Sunday, July 16, 2017

ASICS Roadhawk FF Review: Very close to great but a bit of a stiff

ASICS Roadhawk FF
8.1 oz/230 g (M9), 7.3 oz /207 g(W8)
Stack: 25mm heel, 17mm forefoot, 8mm drop
Category: Light performance trainer
$100. Available now.

I have tested dozens of different run shoes in 2017. The Roadhawk FF checks all the boxes for me
  • light weight at 8.1 oz with a firm, responsive and importantly with shock and vibration attenuation from its excellent FlyteFoam midsole.
  • an uncomplicated snugger upper with an engineered mesh front, a supportive all of a piece saddle and decently cushioned well held heel collar
  • a beautiful simple design and in my pair a vibrant color scheme of blue and orange
  • a very fair price of $100 for a modern shoe with a great midsole and  plenty of outsole rubber
Yet, I think ASICS made a few questionable choices which keeps it from being a a true ten and one the best shoe in its category for 2017 . It is not always that I can pinpoint fairly exactly how a shoe would clearly be improved for me but here I believe I can.

The Roadhawk fits me true to size on the snugger side sitting somewhere between a racer and a trainer in fit. There are no hot spots.
The upper is made of a not particularly soft engineered mesh in the forefoot with no overlays and a soft toe bumper. The mid foot has a fine dense mesh to provide structure to the mid foot hold along with wider  overlays reminding me of a slightly thicker version of what Salomon uses. As shown above the medial side has more overlay coverage with the lateral side having inner "Tiger" logo thinner overlays. It is a very clever and neat looking design combining effective light weight support and branding.

Due to the engineered mesh front having no overlays and decent volume, while not a wide fore foot, it is accommodating.
The tongue is lightly padded. Lace up is impeccable never needing adjustment from the fairly wide flat thick laces.


The midsole features ASICS new Flyte Foam. Here is how they describe it:
"FlyteFoam  technology isn’t just a little bit lighter - it’s remarkably 55% lighter than the industry standard. Midsoles constructed with FlyteFoam® tech aren’t just super lightweight, either: They benefit from organic “super fibers” that bounce back into their original shape in the space of each stride, providing perfect adaptive cushioning from the start of your run to the finish. This engineered resilience also makes midsoles with FlyteFoam® technology far more durable than their predecessors."

I question the 55% lighter than the industry standard as I think most midsoles, except maybe some of ASCIS and other brands older models, have moved on from heavy, dense midsoles. Just look at the comparisons below, all in the Roadhawk's weight class and with similar stack heights but maybe not all with the Roadhawk's extensive durable rubber coverage.

I think I can feel the "super fibers"  working...This is a very responsive midsole material.
The midsole is firm, dense yet seem to dissipate shock and vibration extremely well, far better for me than say New Balance's RevLite or ASICS earlier performance shoe foams. The attenuation is somewhat more consistent than in the Salomon road Vibe shoes (see our article here), also firm and responsive where the vibration tech is in heel and sometimes also forefoot inserts while here it is throughout the firm midsole.

Hard to describe but the feeling underfoot is of control of impact forces vertically and horizontally with a subtle sense, almost a buzz under foot it the only way I can describe it.  It feels like the fibers are keeping the foam in line, and from deflecting to far in any direction, then "bouncing back to their original shape",just as ASICS describes it above. I love it when marketing meets reality on the run!

Interestingly FlyteFoam is also used in the super cush Gel-Nimbus 19 (RTR review) with Gel inserts at the heel and forefoot which makes a big "soft" shoe surprisingly responsive. 
As shown above, the midsole rises very high just in front of the heel counter and to the back to create a supportive cradle for the foot in some ways similar to Hoka's Speed Frame but only here towards the rear of the shoe. Quite frankly I do not think such a high side wall is necessary. I assume it is to provide some light guidance support to make the shoe suitable for mild pronators as well as neutral runners.

Upfront I said there was something preventing the Roadhawk from being a ten for me. Well it is the outsole design and materials. The entire outsole is made of ASICS AHAR High Abrasion Rubber.  No issues with the heel but... unlike most shoes in its class which have slightly softer rubber up front the rubber up front in the Roadhawk is firm and stiff. Yes, it will provide plenty of durability but the Roadhawk has a single flex point in front of which flex essentially stops. Such a firm flexing front of the shoe is common on uptempo or race shoes such as the Nike Zoom Streak 6 but here when combined with the firm rubber the front of the shoe makes it quite "slappy" and not as fluid transitioning as it could be.
The difficulty in transition is likely also influenced by the continuous rubber on the media side running essentially from the heel into the forefoot. Some breaks in this strip might help.
While I am not a shoe designer the answer to the overly firm forefoot flex should be  simple. There is only one flex groove running across the shoe on the medial side and two on the lateral side and they are very shallow. Putting a break in the long medial rubber strip, making the flex grooves deeper and across the shoe, and making the forefoot pads smaller might really help the transition for me. As far as softer forefoot rubber for the intended purpose as an uptempo shoe maybe the firm AHAR could stay but as with the Nimbus 19 and many other performance trainers having a softer rubber in the central area could improve comfort. 

The Roadhawk has a very lively, firm ride.  Unlike many firm shoes in its class the firm comes with relatively low shock and vibration transmitted.  This is a shoe for faster running held back somewhat by the firm flexing front of the shoe and the continuous heel to forefoot foot outsole piece which for me somewhat impedes transition in comparison to say a Saucony Zealot ISO 3, adidas Boston 6, or Hoka Hupana all shoes in its general class.  

The Roadhawk FF is for sure, as is, a very good tempo shoe and for some likely a very fine 10K to half marathon race shoe. ASCIS truly gets very close to great with the Roadhawk. 
Is all the firm flexing and firm rubber all over intended to make the shoe somewhat of a cross trainer, to increase durability, to make the shoe a light support shoe? I don't know.  I just wish the shoe was more flexible up front and had more of decoupling of heel and forefoot to better transition. 
I do know at 8.1 oz and $100 it is a a lot of shoe with a great new midsole material, lots of support from top to bottom and plenty of rubber.  Well done ASICS!  

Score 9.7/10
-.2 for front of shoe stiffness
-.1 for difficulty transitioning at slower paces due to long continuous medial rubber and lack of heel forefoot decoupling
Altra Escalante (RTR review) 8.2 oz $130
The Escalante has a more comfortable and accommodating upper, more midsole rebound and of course zero drop which may not be for everyone. It has a slightly more forgiving bouncy ride.
Saucony Kinvara 7 & 8 (RTR review) 7.8 oz $110
The Kinvara is awkward in comparison from upper to ride. The KInvara 7 has a similar stiff flex and firm outsole while the Kinvara 8 is softer. The Kinvara is dated in comparison.  Roadhawk while not a 4mm drop "natural" shoe is clearly a more modern design and smoother ride. 
Saucony Zealot ISO 3 (RTR review) 8.5 oz $130
For a few tenths of an ounce more the Zealot ISO 3 is a more versatile if softer shoe which can for me train and race pretty much any distance. It does not have the firm responsive pop of the Roadhawk  thus leaning more towards trainer than racer. Nod to the Zealot.
Hoka Hupana (RTR review) 8.2 oz $115
A similar modern and simple design the Hupana goes a step further doing away with outsole rubber all together. The durable RMAT midsole is the outsole. The ride is more relaxed and bouncy , more fun but not quite as responsive.
Hoka Clayton 2 (RTR review) 7.75 oz $150
The pricey Clayton 2 is also stiff but has a rocker design and a flex point somewhat further forward than the Roadhawk. It is lighter, more cushioned but not quite as responsive or agile. It is a better long race shoe for sure than the Roadhawk.  
Salomon Sonic Pro 2 (RTR article) 8.3 oz $140
The Sonic Pro 2 with Vibe is the closest comparison to the Roadhawk. It's Energy Cell+ midsole is firm and responsive with shock and vibration attenuation from the Vibe inserts. It is a more flexible and for me more versatile and comfortable to run longer or slower than the Roadhawk but doesn't quite have the excitement of the Flyte Foam feel underfoot,

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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Anonymous said...

Would you choose this or the zoom elite 9?

Sam Winebaum said...

I didn't test the Zoom Elite but our reviewer Peter Stuart did here: So I would be guessing but suspect I might prefer the more flexible Elite.
Sam, Editor

D.Culbertson said...

How would these compare to the ASICs Dynaflyte? I'm currently breaking in a pair and find that I enjoy the flyte foam midsole quite a bit - honestly the first ASICs that I've had a positive experience with in recent memory. Thanks.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi D.Culberston, Thanks for writing. I have not run the Dynaflyte but know someone who has likely run both extensively so will try to get some info. The Dynaflyte by stats is heavier and has some pronation control
Sam. Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

In the market for a light trainer/half marathon racer and have tried the well liked Boston 6 but found the forefoot and toebox too narrow. Now considering the Roadhawk and Mizuno Wave Shadow... thoughts on both? Which has the more accommodating toebox?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, between the Roadhawk FF and the Wave Shadow for sure the Wave Shadow as while not super wide it has a very stretchy mesh forefoot while the Roadhawk while decent is a denser non stretch mesh
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Could you use this as a daily trainer? Is there ample cushioning for training up to say 10 miles at moderate paces. Looking for a new road shoe to do uptempo and slow runs. Currently use the pegasus and Supernova 9m.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Roadhawk FF as a daily trainer probably not for me. Certainly much firmer than Supernova closer to Pegasus in firmness. More an up tempo shoe for me. One thing seems likely though you would get many miles out of the outsole. Another to take a look at, also light but softer and more cushioned particularly in the forefoot the Zealot ISO 3 here
Sam. Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

How would this shoe compare to the Adidas Boston Boost 6? I can get them roughly for around the same price. Currently running in a Adidas Ultra Boost, looking for something a tad lighter.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
The Roadhawk is for sure a firmer shoe. Fit with both is fairly similar, snug. The Boston6 is a way faster and more responsive shoe than the Ultra Boost. I found the forefoot feel of the UB way to soft for me for anything other than easy running. I might go Boston if you like Boost.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment Sam. Yeah UB is a bit too soft for me. How would you say Flytefoam is compared to Boost? Thanks in advance :)

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
FlightFoam is considerably firmer than Boost no question about it but not as harsh for its firmness than say Revlite from NB.
Sam, Editor

Nathan Gehring said...

Would love to know what you think of this as an Asics Hyperspeed 7 replacement? Hyperspeeds were my absolute favorite shoe despite durability issues and I haven't found a suitable replacement. My final pair of Hyperspeeds are in their final miles. :(

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Nathan,
I have not run the Hyperspeed but one of our contributors Derek Li for sure has run both and every other Asics as well. I will ask him and get back to you.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Nathan,
Derek replied to your question as follows: "Roadhawk, I think it's a very different shoe to the Hyperspeed. The Hyperspeed is actually closer to a Skechers GoRun 5/Altra The One 1.5 (softer than the current The One) while the Roadhawk is more DS Trainer/Nike Rival 6/maybe even Adios Boost type of feel.
The closest I can think of in terms of durometer for the Hyperspeed is the GoRun 5 or a Lunaracer; GoRun5 is about the same softness but Lunaracer is closer in weight to the Hyperspeed. "
Our review of the Skechers Performance GOrun 5 is here combined with GOmeb Razor, another fine option
Sam, Editor

Nathan Gehring said...

Thanks so much! Really appreciate the feedback.