Asics Fall 2010 Neutral Shoes – Three Shoes For Three Runners

Asics Fall 2010 Neutral Shoes

Asics Fall 2010 Neutral Shoes

In the realm of running products, it is common to hear a company’s sales representative describe a good, better, best story. The idea is that good suits the needs of the everyday runner, better adds a bit of a technological advantage for improved performance and best is hands down superior to anything else within a product line. With apparel, this is often easy to observe. The best top dries faster (stays drier longer) than the better top, which exceeds the good top. With shoes, it’s little harder to observe the difference. A technologically superior shoe does not necessarily translate to a better feeling shoe or a faster shoe, but the goal generally is for better technology to translate into an improved experience for the runner. So how do things shake out with the Asics Pulse 2 (“good”), Cumulus 12 (“better”) and Nimbus 12(“best”)?

[Take me to the Men’s Nimbus 12, Cumulus 12, Pulse 2 or Women’s Nimbus 12, Cumulus 12 or Pulse 2.]

What makes each shoe unique?

Taking advantage of trickle down technology, the Nimbus 12 incorporates the Guidance Line design that was first introduced in October 2009 with the Kinsei 3. Guidance Line is a groove that extends from heel to forefoot, which aids in the repeatability of each foot-strike along an efficient path throughout the  gait cycle. At the time of this review, Guidance Line only exists in the Kinsei 3 and Kayano 16 and now the Nimbus 12.

Another feature that distinguishes the Nimbus 12 from the Cumulus 12 and Pulse 2 is a Discrete Eyelet Construction. Most shoes have a connecting strip of material between each eyelet, which means as one eyelet is moved by tension on the lace, the two adjacent eyelets are also affected. With Discrete Eyelet Construction the eyelets on the Nimbus 12 are independently anchored, allowing for a more individualized fit.

Asics Gel is the added cushioning system incorporated among all three shoes. What differs is the amount of Gel used in each shoe. As expected the Nimbus 12 has the greatest amount of Gel in both the heel and the forefoot. While the Cumulus 12 begins to rival the amount of Gel cushioning used in Nimbus models past (Nimbus 9 and Nimbus 10), it is still at a level below the Nimbus 12. Although not visible, the Pulse 2 does incorporate Gel in the heel but lacks Gel in the forefoot. As is clearly seen when viewing the shoes, the Pulse 2 has the least amount of Gel in the heel among the shoes.

The principle cushioning material of any running shoe is its midsole. The Nimbus 12 and Cumulus 12 both use a SoLyte midsole, which is Asics’ premium midsole. Solyte offers the greatest resiliency relative to weight of any Asics midsole. This means a lighter shoe with SoLyte can provide the same durability of a heavier shoe with a different midsole compound. Up until just a few years ago, SpEVA was Asics premium midsole and it is found on the Pulse 2. SpEVA is a level above compression molded EVA and delivers good resiliency.

Beyond the Gel and midsole, each shoe tackles ground forces a bit differently. At heel impact, the Nimbus and Cumulus have unique Impact Guidance Systems (IGS) to attenuate shock. IGS allows shoe components to function independently to absorb impact and deliver a smooth ride. The notched heel construction of the Pulse 2, has a similar result of IGS, but to a lessor degree.

Further differentiation among the shoes is found in construction components. The Pulse 2 uses the classic Trusstic System to connect the heel and forefoot regions of the shoe. A Trusstic System helps keep weight down while maintaining the structural integrity of a shoe. The Nimbus 12 and Cumulus 12 have unique versions of a Space Trusstic System that allow for more natural deformation (mimics the Windlass mechanism of the foot) of the midfoot compared to the Trusstic System.

Which shoe is best?

From a technical standpoint, the breakdown above demonstrates the good, better, best concept applied to these three shoes. The reality of performance of these shoes is of a subjective nature; thus, the following analysis is just one perspective.

Following a brief wear test period the Nimbus 12 did seem to be the best. A little softer than last year’s version, the Nimbus 12 delivered a plush ride with good energy return. Shoes in this maximum feature category can often times be quite firm and thus feel better for heavier runners. At the other end of the spectrum, similar shoes can be too soft and thus detract from responsive nature that faster runners prefer. The Nimbus 12 has struck a good balance and the ride is superb. The secure midfoot fit further enhances the fine nature of this shoe.

With the Cumulus 12, it is a bit more difficult to say if it meets the better classification in terms of performance. It would be more appropriate to say that the Cumulus 12 is better for certain needs. Obviously, this is the case with any shoe, but the Cumulus 12 seems to fill some specific niches. The forgiving lateral heel structure is great for heavy heel strikers as well as supinators. Another great aid for the supinator is the padded lateral quarter panel in the upper, which does a superb job of keeping a supinated foot connected to the shoe.

Compared to last year’s Cumulus, the heel cushioning is quite similar, the fit is a bit snugger and the forefoot seems a bit firmer in the Cumulus 12. In keeping with the trend started by the Cumulus 10, the Cumulus 12 is more about comfort and less about responsive performance. So if you seek a softer feel at heel impact, the Cumulus 12 is a good bet. If you seek a more performance-oriented ride that was common among the Cumulus 7, 8 or 9, then the Pulse 2 is your shoe.

The Pulse 2 takes a step ahead of the original Pulse and is thus no longer just a value-laden trainer. The upper feel suggests improvements in material selection, which feels on par with more expensive shoes. While the original Pulse had good heel cushioning, it felt a bit thin in the forefoot. Although the specs for the cushioning and sole of the Pulse 2 did not change from its predecessor, the shoe has a much more lively feel. The result is a training shoe that leans toward performance. This may just be the best Asics neutral shoe for the serious, faster runner who desires more shoe than the lightweight Speedstar 4 for daily training.

Bottom line:

The Nimbus 12 improves its luxury feel and is sure to maintain its stronghold on the top spot for premium neutral trainers. For heavy heel strikers or supinators, the Cumulus 12 is a great bet and the Pulse 2 slides in as a surprisingly good trainer for runners seeking a bit more of a performance feel for the daily ritual.

  • symbolic

    Interesting analysis. Why does the Asics Website classify the Nimbus 12 as being more appropriate for underpronators than the Cumulus 12 (there’s a graphic on each shoe’s page that classifies the shoes from underpronation to overpronation)?

  • Jonathan

    Can’t say why Asics indicates the Nimbus 12 is better for the most severe under-pronators compared to the Cumulus 12, but our experience with the shoes indicated the Cumulus 12 was more forgiving on the lateral heel side of the shoe. The lateral release of the forefoot of the Nimbus 12 is bit better for under-pronators in the latter stages of the foot-strike. The result of overall performance for under-pronation of each shoe is similar; it’s just accomplished differently. Although not mentioned in our report on the shoes, the Nimbus 12 is also great for under-pronators, but we are not sure it is better than the Cumulus 12 for this foot motion.

  • symbolic

    Why is the “forgiving lateral heel structure” of the Cumulus 12 better for supinators? It was my impression that a softer lateral heel would cause excessive compression for the supinated foot, which wouldn’t be a good thing. Same question regarding the “lateral release of the forefoot” with the Nimbus 12. Thanks!

  • Jonathan

    A supinated foot does a poor job of absorbing impact so the focus is on reducing the transmission of forces throughout ground contact.

  • Mitch

    I agree w/ #3. I have had major problems lately w/ shoes that are too soft on the lateral side. My foot stikes and stays there, leading to all kinds of stess on my lateral foot and shin. I need a shoe that helps me pronate. Shoes that are soft lateraly just encourage the foot to stay there.

  • TJ

    You say the Pulse 2 has forefoot gel – but Asics doesn’t advertise this on their website like they did with the original Pulse. Are you sure it has forefoot gel? I think they removed it…

  • Jonathan

    TJ thanks for the note. You are correct, the Pulse 2 does not have Gel in the forefoot. The review has been updated.

  • David

    I’ve had older pairs of Asics that were not high end and gave me some good mileage. I wear neutral running shoes but haven’t been running like before. I just got back into it and bought the Brooks Cascadia from RW and they’re great for trail running. However, on the road, I prefer some resistance, not too much cushion as I feel to move slower.

    I’ve tried the Nimbus, and it didn’t work for me. I’ve tried the Adrenaline, although for overpronators, I gave it a shot as I’m a bit heavier now due to lack of exercise. They didn’t work and neither did the Adidas Supernova Glide 2. I also tried the Nike Vomero 5 but were too squishy/cushiony and unstable on the top.

    I’m going to go to a store to try on the Asics Pulse 2 and if they’re good to go, I’ll order from RW. Any other recommendations you may have for something similar to the Brooks Cascadia in a road shoe with not so much cushion?