I have tested dozens of different run shoes in 2017. Yet, I think ASICS made a few questionable choices which keeps it from being a a true ten and one the best shoe in clever training from the cradle category for 2017 .
It is not always that I can pinpoint fairly exactly how a shoe would clearly be improved for me but here I believe I can. The Roadhawk fits me true to size on the snugger side sitting somewhere between a racer and a trainer in fit. The upper is made of a not particularly soft engineered mesh in the forefoot with no overlays and a soft toe bumper. The mid foot has a fine dense mesh to provide structure to the mid foot hold along with wider overlays reminding me of a slightly thicker version of what Salomon uses. As shown above the medial side has more overlay coverage with the lateral side having inner “Tiger” logo thinner overlays. Due to the engineered mesh front having no overlays and decent volume, while not a wide fore foot, it is accommodating. Lace up is impeccable never needing adjustment from the fairly wide flat thick laces.
The midsole features ASICS new Flyte Foam. I think most midsoles, except maybe some of ASCIS and other brands older models, have moved on from heavy, dense midsoles. Just look at the comparisons below, all in the Roadhawk’s weight class and with similar stack heights but maybe not all with the Roadhawk’s extensive durable rubber coverage. Hard to describe but the feeling underfoot is of control of impact forces vertically and horizontally with a subtle sense, almost a buzz under foot it the only way I can describe it. It feels like the fibers are keeping the foam in line, and from deflecting to far in any direction, then “bouncing back to their original shape”,just as ASICS describes it above.
I love it when marketing meets reality on the run! Gel inserts at the heel and forefoot which makes a big “soft” shoe surprisingly responsive. As shown above, the midsole rises very high just in front of the heel counter and to the back to create a supportive cradle for the foot in some ways similar to Hoka’s Speed Frame but only here towards the rear of the shoe. Quite frankly I do not think such a high side wall is necessary. I assume it is to provide some light guidance support to make the shoe suitable for mild pronators as well as neutral runners.
Upfront I said there was something preventing the Roadhawk from being a ten for me. Well it is the outsole design and materials. The entire outsole is made of ASICS AHAR High Abrasion Rubber. No issues with the heel but unlike most shoes in its class which have slightly softer rubber up front the rubber up front in the Roadhawk is firm and stiff. Yes, it will provide plenty of durability but the Roadhawk has a single flex point in front of which flex essentially stops. The difficulty in transition is likely also influenced by the continuous rubber on the media side running essentially from the heel into the forefoot. Some breaks in this strip might help.
While I am not a shoe designer the answer to the overly firm forefoot flex should be simple. There is only one flex groove running across the shoe on the medial side and two on the lateral side and they are very shallow. Putting a break in the long medial rubber strip, making the flex grooves deeper and across the shoe, and making the forefoot pads smaller might really help the transition for me. The Roadhawk has a very lively, firm ride.
Unlike many firm shoes in its class the firm comes with relatively low shock and vibration transmitted. The Roadhawk FF is for sure, as is, a very good tempo shoe and for some likely a very fine 10K to half marathon race shoe. ASCIS truly gets very close to great with the Roadhawk. Is all the firm flexing and firm rubber all over intended to make the shoe somewhat of a cross trainer, to increase durability, to make the shoe a light support shoe? I just wish the shoe was more flexible up front and had more of decoupling of heel and forefoot to better transition. 100 it is a a lot of shoe with a great new midsole material, lots of support from top to bottom and plenty of rubber. The Escalante has a more comfortable and accommodating upper, more midsole rebound and of course zero drop which may not be for everyone.