With the Lunaracer approaching its end of life, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a pair of racing flats. Imagine my surprise when I chanced upon the asics Skysensor Breeze at the Isetan sale a few months back. This model is completely alien in this country and from my persistent digging on the Internet, I found out that the Skysensors are only available in Japan and Taiwan. It’s therefore a good thing for Isetan, being a Japanese retailer, to bring in such models. RM270 (USD87) after a 30% discount isn’t exactly on the cheaper side of things but racers are not known for being affordable, especially hard to get ones.
As a matter of fact, there are a few versions of the Skysensor and since the online resources relating to these racers are in Japanese, I’ve no way of providing more information on the shoes. What you’ll read in the following paragraphs will basically be my observations of the Breeze version, worn for the first time during my recent speedwork. I needed to find out the characteristics of this shoe before deciding on my Penang Bridge Marathon footwear – I’m a little concerned that the 2008 Lunaracer may no longer able to stand up to the marathon distance. It has 300KM under its belt.
Firstly, about the speedwork. The plan was to run a short warm-up distance – I covered 4K (25:46) – before hitting 6 reps of Yasso 800s. After completing the warm-up, I commenced my dynamic stretching, did some lunges and rapid turnover drills before getting down on the Yassos. The principle behind Yasso 800 (created by Bart Yasso, RW’s Chief Running Officer) is to run the 800 meter repeats at the marathon goal time equivalent in minutes. For example, if you plan to run a 4-hour marathon, you’ll need to do the 800 meter reps in 4 minutes. To prepare for a 3:50 marathon will mean hitting your reps in 3 minutes 50 seconds. Very simple. I’ve found the workout to be beneficial, if executed a few times within the last 6 weeks on a marathon training program.
Once the warm up was completed, I readjusted my Forerunner and reduced the 6 reps to 4. Since this was my first structured speedwork in a long long time, I decided to stay on the conservative side, setting an achievable goal than being too gung-ho about the whole exercise. The goal was to hit the reps in 4 minutes each (This set timing is no indication of my upcoming marathon goal time! I was merely keeping things simple), with a 2-minute recovery in between the reps. As I started my workout after 7pm, the number of runners and walkers on the track had significantly thinned out, allowing a smoother run. It wasn’t easy but at the same time it wasn’t eyeballs out too, and I was able to hit the timing 3 out of the 4 reps.
1st 800m – 3:53, 2nd rep – 3:55, 3rd rep – 3:55, 4th rep – 4:20 (encountered some side stitch). Total workout timing was 22:17 for 3.9KM, inclusive of the recovery walk phase. It was an amazing feeling after that and frankly I was very surprised with the consistent splits, which were really run based on gut feel. I’ll skip the Yassos next week, opting for Hill Repeats instead, before returning to 6×800 meters the following week. Now on to the impression of the Skysensor Breeze.
asics have always had a strong tradition in racing flats, from the DS Racer, Piranha (which replaced the Ohana), Speedstar, Hyper Speed and the Magic Racer. Both the DS and Magic Racers have small medial posts, unlike the neutral Breeze. If you’re looking for asics racing flats in Malaysia, good luck to you – all are not easy to find in the local market. I think the Skysensor Breeze is only released in the Far East by asics. Nike is the other company I know that releases Japan specific models. Check the RW forums and you’ll find the rants of many hardcore runners on this issue.
My observations of the asics shall be made in comparison with the Lunaracer, since it remains my favorite racing flat. Comparing a review item to another will provide a better reference point to the reader. The Breeze is not as light as the Lunaracer (5 oz.) and I reckon it to be between 6 to 7 oz. Still feather-light for a go-fast shoe. The upper is soft throughout and made of large mesh which I found to be very breathable. From what I can see from the minimalistic label, the makeup of the Breeze include something called the R Gel (I suspect R stands for Racing, a lower profile gel pad), AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Rubber) as heel plugs, Wetgrip outsole, Solyte midsole and something called Spacemaster. I’ve no idea what Spacemaster is and I doubt it can send me to the ionosphere and beyond but since I’ve kept the label, I’ll get someone who knows Japanese to translate for me.
Notice the pod-like midsole construction in the photo below. The cut-aways help reduce the weight while still providing a small degree of lateral stability to the wearer. If you need greater control, such shoes are not for you.
So how does the shoe measure up? First thing that came to mind was comfort. The whole package is soft and there’s not a stitch of stiffness in the shoe’s upper which wraps nicely around the feet much like a sock. The sockliner isn’t too pronounced to cause any irritation to the arch area. The heel to toe lift is minimal as can be expected of racing flats. My first run in the Breeze was a mix of easy-steady to tempo paced effort and I wasn’t disappointed. Every footplant was confident and assured and there was excellent traction. Unlike some shoes which encourages mid to forefoot landing, it wasn’t the case for the Breeze. I could land and take off any way I chose to, which was a mix of forefoot and heel striking. Although I sweated buckets, my feet remained cool and dry.
The wear experience of the Breeze and Lunaracer are completely ifferent. The Lunaracer is made with high tech materials and the other, a more conventional approach was taken. The Nike allows the feet to sink into the footbed while in the case of the asics your feet tend to rest on it. It comes down to preference of the wearer.
Having participated in many wear tests and performed a number of gear reviews I fully understand all the technology counts for nothing unless you reap the benefits. Read an opinion here. The shoes can be on 50% discount and weighs 14oz but if the wearer feels great in them and races a PR, would you generalize that the shoe is an amazing piece of work? What if the shoes feel great and fantastic but yielded the wearer no PR? Would that make it a lousy shoe? As you can see, it’s not a fair argument since the wearer can’t possibly expect a PR simply by the shoe/gear he or she wears. Race conditions and training all add up to the whole mix. Which is why I will stick to reporting on how I feel when using the product.
In this case, my take on the Breeze is based on a comparison with the Lunaracer (which I ran a marathon PR in incidentally). My take on the asics? From the angle of comfort, it’s right up there and has the potential to surpass the Lunaracer. A little weight gain for a bit more comfort around the collar, a wider forefoot to accommodate feet swelling on long runs. Breathable with no hotspots. The traction is superb resulting in confident foot plant when running fast. Of course I only ran a short distance in dry condition in them. Sterner tests beckon during my upcoming long runs before I form a conclusion. But right now, based on initial take, I’m tempted to get a second pair.
Originally published: Nov 5, 2010