In today’s comparison, we have two daily trainers going head-to-head in a shoe battle. It’s the Asics Novablast vs Hoka Mach.
In fact, I’m going to compare the two latest iterations, the Asics Novablast 2 vs Hoka Mach 4. This is going to be a really fun shoe battle because both of these shoes are considered to be best in class.
We’ll be looking at both the similarities, the differences, the performance, and what it’s like to run in these shoes. Then, in the end, I will pick a winner.
Excited enough? Let’s roll with it…
Asics Novablast vs Hoka Mach
The Novablast and the Mach are two of these great road running shoes. Make sure you check that out when you finish this comparison.
At the end of 2021, the Asics Novablast 2 and the Hoka Mach 4 were easily two of the best everyday running shoes of the year, if not both being in the top five shoes of the year.
But which of these is the better daily trainer? It’s time to let them battle head to head.
Right before this comparison, I went for an easy run with some strides in the Asics Novablast 2 and then went for the same run the day after in the Hoka Mach 4 just to refresh my mind in terms of differences and similarities.
In a hurry, these are the main differences and similarities between the Asics Novablast 2 and Hoka Mach 4…
- Novablast is great for everyday easy runs, long runs, and recovery runs.
- Mach is great for faster-paced days.
- Mach 4 is an ounce lighter than the Novablast.
- Novablast is more cushioned in the heel and the Mach is more cushioned in the forefoot.
- Mach is denser and more responsive and has better energy return.
- Novablast is super soft underfoot.
- Novablast is more breathable thanks to the wider perforations.
- Both have a structured heel.
- Mach fits my feet better.
- Both have a moderately padded tongue and collar.
- Mach has a pronounced Achilles heel flare and Novablast has a classic heel.
- Both have a well-defined heel pocket.
- Both have a semi-gusseted tongue.
- Lacing system is better on the Novablast.
- Novablast’s AHAR+ rubber outsole is more durable.
- Both have a swallowtail design.
Weight, Stack, Drop, Fit
|Hoka Mach 4
|Men (size 9)
→ 8 oz (226 g)
|Men (size 9)
→ 9.7 oz (274 g)
|Women (size 8)
→ 7.2 oz (204 g)
|Women (size 8)
→ 8.3 oz (235 g)
|True to size
|True to size
|Midfoot: Medium to low
|Toebox: Medium to narrow
As you can see, the Hoka Mach 4 comes in at 8 oz for men’s size 9 (226 grams) while the Asics Novablast 2 is considerably heavier at 9.7 oz (274 grams).
So, right off the bat, round 1 for weight goes to the Hoka Mach 4.
As far as the stack height goes on the Mach, we’ve got 29mm of stack height in the heel and 24mm into the forefoot for a 5mm heel-to-toe drop.
The Hoka Mach 4 uses an engineered mesh material that has plenty of perforations up in the toe box. The toe box is nice and roomy and provides lots of space for your toes to splay out.
As we work our way around to the side of the shoe, the Mach also has this plastic overlay that starts around the midfoot and wraps all the way around the heel and through to the medial side. This detail gives the shoe a little extra structure and stability in that heel counter and the overall upper.
The Asics Novablast 2 has a double jacquard mesh upper and lots of perforations up in the toe box, which keeps things nice and breathable.
On both sides, the Novablast has these giant Asics logos to add more structure to the midfoot area. Then around the heel counter, you have these plastic TPU clips as well giving it a little bit of stability.
But the biggest difference is the Novablast has these big wider perforations in the toe box than the Mach 4, which makes the Novablast really more comfortable in terms of breathability.
Which upper is better?
Both shoes are doing a very good job of holding your foot in place securely when you do have to go faster when you’re working harder.
They’re also both really comfortable shoes in terms of giving you space in the toe box, which I definitely appreciate when I have some higher mileage weeks and my feet feel a little bit more beat up.
I definitely appreciate both of these shoes, but I do think that the Mach 4 fits my foot just a little bit better. I just feel like I’m having a little bit more comfort while also not having to compromise in the event that I do have to go a little bit faster or pick up the pace.
So, as far as the uppers go, I definitely appreciate the Mach 4 just a little bit better.
The Mach 4 has a very lightly padded mesh tongue which I definitely have been enjoying. Around back, we have a very pronounced Achilles flare with a lot of cushion on this back part.
The tongue has lots of perforations in the tongue and it does feature semi-gussets on each side so you don’t have to worry about it migrating around.
On the Novablast 2, just like the toe box, the perforations on the tongue are noticeably bigger and the tongue is semi-gusseted on each side as well. The tongue is lightly padded and comes up a little bit tall, but it’s not the most ludicrous of tongues that Asics has in its lineup.
In this case, I’m just going to call the tongue and the comfort a tie.
Both of these shoes feature a standard lacing closure system and eyelet chain with really no craziness going on. The Hoka Mach 4 has got some plastic overlay on the outside as well as on the inside cage area and it does have that extra eyelet in case you want to run with the runner’s knot.
The same holds true for the Asics Novablast 2. The biggest difference is that on the Novablast 2, at the start of the lacing closure system, the shoe has got these notches. I found that this feature helps to eliminate the pucker that I can sometimes get up in the start at the eyelet chain.
The Hoka Mach does have this little extra loop that serves somewhat of a similar purpose. However, I found that those notches on the Novablast 2 do just a little bit better job of reducing that pucker around that area.
So, I’m going to give the eyelet chain and lacing closure system to the Asics Novablast 2.
Heel Collar & Tab
The Mach 4 has got plenty of padding around the heel collar and that extended heel flare in the back for your Achilles to rest in, which feels really comfortable. This extended heel also serves as a pull tab.
With the Novablast 2, I’d say the shoe has just about the equivalent amount of padding around the heel collar as well as the tab. But compared to the Mach, the Novablast has a much more classic design to that heel counter and does not feature a heel flare. However, the Novablast does have a traditional pull tab to help you get your shoes on should you wish to use that.
Overall, both shoes have a moderate amount of padding around the heel cup on the back making them very comfortable to run in without making them too unnecessarily pillowy and hot.
So, between the two, I do like the Mach 4 better. I like that extended Achilles heel flare and I think that it just feels really more comfortable than the Novablast 2.
The Mach 4 has lots of structural material on the heel counter, which creates a nice stable feeling for your heel when you’re out running.
The Novablast 2 also has lots of structure in that heel counter with those extra TPU clips along the side that give it a little extra stability for your heel.
Each one has a well-defined heel pocket for you to set in and I didn’t have slippage in either shoe.
Overall, as far as heel structure goes, both shoes have a pretty substantial heel cup giving you lots of support and control in the back of the heel. So, I’m going to call the heel counter on each of these a tie.
Now let’s take a look at the midsole or what I often call the engine of the shoe…
The Hoka Mach 4 has two different types of foam underfoot. The first layer is their ProFly foam which is their softer more responsive foam. Then right underneath that, you have a rubberized EVA material that’s much more denser and durable that also acts as their outsole.
The Mach also features an early-stage meta rocker design which is a pretty aggressive curve. What that simply means is they start sculpting that foam right about at the start of your metatarsal head, and then you can see how aggressive it is upfront. This allows you to move through your gait cycle a little quicker and a little faster.
In the heel area of the midsole, you can see that they have this extended heel. So, if you’re a heel striker, it gives you a little something to land on to help cushion you as you move through your gait cycle.
Another design element both shoes feature is what they’re calling the swallowtail design for the crash pad area. I think this is supposed to give you a little more stability as you move through your gait cycle.
So according to Hoka One One, depending on which side of your heel that you might strike on, this heel feature is supposed to give you a little bit of flexibility just to make it feel a little more natural and smooth as you move through your gait cycle.
But if you need some serious support through your strike, these are some of the best stability running shoes on the market.
The Asics Novablast 2 is a shoe full of that lovely FlyteFoam Blast (FF Blast) foam that we first came to know and love in the Asics Novablast 1 when it was debuted in 2020. This FlyteFoam midsole is super-squishy, super-soft, super-comfortable, very resilient, and provides a lot of energy return.
The midsole just bounces back really quickly and doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve stepped in quicksand or mud when you hit this soft midsole foam.
A big part of that is that they cut these geometric shapes into the foam itself, which allows you to compress pretty quickly but not get lost in all that foam giving you a lot of energy return back as you move through your gait cycle.
The Novablast 2 also has a pretty aggressive rocker design, which is pretty equivalent to the Hoka Mach 4.
The heel is also pretty similar. You can see that the Novablast also has this somewhat of a swallowtail design, again, to give you a little bit more of a natural feeling.
So, in terms of this swallowtail heel design that both shoes have, I think if you are heel striking or maybe you’re going downhill, it’s going to help distribute some of those forces a little bit better. However, I’m not really sure how functional that swallowtail design really does beyond distributing forces.
So, which midsole do I like more?
I really like how that ProFly/EVA combo feels underfoot. I found that the midsole on the Hoka Mach 4 has a much more responsive feeling. It’s not nearly as cushioned as the Novablast 2, but the Mach does feel fast.
Also, if you’re looking for a shoe that has a lot of ground contact, I think the Hoka Mach 4 is a great choice for that.
But for when you’re looking to just log in some miles at more moderate or slower paces, I think the Novablast 2 fits really well for that category.
Make sure you read the “Performace” section below for more details.
On the Novablast 2, the AHAR+ outsole rubber is pretty much bulletproof. AHAR stands for Asics High Abrasion Rubber and the + means that the shoe is 50% more durable than the rubber that they used in other shoes.
This AHAR+ rubber covers basically all of that FlyteFoam Blast material that would have any kind of ground contact.
With the Novablast 1, a lot of runners found the thin rubber to be not very durable, but the Novablast 2 is holding up just fine.
The Novablast 2 has two pretty nice features on the bottom. First, the forefoot has this kind of pod or island in the center that allows a little bit of pop off your toe.
And then as we work our way back around to the heel, you can see that the shoe has this pretty deep groove that gives you somewhat of a trampoline effect. So, as you compress that material, it just kind of pops you forward as you move through your gait.
Again, the midsole on the Mach 4 is a dual-layer system where that top layer is lightweight and super-soft and the bottom layer also serves as the outsole because there is no outsole rubber at all. Instead, what you have is a rubberized EVA that is soft enough to run on but also durable enough to run directly on itself.
But even though the Mach doesn’t have any additional rubber material on the outsole, that more dense rubberized EVA foam does a good job at keeping you safe and secure.
While the Hoka Mach 4 doesn’t have that pod in the forefoot like the Novablast, it does have a pretty deep groove in the midsection of the heel area, which gives you a bit of a trampoline effect as well.
I’ve been hearing some runners have been running into some issues with durability on their Mach 4s. While I’m starting to see a little bit of wear so far on the outsole, I do think that it’s holding up better than the exposed EVA foam that I see in some of my other Hoka shoes.
Overall, I think the Mach 4 is holding up just fine as far as a road shoe goes.
Which outsole is better?
I’ve had both of these shoes in very wet conditions and very slippery conditions and I’m not concerned about traction in either one of them. But when it comes to which one has more grip and more durability, it’s definitely going to be the Novablast 2.
So, as far as the durability of the outsole goes, I think the Asics is definitely going to have it. And as far as the grip goes, I think the Asics also edges out the Mach 4 as well.
Now that we’ve talked about what these shoes are like on paper, let’s talk about how these shoes perform…
Easy, Recovery & Long Runs
For your everyday easy runs where you’re logging those miles and building that aerobic base, I’d be happy to pick up either one of these shoes.
For long runs and recovery runs, I lean towards the Novablast just because of that squishy FF Blast midsole. The Nobvablast is nice and soft and you feel the squishiness with each step and it doesn’t fade away quickly.
Again, the Novablast just soaks up miles and you don’t get stuck in all that squishiness. Once your foot hits the ground, it pushes you back up off the ground in a really pleasant way that makes it feel like those miles are just effortless and you could just keep on going.
The Mach 4 is a little bit of a more firm shoe, but you do have that soft top layer of the ProFly which also does feel nice and comfortable. The bottom layer does what it does in terms of grip and traction but also gives you some responsiveness.
That all being said, I do think that I prefer the Novablast 2 and that FF Blast material for the easy runs, recovery runs, and long runs. I just prefer that little extra bit of squishiness that the Novablast 2 has underfoot. Again, I really find myself leaning towards the Novablast 2 simply because of the comfort factor and that smooth ride that I get as I move through my gait cycle.
However, it’s not the end of the battle because an everyday trainer needs to have a little bit of versatility and range to it not just in terms of mileage but in terms of the paces that it can handle.
Both the Asics Novablast and Hoka Mach are surprisingly good when you have to pick up the pace. When you’re picking up the pace, even though the Novablast is a bit heavy, it doesn’t really weigh you down when you’re trying to move faster closer towards mile race pace type of effort.
But I do think that the Mach 4 does a better job. Not only is it more than an ounce lighter, I just feel like the rubberized EVA outsole layer really starts to shine and becomes more of a midsole material than just kind of like a rubber outsole replacement.
So, the top layer of the ProFly, which is soft, kind of bottoms out once you’re really pushing off hard and digging into the ground and trying to move quickly. But that’s where the more firm rubberized EVA layer then starts to kind of come into play. As you’re putting more force into the ground, this foam really starts to liven up.
So, for faster-paced days, the Hoka Mach 4 is the better choice. Because the FF Blast is soft, I do feel like once you get kind of past 5k pace, the FF Blast starts to bottom out just a little bit. But it still feels great and it’s surprisingly good at going fast.
Overall, in the comparison between the Novablast 2 and the Mach 4, when it comes to running fast, I do think that the Mach 4 is the better shoe.
Now that I’ve gone through all my different categories and compared these two shoes, it’s time to crown a champion.
I knew this one was going to be a tough one. But in this Asics Novablast vs Hoka Mach battle, I’m definitely picking the Novablast 2.
It really came down to that ride of the midsole. I prefer the extra squishy softness and I’m always excited to put on the shoe and take it for a run. It is just a fantastic shoe that has a lot of little improvements over the Novablast 1 and I think that they made a great shoe even better.
When I’m just out logging a lot of miles, the Novablast is the shoe that I’m going to want to pick up and put on my feet. It is just a little bit softer and so it gives you a little bit more comfort as you move through your gait cycle.
But this doesn’t mean that the Hoka Mach 4 isn’t a great shoe. If I want to pick up the pace, I think the Hoka Mach is the better choice. But for a daily trainer for this battle, I’m going with the Novablast 2.
|Where to buy Mach (not affiliate)
|Where to buy Novablast (not affiliate)
But even though I do think the Novablast 2 is the better shoe than the Mach 4, I do think that there is a lot of scenarios where you would want to have both of these shoes in your running shoe lineup.
One, if you just love running and you want to run in the best two daily trainers, pick up both of these shoes. I would say you’re not going to be disappointed if you’re a running enthusiast.
Or, if you’re just running enough miles that you know you’re going to need more than one daily trainer, again, I’d say pick up both of them because they’re both a lot of fun to run in.
You’re going to have a lot of happy miles and you’re going to be able to do a variety of workouts from easy runs to threshold workouts, fartleks, and even some of your speed workouts.
That’s all I have for today, everybody. Thanks so much for making it all the way to the end of this Asics Novablast vs Hoka Mach comparison. Hopefully, you guys are staying safe out there on your runs and I’ll see you in the next one.