Asics Gel Nimbus Lite review
The Nimbus Lite is the best version of the Nimbus to date and is finally deserving of the Nimbus badge. It has a comfortable upper and a midsole, which is cushioned, light and bouncy.
For the next version, Asics needs to change the AHAR outsole rubber to a more durable compound and to add a gusseted tongue to eliminate tongue slide.
The Nimbus Lite is more than just a new shoe. It brings hope and is a symbol of Asics' newfound innovation and fresh direction.
It's all sunny skies in the land of Asics without a rain cloud in sight.
A nimbus cloud is a low, dark cloud which brings about rain. This is fitting for a shoe which has had a dark rain cloud looming over it for the last few versions.
A $150 shoe is supposed to feel special, and the Nimbus line of shoes hasn't felt special for many years. It's supposed to be Asics' max cushioned, supremely comfortable shoe that glides over the road. Instead, it has been as stiff and firm as a plank of wood.
Okay, the Nimbus 22 wasn't THAT bad, but the 21 was so bad that Asics had to bring forward the release of the 22nd version. Here in the Asia Pacific, Asics sells the Nimbus Lite as an online-only exclusive.
One can only guess that the thought behind this strategy is that if the Nimbus Lite came to stores, nobody would buy the regular Nimbus 22. Thus, they would end up marking them down, resulting in a massive loss for the company.
It's hard to imagine why anyone would choose the regular Nimbus 22 over the Lite version. Apart from sharing a name and looking similar, the rides of the two shoes are polar opposites.
The Lite is softer, bouncier and as the name suggests, lighter. It's like the two shoes share a body but have different personalities.
I always found the ride of the Nimbus to be boring. The Lite, on the other hand, has that X factor that makes the shoe fun: that one indescribable characteristic that makes you look forward to running in it.
If you go into any Asics store and ask an employee about the Nimbus Lite, there's a 90% chance they won't know about it and mistakenly show you the Nimbus Lite-Show instead.
It's like the Nimbus Lite is Cinderella and Asics is hiding it in the back while only selling its ugly step-sister in the stores.
The Nimbus Lite is a whopping 40 grams lighter than the normal Nimbus 22. This makes it lighter than other cushioned shoes such as the Glycerin 17, GlideRide, Cumulus 21 but slightly heavier than the Hoka Clifton 6.
Lighter, bouncier and softer than the Nimbus 22, the Nimbus Lite has put the Nimbus series back on the map as one of the best max cushioned shoes on the market.
Asics's most sustainable (and comfy) upper
The Nimbus Lite is Asics' most sustainable shoe ever. Most of the upper is made from recycled materials.
The tongue mesh is 100% recycled, the shoelaces are 100% recycled, the back counter mesh is 86% recycled, the vamp mesh 40% recycled and the tongue, collar and ankle mesh lining are 31% recycled.
Who would have thought that a running company could make you feel like a better human being for buying an environmentally conscious product?
The forefoot is wide and deep with plenty of foot splay room. I went true to size, but I could have gone down a half size because the upper is so roomy.
I didn't have any issues though because the superb lacing system allows you to lock the foot down, and the padded heel counter ensures that your heel doesn't move around.
The engineered mesh is very thin and breathable while the heavily padded tongue is not gusseted. Even though it has wide wings, it moves around and slides to the lateral sides on runs.
The heel has a reflective metallic external counter that provides structure and nighttime visibility at the same time.
The upper of the Nimbus Lite is my favourite Asics upper to date. The GlideRide had uncomfortable seams inside the shoe while the Cumulus 21 while being comfortable, was very thick and heavy. The Lite's upper is more minimal but feels just as luxurious.
While the upper has a slightly old school look to it compared to modern knitted uppers, Asics keeps it modern by using gradient midsole colours of emerald green and charcoal that pop against the plain grey of the upper. It's a very good looking shoe in my honest opinion.
The Nimbus Lite has a compression molded insole with a soft layer of foam lasting underneath it to provide a plush step-in comfort, a signature of Asics shoes.
How the Nimbus Lite rides
The environmentally conscious theme carries over to the midsole. It's made from biomass derived from sugarcane- and no, it doesn't smell sweet. Asics is still calling it FlyteFoam, but it shares nothing in common with the FlyteFoams of old. This FlyteFoam is soft and springy.
If I have to compare it to another type of foam, it is very similar to New Balance's FuelCell, which has Nitrogen infused into it. The Asics foam though is rough to the touch and has more cushioning depth.
The chunky midsole provides plenty of protection for long runs and reminded me of the Hoka One One midsole used on the Clifton 6. I experienced foot fatigue on long runs in the Clifton 6 due to the super soft foam, but in the Nimbus Lite, this problem isn't present.
The new FlyteFoam has characteristics of the best super foams on the market. It's as light as Hoka's EVA, as soft as New Balance's FuelCell and has the cushioning depth of New Balance's Fresh Foam X.
If you enjoyed the New Balance Propel, you will love this shoe because it's even more cushioned and more bouncy. There is significantly more foam in the forefoot than the Propel, but it doesn't feel like it's overly soft or mushy.
It's easy to forget that this shoe is called the GEL-Nimbus Lite. This is because there are encapsulated GEL inserts in the heel and the forefoot.
Like all other Asics shoes, it's impossible to feel the GEL that is inside the shoe. I wish Asics would ditch the GEL because, without it, it wouldn't be missed. Aside from looking fancy, the GEL weighs the shoe down and doesn't provide a major functional advantage.
Asics ditches the plastic trusstic system, and the result is a super smooth, light ride. The Nimbus Lite really shines on long, slow runs but I have enjoyed using it as an everyday trainer as well.
I've been on many 20km+ runs in the Nimbus Lite, and every time I feel like I can run further. That's the mark of a fun shoe.
The tough AHAR outsole
The outsole is full contact AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Rubber), but it feels softer than the AHAR on the regular Nimbus 22.
My only concern when it comes to the Nimbus Lite is outsole durability. Asics had to use a soft outsole rubber because the midsole is so soft. If hard rubber was used, you would feel the rubber lugs through the midsole.
I have run less than 100km in the Nimbus Lite, and the soft forefoot lugs have worn right down to the midsole foam already.
Gone is the guidance line which Asics has traditionally used to centre the foot. The arch area is also filled up unlike the Nimbus 22, which results in a full contact outsole with smoother transitions.
The many flex grooves in the forefoot make the outsole very flexible.
In the Nimbus Lite, the foot sits inside the midsole. The edges of the midsole raise up and act as barriers to cup the foot. This makes the shoe very stable.
The midsole flares out underneath the heel and forefoot to make a wide, stable base.
Nimbus Lite vs New Balance Propel
The Nimbus has a more padded and comfortable upper. The heel of the Propel bothered my Achilles, so the Nimbus has the better upper.
Both shoes are very soft, but the Nimbus has more forefoot cushioning and has the bouncier midsole. The Propel is much cheaper than the Nimbus Lite, but I would choose the Nimbus Lite over the Propel.
Nimbus Lite vs Saucony Triumph 17
Both shoes have excellent uppers, but the Triumph 17 upper is softer and plusher. The Nimbus Lite midsole is softer but not as responsive. The Triumph 17 has the more durable outsole. The Triumph 17 is the overall better shoe.
Nimbus Lite vs Hoka One One Clifton 6
The Hoka Clifton 6 has so much midsole foam that it can feel like overkill at times whereas the Nimbus Lite has just the right amount of foam.
I found my feet getting tired on long runs in the Hoka due to trying to push off from the soft foam. I never felt that in the Nimbus Lite. The Clifton 6 is cheaper, but I still prefer the Nimbus Lite.
Tip: see the best running shoes.