Thursday, April 23, 2020

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 22 Review: A Now Softer and Lighter Classic

Article by Hope Wilkes and Michael Ellenberger

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 22 ($120)


Estimated Weight: men's 9.65 oz / 274g  US9, women's 8 oz / 277g  US8

Samples: 8.71 oz / 247 g women’s US9.5, 9.4 oz / 266g  men’s 8.5 

Drop: 9mm men’s, 8mm women’s

Available now including Running Warehouse here


Michael: As you can tell from it being the 22nd denomination, the new ASICS Gel Cumulus 22 is a shoe that’s been around, and around, and around the block. And yet, it’s a shoe I’ve never been super familiar with - I know how it slots in the ASICS line, and I know many runners who swear by it, but it’s never exactly called to me as a daily trainer. 

Enter ASICS in 2020: with the successful NovaBlast, Nimbus Lite, Ride- series (including the MetaRide and EvoRide), and the new MetaRacer under its belt, I felt ASICS was really on to something. The new Cumulus 22 is revamped from its predecessors, to be sure, sporting a lighter platform (0.4 oz / 11g lighter), softer foam,  and a refined upper. How does it fare? It may be a legacy shoe, lacking in some of the flashiest tech, but the Cumulus 22 is still a pretty darn solid trainer. Like the Nike Pegasus 36 of 2019, you can tell the Cumulus 22 is a member of the old guard - surrounded by new midsole geometry technology (Ride series) and novel foams (NovaBlast), but refining its own path rather than inventing new. 

To poetic? The Cumulus 22 is a strong, everyday mileage trainer that can win over fans from Brooks Ghost and even Launch lines, as well as other competitors. Is it perfect? No. But it’s good! And another sign that ASICS is moving very much in the right direction.

Hope: Michael rightly pointed out that the Cumulus 22 is a legacy trainer updated with some current tech, but that it’s not a “concept car shoe” or completely tricked out with the latest and greatest. I’ll admit that some ASICS models can run together for me when thinking about them abstractly, at least in terms of how each model feels and performs, because there are so many trainers in the line that have been around for double-digit iterations. With the Cumulus 22, honoring the model’s lineage is just one thing the shoe is doing. In addition to making long-time fans happy, it delivers a durable, responsive ride for new converts.


Michael: Light (!); aesthetics; jacquard mesh upper is well-done.

Hope: women’s colorway is refined and adult -- much nicer than the “shrink and pink”
some brands employ; soft upper, great road feel


Michael: Puffy tongue and heel; forefoot cushioning is lacking. 

Hope: I have concerns about the breathability of the upper in warm temperatures; GEL
seems like a visual gimmick only.

Tester Profiles

Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 

First Impressions and Fit

Michael: My first impression - and I imagine that of most runners trying this on, especially with familiarity of the Cumulus line - was that the Cumulus 22 is both familiar and improved. How is that possible? The familiarity should be obvious; the Cumulus 22, while containing a number of substantial improvements over its predecessor, still shares considerable DNA with the 21. It is, truthfully, more revolution than evolution, but the core of the Cumulus remains. 

But that other emotion at first-wear is improvement - the Cumulus 22 is a well put-together, clearly-2020 trainer, with an overlay-free upper, a new, lighter platform, and a cushy heel and ankle counter that you’ll notice immediately upon trying it on. A significant verdict from our multi-tester Cumulus 21 review was that, while the trainer was adequate, it was dated. Heck, click through the photos on that review - it already looks like a relic compared to the 22. Fortunately, “dated” is not a takeaway many will have here!

Hope: My first impression basically echoes Michael’s: the Cumulus 22 is recognizably ASICS and recognizably an entry into the Cumulus line, but it bears the hallmarks of 2020 running shoe design. 


Michael: To me, the upper is a more than welcome improvement over the Cumulus 21, which itself had a quite comfortable (if overbuilt) upper. Indeed, it’s really in comparison to the comfortable yet bulky C21 upper that you can really appreciate how well-done the C22 upper is: it’s an airy, open jacquard mesh that just feels substantial and durable, without relying on overlays or thick elements. Plus, I think the grey, blue, and orange colorway sent by ASICS really makes for a handsome shoe. 

Where the Cumulus 22 suffers a little - and actually, where several ASICS models have suffered, of late - is in lockdown, and particularly in the tongue. 

It feels silly to dedicate too much time to the tongue of a shoe, but as on the NovaBlast and the EvoRide, the Cumulus has such a thick tongue that tightening it down properly becomes an exercise in “grip and rip” when it comes to lacing. The Cumulus makes up for it slightly, though, with a heel collar and ankle cup that’s both exorbitantly puffy and grippy enough to hold your foot in place. That is, while the shoe may not feel as tight as I like without really yanking on the laces, my achilles was not sliding up and down.

Hope: I put my pair on the scale and then directly onto my feet for a long run. A fairly big act of trust for a brand new shoe! I had faith that the upper would be as good as it looks: soft, but still structured. No overlays, no blisters, right? As expected, the upper proved comfortable and irritation-free. For reference, I think the closest comp to the Cumulus 22 upper is the Nike Lunar Tempo OG or the barely changed Lunar Tempo 2 -- another overlay-free upper that runs warm. Again I agree with Michael in being perturbed by the thick tongue: it traps heat in the shoe and adds unnecessary bulk and weight. The heel is substantially padded, but not so aggressively that I found it puffy or overstuffed. 

Heel hold is excellent. An unexpected plus I discovered: the shoe sheds water very well: I sloshed through a big puddle on a rainy night and the water was gone from my shoe almost instantly. Happy to see a strip of reflective trim at the heel for low-light running, too.


Michael: Yes, it’s right there in the name, but the ASICS Gel Cumulus 22 has a signature Gel unit in the heel, and smaller portion of GEL in the forefoot - something that used to define ASICS, but is now noticeably absent on their NovaBlast or EvoRide offerings (just to name a few). 

But wait, that’s not all! ASICS has coupled their Gel padding with a softer Flytefoam Propel midsole that means you have a stiffer, slightly more absorbent heel material paired with a light, responsive forefoot cushioning. Seems ideal, no? 

In practice, it actually is quite an effective cushioning mechanism- I wouldn’t call this an exciting ride, but the Flytefoam Propel up front does freshen up the dreary performance of the Cumuli of old, and provide a distinctive heel-to-toe roll.

Hope: I can see the Gel, but I can’t feel it. But in defense of the stalwart tech, I’m a midfoot/forefoot striker, so I’m not loading in the Gel-packed heel. I did feel and enjoy the responsive Flytefoam Propel up front. This is not a soft shoe. I like a lot of ground feel and responsiveness, so that was perfect for me. My legs felt a bit beat up after my initial 13-mile outing in the Cumulus 22, but nothing so bad that I’d avoid this model for more double-digit efforts. Runners used to softer feeling cushioning should take note that comfort comes from the shoe providing adequate protection and delivering exceptional road feel, not from swaddling your feet in marshmallowy material.


Michael: ASICS says they’ve increased the flexibility over the previous iterations, but I’ll say this - knowing that claim, and squeezing the shoe, I was a bit disappointed in the flexibility of the outsole, noting that there still is a GEL insert up front in the mix. Yes, there are some deepened flex grooves, especially in the front third of the shoe, but it’s not a particularly flexible shoe. Even so, the outsole here is a rugged one, and over 50 or so miles, I experienced no significant wear. 

And of course, ASICS has packed in its Asics High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR+) system. You’d hope this to be the case, and fortunately ASICS has delivered - the Cumulus should make an adequate mileage hog. I’ve put about 50 miles on it and wear is light in the forefoot and nonexistent in the heel. Upper, midsole, and outsole - this shoe will last.

Hope: I’m impressed by the outsole, but I don’t consider it the star of the show. Grip was outstanding for me on wet roads. The abundance of high-durability rubber contributes to a firm underfoot feel and should stand up to hundreds of miles of use. Runners in the market for a daily trainer to soak up the miles will appreciate this outsole configuration. There’s enough rubber for the ride to be smooth, but it’s not as silky smooth as a full-coverage or ground contact midsole would be.


Michael: The Cumulus 22 is nothing if not disciplined - it’s not poppy like a Hyperburst-infused midsole, or propulsive like the Saucony Endorphin Shift - but it’s an even, measured ride that just feels like it’s asking for those easy Sunday miles. The Gel unit in the heel means that rear landings are well-cushioned, but a faster turnover and a forefoot strike does leave a little to be desired - it’s not a dead feeling up front, but I don’t think the FlyteFoam up front is as lively as, say, the FlyteFoam Blast packed into the new NovaBlast. It’s an improvement over the Cumulus 21, to be sure, but it’s not going to wow you.

In fact, I’ll say this - the ride here is familiar, if not particularly inspiring. I was immediately reminded of the Brooks Ghost of old - say, the Ghost 6, 7, or 8 - with some added lightness. It’s… solid. 

Hope: Michael nailed it here. This isn’t a super shoe, so don’t expect explosive rebound or the spring action of a carbon plate. I did find turnover to be quick because the firm midsole helped me feel the ground a just a fraction of a second faster. I ran somewhat slower times on the same course than I did in some super shoes I’ve been testing, but those slower runs didn’t feel labored or unpleasant -- I merely was not benefiting from the tech designed for Olympic-caliber athletes because there isn’t that kind of tech in the Cumulus 22. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Michael: I’ll try and sum up my thoughts of the Cumulus 22 as follows: Compared to its predecessor, it’s a huge improvement; compared to the rest of the market, it holds its own. Considering the ways ASICS’s shoes have been panned of late - and the direction their stocks have headed - this should be seen as yet another win for the Japanese brand. Indeed, I wouldn’t have any problem recommending the Cumulus 22 to anyone! Or the NovaBlast, the Nimbus Lite, the MetaRide, the EvoRide, the MetaRacer…. ASICS has quietly built (or rebuilt!) a quality lineup in such a way that I genuinely hope they regain the fandom they had in the early 2000s. The Cumulus 22 might not be the shoe to win over new runners to the brand - I’d trot out the NovaBlast or MetaRacer for that - but it sure is good enough to keep longtime Cumulus wearers happy.

Michael’s Score: 8.8/10

Hope: There are a lot of high-end running shoes dropping this spring, so I want to offer a caveat. Don’t play yourself: if you’re in the market for a super shoe, you won’t be wowed by the Cumulus 22. But I encourage you to moderate your expectations when shopping for a daily trainer: shoes meant for elite athletes on race day generally aren’t built for everyday grinders to put hundreds of miles on. Choose the Cumulus 22 for the firm underfoot feel and durability and you’ll be happy. Let the super shoes be what they are and let reliable trainers be what they are -- this is a good example of the latter!

Hope’s Score: 9.0/10

-1.0 for too-warm upper and thick tongue

Watch Sam's Initial Run Impressions Review with Comparisons to Cumulus 21


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 21 (RTR Review)

Michael: The Cumulus 21 was a shoe I enjoyed nearly exclusively for its upper (and even then, we’ve seen what a year of revisions can do!). Fortunately, the Cumulus 22 is a markedly better shoe than the 21. It’s lighter, more flexible, and downright more comfortable to run in, owing primarily to a softer midsole composition of FlyteFoam. ASICS devotees who stuck through the Cumulus 21 will be overjoyed to see the 22 - but keep reading! Because ASICS has some even better options in the stable.

ASICS NovaBlast (RTR Review)

Michael: The ASICS NovaBlast is a fun, bouncy, and lightweight ride - a real win for ASICS. That presents some inter-brand conflict, when you consider a customer picking between the NovaBlast and the Cumulus 22 - really hard to see many Cumuli winning in that scenario. Still, I think the Cumulus has a place - it’s a little more stable than the NovaBlast, with a more rigid platform and better lockdown that the NovaBlast can provide. Neither is a true stability shoe, of course, but those wanting a rigid platform should look at the Cumulus. For a more neutral runner, the NovaBlast is an overall more engaging pick.

Hope: The Cumulus 22 upper fits better, but otherwise the shoes doesn’t have much of a chance against the bouncy, light, and all around fun NovaBlast. If you need more rigidity in your shoe but want to avoid stability or support shoes, look at the Cumulus 22 over the NovaBlast. 

ASICS GlideRide (RTR Review)

Michael: The MetaRide slots between the EvoRide and the MetaRide in ASICS’s Ride family, and this comparison can functionally support all three options: if you want a kinetic, distinct heel-to-toe roll off sensation, then the GlideRide (or slightly less noticeable EvoRide) is a good choice. I think ultimately I prefer the GlideRide to the Cumulus, though they’re both capable offerings, with very comfortable and well-done uppers and durability that should last the long haul. Heel strikers might generally prefer the Cumulus, while forefoot runners, or any runner seeking a faster-paced shoe, should seek out the GlideRide.

Hope: I’m in complete agreement with Michael. Cumulus 22 earns points for better initial comfort and zero break-in period. Some runners might struggle with foot fatigue from the upswept toe of the GlideRide.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10 (RTR Review)

Hope: The 1080v10 was one of the best shoes of 2019 for me: bouncy, form-fitting, and great fun for short and long runs. Might even be a good long distance race option for some runners who eschew pared down flats. While the Cumulus 22 is a solid performer and delivers a responsive ride that encourages fast turnover, I think it’s less versatile and has less wow factor than the 1080v10.

New Balance Fresh Foam 880v10 (RTR Review)

Hope: The 880v10 feels a bit dead underfoot. While it’s of comparable quality materials-wise, I don’t think the ride holds a candle to the more responsive Cumulus 22.

Brooks Ghost 12 (RTR Review)

Hope: The Ghost 12 has a stunning upper, but was barely runnable for me due to the blocky feeling heel and overall stiff midsole. An unfortunate misstep for Brooks, but I enjoy the Ghost 12 for casual wear. Easy win for the Cumulus 22.

Brooks Launch 7 (RTR Review)

Michael: The 2020 edition of the Brooks Launch was a definite disappointment to me; a shoe that sounds ideal (lightweight, no-nonse, made for speed) but in practice was a bit of a clunky and uninspiring option. Sure, the upper was good, and durability was promising, but it wasn’t enough to save the Launch from an early retirement from my rotation. The Cumulus is almost the opposite approach - it doesn’t really promise any of those perks, but comes off as a relatively fun and lightweight option. I’d take the Cumulus, if nothing else because it provides a more comfortable heel cup and is a case of under-promising and over-delivering.

Hope: Bring back the OG Launch! Brooks messed with perfection and has progressively made a fun uptempo trainer into a stiff, dead-feeling shoe. I think the Launch 7 is meant to be something more dynamic than what it is, but I can only judge based on feel, not based on positioning in the market. Even as an everyday trainer, the Launch 7 falls well short of the Cumulus 22. Having knocked two Brooks models in a row I feel compelled to note that I loved the early updates in the Launch line and continue to hope the next iteration brings back the Goldilocks combination of softness and snap that made the trainer such a fan favorite.

Hoka One One Mach 3 (RTR Review)

Michael: I didn’t receive my Mach 3 in time for the full review, but I still managed to put several treadmill miles on it over the course of the winter. I appreciated its clean design and lightweight platform but man… that shoe is narrow! I like the Mach 3 as a more up-tempo trainer, and (despite the narrowness) would reach for it over the Cumulus for a tempo or workout day. But for easy miles, I think the more relaxed Cumulus is a more comfortable and compelling choice, especially for those who need a wider platform. Plus, the outsole on the ASICS is more durable.

Skechers Performance GoRun 7+ Hyper (RTR Review)

Michael: The GoRun 7+ Hyper is driven by, as the name suggests, a Hyperburst midsole that really is a joy to run in. It’s a lighter and more minimal trainer than the Cumulus, but still a competent everyday runner that a lot of runners should really enjoy. I would take the Skechers over the Cumulus in almost all cases, though ASICS devotees won’t feel like they’re missing too much by staying in the Cumulus line.

Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Initial Review)

Michael: The Endorphin Shift has been a very pleasant surprise for me - while it’s certainly chunkier than most (Cumulus included), the SpeedRoll technology gives it a pleasant forward feeling, and helps distract you from the ounces underfoot. It’s also a relatively stable trainer, with some heel-orientated structure that will help defer overpronation. I’d take the Shift over the Cumulus in most cases - those looking for a slightly lighter shoe won’t dislike the ASICS, but I generally think the geometry of the Saucony compensates for that difference. Two great trainers, to be sure.

Hope: The Endorphin line includes three absolute bangers packed with the best technology and design Saucony has to offer, so even though the Shift is meant to be the “for the rest of us” trainer, I’m not entirely comfortable putting what’s still a flagship model head to head with a legacy trainer in its 22nd iteration. That said, it is a trainer and the Cumulus 22 is a trainer, so runners will want to know which to reach for. The SpeedRoll tech in the Endorphin Shift gives the shoe a fast feel that belies its weight and it feels somewhat softer underfoot than the Cumulus 22. The Cumulus 22 is a very fine shoe, but it’s outclassed here by a model that’s more packed with innovative features.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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Daniel Culbertson said...

I always confuse the cloud named ASICS shoes. Is this comparable to the Ride or Triumph in terms of lineup and plushness? Comparison to the Endorphin line seems a bit of a stretch would you compare to those “mortal” shoes?

DWrek said...

Loved this comment "Runners used to softer feeling cushioning should take note that comfort comes from the shoe providing adequate protection and delivering exceptional road feel, not from swaddling your feet in marshmallowy material."

Michael said...

@Daniel - It's confusing, to be sure. I don't know what sort of cloud is the "better" cloud, but the Nimbus is a higher price-point shoe than the Cumulus. Thus, it's more like the Ride... but I haven't worn a recent iteration of the Ride, unfortunately. Compared to the Triumph, while the Cumulus 22 is (as the review says!) quite good, I think the Triumph 17 is a better shoe. Little bouncier with a comparable (if not better) upper.

Marcel said...

Great review as always! quick question: how do you compare the Cumulus 22 to the Cumulus 22 *Lite*? I have read on several occasions, that it does not have much in common with the "original" Cumulus beside the name? What's your take on this? as i am looking for a little more stable alternative for my broad forefoot to the Novablast for the easy sunday runs.

Michael said...

@Unknown - Unfortunately I’ve never tested the Cumulus Lite. Sam loves the Nimbus Lite, and the two Lites have some shared DNA, some I’m thinking it may be a good option. The Cumulus 22 is certainly a little more steady underfoot than the NovaBlast (though of course, a lighter option sounds appealing!). Wish I had more info - definitely a shoe I’d like to try.

Marcel said...

@Michael: Thanks for shoring. The Nimbus Lite is also on the top of my list - any chance that Sam will post a review of the Nimbus Lite? Perhaps i missed something, but i could not find it in the review list. I was also considering the Mizuno Wave Knit 3 after having read your review, but unfortunately, the toebox is to narrow for me:-(

Marcel said...

sorry, i totally missed that the Nimbus Lite was already tested! i'll definitely give it a try as the Glideride which you prefered in direct comparison felt a little "strange" at least while walking (did not run in them).

Michael said...

GlideRide is an odd-feeling shoe. I like it while running, but it’s distinctly plastic-y and sort of hard to fine tune. Guessing the Nimbus Lite is smoother!

Joellen Shendy said...

The Cumulus 22 reminds me a bit of the New Balance 890V6. Although that was a stiffer and a firmer ride - it feels like a sibling to me. I loved that shoe for all my tempo runs and many of my easy runs of under 6 miles. In fact I had 4 pairs of it and just scored a pair at an outlet store last week. I am loving the Cumulus 22 because it is basic - good responsiveness, some ground feel, and my feet just want to go in it (not fast, I'm slow) and it just really meshes with my footstrike and gait pattern well. As a plus the mesh is very forgiving for a wider foot (at ball of foot and in toebox) and was super comfortable. All all around winner. I like the NovBlast but that shoe is unstable at slower paces, pretty tough to walk in without feeling awkward, and just generally a bit too soft. Still use it and love it but I get fatigue from it beyond a half marathon distance. My ankles hurt (thinking it's because I'm trying to balance more in it due to stack height and cushioning).

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Jolleen,
Thanks for your feedback which I agree with. I also agree while Novablast has a great new midsole it is not particularly stable and its upper could use work.
Sam, Editor