Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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ASICS Novablast 4: Sustainable Changes
By Matthew Klein, David Salas, and Andrea Myers

The Novablast series has become incredibly popular over its relatively short lifespan. Debuting as a highly cushioned, lighter training shoe, it has continued on that trajectory. The weight has continued to drop and the stack height has continued to increase. Now, with the addition of some additional bouncy geometry, the newest Novablast adds an edge of performance, further progressing this series.

Asics Novablast 4
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9.1 oz, 258 g (men's size 9), 7.9 oz, 224 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 41.5 / 33.5 (M); 40.5 / 32.5 (W)
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Cushioned Performance Trainer



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 4 is a highly cushioned performance trainer for those who want a little bit more room and a bouncy stiff ride. The upper features more room than previous versions, providing some extra room for the toes while staying light and breathable. The midsole geometry has been modified to increase the bounciness of the sole with a new geometry and new Flytefoam Blast+ Eco foam. This results in a highly cushioned but slightly clunky heel that transitions into a stiff midfoot and smooth forefoot. This results in an extremely high stack height shoe with some bounce that will work for many as an uptempo/performance trainer, potentially a distance racing shoe and definitely for those who want a snappy bouncy ride and have strong shin muscles. 

David: The ASICS Novablast 4 is a daily running shoe that blends together maximum cushioning and a touch of performance as well. The shoe has been updated to include FF Blast+ Eco which provides a slightly firmer foam, but with decent amount of cushion and bounce to it. The Novablast 4 feels a little more "built up" than the previous version due to geometry and upper changes. It leans more on the maximum cushioning training side than the performance side, but can still turn over a little bit and may serve as a recreational racing shoe.

Andrea:
The ASIC Novablast 4 is a bouncy, high stack daily trainer that has surprised me with its comfortable fit and cushioned and responsive forefoot. This may be the best ASICS shoe I have tried thanks to its accommodative mesh upper and midsole geometry that works well for me as a midfoot striker. The Flytefoam Blast+ Eco midsole strikes a nice balance between compliance and responsiveness, and the beefy 32.5mm forefoot stack height never feels like it will bottom out. The Novablast 4 has become my go-to daily trainer for easy miles.

PAST MODEL: Asics Novablast 3





FIT

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 4 fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The newly engineered woven mesh upper is on the lighter and slightly wider side throughout the length of the shoe. The forefoot in particular fits a little wider, with just enough room to slightly wiggle the toes. The midfoot also fits a little wider and I had to tighten down the laces for a secure fit. The tongue is on the thinner side with some mild padding and is securely gusseted for security. I did not have issues tightening down the laces, although I still had some mild slippage inside the shoe front to back with smoother socks. The heel fits normally with a ton of heel collar cushioning and a moderately stiff heel counter. Those sensitive to heel counters may not notice the counter initially due to the high level of padding, but may notice it more as the shoe breaks in. The security is fair but requires additional lockdown at the heel. This shoe is meant to go in a straight line and as long as you do that, it should be fine. I would definitely use socks with this upper even though it is on the softer side. There is some exposed stitching at the midfoot and the toe guard rubs a little, both of which are not issues if you use socks. 

David: The ASICS Novablast 4 comes in with an updated fit and mesh upper. The new upper has good volume throughout and room for swelling accommodation. The length feels a tad long, but the lockdown from the lacing system is good enough to where I did not need to heel lock the shoe. The upper material feels a tad softer than the previous model and feels like a pretty plush upper for how light it is. There is a lot of padding around the heel collar and there is a heel counter present. The shape and structure of the region seem to be held together well there and I did not have any translation or slippage. The midfoot is normal width with a slightly wide forefoot. This feels like a more anatomic fit than the previous model and ultimately just more cozy. It loses some of the performance feel in the upper, but is much more comfortable for me. The tongue is thin but does have a thin layer of padding which allows you to lace the shoe down pretty snug without any irritation. Outside of the minor length issue, I actually find this upper to be quite comfortable and enjoyable for logging daily miles.

Andrea:
The ASICS Novablast 4 is the most comfortable ASICS shoe I have tested. It fits true to size in my usual women's 9.5, and the slightly stretchy mesh upper provides just enough forefoot width and volume that I did not experience any irritation at my 1st and 5th MTPs. I really like the security and overall fit of the midfoot, which ASICS calls their "tongue wing fit system." The tongue is on the thinner side and only the front third of the tongue is gusseted, but the midfoot portion of the upper wraps almost completely around the dorsum of the foot, provide a secure midfoot hold without any tongue slippage or irritation from the laces. It was easy to achieve lockdown in this shoe without stopping multiple times to relace. The rearfoot is normal width, with a rigid counter in the lower half and a moderately padded heel collar. I have no complaints about the fit of this shoe and not only is it the most comfortable ASICS shoe I have tested, it is one of the most comfortable shoes overall I have tested. 



PERFORMANCE

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 4 is a performance trainer with a high stack height and uniquely rockered ride. The new FF Blast+ Eco feels slightly firmer and more resilient than the prior version, making for a faster bouncy feel rather than the softer easy cushioned feel fo the past. The weight still feels lower but not the lowest, consistent with the 9.1 oz listed weight (men's size 9). The heel drop is listed at 8mm, although it feels higher. This is likely due to the posteriorly flared and large heel, which does provide extra cushioning but is a little clunky. There is a large heel bevel, but the posterior heel cushioning does cause a slightly early landing that you do get used to with time. This does push your ankle faster to the ground and does make the ride feel snappy when the pace is picked up. This increases the eccentric load through my anterior tibial muscles (anterior tibialis and long toe extensors), so those with a history of shin splints should approach this shoe cautiously. This transitions into a slightly stiff midfoot and finally through a smooth forefoot. 

The additional stiffness and bounce make this shoe feel better at uptempo paces. It took 15 miles for this shoe to feel better at easy paces, but uptempo runs, light intervals and moderate distances is where this shoe feels best. It is highly cushioned but not the softest, making it better for those looking to pick up the pace a little but not at a super shoe/racing level. The slappiness of the sole also decreases at faster paces and the bounce/lighter weight make it easy to get there.

Durability wise the Novablast 4 has been great. I have 30 miles on my pair and do not see any wear on the outsole or my normal spots. The upper has also held up well despite some rain and accidental mud exposure, so those wanting a shoe that will last an above-average number of miles should do well looking at the Novablast 4. 

David:  The ASICS Novablast 4 sits in an interesting spot. I view the shoe as a daily training shoe, though the previous model did gain some appeal for being a shoe that can be used for workouts and picking up the speed. I do believe the potential is there, but I think this performs better as a daily training shoe. The big updates to the Novablast 4 worth bringing up include the upper change, a midsole foam change, and increasing the toe spring angle. The shoe still uses a trampoline design to the outsole and midsole and does still have a nice bounciness to the foam. The FF Blast+ Eco is 20% bio content and does have some differences to the feel. I will say the foam feels a tad firmer or flatter upon landing on it, but I do feel the bounce through the forefoot is quite good. The toe spring in the forefoot does give you a constant rolling forward that is combined with their forefoot trampoline. This shoe keeps you feeling like you are bouncing forward. The heel does have a lot of sole flaring and uses a bucket type side wall. I feel like the initial contact from the shoe may come off a tad clunky with so much going on. It feels like a posterior lateral bias to the heel may feel smoother than the central bias the shoe currently has. I think this largely in part due to the midsole though. The foam feels a tad firmer upon landing from the previous midsole and just has a little less give, making that wide base and sole flaring more noticeable.

I would not let the heel comment deter viewers though. The shoe does have a very lively and fun forefoot transition. There is a lot of foam here and so the shoe does come off a little bit stiffer throughout, even without the usage of a plate or stiffening agent. The shoe comes off as a very neutral shoe, but thanks to the side walls and sole flaring I do think the Novablast 4 feels more comfortable in a larger variety of situations. Running some bluff trails in it felt much more secure than the previous version. Like noted above, I find this to be a fun lively shoe for the daily training category. It feels like there is a little too much going on and the transitions a tad too clunky for going fast, but one of the better daily trainers this year for me.

Andrea:
The ASICS Novablast 4 is a bouncy, protective daily trainer that works well with my mechanics as a midfoot striker. The key features of the shoe for me are the forefoot sole flare, high forefoot stack height, and the resilient Flytefoam Blast+ Eco foam. The forefoot sole flare extends further posteriorly on the lateral side as compared to the medial side, and feels like it corresponds well with where I land. The 32.5mm stack height in the forefoot provides ample protection and cushioning and the later toe spring provides gentle guidance into pushoff. Easy runs in the shoe feel natural, protective, and bouncy. At very easy paces, I do notice the heel slightly, but it doesn't feel like it gets in the way of my mechanics like other higher drop shoes do. If there were one thing I would change about the shoe, it would be to make the heel bevel a little more aggressive. The shoe feels somewhat light on foot, although it would not be my first choice for faster pace runs. The overall comfortable fit and ride of the shoe would make it ideal for long, easy runs, but I have not had an opportunity yet to test it for anything longer than 6 miles. 

I have 30 miles on my pair and there is no visible wear on the sole. Traction in this shoe is not great, as I experienced some slipping during a run on wet roads. The upper is relatively breathable, but has also kept my feet warm enough during runs in 25F weather. 

TRACTION UPDATE FROM WISCONSIN

Nathan: The Novablast 4 features AHAR-Lo, which is supposed to provide a unique combination of lower density for weight but equivalent durability. We've found that to be true so far in our testing. The traction has been average so far. I ran in a wintery mix, rain, and wet debris and had no issues in the shoe. I would say the traction overall has been average at best. Not super grippy like a Nike waffle outsole, but I have not had issues in the conditions I've run in either.



STABILITY

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 4 continues to be a neutral shoe but is more stable than past iterations and may soon border on stable neutral. The sole width is slightly wider throughout the length of the shoe particularly at the heel and midfoot. The medial and lateral sidewalls are still present but are now larger as the heel sits farther into the sole (called a "nested" design apparently). There are also some mild sidewalls present at the forefoot There is a large amount of sole flare, particularly forefoot with a decent amount at the heel. This makes the forefoot and heel more stable than previous versions and should work for at least moderate distances for those with very mild stability needs. The midfoot continues to be neutral due to its slightly more narrow nature compared to the rest of the shoe as well as the accelerated transition from the posteriorly flared but beveled heel into the midfoot and more bouncy nature of the shoe. 

David:  The ASICS Novablast 4 is a neutral training shoe and does have too much going on with stability. There are some things I'd like to point out though. The shoe does do a good job of using sole flaring throughout the forefoot. I felt the platform was very trustworthy and the forefoot transition was smooth and bouncy without having any give medially or laterally. The heel feels more built up than the previous version with the change in midsole. The sidewall gives a bucket like hold and the foot feels secure. The upper has a small amount of stretch to it, but provides decent enough security for running and turning. This is is still a very neutral shoe though and the amount of foam does give a certain amount of instability to the platform.

Andrea:
The ASICS Novablast 4 is a neutral shoe with some guidance features, which work particularly well for my mechanics. The forefoot sole flare, which extends further posteriorly on the lateral side, provides some added stability for me as a lateral midfoot striker. The later toe spring gently guides pushoff without feeling overly aggressive. The higher midsole stack and resilience in the forefoot work well with the toe spring to encourage forward motion. The secure fit of the upper, particularly the midfoot, helps stabilize the foot in the shoe and prevents foot translation, which can often be a problem with one piece mesh uppers. This shoe probably borders on stable neutral for midfoot or forefoot strikers moreso than it does for reafoot strikers due to its unique forefoot geometry.



Thoughts as a DPT: Modified Rocker Geometries
By Matthew Klein 

As the stack heights of shoes increase, they generally become stiffer and begin to interfere with the natural mechanics of the foot/ankle that maintain forward momentum. To maintain that forward momentum, the use of artificial rocker geometries is key to replace the decreased or lost ability of the natural ankle/foot rockers. We have discussed previously that rockered shoes generally reduce forces at the foot and ankle, moving them up higher to the knee and hip (Sobhani et al., 2013; Sobhani et al., 2017). If the rocker matches the mechanics of the foot and ankle, there can also be reduce load on the Achilles tendon/calf complex, although there may be increased load on the hamstring, hip and quad muscles (Agresta et al., 2022). 

What is not known is how a double-rockered shoe can impact mechanics. While that may not be the correct term, this refers to shoes that have an interrupted rocker at the midfoot that lifts up rather than continuing the curve. This interrupts what would normally replace the ankle rocker (talocrural joint) that would roll you through the midfoot. The Novablast 4 has this and it appears to stiffen the midfoot. This is oddly reminiscent of the old ASICS trusstic systems that also elevated and stiffened the midfoot. The current design does seem to add a little bit of additional snappiness to the midsole, but it is important to remember that stiffens only improves economy if it matches the mechanics of the individual and is used at the correct speed (Mcleod et al., 2020). 

While the stiffness and bounce certainly feel good at uptempo paces, the combination of the stiffer midfoot and posteriorly flared (although rockered) rearfoot seems to increase stress on the ankle and anterior tibial muscles, rather than decrease it, especially at slower speeds. I have experienced soreness at my anterior tibial muscles almost every run in this shoe and suspect some of the mechanisms to add stiffness and bounce may have been overdone.  While a heel bevel is present in this shoe, the posteriorly flared midsole still causes an early initial heel contact. Combined with a stiffened midfoot, this makes it harder to get over the first part of the shoe, increasing the workload of the anterior tibial muscles to control the first half of the forces of the stance phase of running gait. This moves the ASICS Novablast 4 more into the performance trainer, rather than trainer side of things. It also makes it a shoe that those with a history of medial tibial stress syndrome or anterior tibial issues should be cautious off as it may increase stress in that area. This will not be a bad thing for everyone but is a lesson that wile modifying the components of a shoe to achieve certain things, you still need to be a little careful of normal mechanics. 

References:

Agresta, C., Giacomazzi, C., Harrast, M., & Zendler, J. (2022). Running injury paradigms and their influence on footwear design features and runner assessment methods: a focused review to advance evidence-based practice for running medicine clinicians. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living4, 74.

McLeod, A. R., Bruening, D., Johnson, A. W., Ward, J., & Hunter, I. (2020). Improving running economy through altered shoe bending stiffness across speeds. Footwear Science12(2), 79-89.

Sobhani, S., Hijmans, J., van den Heuvel, E., Zwerver, J., Dekker, R., & Postema, K. (2013). Biomechanics of slow running and walking with a rocker shoe. Gait & posture38(4), 998-1004.

Sobhani, S., van den Heuvel, E. R., Dekker, R., Postema, K., Kluitenberg, B., Bredeweg, S. W., & Hijmans, J. M. (2017). Biomechanics of running with rocker shoes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport20(1), 38-44.




RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: The additional bounce and extra room in the Novablast 4 are welcome changes. The shoe feels better at uptempo paces and fits more comfortably than previous versions. My major recommendations center around the midsole geometry and what I discussed in the DPT thoughts. I would reduce the amount of posteriorly flared sole in the heel and move the heel bevel a little forward. It is still possible to have a posterior heel flare heel with a heel bevel. The clunkiness of the heel definitely adds to the extra work my anterior tibial muscles have to do, which is NOT something I would expect from a shoe that has this large of a bevel or this tall of a stack height. Those who have a history of "Shin Splints" may be at risk for a recurrence in this shoe if they do not approach it carefully, so I would modify and smooth out the heel rocker geometry of this shoe. 

My second suggestion is to examine the double rocker in the midfoot and decide how the "bouncy" goal feeling can be achieved while not sacrificing the training component of this shoe and the ankle rocker. The interruption of the overall rocker does stiffen the midfoot, which is not necessarily a good or bad thing overall. However, with such a tall stack height, I would encourage the use of a full rocker unless this shoe is really meant to be an uptempo/faster option. If that is the case, I might maintain this and just work on smoothing out the heel. If it really is meant to be more of a lighter training shoe, then I recommend using a full rocker to reduce the aggressiveness and make it more accessible to the majority of runners. 

David: I really enjoyed the Novablast 4. I do have a couple of recommendations though. The first would be to shorten the length a tad to give a more dialed in fit. The fit right now is cozy, but does require a little bit of cinching from the laces. The other recommendation I would make would be shifting the heel bevel to have a posterior lateral bias. With softer midsoles you can get away with having it central since there is a lot of compression of the foam, though this midsole seems to hold its structure a little more. The bias would make it smoother at the heel for initial contact.

Andrea:
I love running in the Novablast 4 thanks to its unique forefoot geometry and well fitting upper. I would second Matt's recommendation to reduce the rearfoot posterior flare and increase the heel bevel. This would make the rearfoot less noticeable at slower paces. Otherwise, this has become one of my favorite trainers of 2023.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR

Matt: The ASICS Novablast 4 is for those who want a bouncy and snappy shoe with a large amount of heel cushioning and a shoe that can handle daily and uptempo miles. The fit is slightly wider, so those wanting a little more room particularly in the forefoot will enjoy the Novablast 4. The ride features an even taller amount of stack height that has more bouncy, albeit with a more resilient than compliant foam. The heel does have some posterior flare despite the large bevel which combined with the stiffer midfoot makes for a slightly slappy ride that works better at slightly uptempo paces for those with stronger anterior shin muscles. This moves the Novablast series more into the performance trainer realm, adding a more training-like alternative to the Superblast for those who want some bounce without being a super-foamed shoe. 

David: The ASICS Novablast 4 is a daily running shoe for someone that is looking to have a lively forefoot transition in their training shoe and still want some maximum cushioning elements. The shoe runs very neutral throughout but does have good sole flaring in the heel and forefoot. Those who tend to supinate and are sensitive to the lateral sides of shoes might actually have some appeal here due to the forefoot. This is definitely a neutral shoe though in the max cushioning category that gives a little bit of pop through the forefoot.

Andrea:
The ASICS Novablast 4 is a high stack, well fitting daily trainer that has worked particularly well for me as a midfoot striker. For those who land further forward like myself, I would highly recommend that you try this shoe if you are looking for a high stack, resilient daily trainer that doesn't bottom out in the forefoot. This shoe is another great example of not judging a shoe before actually putting it on your foot. I definitely did not have this shoe on my radar, but I am very glad ASICS sent it to me for testing, because I have a great addition to my daily trainer rotation. At $140, this shoe is a good value for its performance and fit.  


GRADING

Matt
Fit: B+/A- (Slightly wider comfortable fit throughout that needs a little more securing. )
Performance: 
A- (Highly cushioned, bouncy, albeit slightly slappy heel that provides more bounce that works even better at uptempo paces.)
Stability: B+ [Neutral] (More stable heel and forefoot thanks to additional flare, heel sitting deeper into sidewalls and wider sole. Still neutral thanks to relatively narrower heel and more bounce)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+/A- (Improved foam resilience, bounce and upper design. Addition of posterior heel flare despite bevel and double rocker does add force forward transition with stiffness that may be too much for those with sensitive anterior tibial muscles)
Personal: B+/A- (My favorite version so far if the heel and midfoot transitions were a little smoother. The Novablast is now more of a performance trainer, making it a little better for uptempo efforts than daily training for me personally. Despite NOT having a plate, I think this shoe is comparable to the current super trainers like the Kinvara Pro, Mach X and even the Boston 12)
Overall: B+/A- 

David
Fit: A- (really comfortable for the weight, but a tad long)
Performance: A- 
(It's a solid shoe. Fun lively forefoot, great transitions midfoot forward, but heel can be a tad clunky.)
Stability: B (Bucket design in the heel, sole flaring, and side walls are integrated well but there is still a lot of foam with a slightly stretchy upper. Very neutral shoe, but the stability elements are implemented pretty well.)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (A good example of modifying a shoe without it being a complete overhaul.)
Personal: A- (Outside of a slightly clunky heel the transitions are fun. A good shoe for logging daily mileage and hitting long runs.)
Overall: B+/A-

Andrea

Fit: A (One of the best fitting shoes I've tested thanks to accommodative mesh upper, wider forefoot, and secure midfoot)
Performance: A- 
(Forefoot sole flare in combination with high stack and responsive forefoot foam make this shoe protective and bouncy for midfoot landings. Rearfoot could be improved to make it a little less clunky.)
Stability: B+ (neutral): (Borderline stable neutral for midfoot landings due to forefoot sole flare, later toe spring, and resilient forefoot foam)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (Smart use of foam and geometry to make a shoe that works well for those who land further forward.)
Personal: A (Extremely comfortable fit and bouncy ride makes this shoe one of my favorite daily trainers of 2023)
Overall: A-


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Asics Novablast 4
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FURTHER READING

ASICS Gel-Cumulus 25 - A big update to this daily trainer makes it the softness, most cushioned yet
Adidas Adizero SL - A remodernized daily trainer for the Adidas line
AltraFWD Experience - Altra's first non-zero drop trainer
Brooks Launch 10 - Huge value training for everyday runners
Brooks Revel 6 - At $100, a simple, but effective neutral trainer that fits well
Hoka Clifton 9 [Stable Neutral Trainer] - A change to the midsole shapes the change to this classic maximal trainer
Mizuno Wave Rider 27 - Retooled to feel a little lighter underfoot and with a greatly improved fit
New Balanace FuelCell Propel v4 - Version 4 adds a forefoot plate to this budget trainer
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 v13 - A new update to this versatile "wogger" shoe
Nike Pegasus 40 - A light upper update makes this the most comfortable Pegasus to slip on yet
Nike Vomero 17 - More ZoomX midsole helps make this trainer excel
On Cloudflow 4 - Redesign of this firmer trainer offers a fun ride
On Cloudsurfer - The softest On yet ushers in a new redesign for the future of On
On Cloudswift 3 - A versatile run/everyday activity trainer with classic On elements
Puma ForeverRun Nitro - A new "stability" entry in the lineup that provides a cushioned ride
Reebok Floatride Energy 5 - Major changes to the popular training series, including a torsion system
Salomon Aero Blaze - A new lightweight trainer from Salomon
Salomon Aero Volt - An old-school flat that's light and versatile
Saucony Echelon 9 [Stable Neutral Trainer] - A wide-fitting, high cushion shoe that also fits orthotics perfectly well
Saucony Kinvara 14 - Higher stacked than ever, and lighter as well
Saucony Ride 16 - A light update that refines the daily trainer to its very best yet
Skechers GO RUN Ride 11 - New HYPERBURST ICE makes for an incredibly soft new entry
Topo Phantom 3 [Stable Neutral] - A daily training shoe with a fantastic upper and simple, functional ride
Tracksmith Eliot Runner - All-new trainer from the apparel brand, featuring a peba midsole

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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, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we 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 for sending us pairs.  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.


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