THOMAS: It’s no surprise that we haven’t been that inspired by ASICS’ offerings over the last however many years. But we’ve been rooting for them behind the scenes. I mean, it’s ASICS, one of the OG legends in running and footwear.
The truth is, ASICS has always put together quality constructed shoes. The problem is that they tended to be overbuilt. That led to heavy (see: clunky) trainers. But the times they are a changin’. Let it be known, 2020 marks the beginning of the renaissance of a legend.
And it starts with the GEL-Nimbus Lite, a lighter (duh), more modern feeling trainer with an all-new Flytefoam midsole.
The shoe is obviously a lighter version of the classic GEL-Nimbus (now in its 22nd version). According to ASICS, “the shoe was built to be a younger, faster Nimbus, lighter and built through a sustainable focus– looking to highlight many of the ‘green’ production techniques [they] have.”
If the GEL-Nimbus 22 is a Cadillac Escalade, the GEL-Nimbus Lite is a Tesla Model X. The sustainability portion is certainly there– the tongue mesh and shoelaces are all 100% recycled while a lot of the mesh in the upper is also part-recycled. Even more wild, the Flytefoam midsole utilizes biomass waste product from processed sugarcane.
Lots of new things going on here, so let’s get into it!
DAVE: It seems like for me, the ASICS brand has taken a hard left turn from my shoe arsenal in the past few years. Most pairs sit in the dusty garage, waiting for the never-ending shoe fairy to come and take these souls to a better place.
It’s not that they weren’t trying (or maybe they weren’t) but they just failed to change. And as anyone knows in this shoe game, or just in life— failure to change often leads down a lonely road.
So, here comes the positive part of all this. When the whole BITR team was down in Texas at The Running Event in December, we had a meeting with these cats. I wasn’t sure I stepped in the right booth. It was like it was raining tacos pastor (an ultimate dream of mine). The floodgates had been lifted. We have movement from ASICS!
In their prep for an outstanding 2020/2021, the good ol’ classic, the GEL-Nimbus, went Paleo or Keto, or whatever. The all-new GEL-Nimbus Lite shed over 2 oz., looking much sleeker and trim, so I was immediately intrigued.
THOMAS: At 10.35 oz./295g for a US M10.5, it isn’t racing-flat light, but it does get the shoe into the modern weights of a daily trainer. I’ll get into comparisons in the conclusion section below, but for now, we can talk about what makes this shoe a killer.
The upper is classic ASICS. Every detail looks thoughtful. The engineered mesh toe box breathes well and can accommodate a wider forefoot without being too sloppy on my narrow foot. The cushioned tongue and ankle collar follow the standard modus operandi for ASICS (i.e. max comfort). The GEL-Nimbus Lite fits true to size.
While the upper gives you everything you’d expect from ASICS, the real magic is in the new Flytefoam midsole with encapsulated GEL. Get ready for soft landings that bounce back. The ASICS GEL-Nimbus LITE packs in a smooth ride that protects your feet from the harsh impact of running. The shocker is that the softness doesn’t slow you down. At least, not too much for a high cushioned daily trainer. On a 10-mile run, I ended up running a tempo run by accident. I was on an easy run and just got into a groove, and when I saw my paces at the end, I was pleasantly surprised.
There is still GEL in the midsole, but it is used more like the way Nike uses AIR in the midsole of the Pegasus, sandwiched in the middle of the midsole. For the first few miles I could notice the GEL in the forefoot. Since then it has virtually disappeared except for the vibration dampening effect and the resilient bounce. This midsole feels amazing on fresh legs and even better on tired legs.
There is a ton of rubber on the outsole. Clearly, the ASICS team made choices on where they would sacrifice durability for weight. They could have shaved some weight by using less rubber, but that doesn’t seem to be where they wanted to cut corners. There is more space between the rubber islands and it gives the GEL-Nimbus Lite excellent flex while running. Again, everything about this trainer is smooth. Think Denzel smooth.
DAVE: It’s not a clunker. In fact, it doesn’t have that “in hand” feeling of heftiness you would get from the classic Nimbus or Kayano.
It’s in the sub 10 oz. club for a US M9. And with that, when locked and loaded, it feels like a normal running shoe. It doesn’t feel like an ASICS. I like that.
It’s runnable. Just not my cup of tea. It’s a tease for what I know is definitely coming down the pike from these guys and gals.
Were you waiting for more? Oh. Yeah, that’s going in the next column.Shop ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite
THOMAS: Overall, the GEL-Nimbus Lite hits the mark for the ASICS team. I’d still like to find some places to shrink the weight. Maybe thin out some of the ¼” rubber on the outsole, take some of the puff out of the tongue and collar, and get rid of the plastic molding on the exterior of the heel counter. I’d also get rid of the spongy laces and go with something more ribbon-like. For reference, take a look at the laces on the Nike Peg Turbo 2.
DAVE: It’s still that classic ASICS ride. I just never liked that. I have to work to be smooth in the shoe. Never a fan of having to do that. I had a tough time getting off the heels with the uber-high drop, and the midsole wasn’t powerful enough to give me a nice transition to the toe-off for some pop. It’s just a poor transition rate for me. Maybe I’ve been running in far too much Razor, but there’s nothing special going on under my foot. And with that, it’s just not going to be a common pull on my shoe rack.
As far as the Flytefoam midsole— it woke up from a nap, but after some miles, it wants to go back to bed. It’s not awful, it’s just not as snappy as some other midsoles out there right now (e.g. Hyperbust or PWWRUN+).
Lastly, the lacing was a bit rough for my narrow foot. I never got that locked and loaded fit I like, even trying all the lacing schemes. Guess my foot just wanted to say no in testing.Shop ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite
THOMAS: This is a huge step forward for ASICS, and from what we saw when we visited with their team at The Running Event, this is only the beginning.
For me, the GEL-Nimbus Lite would have been in contention for the top daily trainer in 2019. In my opinion, it goes head-to-head with New Balance 1080 v10, Nike Pegasus 36, and the Nike Pegasus Turbo 2. During my first run in the GEL-Nimbus Lite I thought of the Pegasus 36, but as I put more miles on the shoe, it really is more similar to the 1080 v10 and the Turbo 2. It has a lot of cushioning and responsiveness in a svelte package. If you haven’t run in ASICS in a while, give the GEL-Nimbus Lite a shot. And if you are a fan of ASICS, this shoe might blow your mind.
DAVE: I put about 75 miles on this GEL-Nimbus Lite. It kinda just stayed the same. Runnable, but not funnable.
Here’s the gist of it. Are you an ASICS fan? Do you currently run in the Nimbus? Here you go! You’ll love it. It’s lighter, it may feel awesome.
I’m just not there yet. That said, I respect the efforts of the brand. And while it’s not perfect for me, I do think it’s a step in the right direction and things will continue to go up from here.
The ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite releases on 2/15 for $149.95, and you can preorder now at our affiliate partner Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the link below.Shop ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite