Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoe | Tested and reviewed

Protective, ultra-cushioned, but still providing an impressive level of ground feel – could the Trabuco Max 3 be the ultimate road-to-trail hybrid?

from Asics
RRP  £159.99
Asics trabuco Max 3 gear of the year winner

by James Forrest |
Updated on

Max by name, max by nature. The Asics Trabuco Max 3 is a maximalist trail running shoe with a plush amount of cushioning. There’s a generous stack of 43mm at the heel and 38mm at the forefoot, ensuring an opulently cushioned and comfy ride. The all-round build feels quite chunky, roomy and protective, yet somehow you still get a touch of ‘groundfeel’ underfoot.

Naturally, the Trabuco Max 3s aren’t the most agile or precise, and those looking for minimalist trail running shoes will probably hate them. But ultimately this shoe is all about the maximalist cushioning, which comes courtesy of Asics’ excellent FF Blast Plus foam. For those looking for a thickly-cushioned trail running trainer with an over-sized midsole, the Trabuco Max 3 hits the spot perfectly – it’s a shoe with more cushion than Dunelm Mill.

Pros

  • Highly cushioned
  • Very comfortable
  • Maximalist midsole
  • Supportive
  • Well structured
  • Good traction

Cons

  • Not as agile or precise as some
  • Roomy fit might not work for all foot shapes

Upper

The uppers of the Asics Trabuco Max 3 are made from technical mesh, which feels lightweight, comfortable and breathable. TPU overlays add extra toughness and durability at the heel and toe, with a wraparound design. The toe bumper is particularly strong and protective, while the heel counter is very solid, helping to lock the foot in place and reduce foot slippage either vertically or horizontally.

Mesh upper of Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoes
©LFTO

The tongue has a touch of padding for added comfort and delivers a sock-like liner feel. The laces are standard style. They work well for a fine-tuned fit and feature a ‘smart lace loop’ – a stretchy tab of material for securing the loops of tied laces in place, so they don’t flap around or come loose during your runs.

Internally we found the Ascis Trabuco Max 3s a little roomier than some other pairs. For us, this worked well, as it enhanced comfort and prevented any risk of blisters, pinch points or sore spots. In particular we enjoyed the fact our toes weren’t constricted or compressed within the toebox. However, for some runners the extra room may feel too loose, imprecise and slack. Ultimately, as with all footwear, it’s best to try for size first before buying.

Midsole

Designed with both protection and comfort in mind, and perfected in Asics’ Institute of Sports Science in Japan, the Trabuco Max 3 is really all about the over-sized, super-cushioned midsole. Here’s the full lowdown.

The midsole is made from Asics’ FF Blast Plus foam, with a stack height of 43mm at the heel and 38mm at the forefoot, and thus a 5mm drop. The benefits of this chunky-stack, high-midsole approach are plentiful, according to Asics. You get “maximum comfort” and a “soft landing to reduce the impact on your joints” and feet, and an ultra-cushioned, almost bouncy sensation underfoot. The foam itself is lightweight and premium, and should have decent long-term durability. Push-off after each stride is evenly distributed from the front of the foot, and Asics’ GuideSole technology – a mix of gel and foam in the midsole – helps “propel you forward...with a shock-absorbent landing and a more efficient stride”, thus conserving energy during long trail runs.

FF Blast foam midsole of Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoes
©LFTO

In terms of stiffness, there is a good amount of flex at the toe, but the overall construction is quite sturdy. You can’t bend or twist this shoe in the same way you can with some other trail runners. Instead there is a reasonable amount of stiffness, both longitudinally and laterally, and for some runners this will add to a sense of protection and stability. It's this balance that earns the Trabuco Max 3 the top spot on our best road-to-trail running shoes roundup.

During our test trail runs in the Lake District, including a loop around Derwentwater taking in Walla Crag, Watendlath and Rosthwaite, we loved the ultra-cushioned underfoot feel of the Asics Trabuco Max 3. We found it super comfortable and pretty energetic, but with decent ‘groundfeel’ and precision too, as well as a good sensation of protection and stability – an impressive all-round balance. But we were only jogging leisurely, and for faster runs or mountain races we’d definitely choose something lighter and more agile.

Outsole

rubber lugs and outsole on Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoes
©LFTO

Unlike many trainers, you don’t get a third-party sole unit such as Vibram or Continental here. Instead the Trabuco Max 3 features an AsicsGrip rubber outsole for “incredible grip during varying weather conditions”, according to the brand. The 4.5mm lugs aren’t the deepest or most rugged, but the tread pattern is very sticky and delivers good traction – we were reasonably impressed with it during several test runs in the Lake District on wet, greasy March days. The outsole features a mix of three-pronged tetrahedral -shaped cleats, as well as chevrons, and has a design that sheds mud and debris very well.

Features

The only other features to note are as follows: the insole is a removable proprietary Asics unit with a comfy enough fit, the heel of each shoe has a grab pull loop to help with getting your shoe on, and – in a purely aesthetic move – the midsole is covered with a nice contour line pattern.

Heel tags on Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoes
©LFTO

Asics also states that the Trabuco Max 3 is designed for runners requiring neutral support and who have normal-sized foot arches.

At 330g per men’s UK size 9 shoe, the Trabuco Max 3 clocks in at a weight comparable to other protective, fully-featured trail running shoes. It’s neither ultralight nor heavy, and strikes a nice balance.

Sustainability

Asics says the Trabuco Max 3 has been “designed with the environment in mind”, ensuring the shoe is “better for you and better for the environment”. At least 50% of the primary upper mesh material is made from recycled materials, while the brand has also “used less water and carbon emissions to produce the shoe’s sock liner”.

Rubber toebox on Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoes
©LFTO

Other parts of the shoe are not recycled and, as such, it’s tricky to truly analyse the all-round sustainability of the Trabuco Max 3. We wouldn’t describe these eco processes as a game-changer in any way, but they are at least small, positive steps in the right direction, which is always good to see.

Verdict

Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoes on mossy rocks in front of a lake
©LFTO

Asics says the Trabuco Max 3 "combines maximum protection with ultimate comfort for a grounded trail run", describing the shoe as “our best protective trail running shoe yet” with “advanced cushioning and complete comfort”. We’d largely agree – it’s a protective, super-cushioned, maximalist trail running trainer with high levels of comfort.

How we tested the Asics Trabuco Max 3

Our tester for the Asics Trabuco Max 3 trail running shoe was James Forrest. James is one of our long-time freelance gear testers both for LFTO and our print magazine, Trail. He puts every shoe through its paces on his local trails in the Lake District, covering enough distance to destroy even the toughest ultra trail running shoe.

As well as being a prolific long-distance walker and runner, James is also one of the most high-profile outdoor writers in the UK.

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