Monday, July 09, 2018

ASICS DynaFlyte 3 and Roadhawk FF 2 Comparative Review: More Room or More Response?

Article by Sam Winebaum
ASICS Dynaflyte 3                    ASICS RoadHawk FF 2
Asics in recent years has struggled somewhat to find its stride in a run shoe market increasingly focused on lighter trainers with more dynamic midsoles and lighter comfort uppers. We reviewed the RoadHawk FF  last year and found it a fast but quite harsh and snug performance shoe. We have never run the DynaFlyte at its origin in version one a trainer with some light stability elements and version two a more neutral trainer.

ASICS introduces two new midsole compounds: FlyteFoam Lyte in the DynaFlyte and Flyte Foam Propel in the RoadHawk FF 2. We first saw Propel as a bouncier, softer layer above Flyte Foam in the Cumulus 20 (RTR review), an excellent highly supportive lighter daily trainer. Here Propel as a full midsole appears firmer than in the Cumulus layer yet is still noticeably bouncy  FlyteFoam Lyte is a lighter version of the fairly dense foam found in recent ASICS trainers and to me it feels more dynamic in the Lyte version. And light indeed as the DynaFlyte comes in at a very svelte 9 oz.

The uppers here couldn't be more different. The RoadHawk FF 2 has a snugger, non elastic performance fit conventional mesh upper, and is only somewhat more comfortable than the RoadHawk FF 1's with its very snug saddle and combination mesh and engineered mesh. We still have a saddle but it is less constraining being made of a slightly more substantial version of the front mesh but more open. It still not a "luxurious" or soft feel as the DynaFlyte 3 or many recent shoes have as this is a fairly conventional stiffer mesh, but it supports the foot extremely well at faster paces where the DynaFlyte's upper struggles a bit.

The DynaFlyte has a more relaxed fit with about as an unstructured and breathable engineered upper as we have seen in a run shoe this year and likely the broadest fit of any recent ASICS. The mesh has an elegant design of vertical denser mesh bands which flex forward with the foot yet support laterally when needed.

The Choice 
The choice between the two comes down to both a fit preference and a ride preference.

Go with the RoadHawk FF 2 if you want a performance fit, a very slightly softer heel, and a firmer more responsive forefoot, understanding it is 0.6 oz heavier and $30 lighter in price.

Go with the DynaFlyte 3 if you want a wider, higher volume, more unstructured fit, slightly firmer broader and more stable heel feel and a softer, thinner yet still well cushioned forefoot.  Read on for all the details

DynaFlyte 3
Sample Weight: 9 oz/256 g US M9;  7 oz/ 213 g US W8
Stack Height: 25/17. 8 mm offset
$130. Available August 2018

RoadHawk FF 2
Weight: Approx. 9.6 oz/272 g US M9; 7.4 oz /210 g US W8
Sample Weight:  9.34 oz /265 g US M8.5
Stack Height: 26/16, 10 mm offset
$100. Available August 2018


RoadHawk FF 2 
The RoadHawk FF 2 has a conventional, fairly stiff open mesh which is very lightly lined. The shoe is very breathable front to back as the more substantial saddle mesh is yet more open than the FF1 with "Tiger" logo bands as internal laminates for some additional support.
I fit true to size just in the RoadHawk FF2. The toe box material is low and stiffer but after a run things softened up. As stated above this is a more performance, snugger fit.  The fit over the toes is  low when trying on but has stretched on the run. Higher volume feet may consider sizing up half a size.
The heel and achilles counter and cup are  high and stiff. I had no issues but some may. 
The tongue is lightly and adequately padded. 
Lace up was once and done as the saddle, tongue, and lacing integrate very well if a bit on the stiff side.  This is not a luxo, stitch free upper. Plenty of stitching here but none of it seemed to irritate but overall this upper does not have the smooth, easy glove like fit of the DynaFlyte. I did wish the of the upper at the front of lace bands would flex at bit more smoothly on toe off but I may have been spoiled by the DynaFlyte seam free super flexible upper which I was testing concurrently!

DynaFlyte 3
I am true to size in DynaFlyte 3 barely.. I have medium to narrow feet. Generally I fit well in my normal 8.5 size in dozens of shoe types but here the fit is more roomy than usual. With thin socks, the toe box just did not provide enough structure to lock down my foot and felt somewhat sloppy on the run. I changed to thicker winter weight socks and the fit was perfect.  I even mixed in some non technical trails during a ten miler and had plenty of support, really surprising me given how unstructured this upper is. My conclusion is the fit depends on foot volume and it appears there is enough length that I could actually size down half a size. 
The DynaFlyte 3 upper stands in stark contrast to the RoadHawk's. It is made of a very light pliable engineered mesh with vertical denser bands which are designed to allow the foot and upper to flex together through the gait cycle while controlling lateral forces. The upper is fully lined with thin soft mesh. There are no pressure points or sense of binding on foot flex as I slightly felt in the RoadHawk. This is a breathable upper for sure.
The toe box is broad, high volume with absolutely no overlays beyond a very light and pliable inner stiffener.
The toe box is considerably more pliable with more height than RoadHawk's and as there is no saddle or overlay to the midsole at last lace up as in the Roadhawk so there is plenty of metatarsal room. Wide, high volume feet should be very, very happy in this upper. Narrower, lower volume feet may find it roomy and a bit lacking in front support for faster paces but oh so comfortable.
While the ankle collar is about the same height as the Roadhawk's,  the achilles collar is lower and the heel cup is considerably more pliable higher up with the entire collar area more plushly padded than the relatively stiff and harsh padding of the RoadHawk.
No mistaking the rear hold for an ASICS though, super secure which helps with the more unstructured front of the shoe hold. The tongue is fairly thin but adequately and softly padded. Lace up despite the unstructured mid foot is easy and quite secure but not quite the lock down of the heavier saddled stiffer upper RoadHawk.


The RoadHawk has a Flyte Foam Propel midsole and the DynaFlyte a Flyte Foam Lyte midsole.
Both are outstanding new midsole foams which balance cushion, response, and some bounce as well as any. They are stable and firmer than some and quite dynamic with zero harshness.

The RoadHawk's midsole has a bouncier, slightly more dynamic feel reminding me of Skechers FlightGen in the Razor although softer in cushion as there is more shoe and drop here and also of Nike React but with more pop overall and less of a muted feel.  Both have a more dynamic and slightly firmer feel than Saucony's PWRFOAM as found in the Ride ISO. The heel feel is actually slightly softer in the RoadHawk than DynaFlyte due I think to the Propel's bounce but also to  a quicker transition to softer outsole rubber ahead of the heel and a slightly narrower on the ground platform.

The DynaFlyte has a slightly denser feel with about equivalent cushion before taking into account the outsoles which play a big role here.  The heel feel reminds me of Salomon's Sonic RA, fairly firm but with excellent shock attenuation I assume from the GEL insert which the Roadhawk leaves out.  I much prefer the midsole feel of the Lyte to the regular FlyteFoam in the Cumulus 20. The feel is lighter, more sprightly and noticeably more so than Cumulus. The forefoot cushion feels thinner than RoadHawk's with more ground feel, yet at the same time is  still very well cushioned.

                              LEFT ASICS Dynaflyte 3                 RIGHT: RoadHawk FF 2
The DynaFlyte (left) has a longer strip of firm rubber on the lateral left side while the RoadHawk's firm rubber is only at the heel. The DynaFlyte on the ground contact at the heel is slightly wider than RoadHawk's. All the rubber after the heel area is somewhat softer with the DynaFlyte's seeming to be every so slightly softer than RoadHawk's.  Upfront the RoadHawk has a more continuous center rubber coverage.  They both flex about the same with the RoadHawk's flex somewhat more springy to go with its faster purpose.
The rear outsole from the heel to the first full blue breaks is firmer than the front rubber in the DynaFlyte. This leads to a slightly firmer and more stable landing than the RoadHawk
All of the gray rubber ahead of the black heel piece in the Roadhawk is softer than the black rear rubber (which is thicker than the DynaFlyte firmer rear rubber). All of the heel rubber in both shoes is super durable Asics High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR). The original RoadHawk FF had its entire outsole made of this very firm rubber and it was a firm and a quite harsh ride indeed. With softer yet also very durable blown rubber now to the front in the Hawk, things are much smoother and less harsh and slappy but still snappy and responsive. 
I have no concerns to date with outsole durability for either shoe 

The rides here are quite similar but with enough differences to provide some clear options. The DynaFlyte is slightly firmer and more stable at the heel mostly I think due to its longer firm section of rubber and wider platform and is slightly thinner feeling yet softer too at the forefoot. The RoadHawk FF 2 is clearly bouncier and more responsive with a more performance oriented if slightly firmer overall ride and fit but it not as smooth top to bottom as the roomy DynaFlyte. I would not hesitate to train daily in the DynaFlyte as it is light weight and has good range but due to its unstructured upper and more mellow overall front of the shoe. It is not quite as good a choice for speed as the RoadHawk FF.  The RoadHawk FF ride is decisive and slightly but noticeably bouncy making it a great choice for faster days and if the upper works for your foot for half and up racing despite its greater weight.

The DynaFlyte 3 and RoadHawk FF 2 are both great shoes wkththeir respective new midsole foams, FlyteFoam Lyte and FlyteFoam Propel, the stars. If you have not looked at ASICS lately, as their lineup seemed stale and often stiff and ponderous time, to take another look! ASICS  is back in the game with these two foams. Lyte for a well cushioned more classic dynamic feel, Propel with some new age bounce. Are they perfect? No. 

The DynaFlyte 3 may be a bit to roomy and unstructured for some feet and faster paces although once I added thick socks to my true to size I even ran some trails in them with more than adequate support and great trail feel. 

The RoadHawk FF 2's may be a bit snug and rough for some of the feet which will be happy in the DynaFlyte. With the higher performing RoadHawk weighing more than the more mellow wider range of runs DynaFlyte, there is a bit of a disconnect from the usual lighter is faster but in the end this not really noticeable on the run. 

While I did not run prior DynaFlyte to compare, the FF2 is a more versatile shoe than the FF 1 as it is  softer and especially upfront,  bouncier and has an improved upper that is certainly tolerable if not super modern and incredibly comfortable.  
DynaFlyte 3 Score 9/10
-0.5 for sizing and volume for my foot, forcing me to wear very thick socks at true to size.
-0.5 for thin forefoot feel which while well cushioned seems in combination with upper hold to lack some decisive toe off at faster paces.
RoadHawk FF 2 Score 8.5/10
-0.5 for upper. While it fits its purpose and works well, it is not very soft, has lots of stitching and doesn't bend with the foot as well as it could upfront. This is a $100 shoe but we have seen very fine modern uppers in this price class, for example UA Sonic HOVR.
-0.5 for high, firm and stiff heel counter. Given the very supportive upper the rear of the shoe is over built.
-0.5 for weight. 9.6 oz is quite heavy for a performance oriented trainer.

RoadHawk FF 1 vs. RoadHawk FF 2 (RTR review)
Clearly an improved shoe in the ride department although a considerably heavier one due to what we must assume is the Propel midsole and to a lesser extent the new upper.  FF 2 has smoother, softer ride without losing distinct response. The Propel midsole has some bounce which the RoadHawk didn't and its full coverage of very firm rubber was almost painful. The upper while still not the finest out there is marginally improved with an easier on the foot saddle and a touch more toe room but is still on the snug side. The FF 2 as a result is a more versatile shoe than FF 1 for me and still a great value.

Cumulus 20 (RTR review)
Think of the Cumulus as the next step up from these two. More cushioned with a higher stack and a very stable rear of the shoe, the upper is classic ASICS, super supportive and a bit snug despite the engineered mesh. I like the Cumulus a lot but if the upper works lean towards the DynaFlyte and its lighter weight and more lively Flyte Foam Lyte. 

UA HOVR Sonic (RTR review)
The HOVR first came to mind as it has a similar firmer ride to both the ASICS and at $100 it has a superior fit most any foot upper without the extremes of fit of either of the ASICS. While the upper shines on the HOVR, I slightly prefer the more fluid slightly softer ride of either ASICS and their lighter weights, more than an ounce lighter for the DynaFlyte.

Nike Zoom Pegasus 35 (RTR review)
Again not a marshmallow ride. The Peg rides a little faster and smoother than either ASICS and is a better up tempo choice than either but not by much. If you need more room than the Peg has then clearly the DynaFlyte is a great option and the ride is a bit softer and more mellow while having nice snap.

Skechers Performance Ride 7 (RTR review)
The Ride 7 is softer and springier than the DynaFlyte and more cushioned and considerably less stable with its fine upper is more dialed to a "medium" foot and less to a wider higher volume foot. The RoadHawk FF 2 ride sits somewhere between the between the Razor 2 and Ride 7, more cushioned than the Razor 2 with a welcome higher drop less springy lively than the Ride 7 but more stable and responsive. While the Ride 7 is a super fun and cushioned shoe the DynaFlyte is a more steady and reliable any pace option for me

Brooks Launch 5 (RTR review)
The Launch 5 has a very unstructured upper as the DynaFlyte does and it falls apart for me at mid foot as it lacks support over its narrow underfoot platform, whereas the DynaFlyte's doesn't. Upfront the DynaFlyte is not quite as secure as the Launch 5 whereas the RoadHawk upfront is snugger and rougher. Underfoot both ASICS have a similar feel to the Launch but are more dynamic and smoother running.  Would pick either ASICS over Launch 5 but it would be close if comparing to the Launch 4 and its more supportive upper which reminds me of a tuned up RoadHawk FF 2 upper.

Salomon Sonic RA (RTR review)
Overall the Sonic RA pulls all the pieces together of fit and ride a touch better than either ASICS. The Sonic RA has a similar ride, firmer with great vibration attenuation in the case of Salomon through the Vibe and in the DynaFlyte the Gel insert.  Overall I give the DynaFlyte ride a slight preference over the Salomon. The RoadHawk is more responsive than the Salomon but firmer and with a snugger less polished upper. 

New Balance 890v6  (RTR review)
New Balance RevLite foam is responsive and firm for sure but quite harsh in comparison to the Flyte Foams here. The 890 has an extended firmer outsole at mid foot for some stability which feels great at faster paces but limits its utility as slower paces are not nearly as easy to handle as either ASICS being firm and stiff at mid foot for me. The 890 has a superb upper which bridges foot types at the "medium" better than either ASICS. Despite its upper I would lean towards the Roadhawk as a faster workouts shoe and to the DynaFlyte as an every day trainer over the 890.

adidas Boston 6 and 7 (RTR review)
Both ASICS have more under the forefoot than the Boston with the DynaFlyte closest in feel.  Both Flyte foams are denser and firmer than Boost but not unpleasantly so, particularly when the additional forefoot cushion of both is taken into account.  They are clearly more stable than Boost and don't require plastic Torsion pieces to hold things together. The RoadHawk and Boston share a similar saddle upper design with the Boston more polished while the DynaFlyte has a considerably roomier upper. On the road, the RoadHawk is most similar to the Boston in midsole feel given the slight bounce than the DynaFlyte although it to is quite close in feel as the DynaFlyte has a more mellow easier going feel despite being thinner feeling up front than RoadHawk.
The DynaFlyte 3 and Roadhawk FF 2 will be available July-August 2018
Reviewer Bio
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his 61st birthday a 3:40 marathon.  He also runs trails in rocky rooty New Hampshire and smooth Park City, UT. 
The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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