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Shoe Review: ASICS GEL-Nimbus 26 ($160)



What happens a year after a shoe brand does a major overhaul with an iconic shoe? Well, usually, the next year’s model falls into the “minor updates” category. That’s exactly what’s happened with the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 26, which dropped recently and, truth be told, doesn’t fit, feel or ride too much differently than last year’s completely remade edition. But that’s a good thing, because sometimes the changes made during a “minor updates” cycle can be infuriating to longtime fans of a certain shoe. 


When a shoe goes through a major overhaul – as the Nimbus did last year when it got a much thicker midsole – it’s usually warranted because it’s a sign the brand is trying to keep pace with its competitors. However, minor updates are usually just year-over-year improvements of a few features, which, at best, are subtle and barely noticeable, but at worst, are a small change that has big unintended outcomes (like how the shoe fits or how it rides or how it feels at faster speeds). The good news is that the maximally cushioned ASICS GEL-Nimbus 26 received smart and authentic subtle updates to its outsole, midsole and upper, but if you close your eyes, you might just think you’re running in a slightly improved version of last year’s model. And, in essence, you are. Only a better version of it.


What’s New: There were three main changes to the GEL-Nimbus 26, which continues its newfound identity from last year as a very high-stack everyday trainer. First, there is an improved dual-rubber outsole that includes segments of a more durable rubber compound for high-wear areas and a slightly tackier rubber material that offers better grip on both wet and dry surfaces. Secondly, the midsole shape and stack height have been increased with another millimeter of Flytefoam Blast+ Eco foam and a design that allows a runner’s foot to sit down lower inside the midsole and allow the foam to wrap around the medial and lateral sides of the heel for more rear-foot stability. (It’s a neutral-oriented shoe, but it’s much more stable than it was last year.) Lastly, there’s a brand new engineered knit upper that’s stretchier and more breathable than last year’s version.


Fit/Feel/Ride: The GEL-Nimbus 26 fits true to size with a medium-volume interior from heel to midfoot and a roomier toe box than last year. Like last year’s version, the step-in feel is amazingly  plush, with softness surrounding your feet from all directions. Once you lace it up, it feels like a mix of the comfiest training shoe you’ve ever worn and the best foot massage you’ve ever experienced. The fully gusseted knit tongue and interior cushioning give it a locked-down fit sensation for a wide range of foot shapes and a feeling that the shoe is really wrapping up your feet. 


Running at any pace produces a soft, responsive sensation, but the Flytefoam Blast+ Eco midsole of this year’s edition feels a little bit more energetic and less marshmallow soft, so there’s a bit more bouncy action in every stride. You’ll feel buttery smooth transitions from heel-strike to toe-off, thanks to a mild rocker geometry, and yet, for a shoe with such an enormous midsole, it’s surprisingly stable.


Why It’s Great: It’s great because last year’s edition was already a very good workhorse daily trainer (and earned rave reviews for the massive changes it had undertaken) and this one is a tad better than that. The subtle changes to the outsole, midsole and upper aren’t enormous, but they have collectively made the GEL-Nimbus 26 even better by improving the fit, traction, stability and overall cushioning sensation. It’s got cushioning for days and it will be as comfortable and responsive in the last mile of your run as it was in the first mile. Sometimes it’s just the small refinements that take a shoe from good to great.


Specs

Weight: 9.2 oz. (women’s size 8), 10.7 oz. (men’s size 9)

Stack Height: 41mm/33mm (women), 42mm/34mm (men)

Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm


Why You’ll Love It: You’ll love it because it’s a stunningly comfortable and smooth everyday training shoe that you’ll be excited to put on most days of the week. It can serve your needs for most of your weekly running needs, especially if you’re a runner who is primarily focused on slower or medium-paced runs. I loved it for my recent long, slow runs of 10 and 13 miles. It’s not light and quick enough to be used for faster-paced running, but it will work for moderately fast tempo runs and post-run strides. I did a very moderately paced 5-mile tempo run in these and appreciated the responsiveness, but they still felt a little bit cumbersome – to the point that they took a little bit of extra effort to get them up to speed. (If you want a super-cushy shoe that can go faster, check out the ASICS Novablast 4 or the ASICS Superblast.)


Pro: ASICS says the carbon footprint of the GEL-Nimbus has improved and is now about 10.8 kg CO2e – a measurement of the amount of greenhouse gasses generated over a product's lifetime – and 25% lower than the industry average. At least 75% of the shoe's primary upper material is made with recycled content to reduce waste and carbon emissions, and the Flytefoam Blast+ Eco foam is made from approximately 24% bio-based material from renewable sources, such as leftover waste from sugar cane processing.


Con: I like a lot of aspects of the new version of the Nimbus, but one thing I don’t love is that it’s about a half ounce heavier. While a half ounce isn’t really perceptible when you first lace them up and start running, I don’t consider this shoe light and agile. The weight isn’t a deal-breaker on long runs, but when I was running a tempo run in it I wished it was about an ounce lighter. That said, it could be a great choice for taller and larger runners who appreciate copious amounts of cushioning.


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