Monday, July 10, 2017

ASICS Gel Nimbus 19 Review: Plush Cruiser Kicks it in Lighter than its Weight!

ASICS Gel Nimbus 19
Weight: 11 oz./312 g (M9)
Stack: 31mm heel/21mm forefoot
MSRP: $160
Category: Premium cushioned daily trainer
The venerable Gel-Nimbus arrives at 19. My last was the 9 if memory serves. When ASICS and Running Warehouse offered Road Trail Run a selection of the latest including the new Roadhawk FF, Noosa FF, and DS Trainer (reviews soon).  I figured I should compare the Nimbus to other "premium" trainers Road Trail Run has reviewed and compared in recent months. These have included the Glycerin 15, Energy Boost, Vomero 15 and Triumph ISO 3. I was not optimistic as the Nimbus was the heaviest of the bunch and ASICS, other than their fine Japan edition performance trainers and racers, has quite frankly been lagging of late.

I am quite frankly very pleasantly surprised by the Nimbus 19. So pleased that for me it is the best of the premium bunch despite its "class leading" weight.

If you are looking for a very cushioned softer trainer which runs smoothly, quite lively and with great balance between heel and forefoot and at any pace consider the Nimbus. Read on to find out why.

First Impressions
This is one loud looking color way! The overlays and engineered mesh are elaborate and highly detailed. Fit at true to size is impeccable, easy to lace up and keep just where you want it. The fit is snug without any pressure points. I run them barefoot with zero problems as the finishing is smooth and soft all over.
The upper is a soft and dense engineered Grandient Jacquard mesh with some stretch and with a full lining.  ASICS call the fit FluidFit and it is well named. There are denser mesh areas  as well as thin overlays in the toe box area. While not a wide shoe the lack of heavy overlays in the toe box should make it accommodating to both narrow and wider feet. Further back the overlays are denser and thicker but are all no sew. The result is a consistent snug but pressure free fit and a fairly warm shoe.
The heel collar is thickly and densely padded with the padding extending quite far down towards the midsole.  The rear and front foot hold has zero slip even run barefoot and even in the rain with the shoes soaked.
The achilles hold is very narrow but again densely padded. I had no issues with the narrow achilles collar 
The heel counter has an external TPU cage and as a result and while firm is somewhat pliable particularly at the 2 side windows.

As was the case with the Energy Boost with its Boost midsole and Torsion plastic the Nimbus midsole is a fairly elaborate construction and one that works very well. 
The orange red layer is what we assume is a firmer ring of EVA to stabilize the foot onto the platform.
The sock liner is dense and thick with below it as the top layer of the midsole instead of a sewn in and glued Strobel board a layer of same ComforDry X40 soft material as the sock liner. To much soft directly underfoot I say. Step in is of course fabulous but...

On the lateral side side (see above, bottom shoe) we then have brown heel and forefoot inserts of the ASICS famous Gel. We found this layer to work superbly in the forefoot to soften impact and lead to a smooth toe off. At the heel, sitting below the soft board layer directly under the sock liner we find the heel landing a bit softer than we would like. A more conventional sewn and glued board might work better at the heel, or embedding the Gel or potentially a thinner Gel insert at the far back of the heel maybe more similar in thickness to the thinner front insert. Nothing wrong with how it feels underfoot but the combination of materials could use a touch more pop at the heel.
Below the Gel inserts we have ASICS excellent new Flyte Foam, the white layer. This relatively firm yet vibration absorbing layer is very responsive in the Roadhawk although here of course given the Gel layer the response while excellent for such a big shoe is attenuated and softer. Nothing wrong with that as this is a trainer but as stated above we think firming up that first layer under foot would really perfect an already superb ride. 

The medial side midsole has no Gel, just Flyte Foam. As the Flyte Foam is fairly dense and firm it provides some pronation support 

Moving to the outsole we have under mid foot plastic plates at the edges of the midfoot on either side, reminding of adidas, Salming, Mizuno and others who have such plates in their neutral shoes. ASICS calls this the Guidance Trusstic System when combined with the red ring layer and it is intended to provide torsional rigidity. 

As I need some mid foot to forefoot support but hate dense posts of EVA on the medial side, the conventional approach to pronation support, the Nimbus approach is just what I look for.  I also like that the plates do not extend all the way across the mid foot as the others with similar approaches do allowing ASICS Guidance Line (along the red line see below), carved out of the midsole from heel to toe, to really shine with the transition and flexibility is really smooth running and fluid in the Nimbus.

The outsole has 3 densities of rubber. The entire rear of the shoe to the rear of the plates is a thick very firm layer of ASICS High Abrasion Rubber or AHAR. The front outsole is 2 densities of ASICS DuraSponge blown rubber with the black outer ring and tip of the shoe firmer than the yellow center.
The outsole is thick and with superb coverage and contact. There is no question one can get many miles of running out of this outsole.  Yet, unlike some thick firm outsoles there is no sense the outsole is discontinuous from the rest of the underfoot ride anywhere.

The Nimbus flex is relatively flexible given its excellent outsole design and relatively low 21mm forefoot stack. There is a distinct flex point at the second lace loop and some spring, definitely noticed on the run and contributing to the feeling the shoe is lighter than its weight. Front of the flex point it is moderately stiff but not as stiff as say the Vomero 12. The result is a very smooth and stable toe off if a soft one.

The Nimbus has a soft yet dynamic ride. Transitions are smooth at all paces, remarkable for such a heavy very cushioned shoe. The weight appears well balanced so even slow runs are not like running in quick sand. The heel due to the thick soft Gel unit lacks a bit of pop. The forefoot is perfect for me with decent spring , plenty of cushion and stability.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Heavier, premium shoes such as the Nimbus are not my usual go to for even recovery runs.  I prefer to be sub 10 oz and firmer yet the Nimbus comfort, decently lively ride, and great balance has me reaching for them more frequently than others in its category.  Often softness and premium comfort comes with  a sense of not being able to move along to transition and while not a speedster this shoe is so refined and smooth that I forget the weight and just plain enjoy cruising along! 

While some have criticized Gel as a bit of a gimmick I think it works effectively in the right amounts and now when combined with the new firm responsive Flyte Foam introduced in the 19. It certainly makes the forefoot of the Nimbus superior in comfort,stability, and response to alternative such as thick layer of Boost backed up by plastic as in the Energy Boost or Nike Zoom Air which tends to make the forefoot stiff in the comparable Vomero. 

While a 10mm drop its flexibility and cushion could make it a strong alternative to maximal cushion shoes from Hoka and Altra if low drop is not something you are looking for. Unlike for example  the Wave Rider 20 with its firm heel plate, the Nimbus's softer Gel insert heel effectively lowers the drop somewhat but not as much as the very soft overly soft for me Glycerin 15. On the minus side the softness of the heel Gel insert is a touch to noticeable for me. A bit less GEL thickness, a firmer under foot board or embedding the Gel within the Flyte Foam on the lateral side would really perfect the shoe yet further.

The Nimbus is a great choice as a daily trainer for those who seek comfort that doesn't bog you down.  I am certainly digging the comfort. The stability elements and the supportive, if dense, soft and somewhat warm upper, could make it a good choice for heavier neutral runners and those seeking a very light amount of pronation support. 

Score: 9.8/10
-0.1 for weight. 11 oz is heavy for a neutral trainer. Come on ASICS get this shoe down to 10.5 oz if at all possible.
-0.1 for slightly over soft heel on landing. There is plenty of thick heel rubber. A bit less Gel or a firmer heel board under foot there would give it some more pop.
No points off as this shoe clearly is high quality and made for many many miles of use but a retail price of $160 is stout. 
Saucony Triumph ISO 3 (RTR review)
The Triumph is slightly more responsive and has a firmer heel. Its Everun insert whose bounce characteristics really aren't that noticeable as say Boost is fully encased within the midsole unlike the Gel which is exposed on the lateral landing side of the Nimbus.  Upfront, while a touch less flexible and softer, the Nimbus fore foot ride and transition is superior.  Its upper is superior for its flawless well held fit. The Nimbus is a smoother running more refined shoe for me especially a slower paces.
As someone who typically trains in lighter shoes such as the Saucony Ride or Zealot  when I want to go super comfort I would go all the way with the Nimbus.  
Nike Zoom Vomero 12 (RTR review)
The Vomero has grown on me. Its upper is similar in fit to the Nimbus although snugger all around but slightly more airy. It has a firmer more responsive heel. It is stiffer than I like up front due to the Air Zoom unit. If you are leaning towards faster in a premium trainer the Vomero edges out the Nimbus. If you are leaning towards pure comfort and a decently lively ride at moderate paces and with a not particularly noticed weight penalty compared to Vomero then the Nimbus. 
adidas Energy Boost 2017 (RTR review)
The Energy Boost has a superior upper with its stretch single density mesh and array of thin overlays. It is less balanced in weight with a heavy heel and a heavier overall feel on the run. It is not as much fun to run slow as the Nimbus. Not as versatile for all paces the Nimbus gets the nod.
Brooks Glycerin 15 (RTR review)
With identical 31mm heel/21 mm forefoot stack stats, the Glycerin is yet softer at the heel particularly at slower paces and lacks the mid foot support elements of the Nimbus thus transitioning more awkwardly for me, with more effort. It has a single density midsole of Brooks SuperDNA with a firmer ring near the foot as the Nimbus has. It's upper is the best of the premium shoes, light feeling, decently supportive with plenty of forefoot room. I struggled in the Glycerin compared to the Nimbus to run slower paces due to the heel softness. It's really missing a layer of firmer stuff such as Flyte Foam as the Nimbus has to give it more responsiveness yet while also providing that "premium" cushion.
The Nimbus 19 was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Questions, Comments Welcome Below!
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Brad said...

I really like the orange color of this pair of shoes. I tried the Nimbus 19, of a friend. Very cushioned shoes. It is very comfortable shoes for running and walking.

Anonymous said...

Forefoot GEL in the recent Nimbus line (someone disassembled one N15, and the ad for N20 shows identical placement still) is minimal afaik. Functionally there's only one dime-sized donut under the first joint of your thumb. The streak on the lateral forefoot that you see extends not into the shoe at all, being essentially a display window.

So the goodness you feel is almost entirely from the various flavors of foam. The GEL only made substantial contribution to the distinct flex line, being a much softer material than what the volume would otherwise be filled with. It is a gimmick after all, at least for the forefoot part.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for reading and for your analysis. I must say I can feel the effect of the GEL in the heel but not so much in the forefoot, a bit maybe and agree for a big shoe that is helps with flex. I am really enjoying the GEL-Cumulus 20, review linked below. It has some GEL but also a new layer of bouncier Flyte Foam Propel directly under foot before the firmer Flyte Foam. Gives the shoe more life that Gel and Flyte Foam alone.
Sam, Editor
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