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Same As It Ever Was: Still One Of The Best
on April 25, 2012
New for 2012, this is the 14th iteration of one of Asics flagship models.
Overview: The latest version in the lineage remains true to its predecessors. If you liked the Nimbus in the past, you will like this one too. While Asics claims to have made a significant number of changes to the new model, most are superficial. The primary differences are:
(1) a slightly narrower profile (meaning the soul does not flair out as much), though the toe box retains about the same interior width for your toes;
(2) weight has been reduced by about 4 ounces per pair, while cushioning remains as good as ever; and
(3) flashier colors have been added to suggest a more premium line.
In addition to the more subtle blue/black version, the original release includes two jazzier color combinations: a neon yellow / blue and a black / "digital neon." (If past models are any indication, more color combinations through the year.)
Brief Background: I am 6'1", 175, and run three to seven miles several days a week - primarily on city streets and paved running trails, sometimes on the treadmill. Once or twice a year I will train up to the half-marathon to full-marathon level for a short window, but running is generally part of my cross training program. The Nimbus 14s are probably my 7th or 8th version to run in of the Nimbus line. (I also periodically buy a set of Kayanos, but prefer the Nimbus for their slightly higher level of cushioning.)
About Asics: For years Asics has had two popular models: the Kayano (now on its 18th iteration) and the Nimbus. These were the models that first regularly broke the $100 per pair mark. Now, so many iterations later, they are retailing for $140 - $150 per pair. To up the ante Asics has added additional designs such as the super premium Kinsei line that is $180+ and the Cirrus, a line aimed at people moving towards a flatter soul (read: natural running a la the 5 Fingers crowd). (Beginning with the last iteration, 13, the Nimbus was already beginning to lower its heal, so the line is keeping pace with evolving trends, but at a more subdued rate.) While I can't speak to the Cirrus line, I have looked at the Kensei line. Though others may disagree, the Kensei strikes me as a Kayano rapped in techno lizard skin. Not that I don't like techno lizard skin, it just appears they are more flash than "superior engineering," regardless of price differential. For most runners, the Kayano and Nimbus will likely retain their place as the real workhorses in the stable for training or exercise.
The Nimbus: For anyone new to Asics or the Nimbus line in particular, the shoe is particularly well-suited for those with a "neutral" gate and slightly higher arches - there is greater cushioning for the arches. If you are a high-mileage runner (running 25 miles or more a week) optimizing for comfort over absolute speed, this is an excellent shoe to train in to avoid injuries. Running on a treadmill or anything short of hard cement and you will feel like you are running on soft earth.
Number 14: With respect to the specific changes for 2012:
(1) The weight loss is noticeable. The new shoes feel slightly lighter. It is more evident in the hand than on the foot, but the slight reduction in weight will certainly feel better in those last miles. They also seem slightly airier. This may not be good in the cold, but for running in warm weather it is a plus.
(2) The shoe retains its stability and cushioning. This remains the shoe's strong suit. One of the advantages of their continued lowering is increased sure-footedness. They are stable to run in, such that you can run on fairly uneven surfaces or have a surprise change in elevation and still not turn your ankle - ie, you don't feel like you are running on a platform as was the case in the earlier models. At the same time, they continue to retain a good deal of cushioning. I have run in the 5 Fingers and the minimus shoe line by New Balance (which are great to throw in a suitcase when you have limited room and may only be hitting a treadmill). They feel good for short distances or on soft ground, but for longer stretches or pavement, still strongly prefer something with some cushion and that is where the Nimbus still stands apart.
(3) The Nimbus is getting more flash. While they are still offering some regular color schemes, they are finally adding some glitz to the line. The Kayano typically got a good color scheme or two while the Nimbus was still a little on the dull side. Look out. The Nimbus is starting to make tracks and can now stand toe-to-toe with the latest Nikes. And at this price point, it's long overdue.
A few general notes: (a) if you are new to Asics, most people order one size larger than their street shoes - ie, if you wear a 10 in regular shoes, you may need to order an 11 and (b) like a toothbrush, they need to be replaced more than you might think. As much as I dislike buying a couple of pair of these a few times a year, every time I try to cheap out and go too long on replacing shoes, I spend some time nursing a shin splint or IT band injury.
As aside and likely one that will continue to remain without remedy because no one at the design studio or factory seems to listen or care, the insoles are still p-a-t-h-e-t-i-c. If you are going to put lots of miles on these, you might consider an aftermarket insole. I like the superfeet, but there are many that work well depending on your running style, arches, foot volume, etc. A trip to a running store may be well worth it on this front. As almost all running shoes suffer from this issue (the paper mache insole), I am not deducting a star for this. (If half a star could be reduced, I would.)
In sum, the new model is same as the old one, only a little better, specifically: lighter and jazzier while retaining the right balance of cushioning for a regular runner. This continues to be an excellent overall shoe for running.
Hope this review helps you.