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Trail Running Shoes • December 4, 2020

ASICS Trabuco Max Performance Review

ASICS Trabuco Max - feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 10.4 oz. (295 g) for a US M9.0 / 8.3 oz. (235 g) for a US W7.0
  • Max-cushion trail shoe with fairly aggressive traction
  • Features speed-lacing system with stow-away lace garage
  • It’s not perfect, but it’s a serious trail offering from ASICS

TAYLOR: For many, 2020 might be a year that could be summed up as a Halloween bag full of Black Crows or Circus Peanuts (i.e. all tricks, no treats). D-I-S-A-P-P-O-I-N-T-I-N-G. ASICS in 2020, on the other hand, is that mansion with the circular driveaway and a fountain in the middle that you know is like a Willy Wonka factory ready to pop off. We’re talking full-size candy bars, dolla dolla bills, and little knick-knacks (whatever that means)!

We’ve said it before, but for the first time in many years, ASICS is hotter than a flat rock in Tucson. Their offerings and revamps have been performing exceptionally well and looking spicy.

I’m gonna be real – ASICS’ trail game has kind of always been laughable. Throwing a heavier tread on a mediocre road trainer doesn’t make it a viable trail shoe … and to be honest, I pretty much expected that to be the case here.

But this is a year of turning over new leaves. The Trabuco Max is a perfect example of that. I’m sincerely hoping this is a statement of their future intentions with their trail line. Unwrap your Reese’s King Cup and let’s get into it.

COURTNEY: The first-ever “real running shoe” that I wore that didn’t come from Target was a pair of ASICS road shoes. Admittedly, I returned them to the running store after about a week of wear produced a couple black toenails and a blister on each foot. The salesperson who processed my return saw my feet and asked if I was an ultrarunner, which was perfect because I had no idea what he was talking about. I mean, I had just learned what the terms “PR” and “BQ” meant. Truthfully, I never paid much attention to the brand again.

Honestly, before this review, I didn’t even know ASICS made trail shoes. So I was pretty interested to see what’s changed in the last decade since my toenails grew back (though I’ve lost plenty of them in ultra races since).

ASICS Trabuco Max - toe

The Good

TAYLOR: It’s hard to find a max-cushioned shoe that can roll with the punches of trail technicality. ASICS’ Trabuco Max elevates itself into the Big Boiz realm with a secure enough upper and stable enough platform to hit moderately technical trails with decent speed. Really, it’s one of the better max cushion trail shoes out there when it comes down to the “overall” category.

The wider platform, slightly lower stack (27mm heel to 22mm toe), and average weight (11.3 ounces for a men’s 10.5) – compared to something like a HOKA ONE ONE Stinson ATR 6 or Altra Olympus 4 – creates some natural stability without getting too crazy. I don’t typically care for stability, but it was a nice touch here and reminded me of the Olympus a little.

A classic ASICS accommodating toe box will please most. The midfoot and heel are where the magic happens. An engineered mesh with reinforcements from the welded overlay creates a nice little burrito action. Everything is tucked in decently snug. The heel follows suit which allows for not much slippage overall.

Touching quickly again on the engineered mesh upper: There is a semblance to what they’re doing with their road line. The upper is breathable and offers a little bit of flex. I’ll compare it to what I found in the GEL-Nimbus 23 but with a little more grit.

FlyteFoam seems to be taking on varying densities these days. In the Trabuco Max, it is pretty darn cushy. It surprised me because I could hardly bend the dang things out of the box. It turns out to be a medium soft cushion that has a noticeable compression and then release of tension as your foot leaves the ground. Part of that probably comes from the rocker-like midsole. It’s a unique sensation that falls under the responsive category but is not springy. Even after 50-ish miles, the cushioned sensation remains the same.

Good traction – yep, just good – is provided through their ASICSGRIP outsole. The 4 mm multidirectional and multi-shaped lugs stood up to most tests, but weren’t deep enough to handle any significant soft ground or mud.

The whole package of the Trabuco Max ran surprisingly (is it clear that I am surprised yet) well over varied terrain. ASICS used similar technology called GUIDESOLE that is found in the Glideride to give a smooth rocker-like ride. HOKA does something similar with its trail lines. In fact, the Trabuco Max runs very similarly to the Evo Mafate 2. Paved road sections were just as comfortable as moderately rock and root-filled single track.

COURTNEY: On my first run in the ASICS Trabuco, my impression was “love at first stride!”, as any cushy shoe with forward propulsion would give you. That sweet cushy feel from heel to forefoot is credited to the FLYTEFOAM™ technology that provides excellent cushion while feeling noticeably light. Unfortunately, a trail shoe that creates a rolling/rocker motion is new to me so I don’t have another brand/model to compare it to.

Currently, most of the terrain that I’m running here in Idaho is snowy, icy, and frozen dirt roads, pavement, and trail. Despite the conditions, I have to praise the amount of traction these shoes provide. The ASICSGRIP™ outsole totally delivers on ice, wet rocks, sloshy snow, frozen snow, and muddy dirt roads. I wouldn’t be surprised if these shoes also performed well in dry/dusty conditions.

The speed lacing system is certainly desirable as I haven’t come across shoelaces that stay tied in wintery conditions. Can I just say that I think all trail running shoes should have a speed lacing system? When my shoes come untied in the cold, I usually can’t feel my fingers, or at mile 40 my fingers are usually puffy from either dehydration or high altitude. There are also places to attach gaiters, but I can barely keep track of a pair of gloves. So while I don’t have gaiters to throw on these bad boys, if those are your jam – that is an option!

MATT: I was looking forward to taking the new ASICS Trabuco Max out on the trails, as I could not recall the last ASICS trail-specific shoe that I ran in. Out of the box, the shoe was really intriguing – between the bright colors, aggressive outsole, and elastic lock lace system, it seemed to have a lot of potential. I could tell it was a hefty shoe just by holding the shoe box, but that’s not always a big concern with trail shoes for me, so I took them out for a nice 2-hour run on some local single track and fire roads.

With aggressive lugs, hefty outsole, and a thick rock plate, the shoe certainly felt secure. This wasn’t a shoe that would have a rogue root or rock kick resulting in another lost toenail.

There are built-in points in both the heel (Velcro flap) and bottom of the laces (metal ring) to attach gaiters. While I did not test out that piece of functionality, I could see where that combo would make this shoe a solid option in wet and extra sloppy conditions. I crossed multiple streams and the shoes drained sufficiently and felt stable and secure.

Toe box was wide enough that I think the shoe would be comfortable on an array of foot sizes, and the heel felt locked in.

Shop ASICS Trail – Men Shop ASICS Trail – Women ASICS Trabuco Max - outsole

The Bad

TAYLOR: I’m not sure what the inspiration was here, but more tongue is not the answer. This thing is flopping around like a hormonal teenager looking for their first kiss. Get a hold of yourself, Johnny! The tongue didn’t bother me too much performance-wise besides having to tuck my laces back into the lace garage on the tongue every now and agai … and it’s just ugly.

I will admit that it is well-padded, which I appreciated over the top of the foot.

ASICS utilized the pull-ties or “Speedlace” system that is best-known in Salomon shoes. In the Trabuco Max, I would say it was a good effort to use these. The reinforced laces offered a mostly secure fit – only when the laces would stay that way. Over miles, they would become subtly looser. My advice would be to add another eyelet toward the top. For one, it would help with that annoying tongue. And two, it would offer a more locked-in fit. Three, it would put the laces a little closer to the ankle joint, rather than ahead of it, to relieve pressure on the top “knot”.

I don’t blister easily. The Trabuco Max gave it to me. After one longer run of a couple hours, my Achilles had a whopper on its backside. It was only on one side and only felt this rubbing on one run. So, who knows? It could have been a fluke. It makes me a little more nervous to try them again for a long run though.

COURTNEY: Ultimately, I really wanted to love this shoe. All of the features are incredible and extremely well done; however, when I took this shoe for a long run my toes started to go numb. I believe that just might be my feet/body responding to a shoe that is structured to create forward propulsion. If you do well with that there is a really great chance you will love this shoe! I’ve run in one Nike road shoe that was rocker-like/created forward propulsion and didn’t do well in that shoe either.

MATT: Colors are aesthetic, but the colorway I tested (orange, blue, black) just didn’t do it for me. It was just meh. This year has brought some amazing colorways from many brands, and I think the bar has been raised beyond what this shoe offers.

The elastic lace system that the Trabuco comes spec’d with was a fail for me. Maybe I am a bit of an elastic lace snob (that is a very specific type of snob); as the resident triathlete I have probably retro-fitted every brand of elastic laces to my shoes over the years, so I know that a good fit should feel dialed-in. I could not get these laces to stay tight enough and I stopped 3-5 times just messing around with them to try and get the perfect adjustment.

On trails that are dry or in good condition, these shoes felt heavy and clunky. Comparing to other traditional all-rounder trail shoes like the Saucony Peregrine or HOKA Speedgoat, the difference in feel was big. I did not feel fast or connected to the trail.

Shop ASICS Trail – Men Shop ASICS Trail – Women

ASICS Trabuco Max Conclusion

TAYLOR: Welcome to the trail game, ASICS. The Trabuco Max turns out to be one of the more versatile max cushioned trail shoes. They offer a naturally stable ride, good cushion, smooth ride, secure fit, and solid grip on a variety of surfaces. I was most impressed with its performance over moderately technical terrain, which is usually the ceiling of comfortable running for max-cushioned shoes. If you’re looking for something to fill the gap of fit between the HOKA Stinson ATR 6 and Altra Olympus 4 while outperforming them, check these out. They’ll be available on Running Warehouse in the new year for only $140. Thumbs up ASICS.

COURTNEY: I do have to give ASICS big props on this shoe! It’s a nice ride, with excellent grip and a quick shoe if your body can handle it! I think it will suit a lot of runners well, but just didn’t fully work for my form.

MATT: While the shoe has some redeeming features, overall it just did not do enough for me to stand out in any one category. With the options available in the trail shoe world right now, I don’t think the Trabuco Max excelled in any one situation to the point that I would recommend it over some of its competitors. It is a shoe that does a bunch of things just OK, but nothing great. In a competitive field these days, where there are some great options for trail runners, that is not a recipe for success.

The ASICS Trabuco Max releases 1/1 for $140. You can pick it up at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop ASICS Trail – Men Shop ASICS Trail – Women

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Bo says:

    Why don´t you skip those extremely lame attempts to be funny?
    Face it: you are no comedians.

  2. Peter says:

    Over the past few years I’ve settled on Asics for both road (Kayanos) and trail running (Trabucos)- they just suit my feet and style of running. So if you are an Asics person here’s my take:
    The cushioned rocker soles: yes, I like them. Feel odd first time on walking around the shop but on the trail they were just fine.
    The grip: Jury out on this – different lug pattern to the regular Trabuco, seem more inclined to clog on muddy trails, I’m slipping more. Fine on everything else.
    Speed laces: Ok but maybe not as controllable as regular laces but I’ll stick with them.
    Overall I like these shoes and probably won’t go back to non-rockers – but I give me the same lug patterned sole as its stablemates.
    Recommend? Yes!

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