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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.