Asics Trabuco Max 2 Review: Monster Truck Rally This Weekend
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10.8 oz. (303 g) for a US M9,
9.4 oz. (265 g) for a US W8
43 mm in heel, 38 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop)
Long trail runs, road-to-trail
Thick FlyteFoam Blast+ midsole, breathable engineered mesh upper, grippy AsicsGrip outsole
🟢 Underfoot comfort, mile after mile
🟢 Rocker design is easy to pick up the pace
🔴 Heel and midfoot security isn’t always guaranteed
ROBBE: I haven’t been hitting the trails as much as I’d like to over the past few months. I’ve been marathon training, trying to stay healthy. As such, I’ve been doing everything I can to keep my snowflake ankles from getting triggered on roots and rocks.
My soul’s been starved for mud and mulch, pine needle trails and emergency dumps in the woods. From dirt I came, to dirt I shall return my dirt.
Luckily, we had an 8-hour trail race a few weeks ago, of which I dedicated three hours of my day. Afterwards, I pretended to drink beer, since I also gave that up during this training cycle. Not drinking, not running trails, focusing on race goals, ipso facto– road running sucks.
Anyway, I got the Trabuco Max 2 in for review and had low expectations, despite the decent reviews our trail team gave the first version. Not sure why they were low, especially with a Flytefoam Blast+ midsole. Maybe I was wary that Asics did that Portlandia “put a sole on it” thing where they just take a road shoe, slap some grip on the outsole, and call it a trail runner (I’m pretty sure this is what happened with the Novablast Trail, though we never got it for review so I can’t say for sure).
So what is the Trabuco Max 2? Well, it’s a max cushion trail shoe that can go pretty much any distance, from 0-200 miles. And by max, I mean it’s the highest stack trail shoe we’ve ever reviewed at 43 mm. For reference, this is higher than any legal road racing shoe, including the Nike Alphafly and Asics Metaspeed Sky+. Usually, this spells disaster on the trails, because bouncy and high equals ankles and broken on anything less than fire road.
We’ll get to whether or not it works, but I’ll say this– the shoe is a monster truck/fat bike for the trails, and it was a surprise to all of us. Let’s get on with the review.
TAYLOR: Asics has been on a tear over the last few years. I think maybe, just maybe, they had an existential crisis about the road they were going down and decided to pull a 180, J-hook turn into the future. Inner dialogues were probably similar to two parents arguing over their college-aged offspring’s future.
Father: “What’s wrong with a job down at the family business?!” Mother: “There’s no future for them there, Bob!” Father: “At least it’s something they could count on!” Mother: “Dammit, Bob, can’t you see they have so much more potential!”
Sorry to any Bobs out there, but Asics’ proverbial Janet wins here.
Asics had one foot in the grave, but they luckily knocked the dirt off and joined the land of the living once more. Shoes like the Kayano Lite, original Novablast, Glideride, and Metaracer all were the start of the brand revitalization.
On the trail side of the company, as per usual, the trend was a bit slower. Guess that’s what happens when there’s a sport where school teachers are routinely the best in the world at it. For us, our first taste of the “new Asics” wouldn’t be until the following year when the original Asics Trabuco Max came out. It was their first go at a max-cushioned shoe. Even with the behemoths of Hoka and Altra dominating the market then, the Trabuco Max stuck its nose in boldly. I was fully convinced that show was a one-off for Asics trail, but they followed up the next season with one of my favorites, the Asics Fuji Lite 2.
Now that we have a third installment of trail footwear, we can settle the case on whether Asics is in the game or just flirting. All signs show commitment.
The Asics Trabuco Max 2 spec sheet alone shows that they want to do more in the trail scene; we’re talking the good stuff here. For starters, the midsole got more stack, and a new foam (FlyteFoam Blast+) that’s used in top-notch road models like the Novablast. On the bottom, the AsicsGrip outsole gets a reworked pattern; on the top, the engineered mesh upper is simplified and uses a traditional lacing system without the ridiculous tongue found in the last version. Basically, the Trabuco Max 2 is an all-new shoe with the same philosophy as before.
ROBBE: I loved the Novablast 3, I kind of loved the Gel-Nimbus 25, and I absolutely hated the Magic Speed 2. All of them used a version of Flytefoam Blast+, the same midsole found in the Trabuco Max 2. Granted, all of them were different stack heights and durometer, so despite the same foam compound, the feel varied wildly. In general, Blast+ has been light and comfortable, soft and bouncy. I’m not sure it’s been perfected until now.
That’s right, I think the midsole in the Trabuco Max 2 is the best version of Flytefoam Blast+ to date. It’s stupid comfortable, simply as a walking shoe (which is why I think this could be a good thru-hiker as well). The comfort is all the more apparent on the trails, where the 43 mm of stack height really protects you from everything underfoot and returns most of the energy you put into it. And it rolls over everything, giving you the confidence to go full send on downhills without the force of impact you’ll find in most trail shoes. It’s fun as hell, not even gonna lie.
I was suspicious of such a high stack in a trail shoe. Shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Edge have been proven to be fun, but super squirrelly on sketch surfaces. However, the Trabuco Max 2 has a generous platform width that mostly mitigates the typical “man overboard” feeling that you get with softer midsole foams when running on uneven surfaces.
Moving onto the outsole, the AsicsGrip rubber performed way better than I thought it would. Usually, if I don’t see Vibram I assume it’s going to be subpar, but the outsole was plenty sticky on this shoe. Crossing creeks on wet rocks wasn’t an issue, and despite the relatively low profile of the lugs, it performed well in deep mud where a lot of runners were sliding around. Side note: this would also make a pretty excellent road-to-trail shoe.
For a somewhat boxy-looking shoe with a wide base, the shoe picks up rather nicely thanks to its rockered Guidesole technology. Oftentimes, max cushion trail shoes run into that you-blockhead-Charlie-Brown problem, but this one seems to avoid it, especially since it’s relatively light at less than 11 ounces.
As far as the upper, I think it’s a fairly solid attempt. Gaiter attachments, lace keeper, and a just-right tongue are nice touches. Toe bumper reinforcement gives some protection while the engineered mesh is breathable.
TAYLOR: Max is an appropriate descriptor. I can’t think of any trail shoe that has a higher overall stack. The Speedland GS:TAM has a heel at 37 mm, Hoka Stinson ATR 6 sits at 38 mm, and the Brooks Caldera 6 is right around 40 mm. Then, there’s the Asics Trabuco Max 2, which is a behemoth at 43 mm (42 mm for women) with a 5 mm drop. The me of five years ago would be scared out of my mind to take it on the trails, but there are a few reasons why this stack is more of a beautiful thing.
FlyteFoam Blast+ is all that really needs to be said. It’s the same foam that is in our best trainer of 2022, the Asics Novablast 3. The Trabuco Max 2 just has a bunch more foam underfoot. This foam has characteristics of cushy, protective, and responsive. It reminds me a lot of having a ton of the Ego Max foam in the Altra Mont Blanc, my personal favorite foam for the trails. What I love most about it is that the foam doesn’t sink right through the clouds to the ground. It feels cushioned to a point, then springs back. FlyteFoam Blast Plus has a near-perfect balance of comfort and performance for a maximal trail shoe. Going all day and then some is a non-issue in this department.
The shape of the midsole has been a strong point since the first version. Hoka had been known for the rocker-esque profile on the trails, but Asics took that rocker and went full toe-spring on us. The curvature of the forefoot allows for a snappier transition making it easier to pick up the pace a bit and leverage the midsole foam’s properties a bit more. Guidesole comes into play here and creates a more efficient stride too. It feels very similar to a beefed-up Asics Fuji Lite 2, which is a good thing. Because of the shape, I also felt notes of the Hoka Mafate Speed 4, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, and Brooks Caldera 6.
Some have worried that the high-stack and rocker would hinder a shoe’s ability to run on more technical terrain, but I didn’t feel that sense at all. It’s an inherently stable shoe with a wider footprint. FlyteFoam Blast Plus is both forgiving and resilient enough to be able to roll with some of the technical trails. The shaping simply makes the Asics Trabuco Max 2 rather versatile for being in the “beast” category. It had a similar technical proficiency as the Brooks Caldera 6 and Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, all of which were surprising over moderately technical trails.
For runners who grabbed the first iteration of this shoe, you probably wanted a tongue transplant. Just take my word for it, that thing was ridiculous. This year, the whole top portion of the shoe has been adjusted. For the most part, it’s all positive. Out with the obnoxious Pokemon-sized tongue and quick-lace system. In with traditional laces and a lace loop across the bridge of the foot to secure laces. It’s a good move for both adjustability and sanity. The upper’s engineered mesh also takes on a lighter, more airy profile. It’s appropriately structured for various terrain with a few overlays and solid heel formation and padding.
Asics continues to prove its trail proficiency through a stellar outsole. Not only is the AsicsGrip amazingly grippy on a variety of surfaces (both wet and dry), the outsole pyramidal lug design digs in surprisingly well and is smooth on pavement. It really is the best of all worlds. Kind of crazy, but AsicsGrip is up there with the Vibram, Inov-8, and VJ Shoes outsoles.Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women
ROBBE: Not a ton to say here, but the fit of the upper is a bit so-so. There’s a lot of volume, so for more narrow-footed runners, you may get some electric slide-action going on, as I did. This created a hot spot on the medial side of my foot below my big toe, which wasn’t great after 14 miles. For some runners, this could be a deal-breaker, but if a bit of extra room has never bothered you, than you can skip this section.
TAYLOR: Nothing in this section will be a surprise to Asics wearers. We’ve got nit-picky adjustments that may or may not bother you. For example, overall, there was a nice amount of volume on the inside, but I was never completely satisfied with foot security. I realize this is one of the maximal-ist shoes available too. Just don’t be surprised if there’s a lil’ slippin’ around inside the cabin now and then. This ain’t no dual-boa Speedland experience here.
Just like in the first version, heel lockdown was never a sure thing. It’s not as severe as the first, but it is enough to be annoying at times. Really, it was only on the uphills. Most trails have their fair share of hills, though. Simply put, the top lacing loops could use a buddy or be adjusted further. Uphills would reveal pretty quickly if your lacing strategy worked or not. The best trick I could come up with was simply to pull a little tighter, which did lead to some tingly toes a couple of times.
My midfoot had a similar experience. For the most part, I was happy with how it felt. Cornering and rather choppy surfaces like snowy trails would get my midfoot to slip laterally. Again, I never felt the sensation that I was going to slip right out of my shoes, but I think some tightening up of the lightweight engineered mesh or more strategic use of a booty-like tongue instead of a simple gusseted tongue could do some good in performance.
Lastly, if you go back and forth between sizes, go up a half size in this one. The length actually is pretty good for a general run. However, the curvature of the toe spring is extreme enough that my toes did meet the end of the toe box more often than a typical shoe my size. This was especially prevalent with lots of downhill. Also, if you’re considering taking the Asics Trabuco Max 2 on adventures of more than a few hours, sizing up a half-size would be beneficial too.Shop The Shoe – Men Shop The Shoe – Women
ROBBE: Overall, I was very impressed with this shoe. The midsole is as close to perfect as you can get for a long-haul trail shoe. I loved the Brooks Caldera 6, which falls into the exact same category as this shoe, but the Trabuco Max 2 takes that fat bike feeling to a whole new level. If you’re in the market for a max cushion trail shoe, then I’m not sure you can do better than this one right here.
TAYLOR: As a childhood dino and Godzilla lover, I’ve found myself comparing this max-cushion shoe to the massive monsters. I’ve run out of monsters to continue comparing, but the Asics Trabuco Max 2 easily fits into that titanic category as a notable top contender for the crown. It has all that max-cush fans want: massive amounts of protection, comfort, and stability for the long haul.
Where it really outshines the competition is the underfoot feel. It turns out that mounds FlyteFoam Blast+ and Guidesole technology are good for the feet and the soul. Never mind the fact that there are many other positives about this shoe, like incredible grip, very comfortable upper, and marginal improvements to be made. The Asics Trabuco Max 2 will surely win hearts all around the world upon stepping in. I can see this one amassing a cult-like following for sure. If it doesn’t, I’ll hoard this precious gem for myself. Because for only $150, the Trabuco Max 2 is an absolute steal.
You can pick up the Asics Trabuco Max 2 for $150 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) at the shop link below.
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.More from Taylor
Great review! I’ve had my TB Max 2 for a week and have almost 50 miles on them. Blown away by the blend of comfort, grip, and sneaky energy return. I’m shocked at the cadence I can maintain (kudos to the blast+ and toe spring). And man can you bomb downhills! My biggest concern is running on a consistent diet of roots and larger rocks. The shoe is not very flexible laterally (shadow side of the stability features). As long as I can keep the shoe rolling thru my stride it’s quite magical. ps. This is the first Asics shoe I’ve run in since 2005
Thanks for the feedback! Yes, some instability on the lateral side of things, but that’s to be expected from a max stack shoe. Much better than most other shoes with that kind of stack.
Had the max 1, I loathed that tongue, looked like a satellite dish attached to my foot.
This could be my 100K shoe pick and I’ll sideline the SG4 and it’s triangular toebox. Even so, still the best trail shoe I’ve had.
ASICS and TNF have an awesome lineup this year, some hard decisions ahead…
Interesting to hear your thoughts on the Enduris 3, good matchup with high stack and rockered.
Anyone have tried this and the extremely cushioned too NB Fresh Foam More Trail v2 ????
I think they’re really alike… isn’t it?
Come on guys. I did 20 miles in these yesterday on a moderately technical trail, and I can say without a doubt, this shoe is hot garbage- easily and by far the worst shoe I have ever laced up for the trail.
I can’t understand the hype. The mid foot lockdown is not achievable even when strangling your foot. This causes the shoe to be flat out dangerous on technical descents.
Lateral stability is non existent. Like actually non existent. In the zegama and caldera your foot at least sits deep in the foam. Not so much here. You’re on top of the foam. So you have zero built in stability and end hoping you’re strong enough to not get injured while you slide around on top of a slab of foam.
The rocker is slightly out of place, putting you too far on the toes for technical descents. Which exasperates the sloppy mid foot issue.
The foam is mediocre. It’s okay, but not great. You all act like this flyte foam blast is some great creation, when you know it’s just an over hyped Eva similar to what Hoka was using in 2021.
You could actually go to Walmart or Payless and get a shoe that would perform just as good or better than this on the trail. The Trabuco is a decade behind and can’t hold a candle to Nike, Saucony, or Brooks.