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ASICS Novablast 3 Review: The Best One Yet
By Chief Editor/Founder Matt Klein & David Salas

As companies continue to experiment with different foam compounds and geometries, shoes are getting lighter, taller and softer. The challenge with this combination is that it often leads to instability. However, several companies are learning and correcting this. The ASICS Novablast 3 is an excellent example of this. A popular cushioned training shoe, the newest version comes in much lighter, more cushioned and features better guidance in the rearfoot, making this the best Novablast so far. 

Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 8.9 oz, 253 g (men's size 9), 7.8 oz, 222 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 38 mm / 30 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Cushioned Lightweight Trainer





RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 3 is a cushioned lightweight trainer than returns lighter, softer, more guided and more cushioned than ever. A new Flytefoam Blast+ midsole provides a high level of cushioning and a soft ride from heel to toe. A newly redesigned upper provides a slightly snug and secure fit. A lower heel drop and new sidewalls provide a little more guidance for this well-cushioned neutral shoe. This makes the ASICS Novablast 3 best for those wanting a softer, lighter daily training shoe for easy and long miles.

David: The ASICS Novablast 3 is a daily trainer with quite a bit of structured bounce. The midsole has a good amount of compliance to it without feeling unstable. ASICS integrated some new sidewalls and a better upper lockdown to create a more secure ride. This daily trainer has a good amount of conditioning and bounciness for the weight and has a little more structure than the previous versions. 

FIT 

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 3 fits me true to size in my normal men's size 10. Initially, it felt short due to a lower and slightly tapered toebox. On the run this is not a problem and contributes to a secure fit. The upper fit is slightly snug throughout. There is a solid hold on the heel thanks to a stiffer heel counter, a snug fit and a large amount of heel collar padding. There is enough cushioning in the upper that I did not notice the heel counter, but those sensitive to them should be cautious as that compresses with time. The midfoot fits normal to slightly snug. I did not have to lace lock the laces or tie them  tight to get a secure fit. The tongue is wider with a notched top that sits around the ankle nicely. It is also partially gusseted (lower half) and is secure. The forefoot has a normal width with a tapered toebox as mentioned. Fortunately the knit mesh does stretch, creating a performance fit. The forefoot aspect of the knit mesh is breathable due to being thinner. However, the thicker parts in the midfoot and heel are not breathable. The additional material combined with the knit is surprisingly comfortable against bare skin. This is not a shoe I would do long miles in sockless, but has worked well for shorter mileage while doing so. Overall, the new knit upper of the ASICS Novablast 3 provides a performance fit and a secure locked in feeling throughout the length of the shoe.

David: The ASICS Novablast 3 fits true to size in my normal Men's 9.5. The shoe does fit a little on the long side, though not overly problematic. The mesh material iteslf is pretty comfortable and has decent security with a small amount of stretch. The tongue is lightly padded and made of a really cozy material that feels soft on foot and protects the dorsum of the foot well from tight lacing. The width throughout is normal through the heel, midfoot, and forefoot. It may feel a tad more narrow just due to solid lockdown throughout from the lacing system. The fit and volume is a little more snug than the previous versions as well. There is a heel counter that provides some structure and maintains shoe security in that region well. Overall this is a pretty good upper that gives some slight elements of speed or performance while still being comfortable for a daily trainer. 




PERFORMANCE 

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 3 features a new Flytefoam Blast+ midsole for a cushioned ride throughout the length of the shoe. The ride is extremely soft throughout the length of the shoe thanks to the tall stack height and high level of midsole compression. There is now a lower 8mm drop compared to the previous 10mm drop. This was noticeable to me in regards to feeling lower, especially with how much the sole compresses There is a large centered heel bevel at the rear of the shoe. The laterally flared part of the heel does cause an early heel contact at first, but the soft sole breaks in and smooths this out quickly. The midfoot transition is fairly smooth and unlike the previous version, I cannot feel the slight elevation seen at the sole. The midfoot and heel are fairly stiff bending wise (as they should) but transition into a slightly flexible forefoot. Like the rest of the shoe, the forefoot has a large amount of foam that feels soft underfoot. The solid forefoot rocker and softer sole make for a relaxed forward transition that is especially comfortable for easy miles. The ride is quite soft and feels best for easy, long and recovery runs. The ride is not mushy, but the new midsole material does not have a ton of rebound. Picking up the pace doesn't feel natural, but keeping a consistent pace does. This makes the Asics Novablast 3 a great lightweight daily training shoe for those who want a softer ride. The durability has been excellent throughout my use of this shoe. Despite some aggressive mountain roads and longer runs, I have yet to make any dent in the outsole. Thus, those wanting a lighter, softer and extremely durable outsole will enjoy the ASICS Novablast 3.

David: The Novablast 3 was a pleasant surprise. I didn't dislike the second version but the upper security and sheer amount of bounciness in the heel and forefoot was a little much from a daily trainer for me. The third iteration of this shoe keeps a lot of the original DNA while giving a little more structure. The usage of the sidewalls makes you feel a little more centered and the Blast+ foam seems to have a little more resilience to it upon landing. The shoe still maintains a good amount of bouncy and feels a little less mushy in the heel. The rounding in the heel is noticeable and beveled well. The softer foam does make you crash forward a little bit, but they do a good job of controlling this by having a little less outsole coverage in the forefoot that almost acts like a crash pad. The ride throughout still maintains a bounce but has just a skosh more rigidity to it. The midfoot platform still feels a little narrow standing on it but does not seem to provide any major instabilities. For me the shoe operates best as a daily trainer and easy day shoe, though it can pick up the pace a little bit as well if it has to. The bounce in the forefoot is pretty nice and controlled uptempo paces. At faster paces the integration of the soft midsole in the forefoot and large rounded positions just make you feel like you are on the ground a little too long to really turn over. Overall a fun and bouncy daily trainer.  

STABILITY 


Matt: The ASICS Novablast 3 is a neutral shoe, but features some improved methods of guidance. The most noticeable changes are the significant rearfoot sidewalls on both the medial and lateral sides of the foot. This provides some guidance at the rearfoot, which was an issue in previous versions. The heel counter and padded rearfoot also do a solid job working with the sidewalls to create further heel guidance. The sole has a large amount of flare on both the medial and lateral sides of the foot at the rear and front that somewhat offsets the softer ride. While the midfoot does narrow, it is wider than the previous versions and the sole has a wider platform overall. Combined with the well-rockered heel and forefoot, the Novablast 3 will help provide some mild guidance for those with mild or neutral stability needs.

David: For being a neutral and soft bouncy training shoe the Novablast 3 has gotten a lot more stable. The shoe uses sidewalls a lot better in this model and gives you a greater sense of security. The upper locks down much better as well and keeps you connected to the platform. The outsole provides decent traction, but inherently leads more neutral for road conditions. The foam is a little softer and does create some inherent instability but the foam feels a little more resilient in the current model.   



THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

The Benefit of Sidewalls

Sidewalls are parts of the midsole that elevate up to wrap the sides of the foot. They are an excellent, non-intrusive way to add guidance to or center the foot on a shoe and are becoming a more common feature. The addition of sidewalls in the rearfoot makes a great step toward addressing the heel instability of the previous Novablast shoes. The midsole is still quite soft and any platform that is extremely soft is often inherently unstable. Given how soft and unstable the Novablast was in the previous version, it was no wonder that a few people reported some Achilles tendon issues (including myself). Softer midsoles often have much higher compression rates compared to firmer midsoles. Just because they compress faster does not mean they compress evenly. Human gait mechanics are never perfect and any loading of the midsole throughout the stance phase of running gait will naturally have some asymmetries and more motion side to side in certain directions and at certain areas. A softer midsole is often comfortable, but can exacerbate these movements. This is not a bad thing if the individual has adequate control and is used to this level of softness. However,  excessive softness may facilitate excessive frontal plane (side to side) motion given its inherent instability. This can influence several risk factors for Achilles tendinopathy, which included increased rearfoot eversion and excessive lateral pressure/movement at toe off (Munteanu & Barton, 2011; Van Der Vlist et al., 2019).

A majority of the newer maximum stack height shoes also features soft midsoles. Given the fact that sidewalls are usually non-intrusive (when added correctly), this may be a good standard feature for companies to include as stack heights get taller and midsoles get softer. Not every shoe needs to be a stability shoe, but having appropriate guidance to compensate for instability is warranted. The Novablast 3 is an excellent example of this correction, with longer, more prominent sidewalls as well as a wider base. This does not sacrifice the softer ride, which many will find quite comfortable. These modifications may make that accessible to a larger population than the previous versions.

References

Munteanu, S. E., & Barton, C. J. (2011). Lower limb biomechanics during running in individuals with achilles tendinopathy: a systematic review. 
Journal of foot and ankle research4(1), 1-17.

Van Der Vlist, A. C., Breda, S. J., Oei, E. H., Verhaar, J. A., & de Vos, R. J. (2019). Clinical risk factors for Achilles tendinopathy: a systematic review. 
British journal of sports medicine53(21), 1352-1361.



RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: I have really enjoyed the ASICS Novablast 3. The new upper provides a snug but comfortable fit, while the softer sole is excellent for training miles. The new midsole design with sidewalls has allowed me to get longer miles in this shoe without irritation. ASICS has done a great job listening to feedback. The only thing I would encourage ASICS to work on is to make the midsole (FF Blast+) more resilient (responsive). As a lighter "performance" trainer, I found the ride cushioned, but not as responsive. It felt better for easier paces compared to faster paces while I was expecting a little more versatility. I  would still pick this over the Cumulus or Nimbus series given the lighter weight and excellent heel bevel, but would like to see midsole have a little more pop to it as I believe this may be a great distance racing/marathon shoe for the general public.

David: I enjoyed my time in the Novablast 3. My main recommendation at this time would be to clean up the length issue. I had a little bit of heel slippage initially until I locked the shoe down a little tighter. The ride and structure of the shoe is really fun for a daily training shoe.   

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR 


Matt: The ASICS Novablast 3 is for those who want a soft, slightly snug fitting, durable, daily training shoe for easy and longer miles. The new FF Blast+ midsole is highly cushioned and soft, which combined with a high stack height provides a protective but light ride underfoot. The upper features a secure but light new mesh, creating a slightly snug but adaptable fit. The new heel redesign makes for a guided and more comfortable fit thanks to additional heel collar cushioning and better sidewall integration. Although still a neutral shoe, the improvements in the heel should make this more accessible for people looking for softer cushioning for longer or recovery miles.

David: The Novablast 3 is a neutral daily training shoe that provides a bouncy yet structured ride. The shoe feels best at daily paces and provides a little pop to your step through the forefoot. The shoe does seem to bottom out at top speeds, though can still work pretty well for controlled uptempo workouts. For those that a like a softer midsole and bouncier ride this could be an option worth looking into. 



GRADING 

Matt
Fit: B+ (Comfortable upper with well padded heel and jacquard mesh. Toebox a little low/tapered)
Performance: B+/A-
 (Highly cushioned and soft for daily miles)
Stability: B/B+ [Neutral] (Soft midsole offset by well integrated sidewalls and wider base)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+/A- (Improved integration of sidewalls and wider sole)
Personal: B+/A- (An excellent softer daily trainer. Improved guidance, still neutral and a comfortable ride. Just wish it could move a bit faster)
Overall: B+/A-

David

Fit: B+ (Volume is a little bit snug and the length a little long, though otherwise comfortable)
Performance: B+/A-
 (Cushioned very well for easy miles with just enough responsiveness for controlled uptempo work. Not quite as versatile on dirt and leans towards road use.)
Stability: B/B+ (Softer midsole though good usage of sidewalls and upper lockdown.)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+/A- (Big improvements with design using sidewalls and improving confidence and security)
Personal: B+/A- (A fun daily trainer that provides a little pop in the step. A little more unstable than I'd like in dirt, though works well on the roads.)
Overall: B+/A- 

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FURTHER READING

Altra Escalante 3 - The latest update to the zero drop daily trainer from Altra
Reebok Floatride Energy 4 Adventure - An excellent new upper refines this hybrid road-to-trail shoe
Doctors of Running Q&A, Volume 2
Nike Alphafly Next% 2 - A wider, more stable base highlights the new update
XTEP 300x 2.0 - A marathon Peba-based shoe for the slow runners

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your
local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at ASICS USA for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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Doctors of Running Q&A, Volume 2

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