Asics’s marketing pitch: Providing neutral runners with a lighter design and excellent cushioning.
Upper: Engineered mesh with high-density printing and welds.
Midsole: Flytefoam, Gel pad. 10 mm heel-to-toe offset.
Outsole: Carbon rubber.
Weight: 270 gms/ 9.5 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 9/UK 8/EUR 42.5/CM 27.
Widths available: D - regular.
“First time’s a fluke; second time’s a coincidence,” said Velius. “Third time’s tradition,” finished Erik.” (Alethea Kontis, Enchanted)
It’s too early to tell whether Asics’s new-found vigor for churning out excellent running shoes is an established tradition, but it’s becoming an enjoyable pattern. A fluke, it certainly is not.
There are two sides to Asics’s recent pattern of innovation. The first is the rapid-fire rate of bringing new models to the market, and shoes like the Metaracer, Novablast, Glideride, and their lower-priced derivatives are noteworthy examples. That also includes shoes like the Kayano Lite and Nimbus Lite.
The second part concerns how Asics treats their year-to-year updates. For a long time, Asics’ annual refreshes were a boring event that usually involved minor tweaks with nothing of real value.
That too, has changed in recent times. Both the Nimbus versions – the 23 and Lite V2 – are brand-new models redesigned from the ground up. There are no shared parts, and there is a concerted effort towards making actual improvements as opposed to a cosmetic eyewash.
The Nimbus Lite 2 shares its name with the eponymous model (Nimbus 23), yet possesses a ride, fit, and visual character that’s truly its own.
In more ways than one, the Nimbus Lite feels like a modern interpretation of the standard Nimbus. Its ride quality leaves the clunkiness of the ‘traditional’ Asics models behind, and its performance is at par with its contemporaries elsewhere.
The full-length Flytefoam midsole works together with the cushy insole and lasting to deliver a very comfortable ride. The smoothness of the ride also works across various gait and workout types, and in doing so, brings forth a versatile character that had long been missing in the standard Nimbus.
Perhaps its most notable contribution is being a shoe that doesn’t feel like a me-too or has-been. Adding value to a crowded segment which is the running shoe industry is no small feat.
But like most running shoes, the Nimbus Lite 2 comes packaged with a quirk or two, and that’s the entire point of writing a detailed shoe review.
The larger picture looks good. Solereview no longer has to use adjectives like laziness, complacency, ennui, inertia, and uninspiring when reviewing an Asics shoe, and that makes a writer very happy.
THE ASICS NIMBUS LITE 2 vs. 1
The Nimbus Lite 2 not only receives a better-looking (a subjective take, though) exterior, but also a smoother ride and improved fit. The dimpled Flytefoam midsole replaces the wavy – and somewhat bulky looking – sole of the V1.
The real hero of the redesign is the outsole. The lugs have a lower and sloped profile with better outsole-midsole integration. While not completely flush, the outsole blends seamlessly into the midsole instead of sticking out.
The channels between the lugs aren’t as deep as the Nimbus Lite 1, and areas like the heel get a split crash pad. The midfoot has more exposed foam too. Add all these updates, and the result is a smoother and softer ride.
Many changes take place on the upper as well. The Lite 2 replaces the stitched overlays with high-density printing which acts as cosmetic detail and structural support.
The V2 favors form over function, as it edits trims like the shiny, chrome-colored heel overlay and adds more reflectivity in their place. Even the laces are swapped from round to flat, and that’s a good fit for the visually austere exterior.
The midfoot fit is noticeably shallower than the previous version. Later in this review, we’ll explain why that is.
THE RIDE EXPERIENCE
In our review of the Kayano Lite, we mentioned the Nimbus Lite 2 in passing, saying that we found the latter’s ride to be more agile.
And it is. There’s a fundamental difference between both the shoes, and most of that has to do with the Kayano Lite’s stability shoe positioning. The Kayano Lite balances ride stability with cushioning by using a flared and filled-up rear midsole made of a firmer foam density.
In contrast, the Nimbus Lite 2 has no such requirements, so it’s free to take design liberties with its midsole. The rearfoot isn’t as voluminous as the Kayano Lite; there’s even a bit of an inwards scoop when seen from the rear.
Also worth mentioning is that both the inner and outer midsole have a balanced sidewall design.
In other words, since the medial midsole isn’t more supportive than the lateral side, the resulting ride is very, very neutral. Contrast this with the Kayano Lite where the medial midsole had a supportive sidewall.
Cushioning softness may be abundant on the Nimbus, yet the ride doesn’t lack stability. The flared heel and forefoot possess inherent stability, and the snugger upper holds the foot down.
Though a Gel pad resides inside the midsole, it’s hard to detect its cushioning influence. The midsole feels like single-density foam, with nearly the entire cushioning experience coming from the rounded Flytefoam block.
Often, we’d refer to examples of running shoes with a high heel offset that work very well for midfoot and forefoot strikers. The Nimbus Lite 2 is yet another example of such a shoe.
Despite its 10 mm heel-to-toe offset, landing on the forward section of the midsole feels completely intuitive – as it does landing rearfoot first. This is why, while low offset shoes exist, it is a reminder of why we shouldn’t read too much into the absolute ‘drop’ of a shoe.
Instead, it’s worth paying attention to how the entire shoe behaves as a sum of its parts (the offset included).
The soft midsole may be smooth and relatively efficient in its cushioning delivery, but there’s a lack of forward-rolling motion that’s associated with rocker-shaped running shoes.
Here, the forefoot is relatively flexible and flat, so the foot has to power through the motions – the old school way. We guess we’ve all been spoiled by the midsole plating.
And if we were to compare the Lite with Brooks, the ride character lies somewhere between the Glycerin 19 and Ghost 13. The Nimbus Lite 2 has the plush ride of the Glycerin and the relative lightness of the Ghost.
Thus, the ‘Lite’ isn’t merely a marketing buzzword, but an appropriate summary of the shoe. It is this ‘Liteness’ that infuses a dose of versatility into an otherwise plush running shoe.
Even with multiple layers of softness (namely, the insole and lasting) over the midsole, the Nimbus abstains from exhibiting sink-in mushiness. One of the other factors that contribute to the ride quality is the outsole-midsole integration – an area we touched upon earlier in this review.
By using closer to the ground outsole lugs and shallower flex grooves, there’s less of a ‘piston’ effect. Due to these updates, the transitions are smoother as well.
Bring all these traits together, and what does that make the Nimbus Lite 2?
We think it’s a fine shoe to do daily runs in comfort. It’s also a forefoot and midfoot striker’s shoe, though some runners may not see eye to eye with the overhanging midsole heel.
The Nimbus Lite 2 also delivers satisfactory performance under higher-paced workouts at pace ranges of 4:30 min/km or 7 min/mile. And if someone wants to take it easy (6 min/km or 10 min/mile) for long-distance training, then it proves equally useful.
Buying running shoes for rotations are a discretionary expense. So while it’s not necessary, it does add flavor to everyday runs. The Nimbus Lite 2 is versatile enough for everyday and long-distance runs, but what if a Metaracer and Tartheredge also came into the picture?
Within this setup, the Metaracer can be used as a cushioned speed shoe for up to half marathon distances, whereas the Tartheredge is excellent for flat-out 5K blasts.
Since we’re on the subject of plated shoes, either the Saucony Endorphin Speed or Pro adds excellent diversity of ride character. Both are speed shoes that are also cushioned enough for high-mileage runs.
IS THE ASICS NIMBUS LITE 2 DURABLE?
In our opinion, the Nimbus Lite 2’s outsole is better-designed from a durability point of view. The improved integration of the rounded and flatter lugs does a better job at spreading wear and tear than the traditional blocky outsole of the Nimbus Lite 1.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The upper has a shallow midfoot; from the point where the lacing begins to where the tongue flap ends.
That’s because the Nimbus Lite 2 uses an EVA foam tongue and sleeve. Yes, that’s not a typo. Instead of standard foam, the tongue padding is a layer of perforated EVA foam. Even the sleeve is padded with the same material.
Unlike traditional tongue foams, the EVA foam cannot squish flat. So its presence requires a minimum thickness to be maintained at all times, and that results in a sense of snugness or shallowness over the foot.
Needless to say, the insides run warmer than running shoes that do not use this construction.
This may be new for Asics, but the Nimbus Lite 2’s tongue evoked a sense of déjà vu.
We had to dig through our archives for a while, but we finally found what we were looking for – the Brooks Ghost 7. It too, used a tongue padded with a sheet of EVA foam sandwiched between the mesh layers.
There is an upside to the shallow instep fit. The snugness leads to a (more) secure fit, an attribute that helps the ground feel of the midsole. After all, a foot that is firmly pressed against the midsole is better positioned to tap into the cushioning and transition potential. The interiors feel smooth without hot spots.
On a related note, there is a reason why road racers have super-conforming upper fits – that helps the foot make a better connection with the midsole, and therefore, the ground.
The EVA tongue also does a stellar job at filtering the cinching pressure from the flat, semi-elastic laces.
There are no widths available here. That said, the toe-box is relatively broad before tapering (slim) towards the forefoot and midfoot. The upper over the small toe area feels a bit narrow, so it’s best to use thin running socks with the Lite 2.
The heel grips firmly, assisted by the internal counter and comfortable collar padding.
The reflectivity gets an immense boost. Like the Novablast and Kayano Lite, the entire heel cup is reflective here. It’s not evident at first glance, but the entire outer heel is covered with a shiny layer. That’s balanced with a large strip over the tongue.
PROS AND CONS
The Asics Nimbus Lite 2 has a way of growing on you. Over time, one begins to appreciate the comfortable and smooth ride that is game for most things run-related. As long as it’s not pushed hard, the Lite 2 proves very versatile.
The superbly reflective upper has a secure fit, although we’d like to have seen optional widths offered. That could potentially address the paucity of vertical and horizontal space around the midfoot area.
And what does the Gel do, exactly?
SHOES SIMILAR TO THE ASICS NIMBUS LITE 2
For obvious reasons, the Asics Kayano Lite shares several traits with the Nimbus, so it’s worth considering if a higher level of stability is a need. The smooth ride and snug fit of the Glycerin 19 also feels similar in some way.
Both the adidas Supernova+ (new intro) and Saucony Triumph 18 deliver a familiar neutral cushioning experience that has come to be associated with e-TPU (Boost and Everun) midsoles.
At a conceptual level, the Clifton Edge’s heel overhang and layered midsole is Hoka’s way of delivering a smooth ride.
And lastly, take a look at the Nike React Infinity Run 2 – a cushioned daily trainer with a snug midfoot.