Asics Gel Nimbus Lite 100KM Review

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Wait, what? Another ASICS review?! Ummm yes… But I thought they make clunky shoes? Errr… yes they still do but they’ve a few gems as well, like the GlideRide, Novablast and the Gel Nimbus Lite. Released February 2020, I’ve never factored the GNL mainly because I already have the Infinity Run and GlideRide in rotation as daily trainers – same category, but entirely different in construction and feel. 

Up until last month, I’ve been enjoying the GlideRide (see review here) a fair bit, confident that they will return me 600km. Smooth, fun to run in and despite their weight, they can really lure you into quicker paces. Their locked-in feel allowed me to get right back into logging those miles following a foot injury that had taken months to heal. The joy slowly dissipated, however, when I noticed some discomfort and the occasional dull pain around my right metatarsals – right about where the pivot point of the shoes are – each time I ran in them. I observed that phenomenon for 2 weeks and I wasn’t wrong. I needed 5 days for the pain to completely subside, which completely negated the GlideRide’s daily use purpose. While I could still rely on the Turbo 2 and Infinity Run, I still prefer a softer and more protective option to rotate with, one that can take me over 20Ks on weekends and still have me running the next day.

So after a Father’s Day lunch treat at 1U, I thought what better to do than go on a running shoe expedition. Shoes tried were:

  • Triumph 17: Not bad at all, if loaded with extraneous padding which obviously added to the weight. The PWRRUN+ midsole is an interesting blend of responsive cushioning and feels lighter than their build-up appearance. At close to RM600, the Triumph 17 aren’t cheap. I passed.
  • Roadblast: The RM370+ scaled back version of the fun Novablast look good but just didn’t excite me enough. Perhaps they needed to be run in.
  • 880v10: Not cheap, and with the higher end 1080v10 on sale, the 880 felt decidedly average. 
  • Pegasus 37: Well, they were conspicuously missing from the 1U Nike store. Word has it that the women’s version provides a much better ride (due to the lower PSI of the air bag) and with a friend’s 9.5 fitting me, the 37 needs to be tried on in-stores, in 9.5 and 10 and in both men’s and women’s versions.

Disappointed that I wasn’t able to at least try on the Pegasus 37, I popped into ASICS, saw the offer going on for the Gel Nimbus Lite (GNL), tried them (*mind blown*) and here we are 100km later.

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It’s a Nimbus. Only lighter.
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Lateral view. Love the wavy-like patterns rippling out from the middle of the midsole. The protruded heel is clearly seen in this shot.
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Medial view. Notice the different wavy patterns than those on the lateral side.

The GNL’s design cues diverge from today’s shoe trends, in that there are no pull tabs, no carbon nor PU plates. They also don’t employ ASICS’s own design DNA as there’s no Impact Guidance Line, no visible gel inserts, no plastic Trusstic pieces glued to the midsole, and no senseless use of materials and overlays. Instead, you get a very ordinary but still great looking shoe that’s smooth, cushioned, stable enough for most. A shoe that also breathes very well, decently light and has eco-sensibilities? Count me intrigued!

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It says Nimbus on the tongue and removable sockliner.

My US10 weighs in at 10.05oz which means the GNL is lighter than the Triumph 17, the upcoming Ride 13, Pegasus 37, 1080v10, and ASICS’s own Cumulus 22 and Nimbus 22 (yup, the company released 2 versions of the Nimbus, both priced the same). They’re just a hair heavier than the Novablast. I was curious enough to know how much the GNL’s puffy stock laces weigh – 0.1oz each – so I swapped them out with Nike’s just to shave just a bit more off. I’ll have to check if that move resulted in them coming in right at the 10oz mark. Now, contrast that with the regular version of the Nimbus which comes in at 1.3oz more (yet with a lower stack height of 31/21) according to Running Warehouse. Why would one go for heavier shoes when a lighter option fulfils the role just as well?

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The very well constructed upper. The outer mesh is lofted and made from sustainable materials.

The GNL may have an understated look but there’s an green story behind the shoes. Much of the breathable loft-like upper are made of recyclable materials and the Flytefoam midsole comprises of cellulose nano-fibre. The upper is very comfortable and breathable, one that cuddles the feet very well without a constricting feel. The padding on the tongue and collar are plush but not overdone like those in the Triumph 17 and GlideRide. There’s enough space in the toebox and the amount of padding used on the tongue and collar are just right. Nevertheless, ASICS retained their trademark stiff heel counter here.

The FlyteFoam midsole feels softer on the GNL than in the other models, probably due to the cellulose use giving the runner a soft, smooth and bouncier ride. There’s no visible gel inserts but that doesn’t mean they’re not used. Oh, they’re there all right, embedded in the forefoot and heel areas of the midsole. A pair of Asics without gel is like having Laurel without Hardy.

As if to reflect the eco-friendly nature of the shoes, there’s liberal use of green – from the accents on the tiger stripes and the wavy grooves of the midsole to the all-rubber lugs of the outsole. Speaking of outsole lugs, are they substantial! Thick and chunky but ASICS’s decision to have deep and wide flex grooves are sound to preserve forefoot flexibility and keep the weight down. I’ve yet to encounter issues with traction, having run on loose gravel, road and wet tiled surfaces.

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Generous rubber coverage.

The amount of outsole wear is mixed with the forefoot push-off areas – where soft spongy blown rubber are used – showing some wear, while the heel sections literally see no wear and tear, the ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR) living up to their fabled reputation. Since the lugs are so thick, there’s little risk of the shoes not providing a good ROI. 

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Visible wear on the push off area. Blown rubber is spongy and soft but won’t wear as well as AHAR used in the heel section.

Step-in feel is soft and the cellulose-infused FlyteFoam midsole dishes out one very smooth ride that stops short of being mushy. If you’re a heel striker, your enjoyment of the GNL will be higher than that of a midfoot striker since you’ll be able to take advantage of rolling forward on that 10mm offset. My longest run in the shoes was a 21km, with the rest around the 11km mark and I’ll say that the GNL functions best as an easy pace cruiser and a comfy recovery run shoe. Lock into a zone and the miles just go by. On several occasions when I pushed the pace a bit, they were able to respond in a manner like a Honda City, which isn’t much! They’ll get up to speed but not as quickly as something more responsive and won’t feel comfortable holding that pace for long. 

Running downhill certainly feels sweeter than going uphill – the soft forefoot not quite aiding an efficient and forceful push-off. Discard your urge to speed up – there are shoes for that – you’ll enjoy your time in the shoes. That’s what the Nimbus series are made for – easy miles. I don’t have negatives strong enough to mention here and that’s a good thing, and keeping to the shoes’ understated sensibilities. 


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Similar shoes to the GNL are ASICS’s own Nimbus 22, Hoka Clifton 6 and the upcoming 7 (which weighing in at a low 9oz, looks promising), Nike’s React Infinity Run, and Pegasus 37 (based on weight as I’ve yet to try them on), NB 880v10 and 1080v10, and Saucony Triumph 17. It all comes down to price point, and how firm and responsive you want your daily trainer to be. The GNL are by no means, in my books, the daily trainer of 2020, but should ASICS drop the offset down to 8mm by shaving off a couple of millimetres from the heel and utilise FlyteFoam Propel as the forefoot midsole (much like how HOKA mixes up their ProFly midsole), I might be persuaded to reconsider. Since the RRP of the GNL remains on the premium end, and ASICS are wont to stick to their 10mm formula for their core range and let the Guidesole series be their innovation front, things will stay status quo as far as the Nimbus go.

I purchased the Gel Nimbus Lite at a discounted price of RM443 during the promo month of June. As of the date of this post, they have an RRP of RM611 from their online store.

Asics GlideRide Tokyo 100KM Review

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With a toe spring resembling a scimitar’s upturned blade, will the Asics GlideRide push the company’s fortune upwards as well?

After being the subject of jokes and snarky comments for several years, Asics is finally back. I’m not the first to say it and if the company continues to put out fun shoes to run in, I won’t be the last. As shoe geeks, we want to see innovation from companies and our frustration with the company from Kobe has been about its lethargy at getting off the blocks when other companies were innovating like crazy. If it ain’t broke *shrugs*…

The bulk of shoes that Asics produces sit at extreme ends of the spectrum. On the featherweight end, you” find the hardcore Tarther and Sortie racing flats while on the other, overbuilt blocks of foam, plastic and overlays. And Gel. The GTs, Nimbus, and Kayano you see in 2020 are essentially the same GTs, Nimbus and Kayano from 2017 albeit a shade lighter with updated midsole tech. They’re all still behemoths. It’s as if the company equates weightiness and heft with support and cushioning. Then there’s the middle-of-the-park revivals like the Dynaflyte and Roadhawk which were supposed to excite runners but ended up meh. Early iterations of FlyteFoam was too underwhelming to hold up even against NB’s Fresh Foam, much less Boost, React or Zoom X. For those of us who ran in a pair of Asics or two back in the days, it was frustrating to see how much ground the company have lost.

Things started to get a little interesting, however, in February 2019 with the launch of the Metaride. Still found on the shelves today, they have a proof-of-concept feel, highly stacked, super stiff, super heavy, super expensive (RM999 launch price, RM699 on clearance today), well you get the idea. It was as if Asics dumped all their tech on it just because they could. Little did we know that the Metaride (MR) was to be the first of three “energy saving” shoes featuring the Glidesole technology – a highly rockered midsole to reduce ankle flexion, and a precursor of things to come. While they managed to raise some eyebrows, the MR didn’t translate into mainstream acceptance. That was about to change with the second and third models in the series a few months later.

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That second shoe would be the GlideRide (GR), launched in September 2019. Asics America even had a event for that at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. You can check out the YouTube video here.  The event’s tagline of “Race with No Finish Line” – indeed one of the consultant’s muttering “There’s no finish line” survived the editing process – came extremely close to a certain brand’s tagline! As it turned out, the GR is a toned down version of the MR – all the tech but in a more accessible form factor, higher comfort level and “reasonable” price tag.  The final piece in the trifecta would be the performance oriented Evoride (ER). Launched February 2020, the ER weighs in under 10 oz and marries an extremely sweet rocker forefoot with a firmer heel for the faster days. At a very decent RM479 price tag, they will easily find a spot in a shoe rotation for the quicker days. In my opinion, the ER is a direct competitor to the Rival Fly 2, and indeed the Zoom Elite 9 (remember that?) but with more pop in the forefoot.

Now comes the question. What made me get the GR? A few reasons.

  1. With road races not happening in 2020, all the running I will be doing are going to be for maintenance and rebuilding. In fact, I’m currently alternating a 6-week base plan with a 1-week cutback. Until the future racing road map clears up, keeping things loose, fun and enjoyable are more important than being stressed up, which we already have too much of. The base plan merely enables me to run within a certain parameter. With most of the running being about maintaining aerobic fitness, the need for a durable daily trainer far exceeds that of, say a NB FuelCell TC or Endorphin Speed/Pro.
  2. My 2 daily trainers have been the Infinity React [review] and the FuelCell Propel [review]. I’ve found running long e.g. over  in the Infinity React tough. I’m not sure what it is, but after 100km, I’ve begun noticing the shoe’s idiosyncrasies a bit more. The forefoot seems to lack that bit of involvement and pop, and there’s something a bit off with the fit. The limited lacing options probably contributed to that latter observation. The Propel are counting down their remaining 200 km of life and would soon be packing it in.
  3. I’ve got a great deal for the GR. I was going to get the discounted OG red colourway GR from Asics Malaysia website (free shipping too) but snagged an offer from a shoe collector letting go his pair of unworn GR Tokyo Edition at a price cheaper than even the discounted OG. Once the Propel are retired, the GR will be rotated with the Turbo 2.

Since I entered the game late, I won’t be rehashing the tech specs of the GR here. Well, I could still glean over some tech details along the way but I won’t be covering them specifically. For tech specs and great content, let me point you to the following reviews by seasoned shoe geeks. In this post, I will put in my thoughts in relation to their reviews and add a bit more on my wear experience.

Seth DeMoor’s Top 3 road running shoes of 2019 | Seth’s 150 Mile review | Seth comparing several of Asics’ 2020 lineBelieve In The Run  | Road Trail Run’s multi tester review | Eddbud’s review | Fordy Runs

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What other reviewers say: My take:
GR is heavy but you won’t feel the heft. That’s absolutely true. My US10 weighs 10.8oz but once you’re laced up, you certainly won’t feel the weight. In fact, they felt more like 9.8-10oz shoes. They’re just so well balanced at every point of the gait cycle unlike the bottom-heavy Zoom Fly 3 (ZF3).
One reviewer suggested that the GR is what Nike aspired the Zoom Fly 3 to be. I don’t think so. I’m not sure if that was what Nike set out to do since the ZF3 was released before the GR. I feel conversely is true. Asics set out to model a trainer after the ZF3 and IMHO came out the winner. Point to note that the only ZF that I really like in the series is the SP Fast.
The GR fits true to size Agree. They’ve a comfortably snug heel and midfoot that open up at the forefoot. Plenty of room for the toes to splay. I wear thin socks with the GR.
Breathable Partially agree. While they’re breathable (and remain dry) at the vamp/upper, the thick tongue gets a little moist after my runs. Considering how much plushness they offer, that’s not too bad. For comparison, just watch the reviews of the Triumph 17 to hear the runners’ concerns about the heat build-up issues.
While they’re primarily for easy-paced high mileage use, the GR are especially fun at up-tempo paces. One reviewer even worn them at 4:00 pace and another for Park Runs. Agree. While the GR are versatile, they’re best enjoyed at moderate paces, which for me, are between 5:45/km to 6:30/km. I noticed that it’s really easy to move from 6:20 to 6:10 without much labour. It’s ridiculous to even think a 10.8oz shoe can be so fun at quicker paces. I’ve had to tamp down on the pace the first few runs I ran in them. One can get easily get carried away!
It takes a couple of runs to get used to it. No issues for me. They were fine from the get-go. Having run in plated shoes with toe spring and stiff rocker, there was no transition needed for me.
Smooth ride. Agree. While the rocker feeling was pronounced, turnover was smooth.
Stable Agree. The midsole flare and combination of softer Flyte Foam under the sockliner and the firmer Flyte Foam Propel create a secure platform whichever way I turn.
The shoe favours heel strikers. Agree. Heel strikers would be able to feel the protective cushioning of the heel and take advantage of the impact dispersion of the concave cutout where the heel sits, as they transition smoothly through the gait cycle. However, those who land slightly forward can feel that too, albeit a lesser extent.
Built like a tank. Agree, though I’d really like Asics to go easy with the padding on the tongue and collar for v2.
Asics is back! Agree to a point. The GR, ER and Novablast are such fun shoes to run in and freshest to come out of Asics for some time but there are several indications that they won’t be doing anything drastic to their staples such as Kayano and Nimbus. Variety is great and as long as Asics continue to innovate and improve on the funner outputs, we will continue to be excited.

Now back to the review, I’ve just crossed the 100K mark in the GR. The shortest run was a 4K the day I received the shoes and the longest was a 21K during the N2E Virtual 10-Miler (yes, I topped up), over the long Hari Raya weekend. At this point, I see no reason to hit over a Half Marathon distance because there’s nothing to train for. Then again, if I’ve time and some crazy friends are willing to come along, that 26K – 30K will not be disrupting any training plans, will it? We shall see. As I’ve said, “As long as it’s fun!”.

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Whether the run is a short 4K around the housing area or a Half Marathon distance, the step-in sensation is very plush. The GR has a 5mm drop but it’s not noticeable at all, the aggressive rocker being the more obvious sensation. Even though the shoes favour a heel striker, I find it hard to heel strike. I even tried forcing it but just couldn’t after 3 steps! Instead, I hit the ground slightly more forward.  I’ve also found that this is one shoe that’s hard to run really slow. Without pace discipline, one can easily transition to up-tempo paces without realising it. My sweet spot  is between 6:10 to 6:35/km. Dropping to 5:10, even 4:55, isn’t a problem but not sustainable presently. FYI Seth, whose link I provided above, ran his 13-miler at 3:50/km in the GR so the ability to manage this heft rests as much on a runner’s strength. You’d be right to ask that with many lighter options out there, is it necessary to be carrying this much weight? Definitely not, since the weight will surely ummm… weigh you down in the later miles. Nevertheless, I reckoned that logging miles in a hefty shoe such as the GR will only build strength over time and pulling on the Next% for a race would be like wearing nothing! Train heavy, race light!

I did consider the following alternatives prior to the purchase, but their drawbacks in “()” held me back:

  • 1080v10 (reports of FreshFoam X firmness, upper appear less breathable, price after discount is more than I would’ve liked)
  • Triumph 17 (upper breathability issues, even heavier than the GR)
  • Ultra Boost 20 (price, heavier than the GR, traction, I’ve worn 2 UBs before)
  • SL20 (performance and speedwork oriented)
  • Evoride (rear cushioning skewed to performance and speedwork use)
  • Novablast (less stable than I’d like, race-retired 4% that can do the same work, price)

Other than the Evoride and Novablast, the other options are pretty much traditional running shoes with updated midsoles – the exception being the Ultra Boost, still saddled with an ageing midsole. With the GR, there are so many positives from the reviews and the chance to try Asics’ new plated geometry proved too irresistible. The seller’s willingness to let them go at an amazing price pretty much sealed the deal for me. Would I have made the same purchase decision had the asking price been higher? Probably not and I’d have waited.

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If you’re intrigued by the GR, be aware that the shoes offer a smooth but firmer ride. This isn’t a Clifton, Rincon, Turbo, or Ultra Boost. And how much cushioning you feel depends on where you strike. Whichever type of runner you are, you’ll still enjoy the toe-off pop. That’s what makes the shoe so fun to run in. I did swap out the stiffer and firmer stock insole for the softer Sofsole which improved the ride and I reduced the lacing of the 7(!) eyelets to 6 to accommodate a runner’s knot. The shoe locks down well without the tweak but I felt it unnecessary to use up all the eyelets.

Asics could do better to make the entire upper less stiff, even though they’re one of the most comfortable (from the tongue to the collar) I’ve worn. The engineered mesh feels stiff to the touch, as if they’re stretched tautly over the vamp, giving you a roomy forefoot. The laces are of the non-stretchy variety but they’re long enough. The stretchy tongue is a little too padded though. It’s not gusseted but with ridge-like folds to help secure the laces, I’ve never encountered any slippage.

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Going to the midsole, a softer layer of FlyteFoam sits on top of a firmer one, giving the wearer immediate comfort and a quick and firm platform to launch into the next stride. Aided by the plastic plate that runs from the mid to forefoot, transition is smooth and as you pick up the pace, very quick. The GR is the antithesis to the Nike Free, Altra, Five Fingers out there. Pliable they’re not. Sure, there’s plenty of room up front to wiggle your toes but your feet are pretty much locked in and guided through the entire gait cycle in a stable manner. There’s little chance for ankle eversion and inversion – the bulk, stack height and stiffness pretty much limits that. Foot strike feels planted and secure. This is one stable shoe.

A sliver of Gel is present in the lateral heel and the outsole is made of a thinner than usual AHAR which, as expected, looks like new even after 100 km. The hexagonal lugs provide excellent traction on all surfaces I’ve ran on – road, sandy patches, tiled. As they’re hard compound, you’ll hear loud tapping with each foot strike, keeping the timing and pace like a metronome.

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I expected my legs to be trashed post-21km but they were fine. They weren’t mollycoddled for sure but my legs felt like they could still manage another 5km had I been fitter. There were absolutely no hotspots, nor were my socks soaked with sweat.

The Asics GlideRide gets my recommendation as an ultra durable long distance trainer and at least a must-try in-stores for those apprehensive about the brand. They totally different from what the company has put out in recent years. Due to their stiffness, rotate them with a conventional lightweight trainer so that your musculoskeletal system gets a variety of adaptations. Don’t get hung up about the weight and who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Disclosure: I purchased the Asics GlideRide new from another owner for RM420. They’re also available from the Asics Malaysia website from RM440 – RM543 (Hari Raya Sale price), a good deal for a pair that gets you a minimum of 600km.

Grungy Socks

I ran the ING New York City Marathon in 2008 before the inception of the World Marathon Majors. Getting in on the first try was an amazing stroke of luck. Even if it was post 9/11, I felt quite at ease in NYC. It was as if all the world’s troubles took a break over the marathon week as runners from all over the world congregated in the city.

Traffic stopped. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers, be they runners or non-runners came out to cheer us. It was an amazing experience – one to carry to my grave. With today’s uncertainties, I doubt I’d be able to visit much less to run there again.

The 2017 TCS NYCM is less than 8 weeks away and 2018 will mark the expiration of my travel visa (the officer gave me a 10-year visa so that I’d be able to qualify and run Boston☺️). Alas, while I’ve improved my marathon PR, I’m no closer by much in qualifying for Boston.

Now about the photo in this post. This pair of grungy looking commemorative socks I bought from the NYCM Expo have lasted me 9 solid years. Exceptionally durable and still serviceable today. I was clearing up my drawers when I spotted them. I thought I had discarded them some months ago. I picked them up intending to consign them to the bin when I reflected on how long they’ve served me. They’ve been put through the grinder, so many miles logged in them, through countless wash cycles, chucked into bags, car boots, stinky shoes, bottom of cabinets. Yet they’ve survived. Like these, I’m a survivor and I’ll continue to fight the good fight, in my racing.

But my personal observations on my training the past week and a half suggest that I’ll have to take some time off to recover and not attempt another marathon for the rest of the year. While I’ve had some excellent sessions, they’re been sporadic. Recovery has been slow as well. And so I’ve decided to postpone my moonshot at least until 2018 and will opt for a half in early December instead. I’ll enter the half with no expectations and will just enjoy the break from work. Rebuilding will happen as usual with shorter runs and the customary longer ones on weekends but I won’t be cussing if I miss any sessions. For that reason, I’ll stop providing my weekly training updates for now.

And the socks? Well I was about to drop them into the bin when I changed my mind as I reflected on the thoughts I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There’s something about this pair…

Asics Fuji Attack 2

After last month’s review on the Fuji Racer 2 (FR2 reviewed here, retailing for RM349), Gigasports sent another trail shoe my way, this time the much more protective Fuji Attack 2 (FA2). If you didn’t catch it already, asics have re-branded a number of their trail shoes to include the Fuji, the iconic mountain being the obvious inspiration behind the name.

The differences between the Racer and Attack are clear.

Despite the bulk, the shoe retains a reasonable amount of flexibility.

Now wiser, I opted for US10 just so that the shoe has space to allow my feet to swell as well as accommodate the wearing of thicker socks (such as the Drymax Trail). The US10 weighs oz with the sockliner, which isn’t too bad. Information is rather hard to find but RW Germany puts the FA2’s drop to be at 10mm. Other areas are standard trail training shoe specs – thicker rounded laces, slightly more padded upper that has a closer mesh and larger lace pocket than the FR2. The tongue is very well padded and is gussetted. The overlays are more substantial. Elsewhere, the midsole is SpEVA instead of the FR2’s Solyte. SpEVA is not as light as Solyte but it is cushier. A conventional hard heel counter and prominent toe bumper completes the upper. There’s a gel insert in the heel section of the midsole. For protection, the wearer can count on the thin rock plate at the toe-off section while aggressive lugs provide traction which are expectedly good over grass, loose pebbles and sharp rocks. There are no drainage ports and since I didn’t have the opportunity to test them on wet surfaces I’ll reserve my comments on this area.

Gussetted tongue and the lace pocket.

No drainage on the outsole for the FA2 while the FR2 at the bottom has 5.

You’d have correctly guessed then the FA2 presents a beefier take on the FR2, much beefier. It’s competition would be adidas Response Trail and Brooks Cascadia (I wore version 4 of the series for the TNF 50 in Singapore back in 2008). Being so built up, you can expect a plusher albeit ride and that’s what you do get. You’re not about to feel the rocks as much as the Racer.

If you’re looking for a more protective and cushier trail shoe from asics be it for training or racing which should you go for? The choices are plenty – the FA2 (RM329), Fuji Trainer 2 (RM399) and the even bulkier and heavier Fuji Trabuco (RM399). I’ve not had the chance to try the Trainer other than the few minutes of walking around in the store. It has a smooth ride but the tongue is conventional. I know that’s petty but I seriously dislike debris entering the shoes. Yet, at this juncture I still prefer the Trainer 2 over the Attack 2 but that’s a personal preference. The lower weight and drop, the blend of cushioning and support the Trainer 2 offers seemed more balanced than the FA2, which is more functional rather than spectacular.So it’ll be the Fuji Trainer for training and the Racer for races under 50K. A little bit more comfort and protection is always welcome for anything over 50K, in which case you could either opt for the Trainer or Attack. The trail shoe segment is getting to be packed. There are options aplenty from many brands.

If you place a premium on comfort over responsiveness, the FA2 warrants an audition. It has a wallet friendly price point to boot too.

The Fuji Attack 2 was kindly provided for my review by Gigasport, authorised distributor of Asics in Malaysia.

Originally published: Sep 13, 2013

Asics Fuji Racer 2

Since taking more and more to the trails 2 months ago, I’ve been sampling an increasing number of trail running shoes, so much so that from a sole rep – the Skechers GOtrail – I’ve acquired 2 Montrails and now am in the midst of putting the Fuji Racer 2 (FR2) through its paces. Given that the trails are only possible over the weekends, the 50Ks logged over 3 runs seem like some pretty extensive time put in.

Other than NB and adidas, Asics is one of the mainstream brands which produces a wide variety of trail models, from the beefier Trabuco to the much lighter FR2.

The FR2 follows the path of the successful FR1 and from visual cues, most of the changes are on the colorway. In concept, it remains the lighter and sleeker version of the Fuji Trainer 2 but the differences appear quite distinct. For this review I’ll take a look at the Racer.

True to its name, the FR2 is fits and feels like a fast shoe. It rides lower to the ground with a 6mm offset and has a responsive feel to it. There’s just enough support and overlays topside to give the shoe some structure without weighing it down. As a result, the weight is kept to a very decent 8.35oz. I like the thin laces which you can stow under a lace pocket (just like a Salomon) and also the gusseted tongue which manages to keep out most small pebbles (some still get in, though). The shoe is geared towards maximum drainage and breathability with plenty of open mesh used on the upper as well as ports in the outsole. Water will get in just as easily as they’re squished out. If you’re prone to getting frozen toes from a cold and wet run in a mountain race, you might want to explore another model. Otherwise, this would be excellent in tropical Malaysia.

Very “meshy”.

The lace pocket

There are fluorescent strips all over the top which I didn’t notice until pointed out by my running partner.

The single density responsive Solyte midsole contributes to a firm if flexible ride. I thought there was no rock plate under the forefoot of the midsole as my feet felt it a bit after bombing down the Rover track on my 1st long run (18K, 2:45). After poking around the web, I discovered that there’s indeed a rock plate. I changed my descent technique a little on the 2nd long run (20K, 2:40) opting for quicker turnover and smaller strides instead of bounding, and my legs and feet came out feeling better. I’m more inclined to attribute the absence of soreness to my method as well as better conditioning rather than the barely-there plate.

Closer look at the toe bumper.

The rubber on the outsole has a cross-diamond configuration. The lugs are small and aren’t particularly deep but it’s more than sufficient for dry, mildly loose or packed dirt trails. No issues on the leafy stretches of Dream Trail as well. I wouldn’t call the FR2 a “Door to Trail” shoe but it’ll take a very short road section adequately.

The crisscross configuration of the outsole lugs. You can also see the drainage ports here.

The FR2 did struggle over a clay section of my route when the soil clung to the shoe. However, once the section was gotten over with the soil was quite easily dislodged. Rocky sections are always tricky to negotiate and one can easily wring an ankle, which is why I’m always leaning towards a lower profiled shoe as theiy allow me to react quickly and catching how the feet slips before . The low drop FR2 fulfills that well. The outsole durability is excellent, with nary any wear signs so far. They should hold up well.

I’ve not had slippages going over wet planks and rocks yet mainly because I was pretty cautious about them, relative new shoes and all. But as I gain confidence, I’ll be a little more carefree and see how the shoes perform.

In conclusion, the Fuji Racer 2 presents a fast and responsive ride that’s built lower to the ground. It’s firmness is ideal for fast running and hill repeats on the trails, and it’s got a nice blend of flexibility and structure without the bulk. In terms of sizing, I suggest going half a size larger. However if a softer or plusher ride is what you seek, there are many other options out there.

The Fuji Racer 2 was kindly provided for my review by Gigasport, authorised distributor of Asics in Malaysia.

Originally published: Jul 24, 2013

Asics DS Racer 9

Boy, I’ve been wanting to get this post out going for the longest time but somehow the other review shoes kept coming in and I was obliged to put them to quick tests to get the word out. Even though the opinions on the review shoes are all mine, there’s still a personal policy to get that done as soon as possible. Since the DS Racer was an out-of-pocket purchase I thought it can wait. Now that I’ve covered 200 kilometers in them, I think it’s time to get this out. While the model is still current!

The DS Racer has come some ways. While it doesn’t have the history of the Kayano and Pegasus, it has been the more popular lightweight trainer from Asics. Not many can wear flats such as the Hyperspeed, Speedstar, Tarther, Piranha, Bandito, Skysensor, but the DS Racer is very much accessible to middle of the packers due to its balance of weight, protection, responsiveness and comfort. As with the habit of shoe companies, the DS Racer suffered the fate of overengineering incurring the ire of the faithful. The Speedstar 5, for example, suffered from breathability issues and the 6 appears to still retain the neoprene-like upper.

The DS Racer 9 (DSR9) however saw the return to a simpler construction of the performance training range. There are still areas for material reduction but the 9 is a return to the right direction.

Drainage/vent ports visible on the outsole

From its appearance, the DSR9 which is meant to complement the DS Trainer 17, looks just like any other supportive/cushioned shoe from the Kobe-based company. Striking colors (consistent with their 2012 range), dual density Solyte midsole with a DuoMax medial post, blown rubber forefoot, high abrasion rubber heel plugs, midfoot trusstic piece. But look closer and you’ll see that the said blown rubber forefoot design mimics the Hyperspeed’s criss-cross construction, only thicker. Also, the upper is now made up of a few thin layers – one that mimics Brooks’ Pure Connect. It’s a beautiful shoe.

I’ve worn the DSR9 from 3K runs right up to the marathon. In fact it was my race shoe at the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon where the wearer didn’t fare as well as the shoe, I might add 😉

Thin layers under the top mesh reminds me of those from the Pure Connect.

I’ve not had a single hotspot in the DSR9. Breathability is good and the shoe can be cushy and responsive depending on the pace you’re running. I’m surprised to have found out that the 7.9oz shoe has an 11mm drop according to Running Warehouse. There’s no traditional beefy heel feeling to it. During my struggles with plantar fasciitis earlier this year, this was my go-to shoe as I laid off shoes that ride too low. If you are seeking something of lower drop from Asics yet offering some lightweight comfort, you’ll have to wait for the Gel Lyte33 (similar weight but at 6mm drop).

Can anyone tell me what those characters mean?

Durability after 200KM has been fantastic. The ride is smooth with no hint of ski-boot feel. While it may not be a shoe you’d take out for 800m repeats, it’ll feel very much at home doing long tempos and long runs, and certainly as a marathon race day shoe. On top of that because of its excellent breathability (8 vents on the outsole) and support, the DSR9 would be a superb shoe for a road ultra or the marathon leg in an Ironman race, certainly more flexible and less bulky than the fluorescent Noosa Tri. Just be sure to pick a full size larger to accommodate swelling feet if ultrarunning is your game. The shoe runs true to size, so I needn’t deviate from my usual US9.5.

The 2 characters again. Anyone?

Up until this point you’ll notice that I’ve very little to complain about the shoe. Sure, I wish the heel is 3mm lower but the ride is superb. I don’t heelstrike that much in the DSR which is why I doubt the 11mm drop. From the many photos posted here, you can see that there’s plenty of room up front. The toebox doesn’t drastically taper and scrunch up the toes. My pinkies have plenty of space to wiggle around and upwards too.

After around 120KM of use. After 200KM, nothing much has changed.

A shoe that just works

I’d recommend the DS Racer 9 for most runners out there looking for a superb blend of cushioned ride and responsiveness in a lightweight package of under 8oz. It’s not a racing flat, and if you’re looking for one from Asics then the Hyperspeed would be it. It’s hard to fault the DSR9 and it definitely warrants a try at the stores. Other performance trainers that offer a little stability are Mizuno Wave Precision, Nike Zoom Elite, Nike Speed Lite, Brooks Pure Flow, and Skechers GOrun Ride.

Now, what are the odds of Asics tinkering with the DS Racer 10? We’ll never know with the way sports companies work but I’d say that if they want to improve the shoe further, make the next iteration a 6mm drop shoe and nothing else.

For:
– a versatile shoe
– a wide population of runners
– flexible and smooth ride
– ultrarunners, triathletes who seek breathability in a light yet supportive package
– the price, considering it’s Asics.

Not for:
– the pure minimalist

Originally published: Aug 7, 2012

Asics Skysensor Breeze

With the Lunaracer approaching its end of life, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a pair of racing flats. Imagine my surprise when I chanced upon the asics Skysensor Breeze at the Isetan sale a few months back. This model is completely alien in this country and from my persistent digging on the Internet, I found out that the Skysensors are only available in Japan and Taiwan. It’s therefore a good thing for Isetan, being a Japanese retailer, to bring in such models. RM270 (USD87) after a 30% discount isn’t exactly on the cheaper side of things but racers are not known for being affordable, especially hard to get ones.

As a matter of fact, there are a few versions of the Skysensor and since the online resources relating to these racers are in Japanese, I’ve no way of providing more information on the shoes. What you’ll read in the following paragraphs will basically be my observations of the Breeze version, worn for the first time during my recent speedwork. I needed to find out the characteristics of this shoe before deciding on my Penang Bridge Marathon footwear – I’m a little concerned that the 2008 Lunaracer may no longer able to stand up to the marathon distance. It has 300KM under its belt.

Firstly, about the speedwork. The plan was to run a short warm-up distance – I covered 4K (25:46) – before hitting 6 reps of Yasso 800s. After completing the warm-up, I commenced my dynamic stretching, did some lunges and rapid turnover drills before getting down on the Yassos. The principle behind Yasso 800 (created by Bart Yasso, RW’s Chief Running Officer) is to run the 800 meter repeats at the marathon goal time equivalent in minutes. For example, if you plan to run a 4-hour marathon, you’ll need to do the 800 meter reps in 4 minutes. To prepare for a 3:50 marathon will mean hitting your reps in 3 minutes 50 seconds. Very simple. I’ve found the workout to be beneficial, if executed a few times within the last 6 weeks on a marathon training program.

Once the warm up was completed, I readjusted my Forerunner and reduced the 6 reps to 4. Since this was my first structured speedwork in a long long time, I decided to stay on the conservative side, setting an achievable goal than being too gung-ho about the whole exercise. The goal was to hit the reps in 4 minutes each (This set timing is no indication of my upcoming marathon goal time! I was merely keeping things simple), with a 2-minute recovery in between the reps. As I started my workout after 7pm, the number of runners and walkers on the track had significantly thinned out, allowing a smoother run. It wasn’t easy but at the same time it wasn’t eyeballs out too, and I was able to hit the timing 3 out of the 4 reps.

1st 800m – 3:53, 2nd rep – 3:55, 3rd rep – 3:55, 4th rep – 4:20 (encountered some side stitch). Total workout timing was 22:17 for 3.9KM, inclusive of the recovery walk phase. It was an amazing feeling after that and frankly I was very surprised with the consistent splits, which were really run based on gut feel. I’ll skip the Yassos next week, opting for Hill Repeats instead, before returning to 6×800 meters the following week. Now on to the impression of the Skysensor Breeze.

Ummm... the shoe wallet didnt come with the shoe. I bought it at the 2008 NYCM Expo!
Ummm… the shoe wallet didn’t come with the shoe. I bought it at the 2008 NYCM Expo!

asics have always had a strong tradition in racing flats, from the DS Racer, Piranha (which replaced the Ohana), Speedstar, Hyper Speed and the Magic Racer. Both the DS and Magic Racers have small medial posts, unlike the neutral Breeze. If you’re looking for asics racing flats in Malaysia, good luck to you – all are not easy to find in the local market. I think the Skysensor Breeze is only released in the Far East by asics. Nike is the other company I know that releases Japan specific models. Check the RW forums and you’ll find the rants of many hardcore runners on this issue.

My observations of the asics shall be made in comparison with the Lunaracer, since it remains my favorite racing flat. Comparing a review item to another will provide a better reference point to the reader. The Breeze is not as light as the Lunaracer (5 oz.) and I reckon it to be between 6 to 7 oz. Still feather-light for a go-fast shoe. The upper is soft throughout and made of large mesh which I found to be very breathable. From what I can see from the minimalistic label, the makeup of the Breeze include something called the R Gel (I suspect R stands for Racing, a lower profile gel pad), AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Rubber) as heel plugs, Wetgrip outsole, Solyte midsole and something called Spacemaster. I’ve no idea what Spacemaster is and I doubt it can send me to the ionosphere and beyond but since I’ve kept the label, I’ll get someone who knows Japanese to translate for me.

The wavy pattern of the Wetgrip blown rubber outsole
The wavy pattern of the Wetgrip blown rubber outsole

Notice the pod-like midsole construction in the photo below. The cut-aways help reduce the weight while still providing a small degree of lateral stability to the wearer. If you need greater control, such shoes are not for you.

The large open mesh and neat laces
The large open mesh and sparkly laces

You can see that the sockliner is also highly breathable, with perforated construction
You can see that the sockliner is also highly breathable, with perforated construction

So how does the shoe measure up? First thing that came to mind was comfort. The whole package is soft and there’s not a stitch of stiffness in the shoe’s upper which wraps nicely around the feet much like a sock. The sockliner isn’t too pronounced to cause any irritation to the arch area. The heel to toe lift is minimal as can be expected of racing flats. My first run in the Breeze was a mix of easy-steady to tempo paced effort and I wasn’t disappointed. Every footplant was confident and assured and there was excellent traction. Unlike some shoes which encourages mid to forefoot landing, it wasn’t the case for the Breeze. I could land and take off any way I chose to, which was a mix of forefoot and heel striking. Although I sweated buckets, my feet remained cool and dry.

The wear experience of the Breeze and Lunaracer are completely ifferent. The Lunaracer is made with high tech materials and the other, a more conventional approach was taken. The Nike allows the feet to sink into the footbed while in the case of the asics your feet tend to rest on it. It comes down to preference of the wearer.

Another view of the sockliner
Another view of the sockliner

Having participated in many wear tests and performed a number of gear reviews I fully understand all the technology counts for nothing unless you reap the benefits. Read an opinion here. The shoes can be on 50% discount and weighs 14oz but if the wearer feels great in them and races a PR, would you generalize that the shoe is an amazing piece of work? What if the shoes feel great and fantastic but yielded the wearer no PR? Would that make it a lousy shoe? As you can see, it’s not a fair argument since the wearer can’t possibly expect a PR simply by the shoe/gear he or she wears. Race conditions and training all add up to the whole mix. Which is why I will stick to reporting on how I feel when using the product.

In this case, my take on the Breeze is based on a comparison with the Lunaracer (which I ran a marathon PR in incidentally). My take on the asics? From the angle of comfort, it’s right up there and has the potential to surpass the Lunaracer. A little weight gain for a bit more comfort around the collar, a wider forefoot to accommodate feet swelling on long runs. Breathable with no hotspots. The traction is superb resulting in confident foot plant when running fast. Of course I only ran a short distance in dry condition in them. Sterner tests beckon during my upcoming long runs before I form a conclusion.  But right now, based on initial take, I’m tempted to get a second pair.

Originally published: Nov 5, 2010