten some unnerving slippage. But otherwise, like on trails in general, the traction is great.

  7. Joel

    Ok, I've had these now for 2 months. I like the shoe, good protection, relatively light, good fit, but I won't buy them again. The holes in the sole designed for water drainage (really?) allow in the fine dirt that we have on our dry trails here in Flagstaff. I came back from a 17 miler last week with a tablespoon of dirt in each shoe. Damn, I wanted to like these.

  8. Mark Lonac

    As noted by others, the "water drainage system" poses a big problem in that sharp rocks can either lodge or pierce through in these areas. On my third run in these yesterday, I was running a mountain fire road with lots of marble and golf-ball sized rocks, and one completely pierced the mesh in the midfoot hole and came close to also piercing through the insole. It lodged in the hole. Another rock on this same run did not lodge, but very painfully jabbed me through the heel hole. Granted I was blitzing downhill pretty quickly, but for those of us who race at a high level, this is a significant problem with the shoe. Perhaps offering a wet and a dry version would be useful? Living in Colorado, we don't get a whole lot of rain, but we do have a lot of rocky trails, so protection is more important than drainage. Everything else about the shoe I LOVE, but this is a significant enough problem to make me question buying another pair. I'm also questioning the integrity of the shoe now that the mesh layer is completely pierced through. I can send a picture if wanted.

  9. ak

    felt great in store but after walking around for just an hour my feet were too fatigued to continue. when took them off every time i bend forward and turn even slightly i have extreme sharp heel pain, brand new injury. what happened?

  10. Jon

    I have always been an asics guy. I had the first addition "Attacks" before the Fugi Racer and I loved the shoe other than the weight. The Fugi fits nice and snug and is very comfy, that being said, I am very disappointed in the traction!!! The first time out I bit it on a damp plank crossing a shallow creek. The outsole "X" pattern doesn't seem to have the give to optimize traction. I also seem to slip quite often going down hill, even on dry trails although they are packed pretty good. I ran my first trail marathon last weekend and again, I was slipping all over, especially down hill!! Not good for the knees!! As the review said, my foot had no soreness after the grueling race but I am very hesitant about buying another pair of asics trail shoes.

    1. Jon

      oh yeah, not for running in sand!!! Had a bunch in each shoe after trail run that crossed beach. Seems silly to have that venting/drainage on bottom of a trail shoe where mud, sand, etc. can get in!!

  11. Paul Myland

    Great idea, Byron. That's exactly what I intend to do with mine when I buy a pair. I live and run in The Fens in England and it is often damp underfoot on the not particularly challenging trails around here. The fuji racer with a little bit of improvised waterproofing on the sole sounds like it could be an ideal lightweight trail shoe for me.

  12. Eric

    Got a pair of these about a month and a half ago, now have 300+ miles on them. Live in NE Minnesota, and find that the rubber on the sole is a bit slick on rock. Wear them regularly on our technical trails, and I can say that they stand up very well on shifty terrain. Wish that Asics had not brought the rubber up from the sole onto the toe bumper, as it began peeling loose some time ago. Wore them in a 50 mile race last weekend with a great variety of terrain including a number of stream crossings, and they performed wonderfully. I would take them out to 100 miles and expect no problems. Have also been running in the New Balance MT 110 (too little underfoot for real rocky, technical stuff) and Brooks Puregrit (tread broke down too quickly, not great in mud). The Fujiracer has been the best of the three. Highly recommend.

  13. Dee

    Hi,

    Can anyone advise how good the standard fuji trail shoes are? As I am quite a fan normally of asics, but did once buy their ds racers and I found I needed a little more padding… since then I have got into off road – quite heavy rural trails which include going through rivers. I'm thinking maybe to try the standard fuji trails, any thoughts? Thanks dee

    1. Ric Moxley

      Maybe it's just me (well, no — see comments above from others), but i find them a bit stiff. And while they are hardly minimalist, my feet feel sore earlier in these than in other shoes. i'll be stream-fording in them for the firs ttime tonight, so i can't speak to that aspect, although it seems to be what they are designed to do.

  14. Dee

    Hi,

    I've just ordered a pair of asics fuji trainers – not the race model above, as the trainers sound as though they better for me, I will post comments on them after my 1st couple of runs, my circuit is a good test for any trainers… so if you're interested …watch this space.

  15. Dave

    I was apprehensive about these when I got them; considered it purely a trial run. First true trail shoe for me and my first try of less cushioned, lower drop shoes. I love them. Now can someone tell me an Asics road shoe that fits just like these?! The new Nimbus 14 seems off to me for some reason – tight in the forefoot compared to these.

  16. Garth

    Just some impressions for what it's worth:

    I think these are pretty good. I was mainly interested in them because of the 6mm drop which sets this show apart. Most of my trail running is in more "minimalist" shoes, but I have used Asics road flats for many years so I had to give them a try.

    Tom's comments in the review about the sizing is spot on. The fit is very good for me and consistent with my other Asics. It is slightly roomier in the forefoot than the DS racer 8, and slightly less roomy than the HyperSpeed 4 but has a similar fit to both.

    Grip is adequate, but not much better than that. I hope the outsole will last a very long time considering the trade off in grip. I use them for runs that include some roads and they are just fine on the pavement.

    While this is certainly not a "minimal" shoe, there is some good ground feel in the forefoot and I think the shoe runs surprisingly well. (That is just my rating of the vague quality of how a shoe feels for fast running.)

    There is noticeably more cushioning in the heel than the forefoot which is an odd feeling for a midfoot/forefoot runner. It is probably meant for and best for a heel striker, but I do not feel like it is interfering with my running. As far as support and control structures in the shoe, it feels pretty minimal as Tom described which is a good thing.

    The color choices are horrendous and in the end I had to choose the purple as being less obnoxious than the lime green ones.

    As far as the drainage holes… it is what it is. It's not a great design, but you should try a worn down pair of Hyperspeed 4's where just standing on damp pavement will sock your socks ;-) I just don't pay any attention to it.

    In summary, I am not surprised at all that people coming from more traditional trail running "boots" will love this shoe, and it works well as a "transition" shoe. But it also may work well for people coming from the opposite direction, looking to try out a 6mm drop shoe maybe for longer distance running or trying to solve specific injury issues.

  17. Bruno

    Good review, but I'm really in doubt which one I'll have for my trail runnings: North Face Single Track Hayasa or Gel Fuji Racer. Anyone has an opinion about that?

    ps: sorry about my English, cheers from Brasil ;)

  18. Luke Tillen

    I am fairly new to trail running, id did a 40 mile ultra last year and I am taking part in a 69 mile ultra this year.

    I have been using the Salomon Speedcross 3's and really cannot get on with them at all, they are very comfy to walk in and good for about up to 10k road running. However as soon as you hit off road trails you can feel every single bump and rock underfoot, battering my feet.

    I am waiting a pair of Asics Fuji-Elite to be delivered, I usually run on road in Asics Kayano, what shoe would you recommend for my 69 mile ultra which is mixed terrain – including some road?

    Cheers

    Luke.

  19. OL

    If you're usually running in Kayano on the road, you should know that the fuji elite is a neutral shoe without the stability you get in the kayano. Whether you need a shoe with stability or not, depends on your pronation. If you overpronate; kayano is the right shoe, and you might want to have another (extra) pair of trail shoes. If your pronation is neutral I would change the kayanos in a pair of Gel-Nimbus.

  20. Adam

    Thanks for the review Tom. I won a pair of free asics shoes at a race recently and have decided to go with these ones. Looking forward to seeing how they perform. Cheers!

  21. DD

    I’ve gone through several pairs of the first fuji racer and love them, especially with their deep discounts. Prices are going up again as they start to go out of stock, so I was wondering if ya’ll are planning on reviewing the fuji racer 3.

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