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Shoe Review: ASICS Novablast 4 ($140) An everyday trainer with advanced versatility, refined comfort



By Brian Metzler


If the ASICS Novablast 4 was a sports car, it wouldn’t be a muscle car like a Mustang or a Corvette. It wouldn’t be a more costly high-end Porsche Boxster or a Ferrari 308 GTS, either. In fact, it might be closer to a Toyota Rav4 than anything else. You weren’t expecting that kind of comparison, were you? No, but it not only fits, but it also lives up to the reliable, sporty, durable, versatile and made-for-fun vibe a Rav4 is known for. The Novablast 4, like the Rav4, does everything well at a modest price ($140) that won’t break your budget. 


When ASICS released the original Novablast shoe in the fall of 2019, it was ahead of its time as a lightweight, responsive daily training shoe with a max-cushioned chassis. The brand has continued to evolve this category-defining training shoe without a carbon or nylon plate into a do-everything shoe for just about every type of runner. And since every runner could benefit from having an energetic trainer without a plate in their quiver, the Novablast 4 is a good primary training workhorse or secondary model that offers a great blend of cozy comfort, lively cushioning, and do-almost-everything versatility. 


Is a Rav4 the car of your dreams? No, probably not, but it can be a great ride for your errands around town, commuting to work, picking up the kids or going on a weekend road trip to a fun destination. Same goes for the Novablast 4. It might not be glamorous, but it’s effective. It’s got everything you need in a training shoe without any glaring flaws.




What’s New: After the launch of the initial Novablast four years ago, ASICS has improved it through each of three versions, making it cushier, lighter, and more stable. The fourth edition follows those trends even more dramatically. Specifically, the Novablast 4 has been enhanced with a full-length layer of the brand’s new lightweight FlyteFoam Blast Plus Eco cushioning material, made from 20% recycled bio materials. ASICS says it keeps the shoe’s overall carbon footprint 23% below the industry average), but it also feels less squishy and less bouncy than the standard version. However, there is slightly more foam in each shoe, as the width and the height have been increased slightly to provide more inherent stability. Other tweaks include asymmetrical engineering within the midsole/outsole chassis for smoother and more efficient heel-toe transitions, and a stretchy, engineered woven one-piece upper for a secure fit and accommodating comfort over the top of the foot. 


Fit/Feel/Ride: The Novablast 4 fits true-to-size with a medium-width volume and a fairly snug toe box that provides only a little bit of wiggle room for toes from a new, semi-stretchy upper material. The step-in feel is plush thanks to a premium sockliner, a thickly padded heel collar and a stretchy, thinly padded, wing-shaped tongue. The snug fit and cushy feel are similar to last year’s edition of the shoe, but the slight changes have made some nice improvements in the ride. There’s a smooth, lively sensation that’s equal parts soft/accommodating and spring-loaded propulsiveness. While the shoe’s sweet spot is in the mid-range – medium to long runs at a moderate to slightly faster pace (Zone 3 and Zone 4 training) – its combination of comfort and cushion gives it a lot of versatility, allowing it to feel buttery smooth on recovery runs but also providing enough pop for up-tempo workouts. Is it comfy and quick, or is it quick and comfy? Probably both.


Why It’s Great: This is a great example of a modern everyday trainer with an energetic ride. It’s crazy to think that a shoe with so much comfy cushioning can be so lively without any kind of interior plate (carbon-fiber or nylon) to moderate the energetic foam. Nope, it’s just the foam putting a spring in your step on its own. If you like a soft, comfortable, energetic vibe in every kind of run you do during any given week, the Novablast 4 can be your versatile only-tool-in-the-tool-box kind of shoe.


Specifications

Weights: 7.9 oz. (women’s size 8), 9.1 oz. (men’s size 9)

Stack Heights: Women: 40.5mm in the heel, 32.5mm in the forefoot; Men: 41.5mm in the heel, 33.5mm in the forefoot

Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm


Why You’ll Love It: You’ll love it because it’s so versatile. And no matter if you’re a beginner, novice or even an advanced runner, having an everyday trainer that offers do-almost-everything versatility gives you a lot of options to feel good and run well. Of all the greatly revamped ASICS training shoes over the past two years, the Novablast 4 is the one that can best accommodate long runs, recovery runs, and up-tempo runs without any sacrifice. 


Pro: The lower-density outsole rubber in this year’s edition is slightly more adhesive than the higher-density (and slightly more durable) outsole rubber on the previous editions of the Novablast. 


Con: There aren’t many drawbacks to the Novablast 4, but if I have to be picky, I’d say that it’s not as nimble as it could be for some up-tempo workouts. Yes, it can handle spontaneous fartlek runs and mile repeats in a pinch, but the wider footprint and thick cushioning tend to mute the proprioceptive, foot-to-ground sensations, making it harder to run with an agile gait while also lessening its pace versatility a little bit.


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