Tuesday, March 02, 2021

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23 Multi Tester Review

Article by Derek Li and Sam Winebaum

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23 ($120)

Introduction

Derek: The Gel Cumulus is a staple neutral trainer in the ASICS family. It does not get quite as much press as its more illustrious cousin, the Nimbus, but it has built its reputation on being a solid workhorse over the years. How does the Cumulus 23 stack up? Read on to find out!


Sam: The Cumulus 23 evolves quite significantly in this iteration with 1mm more stack height of FlyteFoam,  the elimination of the Propel foam heel insert, a new gender specific 3D Space Construction of pillars at the top of the midsole that adapt to runners’ strike styles (and gender) and a new outsole pattern said by ASICS to “increase comfort, flexibility and for a smoother ride. 

This all sounds like a softer, more forgiving Cumulus following the direction started in the 22 where the previous rough and harsh ride of the 21 was considerably mellowed


PROS

  • Wonderful all around daily training ride with just the right balance of fun softer cushion, rebound/bounce, and response  Derek/Sam: 
  • Good vibration dampening, and forefoot flex with some subtle bounce  Derek/Sam 
  • 1mm more stack, 3D Pillars, new outsole design soften and liven compared to the 22 Sam
  • Plenty of forgiving cushion with a smooth geometry for any type of run from slowest to fastish paces  Sam                                                         

CONS

  • Weight gain of 0.5 oz over Cumulus 22 to just over the magic 10 oz barrier  Sam/Derek 
  • A touch too soft up front, dampening response at faster paces  Sam


Tester Profiles

Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs.


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 10.2 oz / 289g (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

men’s 9.94 oz  / 283g US8.5, 10.37oz / 294g US9.5 

Cumulus 22 weighed 9.4 oz / 266g  men’s 8.5 

Official Midsole Stack Height: men’s stack height 23/13 women’s 22/12

Full Stack Height (Derek): 35/25, 10mm drop

Available April 1st. $120

  

First Impressions and Fit

Derek: Aesthetically the Cumulus 23 I received didn’t quite jump out at me. ASICS can be quite bold with their upper designs, but this one’s pretty muted by comparison. Lacing up the shoes, I am immediately reminded of how good ASICS is at making shoes fit well without overly complicated upper constructs. Dialing in the fit was a breeze and the fit is true to size for me. Walking and jogging around, there is good forefoot flex in the shoe, but not a whole lot of bounce from the midsole. In fact the shoe feels just a tad lumpy, like I can feel the outsole rubber through the midsole. It’s a lukewarm start to this review. 

Sam: Agree with Derek that our launch colorways are a bit on the muted side. The fit was true to size with plenty of hold and comfort everywhere. I too felt the walk around feel was a bit uninspiring and soft with the more streamlined integral outsole maybe a key factor. But I sensed a softer and friendlier ride on the way than the Cumulus 22's which while improved over the 21 big time still was a bit firmer in the forefoot than I prefer.


Upper

Derek: The upper uses a dense but thin engineered mesh as the base material. There is an internal toe bumper up front and laminated ASICS logo provides a little bit of midfoot structure to the upper but otherwise, the upper is pretty simple. 

Towards the rear, you get a traditional rigid internal heel counter sandwiched in ample padding that runs around the heel and ankle. 

The tongue itself is also nicely padded. In essence there is nothing extraordinary about this upper. And yet it works really well. You get an easy secure fit, no heel slippage, no hot spots, no tight corners or cramped toes. To top it off, the upper breathes well. ASICS has proven time and again that great fit starts with understanding human foot shapes and volumes and working around that. They don’t resort to midfoot reinforcements in the upper to achieve lockdown. They get by just fine with the bread and butter. 


Sam: Derek gets it right! The mesh here is very similar to the Nimbus Lite 2 with the main difference in the uppers I can see beyond no external heel exo skeleton layer in the Nimbus Lite (not missed) being that the $150 Nimbus has a forward stretch gusset on the tongue. I think the Cumulus 23 could use one too to lock the relatively broad and roomy upper with minimal structure beyond the mesh and logo overlays to the relatively soft platform a touch better. Sometimes such a gusset can also increase response at faster paces too by better wedding the foot to the platform.


Midsole

Derek: Here we start to see some key updates in the Cumulus 23. Gender-specific builds using 3D Space Construction allowed for strategic shaping of the midsole. This results in some weight reduction, and increased comfort, compression and flexibility. This technology was first seen in the higher end Kayano Lite and has trickled down to the humble Cumulus. Another key update is that the Gel component in the heel has been tuned to a softer formula to give an overall softer feel to the heel. I did not formally test the Cumulus 22, but I can say that the Cumulus 23 midsole has excellent vibration dampening, even though it’s not as springy as some of the new models in the ASICS line such as Nimbus Lite. There is good flex through the toes and the overall transition from heel to toe in this shoe is fairly natural and smooth. I liked this shoe more than I thought I would. 

Sam: As Derek says above, the midsole while retaining the same general geometry and drop adds 1mm more stack and other several significant changes. The 3D Space Construction is gender specific in the sense the pillars are only at the heel in the men’s and at both heel and forefoot in the women’s as women seem to prefer a softer forefoot. The Nike Pegasus is another example of this preference with its softer PSI air pod at the forefoot than the men’s. In addition to a softer GEL unit the Propel insert at the heel of 22 is eliminated. And as always in the evaluation of midsole feel the more streamlined outsole is also to be considered


I found the Cumulus 23 midsole to be softer front and back with more bounce and less response than the 22 so a slightly more forgiving ride. With the 1mm of additional Flytefoam also in the mix this is clearly a more cushioned softer feeling  Cumulus placing it closer to the NImbus Lite 2than before. 


While the midsole here is not as springy as the Nimbus Lite the overall platform is narrower which for me translates to a noticed more nimble quicker transition if one that is not quite as stable. I found all paces and especially slower paces easier, more forgiving, bouncier  and more comfortable here than the Cumulus 22 placing the 23 more closely towards plush than the more uptempo responsive feel of  the 22. 



Outsole

Derek: There is plenty of thick outsole rubber here to last you a good 500 miles or more. ASICS are not known for poor durability and it comes as no surprise that even in a mid tier trainer like the Cumulus, there is still plenty of consideration for durability. As with many ASICS models, the heel rubber is firmer and more durable while the forefoot rubber is softer. There is plenty of segmentation of the forefoot blown rubber and that works with the midsole to achieve the excellent forefoot flexibility of the shoe. Outsole grip is excellent for me, and even works well on light non technical trails and grass. 


Sam: The new rubber pattern here reminds of the Nimbus Lite but in more segmented narrower bands upfront with a lateral focused decoupling groove.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Novablast, Cumulus 23, Nimbus Lite 2

It does not remind of the more perimeter focused longitudinal outsole of the Novablast with its very deep central grooves and narrower midfoot midsole and outsole profile. 


The outsole pattern along with relatively soft rubber up front, contributes to the softness at the forefoot and an easy flex which instead of having a set flex point is long and gradual. I think the rubber could be a touch firmer upfront to give the shoe a touch more response and pop at faster paces. Grip has been solid and durability as always with ASICS should be good. 



Ride

Derek: The Cumulus 23 is a smooth traditional feeling daily trainer that does an excellent job of tuning out the harshness of the road. I would not call it a soft or bouncy, but it has good cushioning for its stack, and the excellent forefoot flexibility makes the ride very natural at all paces. It is responsive enough for short pick ups in pace, though its weight starts to impose itself for efforts longer than a half mile. 


I know I’ve mentioned forefoot flexibility a few times already, but I want to point out that it is not overly flexible to the point of being a little tedious to run in. I had that experience a little recently with the Brooks Ghost 13 where there was too much forefoot flex resulting in forefoot fatigue towards the end of my 6-8milers. There is none of that here. Some combination of the smooth and firm midsole keeps things turning over easily. I’ve had a really good run of testing daily trainers of the more traditional variety lately and this is one of my favourites. 


Sam: The ride is middle of the road training miles: well cushioned, relatively soft, and easy to run all slower to moderate paces. There is a consistent feel through the stack of midsole and outsole, more so in that respect  than in the 22.


Response is present but not sharp propulsive as say the firmer Saucony Ride 13-14 gets when you step on the gas.  Cumulus 23  has smooth easy transitions from its long flex pattern at all paces but starts to feel soft and a bit wobbly upfront at uptempo for me where that consistency of feel of midsole through outsole gets a bit overwhelmed by the strike forces. 


I agree with Derek about the Ghost 13 which for me combines an (overly) soft midsole with an overly firm outsole and too much flex. 


Conclusions and Recommendations


Derek: Much like the New Balance 880v11, this shoe owns the middle ground between the softer trainers such as  the Hoka Clifton and the more responsive ones like the Adidas Boston. It leans a little more to the firmer side of things as the Nike Pegasus 37 does, but again is by no means harsh. The easy fit and stable,  effective, and cushioned ride will be a welcome alternative to people who like a little more ground feel but find shoes like the Nike Pegasus or Adidas Boston too harsh for longer runs, and it comes with excellent outsole grip and durability to boot. 


Fans of the Cumulus 22 shouldn’t worry too much as I think Cumulus 23 only ironed out some rough edges without changing the inherent basic character of the Cumulus. I think it is an improvement on the older version, if only because there is a little bit more cushioning and vibration dampening in the 23, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulled over some Nimbus diehards as well, as the $30 price difference may be hard to justify at this stage. 

Derek’s Score 8.9 / 10

Ride 8.6 (50%) Fit 9.5 (30%) Value 9 (15%) Looks 8 (5%)


Sam: Solid improvements all around mellow the Cumulus making it a solid daily trainer of the more cushioned and forgiving variety than its predecessors. The ride is more “traditional” than other ASICS trainers such as the Glideride or Nimbus Lite 2 but up to the task and is a moderately priced and durable option at $120.  I particularly liked the easy transitions and flex at all slower to moderate paces but wished for a touch more response and pop at faster paces. There is plenty of shoe here to make the Cumulus a solid everyday trainer for me, not something I could say about earlier versions which were in a gray area of versatility due to their relative firmness. I do wish it had not gained as much weight as it now checks in above the 10 oz magic barrier. 

Sam’s Score: 8.95 /10

Ride: 8.8 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 9.5(15%) Style: 8.5(5%)


Watch Sam's GEL-Cumulus 23 Video Review



Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


ASICS Cumulus 22 (RTR Review)

Sam: We have compared in some detail in the review but to summarize the Cumulus 23 is softer and more cushioned (1mm more stack, outsole design, 3D Pillars)  losing a bit of the response of the 22 in the process for uptempo. It gains about 0.8 oz but I think it's worth it as it gains in everyday run versatility and comfort. 


ASICS Novablast (RTR Review)

Sam: Cumulus 23 is more stable and is on a wider platform. It is not as bouncy or the wild fun of the Nova. It has a more classic riding and flexible geometry and is not quite as cushioned but close. The Cumulus is a more practical and versatile all around trainer for most unless you have good solid consistent form to keep things on the level and your pace is on the fast side. The Cumulus upper is clearly superior to the plasticky awkward fitting (for me) Nova’s and is roomier to boot.


ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite 2 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Nimbus Lite has a very noticeable bounce to its ride, unlike the Cumulus which has a more traditional firm feel. By my measurements of full stack height they have almost the same stack height. Overall, the Nimbus is a more fun and forgiving shoe for me at all paces, and if I could only get one pair, it would be the Nimbus Lite 2. 

Sam: I actually lean the other way in this match up. The extra $30, 0.5 oz less weight and somewhat bouncier midsole are not significantly different enough to swing me towards Nimbus Lite 2 as I found its wider midfoot platform and shorter if similar flex pattern tended to get in the way of slower pace transitions and toe offs more than the Cumulus 23 did.  


Saucony Ride 13/14 (RTR Review)

Sam: The 13 was my daily trainer of the year 2020 and the 14 is essentially the same with a lighter more comfortable upper. Slightly firmer and less bouncy, the Ride has those big bars of thick rubber to go with its similar to Cumulus easier flex leading to a more responsive toe off. It runs faster paces better than Cumulus 23 whereas Cumulus is smoother and more softly cushioned than the Ride at slower paces, more easy going. Depends on what you are looking for. If your daily training uses lean faster paces and you need a daily trainer that can handle intervals and tempo go  Ride. If your uses are more mellow Cumulus. 


New Balance FreshFoam 880v11 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both shoes are quite similar in terms of how much they flex through the toes. I think the 880 has better vibration dampening and is a little bouncier especially in the forefoot. That said, I think the Cumulus has a more relaxed fit to it and a roomier and slightly wider toebox and thus is maybe preferable for people looking for an easy day shoe that is more on the traditional side. 

Sam: Agree with Derek above on all points. As with the Ride 13 I do think the Cumulus has a slightly softer and more cushioned ride. As an all arounder I lean ever so slightly towards the more responsive, slightly firmer 880. 


Brooks Ghost 13 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I generally prefer the ride of the Cumulus 23. It is firmer and lacks the forefoot bounce of the Ghost 13, but it is more snappy through the toebox resulting in the runs being a little less tiring as the miles build up. The Cumulus fits me better too, with the Ghost 13 being a little too wide in fit especially in the toebox. 

Sam: As said above the Ghost misses the forefoot with an overly roomy toe box, an overly soft midsole foam,  too much flexibility and an overly firm outsole. Runs awkward and really is not that much more cushioned than the Cumulus. Clear win for Cumulus in this match up.


Nike Vomero 15 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both have similar underfoot feels for me, with Cumulus being a bit more flexible through the toes. The Cumulus also transitions more smoothly for me and has a more even underfoot feel from heel to forefoot. Cumulus also has the more breathable upper compared to Vomero 15. Overall I prefer the ride of the Cumulus 23. 


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