Thursday, March 05, 2020

ASICS Novablast Multi Tester Review: Yup its a Blast to Run!

Article by Jacob Brady, Mac Jeffries, Ryan Eiler, Derek Li, and Michael Ellenberger


ASCIS Novablast ($130)
Stats
Estimated Weight: men's 9.55 oz / 271g US9, women's 8.1 oz / 230g US8   
 Samples: 264 g / 9.3 oz men’s US 8.5, 270g/9.5oz men’s US9.5
                230 g / 8.1 oz women’s 8
Stack Height: 32mm heel / 22 mm forefoot, 10 mm drop
Available now. $130


Introduction

Derek: When you have a shoe that nobody is allowed to talk about under strict embargo, it’s usually a sign that everyone should be talking about it! That’s how much hype this shoe is worth. Leading up to the launch of this shoe, I actually had very little to go on, because nobody could tell me anything about it, except that it would be something special. If that’s not enough to get you excited, just look at the gems that ASICS has thrown out lately – GlideRide and EvoRide, both excellent shoes in their own right. With that in mind, I was extremely excited to get my hands on this shoe. My pair had some issues with transport, and I got mine fairly late and that’s why I am a bit late to the show in terms of my feedback, but it’s all good. Let’s delve into it!
Jacob: The Novablast is yet another new model from ASICS that continues their recent innovation and modern design. It follows the recent MetaRide, EvoRide, GlideRide, and Nimbus Lite in breaking out of the ASICS mould of a traditional-feeling, built-up, and often heavier shoe. The Novablast is a lightweight high-cushion trainer (32/22mm stack) featuring a new midsole foam, FlyteFoam Blast, which ASICS touts as having “a trampoline effect that propels you forward.” ASICS focus for the Novablast was to deliver a high-energy, bouncy, and cushioned ride over any distance.
The Novablast’s promotional video shows the shoe sinking into the pavement then rebounding as if the ground was a trampoline; it reminds me of the Hoka Clifton’s “running on marshmallows” advertising, which isn’t a coincidence as the Novablast is in the same lightweight cushioned trainer class as the Clifton and nearly identical in weight (manufacturer reported 9.0oz/255g Clifton 6, 9.2oz/261g Novablast). The Novablast is on the heavier end of “lightweight” trainers overall, but is at a competitive weight to others with similar stack height and cushioning. Interestingly, it falls into the same weight class as several shoes I’ve been running in recently, being within 10g (in my US Men’s 12) of the New Balance FuelCell Propel, NB FuelCell TC, ASICS EvoRide, and Nike Zoom Fly FK. I’m excited to see how the Novablast performs, especially in regards to energy return and the ability to cruise longer runs with low effort, as this class of shoe has the potential to be a versatile daily driver.


Michael: ASICS’s R&D department has been absolutely rolling lately, pumping out the Ride family of trainers (Meta-, Glide-, and Evo-, in order of seniority), the “Lite” varients of trainers (specifically the Nimbus Lite, so far), and even finding time to squeeze in some prototype racers that eagle-eyed shoe-spotters have seen on the roads. Even with the Ride family injecting some much needed fun into ASICS lineup, the Japanese brand found time for one more new entrant: The Novablast.


The angular look and slanted geometry of the Novablast suggest the shoe could be a racer, but ASICS’s 9.2 ounce racer is indeed a lightweight trainer, and feels more Hoka Clifton than Nike Vaporfly on-foot. Still, at sub-10 ounces, the Novablast is no slouch, and the brightly colored uppers and FlyteFoam Blast give this shoe a distinctively fun look and feel. 


Ryan: In case anyone thought that the war of the midsole foams was reaching armistice, Asics just threw another contender into the ring.  One can only assume that Asics has been salivating as it watches Hoka devour the foam-heavy segment of the market, and this looks like their direct response to arrest that trend.  I won’t hold my breath that Asics will abandon their “Gel” nomenclature anytime soon, but this feels like a slight admittance that foam is what’s selling shoes these days. Any time that a company, especially a heavyweight, decides to venture a bit out of its comfort zone, I’m interested.
Visually, this shoe leaves no question as to what it’s meant for.  The “tuna” blue upper with electric orange laces, combined with a thick slab of craggy foam beckon a lace-up.  From every angle, these are marketed and designed as a bounce house for adults -- promising a fun, heavily cushioned ride.  Analyzing the shoe on paper, it slots into a new, albeit slightly awkward category for Asics. It’s not a tempo shoe (too much foam/weight), nor is it a laid-back, plush mileage shoe (severe drop and lowish stability).  Maybe it’s a mid-mileage shoe that’s fun to run in on occasion? I do give Asics credit for taking this risk and livening up their product offering.


Mac: MAGA: Make Asics Great Again! Full disclosure: Before this past summer, I regularly blasted Asics for their lack of ingenuity. This once great brand had clearly been surpassed by Skechers and Reebok - and arguably by niche brands like Altra and Topo - all of which were willing to innovate while Asics sat on its laurels. Then, Asics - under new leadership - promised something new, and delivered... *drumroll* ...the clunky, overpriced Metaride *crickets*. At that point, I completely wrote the brand off, convinced that they had gone the way of Puma and KSwiss. 
Then, I begrudgingly tried the Glideride. It was heavy… and… awesome? What?? Then the Evoride? Two great shoes in a row??? And now I have this Novablast on my foot, and I just want to go on record as saying that I have never been happier to be wrong about something. Asics is killing it right now, and I am so happy to be a part of it. Is the Novablast perfect? No. But it IS the shoe that the Clifton was supposed to be: a bouncy, fun, and protective ride, suitable for as many miles as you can put on your legs. 
Pros:
Jacob: Bouncy, energetic, soft-but-not-mushy midsole
Jacob: Both highly-cushioned and reactive
Jacob: Such a fun ride; great pop off the toe
Michael: Bouncy and fun; FlyteFoam Blast is a real win; new ASICS direction
Ryan:  Agreement w/above: so, so bouncy and energetic
Mac: Fun, cushioned ride. Plenty of forefoot room. Less expensive than recent offerings. 
Derek: Bouncy, cushioned, comfortable fit
Cons:
Jacob: Upper fit is hard to dial-in; requires a tight lace
Jacob: Weight--while not heavy for the stack, the midsole is so fun that I’d love to feel it in with a lighter, freer-feeling upper
Michael: Upper and fit-issues; wish it was lighter!
Ryan: Agree that fit and lace-up don’t seem to work quite right
Ryan: Feels a bit excessive with a thick, low-density foam and big drop
Mac: Voluminous fit, although that isn’t necessarily a con for many runners. Not crazy about the colorways. Upper not as refined as the Glideride
Derek: Slightly on the heavy side
See testers running bios here

First Impressions and Fit
Derek: My first thought was that ASICS went to a lot of trouble to try and give the midsole sculpting a “blast” look. Fit-wise, the shoe fits true to size, which is no surprise. ASICS fit has always been very predictable for me. Step in feel is generally quite comfortable, although I did notice some discomfort from the plastic laminated areas around the first eyelets (I was sockless) that gave me a bit of a OG Brooks Hyperion feel, and I made a mental note not to wear these with thin socks. Walking around, the shoe immediately gives a very cushioned feel and the bounce from the foam is very obvious. So far we are ticking all the right boxes!

Jacob: I thought the Novablast looked great in the catalog photos; in hand they’re cool and interesting but look oddly big—long and narrow with a pointed toe. The toe box height, shape, and overall upper shape reminded me immediately of the EvoRide.


When flexing the Novablast by hand, they feel surprisingly rigid. I have to force them to reach the breakpoint—when I do get there they break with the decoupling of the perimeter outsole pieces. The Novablast is light for the stack but the midsole does not feel airy and the shoe isn’t light in hand.

The Novablast is an aggressively styled shoe, especially in the color way I received, with a pure blue mesh and high-visibility orange laces. 
There is dramatic sculpting of the midsole sidewall with deep geometric indentations and a strikingly sharp “cliff” (top edge) around the heel. The shoe design features many hard lines overall with the diagonal stripes on the tongue and chevron patterning all across the shoe, including: the thick plastic ASICS logo overlay, the (sweet) reflective heel accents, the tongue badge, and even (if you look closely) on the whole midsole sidewall; a nice touch.
Though the Novablast looked narrow, it feels roomy on the foot. It is overall accommodating and true to size. The fit isn’t uncomfortable but it isn’t too comfortable either. It’s not a plush feel, the tongue goes up weirdly high (again, like the EvoRide), and the 10mm drop is more noticeable than expected when standing around. The midsole, most notably in the heel, is soft, but it’s not a sink-in-soft type feel and you don’t feel it’s softness until on the run, where it is very bouncy and high-energy.

Michael: The Novablast is distinctively ASICS (both in the prominent signature stripes, but also the color scheme), and yet a definite new direction; that midsole looks more modern art than modern foam. Even the shape is more Ferrari Testarossa than the Ford Taurus-equivalent Cumulus (but hey, it gets you from A-to-B). Funky shapes included, I find the Novablast to be a generally sharp-looking shoe out of the box, with a bright-patterned, airy upper, an angular Flytefoam Blast midsole, and sufficient outsole rubber to suggest signature ASICS durability. 


What’s more, the Novablast feels soft, even at first try-on; I imagine this shoe will win many runners back to the brand just because it’ll feel good in so many local running stores. Looks and first-impressions aren’t everything, but they are something that ASICS has been missing in the recent past (Ride-line notwithstanding), and I hope that runners coming back to the brand give this a real chance. 


Mac: I will get this out of the way: the aesthetics are the weakest point of the shoe for me. Something about the blue and pink just doesn’t sit right with me, and the other colorway isn’t special either. Furthermore, it looks a little clunky, and it fits a little loose; I had to cinch the laces down pretty hard to get a good fit. 


All of that goes out the window once you start running, though. 

Ryan:  In a sentence: you get what you see.  Aptly named and styled, these come with the batteries fully charged and ready to bounce.  The heel foam is the obvious standout, and it's chiseled look hints at its hyper-reactive nature.  Yes, they’ve put bits of foam in places where it won’t be effective, but it does look pretty darn neat.   It felt reasonably comfortable on initial lace-up, without any noticeable issues (not where the story ends, unfortunately).  The 10mm drop is pronounced, and the energy of the midsole is immediately apparent upon dropping my 150lb onto it.


As much as I hate to say it, I think many people will be sold based on a quick, in-store try on alone.  It looks like a fun, eye-catching shoe, and it feels like you might just be able to run a 4 min/mile in the first 30 seconds after you tie them on.  If I owned a running shop, I’d be ordering a ton of these.


The fit is accommodating through the mid and forefoot, but it’s a typical Asics fit that will suit the vast majority of folks. It doesn’t feel particularly light or heavy in hand, but balance-wise, the midsole does feel heavy relative to the upper given the sheer amount of foam pumped into it.  Based on presentation alone, I think that this shoe might convert a few people over to the brand.


Upper
Jacob: The Novablast has a somewhat thick, textured, and varied jacquard mesh upper. The mesh is a single piece but has an interesting two-layer design with a smooth but not soft inner layer and a shiny outer layer, separated by airy strands. The inner part of the mesh is consistent but the upper has a variety of large perforations, the largest above the toe box. Though the mesh is thick, it isn’t heavy and the perforations allow for good airflow; I can easily feel the wind blowing through the toe box.
The upper is not free-feeling on the foot: the mesh is breathable but it is not stretchy, the ASICS logo overlays are thick plastic, and the heel collar and counter are traditional. The collar is medium-padding, tight-weave silky material and the counter is low but very hard. The sockliner is also substantial and sculpted, rising up to cradle the heel (the midsole does this as well) and support the arch. 


The upper is accommodating and roomy enough for a variety of foot shapes, but the fit is hard to dial in. I thought I had laced tightly on my first run but had to stop and re-lace significantly tighter after a couple miles because the feel on the foot was weird and the foothold was insecure. Lacing tightly solves the insecure fit and fortunately I can lace tighter than I do on most shoes without feeling too much uncomfortable top-lace pressure, but it’s hard to get the tightness just right. The feel of the upper on the foot isn’t great overall—perhaps a bit too built-up in the heel or snug on the top of the foot, however, it is functional and I largely forget about it on the run. I also feel like it is loosening up/breaking-in as the miles build and fits my foot much better than it did at the start of the first run.

Derek: Jacob has done a great job describing the upper so I won’t rehash it here. Overall there is some good structure to the upper provided by the plastic logo overlays at midfoot, the internal toe bumper up front, and the semi-rigid heel cup at the rear. As mentioned previously, the upper is overall very comfortable, except one might want to pay attention to some of the plastic laminated parts around the eyelets. I wished they would be smoothed over a bit more to accommodate sockless running. Otherwise, the upper does a good job of getting out of the way, and staying well ventilated. Some of the other testers had issues with fit and volume with this shoe, but I had no such issues. Yes the forefoot is relatively generous in volume compared to the heel and to some extent the midfoot, but that is generally how I like the fit for daily trainers. I had no issues with heel slippage or the laces losing tension with this shoe, though bear in mind, I always double knot my shoes when I run. I like that ASICS uses non-elastic laces. They tend to bite better and hold tension better.
Michael: Jacob has hit all the major points here, but I’ll reiterate as best I can - the upper is comfortable, well-constructed, handsome, even - until you need to lace it tight to go run. The best way I found to get this shoe “ready” to go was to put the shoe on unlaced and walk around it in for a few minutes to let your foot settle, then lace it up. It’s obviously not an ideal solution, nor always practical, but it worked for me. The opposite was when I haphazardly laced up the Novablast after a workout (just trying to get the cooldown over with) and had to stop twice to readjust.
Material-wise, ASICS as done things right here.
I think the tongue is adequate (which was not the case on the EvoRide), and the open mesh of the forefoot was breathable and comfortable even across an 18 miler, and a couple of sweaty treadmill sessions. I didn’t mind the heel as much as Jacob; I like some extra padding there for everyday trainers (I, as most distance runners, have suffered more than enough bloody achilles), and I found the Novablast to just be an altogether comfortable shoe, just extremely difficult to dial in (again, tipping it away from performance trainer and more into everyday/general cushion). 


Ryan:  I definitely agree with Michael and Jacob here. Unfortunately, the predominant experience for me was the difficulty I had in getting the upper to feel properly situated.  I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the relatively nonstandard geometry of the shoe isn’t what Asics is used to building.  At first, the shoe felt too big to size, but after stopping to lace them up, things eventually settled into place. Personally, I don’t think it’s something I’d want to deal with on a regular basis, with all of the chunky-foam alternatives available today.
Criticism aside, the mesh upper is well structured and very breathable.  The mesh near the toe resembles a two-layer spacer mesh, and while comfortable, it resists stretching better than most others.  As a result, the toe box (a usual complaint of mine) felt stable. Also appealing was the lateral support offered by the plasticky Asics logos on both sides.  The heel is solidly built to handle all of that extra springiness, and the tongue is nicely designed both aesthetically and functionally.


Mac: Although I am not crazy about the aesthetics, I really like the upper now that I know to cinch the laces down. A shoe this springy wouldn’t have worked with most any stretchy knit upper; instead, Asics wisely opted for a more structured 2-layer mesh that - once laced tightly - really holds the foot in place well. 
There is a heel counter, but even with my sporadic Achilles Tendinitis, I didn’t notice it at all; it holds the heel in place without digging or pressing. 

Similarly, the front toe bumper is just enough to add some durability, but you won’t ever feel it. All in all, it isn’t stand-out amazing, but it is very capable in its own right, and moreover, the structure makes it a great compliment for the super springy ride. 


Midsole
Jacob: The Novablast is the first shoe to use ASICS’ new FlyteFoam Blast midsole, a springy and energetic FlyteFoam variant. We do not have information yet as to its composition but ASICS did tell us it is their lowest density foam. The single slab of foam looks big and has striking hard angles and indentations in the heel. 

The midsole rises to cradle the foot in around heel and midfoot. Though visually large, the Novablast has an effectively narrow waist and when the shoe is on a flat surface, a good 2-3 inches in the midfoot doesn’t even touch the ground. 

The outside edges of the midsole are rounded as well so the ground contact platform isn't wide.
The big slab of foam feels dense and isn’t squishy to the touch or when standing around, but on the run it is soft with an incredible bounce. The Novablast has a high stack height and delivers a protected and cushioned feel, but is impressively still highly reactive and not at all mushy. The high rebound and springy feel the midsole provides is unique and I think unrivaled in overall level-of-bounce. Even though the midsole is moderately soft, it is not very flexible, unlike other high-rebound foams such as Saucony PWRRUN+ and New Balance FuelCell. Overall I’m really a fan of the characteristics of the FlyteFoam Blast and look forward to seeing it on more ASICS models.

Derek: I really like what ASICS is doing with FlyteFoam Blast. While the original Flytefoam was on the firmer side, it had very good vibration dampening properties, and over the years, while it got a tad softer-feeling, we kind of got the feeling that they were not quite catching up with the trends towards softer and bouncier foams. Then came the GlideRide and bam! They were back in the game. This one is even better. A little less mushy than the GlideRide, with a more solid feeling bounce that adds good stability to the ride. The single density construct in this shoe adds to the uniform smooth feel and transition during the run. I agree with the others that there good rebound in this foam, though I think you need to run it at a certain pace to generate the bounce. The harder you stride, the more bounce you get back in this shoe. There is actually very little compression at slower paces. 
Overall, I like how the midsole performs at various paces. It may not be to everyone’s cup of tea; especially people who like very soft trainers e.g. Skechers GRR7 / Hoka Clifton, or very responsive trainers e.g. Adidas Boston, but it sits in the middle and straddles both extremes pretty well. 
Michael: The Novablast breaks out another new technology from ASICS: FlyteFoam Blast, which, besides sounding awesome, is… well, pretty awesome. In fact, the angular stylization of the midsole and odd-crevicing along the lateral edge (quite difficult to clean up for photos after running, for those curious) don’t really indicate the soft, squishy foam that lurks inside. FlyteFoam blast doesn’t appear dense like Saucony’s beaded PEBA technology or Adidas’s BOOST, but still returns some energy as you’d expect from a novel 2020 product. It’s most reminiscent of the midsole on New Balance’s FuelCell Propel, but if anything a little bouncier and less pure squishy (my pair of Propels is now over 250 miles, so I can’t compare directly anymore). 


Ryan:
Upon standing up, the first impulse is to rock back onto your heels and bounce like you’re on the moon -- this FF Blast foam is lively stuff.  In appearance, it looks like someone took a chisel to it. It’s a craggy, aggressive design, with a double overhang of foam off the heel. Straight out of Yosemite.  Some might even say that parts of the foam are superfluous and don’t add anything to its function. It’s definitely eye catching, though.


The second biggest thing I noticed was the severity of the 10mm drop.  While this is up to personal preference, it felt like a bit overdone for my liking.  I’d even go so far as to say that it may have slightly changed my stride, as I felt my calves working harder than usual while pushing pace.  Such a large drop coupled to a high energy foam made this feel more like a 12mm drop in my opinion, as FF Boost launches the heel upward during the propulsion part of the stride.


I agree with Michael and Jacob that this FF Boost seems a bit more stable than other comparable foams (PWRRUN+, Boost), but I also wouldn’t call this a stability-minded shoe.  I’d consider FF Boost a nice new tool in the Asics arsenal, which I’d like to see in a shoe with a more mild offset.


Mac: I love it.
...I am now being told that I need to be a little more specific. That’s fair. So, these may be the bounciest shoes I have ever worn. They don’t necessarily propel you forward like the Vaporflys do, but they are just FUN. Bouncy, protective, and FUN. You get the sensation that you can run all day in these. Maybe not as fast as you want, but all day. Legs felt great during - and after - a 2 hour progression run. That bounce, coupled with the pronounced rocker shape under the forefoot, just makes moderately paced runs feel effortless. 


I will be honest: I have never enjoyed running in a more “maximal” shoe - they all feel either too squishy or simply dead - but these are a blast. Dang, no pun intended, but I’m not deleting it. Actually, the more I think about it, this is the shoe that every company that has released a maximal shoe was trying to create. Yes: this is the shoe that the Clifton is supposed to be. Plenty of protection, lively, exciting ride, relatively lightweight. I know it’s early, but this is my favorite long run shoe since the Carbon X.... and at ⅔ the cost.  


Outsole
Jacob: The outsole of the Novablast is composed of four pieces of high abrasion rubber with a key decoupling at the flex point at the base of the forefoot. All points of the shoe in contact with the ground are covered by rubber: the full perimeter of the shoe and the center of the forefoot. The remainder of the bottom of the shoe is recessed midsole--a single deep channel running from the middle of the heel through the midfoot, then becoming shallower and looping around the center piece of rubber in the forefoot. This channel both lowers weight as well as contributes the initial softness on strike and unique ride of the Novablast. 
The outsole is smooth and quiet on the run with decent grip over a variety of surfaces. I found the similar-looking rubber outsole of the EvoRide to be poor in wet, dirty, or snowy conditions but have had a better experience with the Novablast. I tested it on dirt paths, sandy streets, snow/ice, and dry and wet clear asphalt and aside from sketchiness on the snow/ice (if it’s not tacky-feeling rubber, it usually doesn’t work on snow, and this is no exception), I didn’t have any issues. The grip isn’t isn’t notably good but it isn’t at all problematic. Durability seems exceptional so far as my pair shows very minimal wear after 60 miles.

Derek: The outsole grips well and appears to be decently durable. I haven’t had any wet runs in the shoe, but so far it is doing well on tarmac and non-technical gravel terrain. It is quite thin in this shoe (surprisingly thin for an ASICS trainer), so one would hope that it holds up well over the miles. The outsole reminds me somewhat of the GlideRide actually, and if that is any indication of the durability, then I think we will be just fine with the NovaBlast. 
Michael: ASICS has actually found a perfect balance here, running a layer of AHAR Plus rubber (that’s slightly redundant of me; AHAR Plus is ASICS’s super version of “ASICS High Abrasion Rubber). They say it’s 50% more durable than “regular” AHAR - I’m just happy that they added it where it needs to be (around the perimeter of the heel and throughout the forefoot) and is not added where it doesn’t (i.e. the whole “middle” of the shoe). I have no doubt this is a shoe that mileage hogs will enjoy - it’s just going to last.


Ryan:  While there is an average amount of rubber underfoot, I noticed that the outsole is sculpted in such a way (convex in many places) that relatively little of it is in contact with the ground upon initial foot strike.  Because of this, the very early stage of midsole compression felt especially soft to me, and added to the bounciness of the whole package.
Traction is great, and there aren’t any spots where I’d ask for more rubber.  Durability is TBD, but they do claim some moderate improvements here.


Mac: Traction is fine on wet roads - and that is all I have been able to run on, so I feel like an expert here. I do have some durability concerns: the outsole feel is very soft, and although that adds to the pleasant ride, it could tear up quickly for anyone who doesn’t land straight down on their feet. Will update in comments after a few weeks. 


Ride


Derek: Overall, I like the ride of the shoe for its performance as a daily trainer or easy run shoe. The weight is noticeably lighter than the GlideRide, though it does have a firmer underfoot feel that the GlideRide. The bounce of the shoe works well with the 10mm drop for my running style, and it is easy to tick off the middle miles in the 7:30/mile range in this shoe. It does feel a little substantial for anything faster than 7:00 pace, and for those I think I would veer more towards the equally capable EvoRide. 
I think different people will find that the shoe feels different depending on how you land. I tend not to land hard on the heel, so for me the forefoot is where I feel the most compression and rebound in the shoe; the heel actually does not feel like it compresses much by comparison. Now this could be because the foam is thicker and more resistant to compressive forces in the heel, but I have read that some people find the heel unduly soft and unstable. For me the shoe is plenty stable in the heel, and certainly more so than many other softer daily trainers on the market, e.g. Skechers GR7+, GRR7, Hoka Clifton, even NB FuelCell TC. So again, it really depends on your footstrike, to determine if the shoe will work well for you. I think even though it is a 10mm drop shoe, as more of a midfoot striker, the drop works well for me.
Jacob: The Novablast has a cushioned and moderately soft but exceptionally springy and energetic ride. It is not a plush softness and is a bit stiff, thus far from being mushy or bottoming out, but has the cushion to go any distance and enough of a forgiving feel for recovery days. Although high stack with a muted ground feel, the Novablast has very good response. I can feel how a change in stride or different push off the toe affects the energy I get back—at faster paces especially I can feel the midsole rebound and pop my foot off the toe. ASICS describes the Novablast has having “enhanced toe spring” and “a trampoline effect that propels you forward” and though those kinds of phrases are often just advertising, with the Novablast, I really feel it. I did sprints at the end of one run and I couldn’t believe how powerfully the shoe popped my heels up into my butt on the recovery motion. This spring is the defining quality of the ride.


The Novablast bounce is not a firm, bouncy-ball type bounce like the NB Beacon and not a sinky, slower rebound like NB FuelCell or Nike ZoomX foams. FF Blast has a quicker and powerful bounciness somewhat like Saucony’s PWRRUN+ and Rebook FFE but less flexible, snappier, and quicker to pop off the ground. 


I’m marathon training right now and the cushioned, fun-to-run, and high energy-return ride of the Novablast made it the perfect shoe to put a lot of miles on in a short period of time. I tested them at a variety of paces including 2x1mi @ ~5k pace (~5:20min/mi), 8x15s all-out sprints, recovery (8:15min/mi), and an even-splits cruiser (6:49min/mi). Once I got the lacing/fit dialed-in, the Novablast was fun on every run at any pace. They were softer and heavier-feeling as well as not as speed conducive as I’d like for the miles at 5k pace, but the rebound was really fun and they felt smooth. Surprisingly, they inspired a smile during sprints as the toe spring was awesome in a similar way to how the high-stack Nike Vaporfly is fun at speed despite being designed as a marathon racer. At recovery pace, the Novablast rebound and cushion depth was less notable but they’re still smooth enough and the high (10mm) drop feel kept my motion going forward and my legs feeling ok. They are the most fun and well-rounded at a cruising endurance pace and feel like they can go any distance. Overall, the Novablast has a fantastic fun and versatile ride. 


Michael: The ride on the Novablast is… well, it’s a blast, I’ll get that pun out of the way now. Seriously, I think this is the most fun shoe that ASICS makes right now; while the Ride series (and specifically the GlideRide) have a more kinetic, energy-forward feel, they feel slightly more “engineered” than the Novablast, which is just a darn soft, light trainer. I wish ASICS had found a way to shave 2 ounces off this thing to make it a true lightweight trainer, but I’ll also say that for most runners, there’s enough bounce here to give a real get-up-and-go feeling. 


How does it all come together? There’s no plate here, but the midsole is thick (err, thicc?) enough that your foot has some definite sink with a corresponding energy rebound with every footstrike. The ride isn’t overly inspiring, but it is impressive to have this much cushion and still a fun ride. This isn’t necessarily a trainer I would say has a “pop” to it, but it’s got just enough energy give-back that you feel some propulsion. Not to mention, that substantial stack height means your legs can get away with more; even after 18 or so miles, I was fresh and ready to go for more.
Ryan:  This is, without question, a fun shoe to wear and the closest most of us will ever get to a bounce on the moon.  The ride is soft without feeling gummy, and to no one’s surprise, this is most apparent in the heel. The geometry of the shoe combines with its explosive energy return to prod you forward, almost urging your posture into a slight forward lean (for those looking to mimic Kipchoge form!).  


Those extra few millimeters of stack are forgiving on the knees and muscles, and are especially notable on longer runs.  However, this would need some sort of stability plate to move from the “fun” and into the “serious” category for me. At times, the heel energy felt a bit imposing on my stride, but I’m a midfoot runner, so I probably appreciate the heel pop less than others.  I’ll call the ride appropriate for a medium-distance recovery/fun run. Kudos to Asics for breaking from their norms and birthing a heavily cushioned shoe that doesn’t make me yawn.


Mac: I may have gotten to much into the “Ride” when describing the Midsole, but I will echo it here: this is thick, bouncy fun. It really shines for my 200lb frame at Long Tempo pace, but it is a great recovery and long shoe as well. You can even crank down the pace to 5k pace and faster, but I would almost want to size down for much faster than that. 


The biggest downside to this shoe right now is that it is keeping me from doing two other shoe reviews; I just keep reaching for them, and I bet you will to. 


Conclusions and Recommendations

Derek: Overall the shoe is well executed, and is really for to run for a non-carbon plated shoe. I do find the shoe a little limited to the middle range of the speed spectrum, so versatility takes a bit of a hit for me. I think the bounce of the shoe may also be more pronounced for heavier runners, and heel-strikers. 
Once again, ASICS has created a shoe that is very different from the others in its current lineup. The aesthetics of the heel in particular may well be the most polarizing aspect of this shoe, and while I like it, others may find it a little too bizarre. I think if they can clean up the looks a little, and refine the upper to have a bit more of a performance fit, shave down the stack a little across the board, they may well have a very good neutral "NovaTempo" in the 8oz range that would work very well for people wishing for something for speedier days. 
Derek’s Score 8.6 / 10
Ride 40% 8.5 Fit 40% 9 Looks 10% 8 Value 10% 8
Jacob: I remarked in the introduction section that this type of shoe (high cushion lightweight trainer) has the potential to be a versatile daily trainer, and the Novablast fully reaches that potential. It is cushioned enough for any distance with good energy return, a balanced and not-overdone softness, a unique defining bounce, and is fun to run in at all paces. It is light and reactive enough for workouts as well as adequately soft and forgiving for easy days. The Novablast doesn’t feel fast and is not a racer, but it isn’t too cumbersome at speed either. It is an awesome do-it-all, high-cushion daily trainer and there hasn’t been a run so far that I haven’t thought about wearing them. I have other shoes with lower stacks or carbon plates for speed days (Skechers Speed Elite, Nike Zoom Fly) or with fatigue-reducing geometry for long workouts or 20+ milers (NB FuelCell TC, Hoka Carbon X), but the Novablast will certainly stay in my rotation as an easy, random day to longer (10-15mi) cruiser shoe. 


Aside from the hard-to-dial upper and only ok comfort, the Novablast is a great shoe with a ride that is top-notch in feel and fun-factor. Despite the minor foot security issues, the fit is accommodating and I’d imagine it would fit a variety of foot shapes. I think almost anyone could find a spot for the Novablast in their quiver and always have a blast running in them.
Jacob’s Score: 8.88
Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit: 7.5 (30%) Value: 9.5 (15%) Style 9 (5%)


Michael: We’re rolling towards the close of the first quarter of 2020 and good ol’ ASICS is pumping out innovative new trainers like it’s 2006. Hell, if I ran the running shoe division, I’d cut all the classic models (Cumulus, Nimbus, Kayano, 2000) and move in the Lites, the Rides, and the Blasts! That’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, but not entirely; ASICS is taking major strides on the periphery of their lineup (as here) while simultaneously clinging to their old staples. At some point, these lines need to merge. For now, I think runners looking for a high-cushioned, fun-to-run trainer should give the Novablast serious consideration. Shame that it’s so tough to get locked down - and darn if I don’t wish it was a little lighter - but don’t let the negatives keep you from trying. Hoka diehards, New Balance Fuelcell fanboys, and those seeking something bouncy should give the Novablast a definite look. It’s a (Nova)blast.
Michael’s Score: 9.0/10.


Ryan:   I was ready to be bored by another Asics layup, but the Novablast is anything but dull.  I’m in agreement with Michael’s thinking: that this definitely deviates from the old guard of the Asics lineup.


Categorizing these is a little tougher than usual for me. I wouldn’t use them for tempo or speedwork, due to weight and stability, and I wouldn’t use them to plod around on long runs, as the drop and high energy heel are too Redbull-esque.  But I would lace these up when the legs are feeling fresh and I need a shoe that will keep up for a medium-distance fun run. Speaking of lacing them up, I really wish they stayed situated on my foot without needing to readjust them so often.  Maybe it’s a break-in issue, but I have my doubts.


This is a unique shoe for Asics, that anyone will find enjoyable for the right runs; like that one chatty, always-entertaining friend who’s nice to have around -- in the right doses.  I’ll bet most people don’t own a shoe with so much pop at this price point. There aren’t any defining characteristics which would make this a “hard no” for anyone, as it’s well made, will accommodate almost any foot shape, and enough fun that even calorie-counting purists might appreciate them.  For folks who appreciate a deep, energetic heel compression, and enjoy a lively 10mm offset, the Novablast should be a strong consideration.
Ryan’s Score:  8.0/10, 
Fit issues are hard for me to forgive, but the sentiment and sheer fun make them worth considering.


Mac: Index of all of Mac’s Rankings HERE
Mac’s Score 8.9/10
What a great set of kicks. They are like an ‘80s muscle car: not as pretty as some earlier models, but what a blast to drive. RIDE: Protective, bouncy, and above all, fun. A very different ride from the other 10s you see pictured above, but superb in its own right. FIT: The upper works for me, but I worry that it will be too voluminous for some. You may want to consider going a half size down, but only if you often find yourself between sizes. VALUE: I was honestly shocked when I saw these were $120. I actually assumed I was testing a $180-$200 shoe. $120 seems like a steal; my only reservation is the soft outsole. 

Watch Sam's Initial Run Impressions and Shoe Details Video


Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


ASICS Evoride (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both shoes feel very different on the run. The EvoRide is flatter feeling from the heel to the midfoot, with less of a pronounced bounce relying more on its forefoot rocker geometry to give you a quick turnover. It is lighter and has an overall lower shoe volume to give a bit more of a performance feel. The downside of all this is the EvoRide does not feel as good for slow runs. That is where the NovaBlast shines, in the middle miles, where that extra cushion and bounce takes away the edge and fatigue a little when you notice it most late in the run. 
Michael: The EvoRide is ASICS’s most “accessible” Ride-based trainer (in both price-point and technology), and brings a smooth and fast ride to ASICS lineup. It’s less cushioned than the Novablast, but does have more of that heel-toe rocker feel, making it moderately more competent as a performance (i.e. workout) trainer. Runners looking for a faster day shoe should side with the EvoRide, while those seeking an everyday or long run shoe, or those who generally prefer a more “traditional” trainer geometry, should pick up the Novablast. 
Mac: Agree with Michael here, except that I am not sure I wouldn’t take the Novablast in a 5k race over the Evoride (if they were my only two options… there are certainly better 5k race shoes out there). I would take the EvoRide for the hardest Reps, but the Novablast for anything else. 
Jacob: The EvoRide is firmer, stiffer, significantly less cushioned (the EvoRide heel is about the same stack as the Novablast forefoot), and more solid and stable (minimal bounce) than the Novablast. The EvoRide is defined by the heavily-rockered geometry whereas the Novablast is more traditional. The Novablast is more versatile, more fun (super bounce) and striking, and better for longer and easier runs. Both have a similar true-to-size but accommodating fit with minor issues. I like both shoes and if I’m looking for a firmer feel and am doing a shorter or faster run I may choose the EvoRide, but I find the Novablast more enjoyable more often as well as just as competent at speed (though a different feel) as the EvoRide, so it would be my pick overall.


Asics Glideride (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The GlideRide has an overall more distinctive and smoother easier ride for me, but it is held back by its weight. The NovaBlast is easier to turn over at moderate paces, but the GlideRide is more of a cruise control specialist, for those slightly slower easy runs. If I am feeling beat up, I reach for the GlideRide. If I want to do a medium pace, 10 miler, I go with the NovaBlast. 
Michael: The GlideRide fits in-between ASICS speed-focused EvoRide and technology showcase MetaRide in the Ride family. In many ways, it’s ASICS most competent trainer offered, with a definite heel-to-toe roll-off that keeps you moving forward. It also feels slightly “engineered” (plastic-y), and was too firm for some reviewers. Over-firmness is not an issue of the Novablast, so those who prefer a soft landing should skip the GlideRide. For those in-between, I think the decision just comes down to what you prefer - the GlideRide has a “rocker” feeling, and you’re going to notice it; the Novablast does not. It’s a close call - I think I’d take the Nova, but you can’t go wrong.
Mac: Glideride is the shoe that got it turned around for Asics. It is a little more structured, a little heavier, and a little more expensive than the Novablast. This one comes down to personal preference, but I have been picking up the Blast more than the GR lately.


Asics Nimbus Lite (RTR Review)
Mac: Lite has considerably more stack at 36mm heel /28 mm forefoot of softer bouncier FlyteFoam and is considerably more flexible. It is very fun actually to much soft fun and can get tiring.Its upper is the polar opposite upfront, very unstructured soft and with a sometimes tenuous while comfortable hold while its midfoot and heel area is both easier fitting and more secure midfoot and more locked down at the heel. 


Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. I prefer the more dynamic ride of the NovaBlast. The shallow heel of the Reebok FFE also gives me a little bit of heel slippage, which I don’t get with the NovaBlast. The FFE gets points for lower cost though. I think I would favor the FFE if I am not doing a ton of mileage, and I just want one do-it-all shoe. The FFE feels faster and is easier to do a bit of uptempo in. If I have several shoes to rotate through, then I would get the NovaBlast as a dedicated daily run shoe. 
Mac: No comparison. The RFFE gets points for the low cost, and the more secure upper might make cornering a little less squirrely, but the Novablast is so much more fun to run in. (And I really liked the Energy)
Jacob: The FFE is firmer, more flexible, less dramatic in level-of-bounce and overall cushion. The FFE is a bit more stable and consistent but the Novablast is more energetic and fun. They have similar uses as do-it-all daily trainers. The FFE fits a bit larger and is less comfortable than the Novablast. I’d pick the Novablast over FFE even at the higher price unless specifically looking for a less soft and bouncy ride.


Hoka One One Clifton (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I am always looking for that Clifton with a traditional drop, and I think in the NovaBlast, we have come pretty darn close. The Clifton is a very soft shoe, and the low drop sometimes exaggerates the softness of the heel and makes it difficult to turn over the shoe if you want to increase the pace. The NovaBlast, while firmer, holds the drop of the shoe through the stride while still giving you a good bouncy ride. I think the NovaBlast is a must try for Clifton fans who want a higher heel-to-toe drop.
Mac: This might be the best comparison on the list, simply because the Novablast does what all other maximal shoes should have been doing; the Novablast is the Clifton Killer. Cliftons promise lightweight maximal cushioning, but deliver it with a dead, energy zapping plop. Going from the Clifton to the Novablast is like Dorothy leaving black and white Kansas and waking up in a full-color Oz. 


Skechers GoRun Ride 8 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I find the GRR8 to be a bit flat feeling. Both shoes have good bounce, but the GRR8 has a lower to the ground feel, and is easier to pick up the pace. In terms of cushioning, the NovaBlast definitely wins here. 
Mac: I think the GRR8 could have been a great shoe if it had an exaggerated rocker. As it is - and as much as I love Hyperburst - I only liked the GRR8. The NB offers more protection in a more fun package.  


Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 (RTR Review)
Michael: The Pegasus, as it exists now, is a pretty firm ride - built for durability and (relative) stability, but lacking in flashy technology. I think the Novablast is an all-around more fun trainer, and likely a better pick, minus the lacing issue. Of course, longtime Pegasus wearers may not be swayed, but the Novablast has a more exciting midsole with what seems to be comparable durability and flexibility. 
Ryan: As a long time Peg devotee, I’m not about to say that the Novablast is a replacement for the stable workhorse I’m accustomed to.  Rather, it has its place on a separate shelf, a bit closer to my party shoes. I’m in agreement with all of Michael’s other observations -- the Peg is harsher, more stable, and less exciting but built for serious training.

adidas Energy Boost
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. When I first ran in the NovaBlast, I was immediately reminded of the original Adidas Energy Boost. The underfoot feel is really quite similar, though the Blast foam is a little more bouncy than Boost, and I can feel a little more cushioning in the forefoot. The big winner is that the ASICS shoe fits so much easier. I would definitely pick the NovaBlast here. 
New Balance FuelCell Propel (RTR Review)
Michael: The FuelCell Propel is one of the most comparable shoes to the Novablast, but I think the Novablast actually improves on what I already considered a very impressive shoe. That is, where the Propel was nice and soft, but a bit of an energy-sink, the Novablast has just enough “bounce back” to it that you feel like the midsole is responding, rather than just absorbing, the pounding. No, it’s not some crazy energy-return like Nike has concocted, but it’s definitely a step up from the Propel. That said, I know runners have been finding the Propel at crazy low prices - and it’s no slouch! Both impressive, cushy options.
Jacob: The Novablast reminded me a lot of the Propel one my first few runs, but when I tried one on each foot they felt pretty different overall. The Propel is softer and much more flexible with more of a dull bounce than the popping spring of the Novablast. The Propel is close to being mushy and bottoming out but the Novablast is far from it. They’re both everyday trainers but the Novablast is better at speed and easier to return in with more directed energy return. Both are true to size but the Propel upper is more comfortable (slipper-like) and fits better. I like and wear both but if I had to choose one, I’d go for the more fun and higher  performance Novablast.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great review, very tempted. :)
I just read another review that said the novablast was a little unstable (at the heel) specially at speed. Did anyone find that? I have a skechers gorun ride 8 and I do enjoy it but it is a little firm and stiff. Is the Asics Novablast softer underfoot, as cushioned and as good or better at slower to mid paces (not as stiff). Thanks in advance :)

tqdwx said...

nice review!will you guys make review of asics roadblast?

Harkawal said...

Hi there .. midsole comparison with Brooks revel 3 please

Michael said...

Anonymous - May have addressed your post already on LetsRun (if you're the same poster) but regardless, I didn't find any instability, even at faster paces and/or on tired legs. It is a relatively high stack height, so compared to something like the Adios 5 (one of those low-to-the-ground shoes), sure - definitely more unstable. But not anything that stood out.

@TQ - Never even heard of it... Will investigate!

@Harkawal - Good question, and a good comparison. FlyteFoam Blast is less dense than the midsole on the Revel 3. A little less dynamic and a little more soft, but both 2 compelling shoes. I think the Revel 3 fits better into the "speed trainer" category whereas NovaBlast is a more "pure trainer."

zeropluszero said...

Any comparison to Infinity Run?

Unknown said...

Does anyone have a suggestion for a similar shoe with moderate support? Ie a vaporfly / novablast for an overpronator..

Michael said...

@Zero - I've never worn the Nike Infinity React (assuming that's what you're referring to), but the comparisons to the Epic React should be relatively similar. React is more dense, slightly springier, but slightly less forgiving.

@Unknown - Actually, the Infinity React is a relatively stable platform (see comparisons above); could also consider the Brooks Ravenna or new ASICS DS-Trainer!

Radim said...

@Michael - i am the "Unknown" above, sorry for that. Thanks for the tips. I have run in Asics GT-2000 for years without injury (knock on wood). Would any of those suggested shoes be faster than the GT-2000?

Sam Winebaum said...

@radim
I have run all suggested including a bit in GT 2000, a shoe I quite found fast but firm at the heel and midfoot. Infinity React is definitely light stability but higher up not underfoot via rails, It is a nice ride but for me the rails are to much, if barely compared to say the Ravenna 11 or GT 2000. Take a look at just releasing Salomon Sonic 3 Confidence we will have review soon, If you are looking for a race shoe comparable to Vaporfly clearly the Hyperion Elite is a stable high end race shoe
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

I noticed that the comments says the upper is hard to dial in. So is it best to go true to size or go down 1/2 size - whats your recommendation?
How does it compare with Nike infinity react? Thanks

Anonymous said...

It would be great to have a ladies perspective on the Noveablast (Hope, Sally etc) also any comparisons with New balance 1080 v10 and Saucony triumph 17. Thankyou :)

Michael said...

@Anonymous (3/16) - I'd still go true to size. The tightening issue doesn't translate to it running long... just sort of tricky to lace down effectively. Unfortunately I've never run in the Infinity React but I imagine the Guide Rails make it a good deal firmer than the ASICS.

@Anonymous (3/17) - Agreed! Hope and Sally are both coming in on some big reviews coming up. I haven't worn the 1080 in a couple generations but compared to the T17, it's a little lighter and more nimble, but the upper isn't quite as well done as on the Saucony. Moreover, I think the PWRun midsole on the T17 is ultimately a little easier on the legs than the NovaBlast - so if I was going to do a 20 mile easy run, I'd probably take the Saucony. That said, if it's a run where you want to get going faster, I'd take the ASICS!

Ben said...

Nice reviews! It seems the shoe is building up certain momentum. Since this is also a high energy return shoe. I curious how does it compares with Nike Turbo 2?

Michael said...

@Ben - they're similar shoes, for sure. I prefer the Turbo 2 because the upper is considerably better, and because the ZoomX there is just a little more responsive than what the NovaBlast has going. Both squish down, but the ZoomX pushes you back up a little more effectively than FF Blast, in my opinion. But ultimately, two similar (and really quite good) trainers.

Anonymous said...

Hi! How does it compare to kinvara 11 and freedom 3?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
NovaBlast is heavier and more cushioned than either Kinvara 11 or Freedom 3 a full ounce for Freedom and about 1.5 oz for Kinvara 11 as such they play more towards uptempo. Freedom 3 has a similarly dynamic midsole from its somewhat bouncy TPU PWRUN+ and is comparatively very flexible. Kinvara is more stable than the other two while the lightest but its ride is more old school EVAd denser more responsive and firmer.
Sam, Editor