If you’re looking for an affordable speed trainer or racer and you find the Magic Speed too firm for you, the S4 is a good choice. It has a stiff carbon plate and mild forefoot rocker which provides snappy transitions.
If you enjoy a soft, flexible ride, the S4 is not for you. If you’re an experienced runner looking for the fastest super shoe, the S4 is also not for you.
When I ran my first marathon, my target was sub 4 hours. I wasn’t sure what shoe to go with but I chose the Reebok Floatride Run Fast because it was light, energetic and comfortable.
I finished with a time of 4:38 but that was due to my training and not the shoe choice.
If you’re a mid-pack runner and you’re looking to run your first marathon, you need a shoe which is well-cushioned, stable, comfortable and energy-saving.
Today, most of the carbon-plated racers on the market are designed for the elite runner, a runner capable of breaking world records. These runners have excellent form and efficiency so their racing shoes don’t need to have much stability or comfort. These racing shoes are also not designed to be durable because most elite runners get multiple free shoes from the brands.
ASICS has now come up with a unique racing shoe, a racer designed for runners looking to run under 4 hours for a full marathon. According to an article on the ASICS website, for a man, anything under 4 hours could be considered a good marathon time, putting you in the top 43% of runners.
S4 stands for speed, stability, safety and sub-4. The S4 looks similar to their flagship marathon racers, the Metaspeed Sky+ and Edge+ but there are a few big differences. The S4 has a dual-density midsole, a wider base and more outsole rubber.
The S4 weighs 240 g (8.5 oz) for a men’s US9 which is the exact same weight as the Magic Speed 2. This is a bit disappointing considering the S4 has FF Blast Turbo (ASICS’ premier racing foam) in its midsole while the Magic Speed 2 doesn’t. It costs about 150 USD but currently, it’s only available for purchase in Japan.
My first run was a speed workout of 10 x 500 m. It felt a bit stiff and firm on that first run but over time, it softened up and became a bit more flexible. It feels way different after 50 km compared to straight out of the box.
The shoe felt firmer than I expected it to. It felt stable and snappy but not as lively as the Metaspeed Sky+. The forefoot rocker also wasn’t as pronounced as the Sky+.
It took a bit more effort to increase my speed and cadence than a top of the range super shoe but the workout was enjoyable. The firm toe-offs allowed me to increase my pace easily and transitions felt very smooth.
The shoe that it reminded me of most was the Magic Speed 2 but the S4 felt more energetic. It was easier to pick up the pace in the S4. It felt like a hybrid of the Magic Speed 2 and the Metaspeed Edge.
The S4’s upper looks like it was lifted straight off the Metaspeed series, and that’ a good thing. It’s light, breathable and very comfortable. Overall foot lockdown is excellent and the laces feel like premium racing laces.
The thin tongue is not gusseted and it does slide down during runs but it doesn’t bother me because the laces don’t cut into the top of my feet.
Just like the Magic Speed 2, the S4 fits a half size small so I went up a half size and the fit is perfect. It has a narrow midfoot so if you have flat arches, you might feel some pressure on your arches.
An average pace of 5:40 per km (9:07 per mile) is required to run a sub 4 hour marathon so for the long run test, I deliberately ran at that exact pace for 32 kilometres. While the ride wasn’t very engaging or exciting, I found that that pace is the sweet spot for the S4. The mild forefoot rocker helps the S4 feel energy-saving over long distances.
The midsole is the exact setup that I wanted in the Magic Speed series: FF Turbo on the top, Flytefoam at the bottom. The Magic Speed series doesn’t have FF Turbo, which is the premier ASICS midsole foam that they use in the Metaspeed series so the S4 is slightly softer.
I find the ride of the S4 to still be on the firm side so if you like really plush, squishy rides, this shoe isn’t for you. I would have liked it to have been around 20% softer. The energy return isn’t as high as something like the Superblast but there’s more ground feel in the S4.
Apart from long-distance racing, the S4 is good for tempo and steady runs, and decent at interval workouts. For easy and long runs, I prefer something softer with more squish.
The S4 has a full-length carbon plate which is more flexible than the ones in the flagship racing series. It makes the shoe a bit more stable and makes the forefoot feel more snappy but it doesn’t give you a springboard type of forward propulsion.
The outsole’s durability is impressive. There’s thick, durable rubber on all the high wear areas and the exposed Flytefoam midsole doesn’t show much wear either. This is a racer that can double up as a trainer because of how durable it is.
If I was running my first marathon again, I would definitely race in the S4. It has an affordable price, it’s stable and is very capable of holding a 5:40 pace for 4 hours.
Right now, my marathon target is closer to the 3 hour mark so I wouldn’t race in the S4 because it doesn’t offer as much speed assistance as the Metaspeed Sky+ or other flagship super shoes.
If you’ve raced in any of the top of the range super shoes before, then you’ll be a bit disappointed racing in the S4 because its ride isn’t as fast or as fun but if it’s your first carbon-plated racer, you’ll be more than happy with it.
I think the S4 is a great idea because not all runners can afford top of the range super shoes. Slower runners don’t need as much propulsion and they value stability/comfort in a racer more. The S4 ticks all those boxes.
The S4 is slightly cheaper but you have to order it from Japan which might work out to be more in the end. The S4 is more lively than the Magic Speed 2 due to its FF Turbo and it offers slightly more speed assistance.
Hopefully ASICS brings the S4 to more regions in the future.