THOMAS: If you need any more proof that things are changing at ASICS, let’s just say you will not see the word Gel in this review. Now let’s start.
There are only a handful of brands that have been ingrained in the running footwear industry over the past half-century. ASICS is one of them. All of them have had peaks and valleys as their products innovate, resonate, stagnate, and then rejuvenate. ASICS has seen it all, and though they may not agree with me, their company gearshift was stuck on ‘stagnate’ the last few years.
Their loyal fanbase became a double-edged sword. People (i.e. us creatures of habit), simply bought their iterations year after year, regardless of more innovative products coming from other established brands (Nike and adidas) and new upstarts (HOKA and Altra).
Maybe they got complacent. Maybe ASICS depended on the local running store model and were slow to see the online revolution of running enthusiasts that share reviews on websites, social media, and in running crews. People not influenced by a fleet of reps and in-store salespeople. Don’t get me wrong, local running stores are incredibly important and the good ones have adapted.
All that to say, what we’re seeing for 2020/2021 is not your dad’s ASICS.
ASICS is doing what we had hoped they would, back to innovating and trying new approaches. While the Ride line was an encouraging sign ASICS was moving in the right direction, the NOVABLAST is one of the first shoes that shows a clean break.
Get out your sunglasses, Mr. Onitsuka, ‘cause the future is bright.
Four of us got to review this shoe; our thoughts are below.
THOMAS: From the get-go, the ASICS NOVABLAST looks sleek and streamlined. The mesh upper is vented over the toes and is breathable. The laces are flat and the tongue is uncharacteristically thin (for ASICS anyway).
The ASICS Tiger stripes on both sides of the trainer are not only classic– they also give the shoe structure to lock down your foot. The heel counter and collar fit well. The back of the heel cup has large reflective overlays that blend into the shoe. The upper fits true to size and I dig it.
The biggest part of the NOVABLAST personality is centered around the FLYTEFOAM Blast midsole. The FLYTEFOAM Blast is light and bouncy. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe too bouncy. While trying the shoe on for the first time I had the uncontrollable urge to bound down the hallway. The closest thing I can compare the cushion to is the HOKA Clifton or a combo of React and ZoomX. There is plenty of rubber on the outsole keeping the traction on point.
MEAGHAN: ASICS has (until recently) not been a brand that I gravitated towards for running shoes. I’ve found most of them to be pretty firm, without a lot of cushioning (not great for someone who has a fondness for HOKA). But good news, the NOVABLAST is a totally new ASICS shoe and it is quite the treat.
First of all, my white/mint green colorway is lit. 10/10 ASICS. The soft, lightweight mesh upper is simple, breathable and the reflective details provide some extra visibility. But underneath the foot is where this shoe shines.
The new FLYTEFOAM Blast midsole is light, bouncy and (sorry) feels nothing like your typical ASICS shoe. You get a really nice bounce with each stride and I cannot complain about the cushioning/stack height.
Beneath the midsole is the AHARPLUS rubber outsole, which apparently has twice the abrasion resistance of ASICS traditional outsole rubber. Whatever the technology, it pairs really well with the midsole to give this shoe an overall responsive, bouncy ride.
DAVE: The FLYTEFOAM Blast is a midsole that’s here to play. First of all, let’s get something straight here. While the shoe may look on the faster side, it’s a high-cushioned/stacked daily trainer. So going fast got sloppy and took some effort, much like HOKA for me (minus the Carbon X and X SPE, coming soon).
In the general easy aerobic range, it settled nicely. FLYTEFOAM Blast packs a good punch underfoot, and if you like cush, it’s got it. It’s smooth and decently balanced to provide a nice midfoot to forefoot roll, and finding the sweet spot in the shoe didn’t take long at all as well. That’s cool. Miles felt good.
Unfortunately, with all the time spent on the midsole here by ASICS, I feel they missed a few key ingredients in the fit department. At least for my Polish taste buds.
ROBBE: No doubt, the majority of the good is being dumped into the midsole bucket. The new FLYTEFOAM Blast is a blast, for sure– from the future. It’s light, it’s bouncy, it feels very un-ASICS like. It really just feels… fun. I was honestly shocked. It reminded me a lot of those foams we love, like the first couple runs from a React midsole.
Speaking of the midsole, there is plenty of foam there for those maximalist runners. Too much, maybe, which we’ll talk about in the next section.
The ride of the shoe was nice once it got rolling. The instability on step-in seems to even out as you move into an easy running rhythm. There’s a bit of a rockered-ness to the shoe, and I felt like it really transitioned well from heel-to-toe in a fluid motion. Also, unlike ASICS of the past, I had no issues with the weight of this shoe.
The outsole rubber works great, and I had no problems with grip.Shop ASICS NOVABLAST
THOMAS: While light and bouncy, the NOVABLAST is not stable in any way. The instability is especially noticeable while walking, but it does tend to fade on the run. I am a midfoot landing son of a gun, but I imagine heel strikers would find the back of this shoe pretty squirrelly.
This is mostly due to the outsole geometry, in that while standing, your foot only touches the ground in two distinct parts on the outsole: 1) the front of the heel area, and 2) the back of the forefoot area. When running, you get that full contact so the instability smooths out a bit, and when it all returns to form you end up with that nice bounce or “trampoline effect.”
That said, because of the instability I would not recommend the shoe to runners that have issues with pronation.
MEAGHAN: The only real complaint I have about this shoe is that it feels a little bit unstable when picking up the pace and rounding corners. It’s not the worst thing in the world, TBH, but worth noting.
I also found my laces had trouble staying tied. Maybe a user error? Maybe their shoelaces are too glossy? Who knows, but I stopped to lace up mid-run a handful of times.
DAVE: In terms of fit, the NOVABLAST was runnable, but not really the way I like it. I like a running shoe that molds my higher arch. I need something that’s locked and loaded. This one provides a bit too much excess volume in the throat of the shoe as well as the midfoot layering. The toe box packs a bit too much volume as well, causing my foot/toes to not want to grip the sockliner and use that nice toe off the shoe provides.
When a shoe isn’t working with my mechanics, it can get very loud and slappy underfoot. What’s weird about the NOVABLAST is that it actually runs well. It’s just damn loud! Back in the day, this is what ASICS used to sound like, but that was caused by some pretty bad plastic and rigidity of their shoes.
The NOVABLAST rids of all that extra garbage, but somehow, someway, others can hear you coming like the faint echo of a Stevie Ray Vaughn riff from the men’s urinal at a dive bar. Not sure if that makes any sense, but you get it.
Post-run, the NOVABLAST beats me up just like a HOKA. Every single run I did in this shoe, I was smashed potatoes the next day. Hips, knees, hammies. This is maximalism. And for some like myself, it just doesn’t work. Others, who have more extensive time in overstacked shoes (IMHO I believe there is a break-in period for minimalism as well as maximalism) may do just fine.
While my training may vary from time to time due to intensity/willpower, I always maintain a decent baseline of fitness and take my recovery seriously between sessions. I’m rarely over-sore. So it’s not a training thing. It’s a maximalism thing. Which stinks because I really did enjoy the way this thing ran. Could be a touch on the soft side for my liking, but unfortunately, I pay the consequences afterward.
ROBBE: This is a squirrely one. Initial step-in felt like I was attempting a DUI test after ten too many mezcal pours. I felt that it evened out once the shoe got going, but there’s a bit of a learning curve.
Like the others touched on, this is a soft shoe. It reminded me of an even softer version of the Nike Pegasus Turbo 2. I felt like on the first couple runs I did, there were a couple random aches and pains I hadn’t previously experienced, which can probably also be attributed to the instability of the shoe. When it gets over the 5-mile mark, it seemed that stuff really started to kick in.
Although I was pretty much just doing easy runs in the shoe, I did do some pick-ups in it. Despite the bounciness of the midsole, the sheer volume of it made it hard to kick into a higher gear, like a VW Rabbit with a weathered clutch.
Like Dave, I also found the toe box to be a bit too roomy, even though the overall fit was true to size. I honestly preferred the fit of the upper of the GEL-Nimbus 22 to this one. The lockdown through the midfoot was fine for me, but overall the upper didn’t hit me in the sweet spot.
The initial colorways are kind of ‘meh’ (at least in men’s), but there’s already some new ones up that are much better.Shop ASICS NOVABLAST
THOMAS: I like the direction that ASICS is going with the NOVABLAST and would like to see FLYTEFOAM Blast in other configurations (which should be on the way at some point). However, the NOVABLAST is a little too unstable and soft for my preferences.
The NOVABLAST is a good choice for the casual runner (under 20 miles a week), although Meaghan will most likely disagree. It has the style and comfort for the gym-goer that wants to do cardio, and the future colorways are going to be sick. I would compare the cushioning feel to HOKA Clifton 6, Nike React Infinity, or Skechers GOrun 7+.
MEAGHAN: I can say with confidence that the NOVABLAST is my favorite ASICS shoe to date. This is the second time in the last month that a company I traditionally don’t lean towards has created a shoe that totally changed my mind and feelings towards the brand (the other was the Brooks Hyperion Tempo). I’m pretty excited to see what else ASICS has up their sleeves through 2020 and 2021. If you’re looking for a fun, bouncy trainer, give the NOVABLAST a try.
DAVE: This baby is on the way to being a damn fine shoe. For my liking, FLYTEFOAM Blast needs to be kicked up in firmness a bit, drop lowered (shave some heel) and fit more like a lightweight performance trainer. I’m sure that’s a lot to ask, but that’s just the way I think it would work for me. Even though it’s a reasonable 9.3 oz in my US M9, it’s still a bit beefy in stacks and drop.
For you, it may be quite the shoe. If you like cush, have an average-to-wider foot and like a little more room in the toe box, this could be fun.
Moral of the story though– ASICS is back. And while it’s not a complete banger for me, it keeps me extremely interested in running in anything they send my way. I am rooting for them. They deserve every right to play this game. They have many years and will continue to do so for many miles down the road.
ROBBE: I pretty much have the exact same thoughts as Dave. Trim the stack to give it some more firmness/stability/weight loss. Overall, I really enjoyed the ride of the shoe, and that FLYTFOAM BLAST is something else. For ASICS lifers, you need to be all-in on this, if only to try a whole new midsole experience. I mean, finally, an ASICS review where we don’t have to talk about that cursed “G” word.
Despite a couple dings on it, I still think it’s an adequate daily trainer for those filler miles, especially for the more casual runner. I mean, this isn’t meant to be a high-performance shoe, and that’s fine. For what it is, it works well.
You can pick up the ASICS NOVABLAST at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) in three colorways for $130 by using the shop link below.Shop ASICS NOVABLAST