The shoe brings some big changes for its fourth version.
Shop the Novablast 4 now, $230 AUD on Asics Australia
In the age of $500 carbon-fiber super shoes, I’m giddy for the launch of this $140 daily trainer. Sure, maybe that’s just the telltale sign of a true shoe geek. But it’s also a testament to the Novablast’s impressive performance and evolution, model after model. The Novablast 3 was one of my all-time favorite shoes. (At this point, I’ve got more than 1200 kilometres on my pair of the 3s.) And the fourth version, which is a significant update to the shoe, is here.
Test pairs of the Novablast 4 arrived at our RW headquarters in October 2023. We put nearly two solid weeks of kilometres on the shoe. Between Runner-in-Chief Jeff Dengate and me, we’ve got some early thoughts and test impressions to help you decide whether to smash that pre-order button—or start stocking up on pairs of the third version.
Release Date: December 1, 2023
Weight: 255g (M), 212g (W)
Drop: 8 mm
Heel Stack: 41.5 mm (M), 40.5 mm (W)
Forefoot Stack: 33.5 mm (M), 32.5 mm (W)
- Flytefoam Blast+ Eco midsole
- New engineered woven upper
- More aggressive midsole rocker
Choose the Right Size
Like the previous version, I found this shoe runs a touch long. I usually sit between a women’s 9 and 9.5. A size 9 definitely would have fit me better in terms of length. If you have a wide foot, however, you may be fine going true-to-size, or even picking the larger of the two. This is because the toebox itself is not broad around the pinky toes—it actually feels a touch narrow around the edges of the forefoot. Despite that, it does not feel cramped because the toebox is deep. There’s not a lot of space around the toes, but there’s plenty of room on top of them.
Asics adjusted the midsole geometry for more “pop” off the forefoot.
Part of this is because the Novablast 4 has a more aggressive toespring than the 3. That is, the forefoot swoops upward to help roll your foot forward. The shape of the toebox follows the same curve along the upturned midsole, which gives the impression of a roomier fit over the toes. Some runners will appreciate this change, as testers in the third version told us that the fit of the previous model grazed the tops of their toenails. Though I don’t especially like the dead space, it doesn’t negatively affect lockdown in the forefoot, and it’s kept the pressure off the tops of my toenails when my feet swell on longer runs.
The Flytefoam Blast+ Eco midsole uses 20 percent of recycled bio-based foam.
The upper material itself is now a woven mesh. The texture is softer and smoother than what’s used on the Novablast 3, but it’s got the same amount of stretch—some, but not much. In terms of comfort, the changes here don’t make or break the shoe. The tongue is still gusseted and doesn’t budge over the arch when you’re laced up. But, I think the upper on the Novablast 3 has the slight edge here. The tongue and gusset of the earlier version is a bit thinner and more flexible. It wraps my bony arches with less bunching, and also breathes better.
A lighter, more flexible film reinforced the eyelets of the Novablast 3.
Larger perforations over the toes help ventilate the Novablast 4’s new mesh.
My only real gripe on fit is that I didn’t get a secure heel lockdown. Even using the heel-lace lock method, I had more movement in the rearfoot than I’d like. Take note that my heels are on the narrower side, and I’m also a bit finicky in this area. (In stiffer shoes, which this one is, I find it tougher to keep my heels planted on the midsole.) Still, it wasn’t enough to create blisters—I mention the rearfoot slip only because it’s not something I ever experienced in the Novablast 3, even right out of the box. After my first week of runs, I’ve found the heel slippage has already begun to dissipate as the upper and insole start to conform to my foot.
The heel sits deeper inside the midsole foam for the fourth version, which adds some stability.
The biggest difference between the 3 and 4 is not the amount of responsiveness, but rather what that responsiveness feels like. The 3 had more of a bouncy, trampoline-like sensation. (If you remember the first version of the shoe, it’s quite removed from that. Jeff said staying upright on sidewalks was a pure exercise in self-preservation not to roll an ankle on turns.) I don’t notice that bounce as much, and that’s perhaps because this foam feels a touch firmer and I don’t sink into it as much. At the very least, it’s not quite as cushy upon step-in, but does soften up as you start moving.
The first Novablast is still the springiest, but its midsole feels narrow and wobbly.
Plastic overlays added some extra weight to the Novablast v1.
But, the energy return is still there; only, it feels more like that trampoline is launching you forward, rather than rebounding you upward. For me, the feeling is “less fun” but more efficient. It’s much easier to get the shoe rolling. And, it actually makes the shoe feel lighter, even though it’s actually a touch heavier than the 3. From the third to fourth version, the Novablast went from 7.1 oz to 7.5 oz for a women’s size 7. The increase from the third to fourth version was less significant for the men’s version, which increased from 8.9 oz to 9.0 oz for our men’s size 9 sample pairs.
There’s a lot of foam underfoot, but it doesn’t feel clunky.
I didn’t experience any stability issues in the Novablast 3 but the 4 is definitely built with more support. The sidewalls of the shoe extend much higher up the sides of the shoe, which keeps you centered more over the midsole. Personally, I don’t find the eco-based Flytefoam as bouncy, so it would not warrant any added support to feel controlled on touchdown. But I imagine that’s part of the reason Asics reworked the shoe’s midsole geometry.
The Novablast 4 uses more eco-friendly materials and has a lower carbon footprint.
It’s tough to separate out all the moving parts, but I feel as though the higher sidewalls help me engage that rocker sole to transition more quickly. Rather than relying on “springy, bouncy” energy return, the fourth version makes a slight pivot to forward-rolling momentum and propulsion. It’s a different sensation, but I don’t feel as though any responsiveness is lost. The net energy return feels unchanged.
A lower-density rubber, called AHAR Lo, helps prevent the 4 from feeling too bottom-heavy.
Should I Buy the Novablast 3 or Novablast 4?
It looks like there’s more foam underfoot, but Asics kept the overall stack height the same as the previous model. The stack heights are identical going from the 3 to 4. But as I earlier mentioned, the foam feels firmer to me, though Asics actually specs it at a lower density. It’s stiffer, too. I hesitate to call this “a poor man’s Superblast,” because it sounds negative. But those shoes do feel quite similar, and I mean it in the best way possible. Though heavier, and not as lively, the Novablast is a solid all-arounder—and $60 cheaper.