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Hands-on Gear Review
ASICS GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 Neutral Review
Cons: A bit heavy
Bottom line: Good balance between protection and sensitivity, really durable!
The ASICS GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 Neutral is a good all-around trail running shoe that has excellent traction and a good balance of trail feel and underfoot protection. The GEL cushioning under both the forefoot and the heel makes for one of the most comfortable landing platforms of any shoe that we tried. Even with a rock plate under the midsole, the forefoot articulation is excellent, making this a great candidate for mixed road and trail use. Although not quite worthy of receiving an award, we never-the-less think that this shoe is one of the most balanced and durable that we have tested, making it an excellent value for the money. From the Colorado Rockies to the Himalaya, we found it impossible to kill this shoe.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Trail Running Shoes of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
While we liked the ASICS GEL-FujiTrabuco 3 Neutral for most of the same reasons described above, we had one major complaint — the fit. Perhaps ASICS was listening we found the GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 to be a much more comfortable fit for our testers' feet. This year's iteration is seemingly a perfect length for the size and the forefoot is also a bit wider than before. The laces have been changed so they are wider and grip each other better, locking the foot in securely with no extra slop. Overall we feel like this shoe has only made forward progress, with nothing changed that we didn't like. Therefore, we believe it is a better shoe than its predecessor.
The GEL cushioning system is a highlight of this shoe and offers some of the best cushioning of any shoe that we tried. Like the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 3, it is designed to absorb the impacts of landing while running, a feature that many people crave. While it is a neutral shoe, ASICS claims that the GEL footbed will help add support for runners with mild over- or under-pronation. Lots of cushioning combined with great traction and underfoot protection make this a formidable shoe.
The midsole of this shoe features a half-length rock plate that protects against blows to the middle of the foot, while leaving the forefoot of the shoe to articulate and bend in a natural running manner. The interior of the shoe is very comfortable, and ASICS has changed the shape of the plastic overlays on the outside of the shoe, better protecting some of the mesh wear points. In our testing, we did not suffer from any external abrasion issues, and no tears to the upper. The only complaint, which is slight, is that a piece of rubber on the toe bumper had begun to peel back a bit (see photo). We awarded 8 out of 10 points, roughly the same as the Montrail Caldorado or the New Balance Leadville v3.
Salomon Speedcross 4 or the Saucony Peregrine 7. Even with the stickiness of the rubber, we found the lugs to be extremely durable and difficult to rip or tear off, a common problem with aggressively lugged shoes. And despite our concerns that gaps in the outsole that allow for greater articulation would be a weak point, we experienced no problems whatsoever with the sole of this shoe. In fact, despite taking it on numerous excursions in the very rough Garhwal Himalaya, this shoe looks essentially new.
Our main complaint with the ASICS GEL-FujiTrabuco 3 was the fit, and unfortunately for us this affected other areas such as stability as well. However, the GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 has completely fixed that problem, widening the forefoot, providing a solid and stable landing platform. While our feet simply did not lock into the old shoe very well, we thought the new version perfectly locked our foot in place. The laces on this shoe are wider and grip each other better than the older model, meaning that they stay tight for long distances, assuring the foot remains in its proper place. This shoe was about as stable as the HOKA Challenger ATR 3 and the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4.
The GEL cushioning system in this shoe is some of the most comfortable cushioning of any shoe we tried and in this newer model the fit was pretty much perfect. ASICS completely fixed the long and narrow feel of the GEL-FujiTrabuco 3. Additionally, the MONO-SOCK one piece liner means there are no interior rub points to be found, greatly enhancing the comfort. We honestly felt this was one of the most comfortable shoes that we tested this year. While we have to admit that sizing, and therefore comfort, is a subjective attribute, we think that this shoe will fit users exactly how they expect.
At 26.0 ounces for the pair, this was one of the heaviest shoes we reviewed. It is slightly lighter, by just less than an ounce, than the older model. Still, this is not a light shoe, and it fits in the category of protective rather than minimalist. In this way it compares favorably to the La Sportiva Wildcat. Oddly enough, to us the FujiTrabuco did not feel very heavy, either in our hands or on our feet. Despite its weight it still runs light, no trace of clunkiness.
With the rockplate only extending under the arch of the foot and thus leaving the forefoot free to flex and articulate, the shoe maintained a good amount of sensitivity given how well it protected under the foot. We liked the balance between the two, but it erred on the side of protectiveness rather than sensitivity. We gave it 7 out of 10 points.
There is really nowhere we would not recommend taking this pair of trail runners. We loved it on our backcountry wilderness runs in Colorado and while running and trekking around the Garhwal Himalaya in India. The superior cushioning makes it great for longer efforts and its all-around performance would also make it an excellent hiking shoe.
At $120, this shoe is the same price as most of the other traditional style trail running shoes in our review. Given that we felt it was a solid shoe and was extremely durable, we think it presents a great value.
The GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 Neutral is a heavier traditional shoe that will serve runners well as an everyday trail running trainer and in situations with rougher trails or rocks. It has an excellent balance between trail sensitivity and underfoot protection and has proven to be extremely durable. While we didn't like the fit of this shoe's predecessor, we feel as if ASICS has changed the sizing issue for the better, and that this shoe fits pretty much perfectly for the size. While it is heavier than many shoes, it is also more supportive. Overall, we highly recommend this shoe.
Other Versions and Accessories
Asics GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 Neutral - Women's
— Andy Wellman
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