Creating a shoe that earns the coveted title of “shoe of the year” is no easy feat, but the real challenge lies in continually improving it year after year.
Enter the Novablast 4 – a fresh contender from Asics.
Let’s dive in and find out if Asics has nailed the right upgrades to ensure this shoe maintains its reigning position.
Don’t miss out on this essential read! Discover the in-depth comparison of the Asics Novablast with the Nike Invincible in our related article.
Asics Novablast 4 Review
Let’s start with the stack height…
Asics has changed the way they present stack height measurements. In the past, they only provided measurements for the foam itself, excluding the insole and the height added by the outsole rubber.
This year, however, they’ve aligned their approach with the industry standard by including all these elements. As a result, the Novablast 4 appears to have a taller profile, measuring 41.5mm in the heel and 33.5 mm in the forefoot. Interestingly, it maintains the same overall height as the previous year, also maintaining the same 8 mm drop.
Another significant update has to do with the midsole…
Check out our latest article where we compare the Asics Novablast with the Hoka Mach, providing valuable insights to help you select the ideal running shoe for your needs.
This time around, they’ve traded the familiar FFBlast+ midsole foam for FFBlast+ Eco, a midsole foam that, according to Asics, incorporates 20% recycled bio content.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first appearance of this eco-friendly foam from Asics; we got a glimpse of it earlier this year in the Asics Nimbus 25 and now in the Gel Nimbus 26.
Asics introduces what they’ve dubbed AHAR Low, and I believe this marks my initial encounter with this particular outsole material. AHAR, an acronym for Asics High Abrasion Rubber, takes the spotlight here, with the added descriptor “Low” signifying a lower rubber density. If my understanding is on point, this should translate to a softer and more grippy material.
Asics tells us that there’s a softer material incorporated into the upper. However, in my experience, it feels remarkably similar to last year’s upper, which is far from a drawback, as I found it to be one of the most comfortable uppers I ran in throughout 2022. The fact that they haven’t made extensive changes in this regard is, in my opinion, a positive choice.
There is a minor change in the material used for the tongue, but it retains its slim and unobtrusive design, which aligns perfectly with my preference for shoe tongues.
Notably, Asics has made some adjustments to the heel cup, adding even more plush padding. I had one minor critique about the Novablast 3, where I felt there was an excess of padding, making it feel somewhat unnecessary. This time, they seem to have doubled down on that aspect, possibly quite literally, by introducing an Achilles flare with substantial padding.
Plus, this year, we now have a pull tab.
Altogether, these modifications contribute slightly to the shoe’s weight. Last year’s model weighed in at just under 9 ounces, a weight that I personally appreciated. However, this year’s version tips the scales at 9.1 ounces or 257 grams.
In terms of the fit, I stuck with my true size for the Novablast 4, and it turned out to be an excellent choice for me. If you’re familiar with the fit of the Novablast 3, I’d say the fit is almost identical, so I’d suggest going with the same size that worked for you in the previous model.
The upper is delightfully comfortable, exceptionally soft, and provides ample room for your foot, ensuring your toes aren’t scrunched in any way. In the back, there’s an abundance of plush cushioning, which, though not essential, certainly adds to the overall comfort.
Now that we’ve delved into the shoe’s specs, let’s dive into the real experience of running in it.
To put it simply, the Novablast 4 is undeniably a blast to run in. It’s undoubtedly one of the standout daily trainers of 2023.
Last year, when I first laced up the Novablast 3, I had an inkling that it would be the shoe of the year because I enjoyed it so much. This year, it’s a closer call, but before we explore that further, let’s discuss what makes running in the Novablast 4 such a joyful experience.
The primary reason I enjoyed the Novablast 4 is the FFBlast+ Eco foam. We previously encountered the FFBlast+ Eco in the Nimbus 25, providing a cushioned, soft, and pleasantly bouncy sensation – a perfect fit for the Nimbus, a comfortable and plush max cushion/recovery shoe.
Many of these traits seamlessly transition to the Novablast 4 but in a more agile package. This is due to the shoe’s design, the generous amount of foam it incorporates, and the absence of Pure Gel. These factors collectively contribute to its lively nature, retaining the beloved Novablast essence that has captivated us for several years.
The foam delivers a delightful balance between squishiness and springiness, ensuring it never feels overly sluggish. It compresses and decompresses, a feature I appreciate when running in a daily trainer.
Whether you’re heading out for a quick couple of miles or a lengthier session, the Novablast 4 is the epitome of fun, liveliness, and comfort.
However, the factor that, in my opinion, prevents the Novablast 4 from instantly claiming the title of the year’s ultimate daily trainer is, ironically, one of its standout features – the FFBlast+ Eco foam.
Why I think the Novablast 4 is not an instant shoe of the year
I must say, I truly appreciate the remarkable comfort the ride offers, as well as the shoe’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. However, when it comes to the shoe’s performance, I do notice a distinction between the FFBlast+ Eco and the regular FFBlast+ foam. The Eco variant is notably softer, enhancing comfort, but it lacks a bit of the springiness.
One of the beautiful qualities of the Novablast 3 was its versatility. I felt equally at ease using it for recovery runs, fartleks, or faster-paced strides. It boasted an impressive range of paces.
In contrast, the Novablast 4 seems to have lost a fraction of that top-end speediness. It doesn’t quite exhibit the same eagerness to accelerate as its predecessor, which, in my opinion, slightly diminishes its overall versatility compared to the previous year’s model. This, in my view, is what keeps it from claiming the title of “shoe of the year” instantly.
Now, let’s delve into how to build your shoe rotation if you decide to add the Novablast 4 to your collection…
How to build a rotation around the Novablast 4
I’d like to suggest three other shoe options that I believe can complement the Novablast 4 beautifully.
If you’re running daily training miles in the Novablast 4, I think for your recovery run miles and your long slow distance runs, the Nimbus 25 is going to be a great pairing of these two shoes.
Both feature the same FFBlast+ Eco midsole foams, but the Nimbus 25 offers an added layer of plush comfort, making it ideal for relaxed runs or extended periods on your feet.
When it comes to race day and intense workouts, my go-to recommendation would typically be the Asics Metaspeed Sky+. It’s an outstanding combination for both daily training and performance days, delivering a fantastic one-two punch.
However, I’d also like to introduce another option that aligns nicely with the subtle changes in the Novablast 4 compared to its predecessor—the Saucony Endorphin Elite. There’s a certain similarity in the way these two shoes facilitate forefoot toe-offs, making them an appealing choice for both daily training and racing.
So, consider these options to build a versatile shoe rotation alongside your Novablast 4.
The Novablast 4 is scheduled for release on December 1st at the same price point, and I commend Asics for maintaining this price from last year.
At the moment, the shoe that closely competes with the Novablast is the New Balance 1080 v13. There’s a noticeable resemblance in the feel of the foams, which wasn’t always the case with Fresh Foam X in comparison to FFBlast+ or FFBlast+ Eco. With the tweaks New Balance has made to the foam in the 1080v13, these two shoes now go head-to-head quite seamlessly. However, it’s important to note that the 1080 Version 13 is priced at $165, which is a considerable premium.
Explore our related article, where we break down the comparison between the New Balance 1080 and the Brooks Glycerin.
Another noteworthy contender is the Hoka Clifton 9, a shoe that has seen substantial changes in its foam compared to the previous year. The foam in the Clifton 9 imparts an airier sensation and a springiness that aligns it more closely with the experience the Novablast offers. These two shoes are certainly worth considering, and they even share matching Achilles flares. The Clifton 9 is a bit more expensive than the Novablast 4.
Lastly, we mustn’t overlook the Novablast 3 from last year, which is still available for sale, and you can currently find it at the reduced price of $110. If you’re seeking greater pace versatility in your shoe, this might be an excellent time to acquire the remaining Novablast 3 pairs. Later in the year, you can then add the Novablast 4 to your collection, providing two fantastic shoe options.
A quick side note: If you can’t wait until December 1st and happen to be in the New York area during the New York City Marathon Expo, you can snag a pair of these shoes early at the Asics booth.
In conclusion, the Novablast 4 is a promising addition to the running shoe market. It retains the same reasonable price point as its predecessor, which is a commendable choice by Asics. The FFBlast+ Eco foam, while enhancing comfort, does make the shoe slightly less springy, affecting its top-end speediness and overall versatility in comparison to the Novablast 3.
When considering alternatives, the New Balance 1080 Version 13 is a strong contender but comes at a higher price point. The Hoka Clifton 9 also offers a similar feel, making it another viable option, albeit slightly more expensive than the Novablast 4.
The Novablast 3 from the previous year remains available at a reduced price, providing an excellent opportunity for those seeking a bit more pace versatility in their shoes.
Overall, the Novablast 4 is a fun and comfortable shoe, making it a strong choice for daily training miles. However, its top-end performance characteristics and price make it face stiff competition from other models.
Ultimately, the decision should be based on your specific running needs and preferences.