Sunday, April 15, 2018

ASICS Gel Cumulus 20 Initial Review: Solid Smooth Daily Trainer

Article by Sam Winebaum



Sometimes after one run I know! This is the case in the Asics Gel Cumulus 20. ASICS gave me a pair to test at their new downtown Boston creative studio Boston Marathon weekend. I have never run the Cumulus but had been impressed with beefier Nimbus 19 although I found it on the heavy side with a somewhat disconnected rear and front ride. The Cumulus 20 is one fine daily trainer and will for sure be in the running for my annual "What a Daily Trainer Should Be!"



Stats:
Weight: 10.1 oz/286 g US M9, 7.9 oz/224g US W9. Sample 8.5 weighs 9.8 oz/277g
Stack Height: 29mm heel/19mm forefoot, 10mm drop, Cumulus 19 was 30mm/20mm
Price $120. Available now.

Introduction
The stalwart Cumulus sees big changes for its 20th edition. The weight drops a full ounce. The Guidance Trussic plastic pieces at mid foot are removed, and the somewhat firm Flytefoam is dampened by a new layer of softer, bouncier Flytefoam Propel right under foot. The result is a stable, smooth running neutral trainer with a very stable cushioned heel and a more lively flexible front of the shoe. The new engineered mesh upper is outstanding: slightly stretchy up front with perfect foot hold, and plenty of width.

First Impressions and Fit

Classic black with white framing "Tiger" branding lines stand out on the blue upper. 
Fit is true to size with thinner socks but maybe a hair short. Their is plenty of pressure free forefoot volume and decent width.
The Cumulus has a very interesting upper with a soft slightly stretchy, overlay and pressure free front of the shoe with the foot solidly held by the Tiger overlays and a very long and firm heel cup which extends forward closer to the lace up than most shoes. I laced them up and went for a 5.5 mile run. No adjustments along the way as is the case for me with 90% of new shoes. The Cumulus was secure, pressure free heel to toe with plenty of foot splay room.

Upper
The upper is engineered mesh and entirely seamless.
The front has no seams or overlays other than a slight stiffening and raising of the toe bumper area. The black Tiger overlays provide outstanding mid foot hold.
Starting not far behind the laces the extensive firm heel cup at first glance would seem to be over kill but essentially provides a stability element to what is a neutral shoe. I do think ASICS could slightly reduce the substance of this heel cup to reduce weight and ease transition from heel to mid foot.
The ankle and achilles collars are densely and firmly padded. No soft pillows back there but plenty of slip free, if a bit snug, and secure padding. The tongue I might call medium in thickness and padding. There is no lace bite and no slip.

Midsole
In recent years ASICS has brought Flytefoam,  a firm foam with embedded organic fibers to increase its resiliency. It is a fine foam with some zing but lacking in bounce and liveliness for me. In the Cumulus 20 we see a new layer (the dark blue above) of softer bouncier FlyteFoam Propel just under the SpEVA 45 layer under foot in the Strobel board.  The heel and forefoot have ASICS trademark Gel inserts. As with the Propel, their presence does not create a sense of multiple disconnected layers and parts as I sometimes sensed in the Nimbus  The Propel provides a touch of the soft and bouncy while the regular Flytefoam provides cushion, some stability, and a lively response. I think the combination of SpEVA Strobel and Propel is more effective than Saucony's Everun TPU top soles.

Outsole
The outsole uses ASICS High Abrasion Rubber at the heel with softer blown rubber up front. There is no harshness felt up front and the Cumulus is admirably flexible.
The deep and effective Guidance Line is now no longer "impeded" by the now removed  stiff Trussic plastic pieces at mid foot and gave me a smooth transition at various paces.

Ride
The ride is a tale of two cities, both fine. The heel ride is notably stable, shock free, dense, and responsive without being brick or lump like. The forefoot has more than adequate cushion and flexibility and notably some nice road feel. Often daily trainers are monolithic in feel and the transition and then toe off labored on the run and dead feeling. Not so here. In some ways the ride reminds me of the Brooks Ravenna with its rear stability post and then softer flexible mid foot. In the Cumulus, the potential stability seems to mostly come from mostly from that extensive heel cup and the Flytefoam layer, so while super stable at the rear it is a seamless higher up feeling of stability. I do think the heel cup is a touch overdone as I found I wanted the upper parts of my foot to be able to start to roll to toe off a little earlier.

Conclusions
With the Cumulus 20, ASICS has taken one of its Legends and oh so carefully put it on a diet and improved it. I can't comment on the 19 as I did not run it, but I was neither a huge fan of straight firm Flytefoam or the Guidance Trussic in any of the recent ASICS I have run which include the Dynamis, Nimbus 19, or Roadhawk FF.  By removing the Trussic and layering a softer bouncier foam below the foot ASICS removed and improved on some of my dislikes.  As a runner who prefers stable, comfortably yet firmly cushioned and also responsive daily trainers, the Cumulus 20 is my kind of shoe. This is one fine modern design decently lively, stable, and flexible daily trainer which puts ASICS back in the hunt.

Comparisons
More to come as I run more in them, but the Saucony Ride 10 ((RTR review) immediately comes to mind. The Cumulus has a more comfortable and softer engineered upper with less metatarsal pressure. The ride of the Cumulus is slightly firmer but also due to the Gel inserts and the Propel layer at least as cushioned with less shock felt and a stronger more lively response from the Flytefoam.

Clearly there is also a comparison to the Nimbus 19 (RTR review) and 20 (a shoe I have not tested but with a similar underfoot construction as far as I can tell). The Cumulus 20 while having 2mm less stack is plenty cushioned and has the added benefit of no Trussic plastic and the new bouncier Propel foam in the mix, changes not made to the Nimbus 20 as far as I can tell. While I really liked the Nimbus 19, its upper is overbuilt and constraining in comparison. It is heavier and more boat like, more disconnected in cushioning components, and more labored in feel underfoot and in transitions from heel to mid foot to toe off than the Cumulus.

Reviewer Bio
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his birthday a 3:40 marathon.  

The Cumulus was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the comparison to the Ride 10 but would to hear your take on how it compares to the Ghost? After much experimentation, I have settled on these two trainers (Ghost/Ride) in recent years as they are both excellent shoes. My only criticism is the Ride can feel bland at times and the often wish the Ghost had just a little less heel stack/drop. Still searching for my Goldilocks...

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, need to closely compare but initial thought is that Cumulus is more lively and responsive , and a touch firmer than Ghost. Agree Ride 10 is a bit bland. Sam,Editor

Anonymous said...

How does flytefoam cushioning compares to Nike air zoom and Salomon opal/vibe cushioning in terms of feel/shock absorption

sam winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
All by itself I find Flytefoam firmer for sure than the other two having run the Roadhawk FF and Nimbus 19 recently . In the Cumulus with the new Propel layer a significant change. Still on the firmer side but with some rebound and softness from that layer. At this point in C20 similar to Salomon Energy Cell+ and Vibe, a firmer ride with both shock attenuation and response. Nike Zoom Air I generally find lumpy and firm well cushioned but kind of lifeless in road feel. Haven't tried the Peg 35 yet but comment applies to Peg 34. I actually find Zoom Air excellent in the Nike Terra Kiger 2 and 3 trail shoes, better for me than in the road shoes.
Sam, Editor
Sam, Editor
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Nerd said...

Hi Sam, how does it compare to Gel Cumulus 18 ? The 19th version changed too much in my opinon, narrow and stiff, the Cumulus 18 was perfect, I still save one for my official races.

sam winebaum said...

HI Nerd,
Thanks for reading and asking. Unfortunately I did not run the Cumulus 18 or 19. I do see from online pictures that both the 18 and 19 had that Trussic plastic piece under mid foot which the 20 doesn't so would expect that 20 has become more flexible or at least easier to transition. 20 is not the most flexible shoe but pretty decently flexible.
Sam, Editor