ASICS began as ONITSUKA Co., Ltd in 1949, and they released their first basketball shoe in 1950.
Since then, ASICS has come a long way. The current name came about in 1977, and is an acronym of the phrase “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano” (“A healthy mind in a healthy body”). It’s one of owners Kihachiro Onitsuka’s favorite quotes.
ASICS first introduced their αGEL (Alpha Gel) cushioning 9 years later in 1986. Today GEL cushioning is a well-known and appreciated part of ASICS running shoes. In this review, we’ll be comparing two of ASICS’s most popular GEL shoe models, the Gel-Nimbus and the Gel-Kayano.
These two shoes have many similarities, but one key difference: the Nimbus is a neutral shoe, while the Kayano is a stability shoe. That means the Nimbus can be worn by runners who have a neutral foot, while the Kayano is specifically designed for runners who overpronate or need extra support for their feet.
Both models are plush and well-cushioned, thanks to the GEL cushion and two types of foam in the midsoles. They are also both slightly on the heavier side, and a little more expensive than other models.
The Nimbus is a neutral shoe, so it offers no additional support for runners who overpronate. If you have a neutral foot that doesn’t turn inwards when you run or walk, then the standard support offered by the Nimbus should be enough for you.
Although the Nimbus does offer a Trusstic System, it’s less for overpronators and more for general extra support. It features specially-designed gender-specific support pillars underneath the toes, for slightly more support and cushioning.
The Kayano is a stability shoe, so it has some extra support features that the Nimbus lacks. The latest iteration of the Kayano, the Gel-Kayano 29, incorporates ASICS’s new Space Trusstic System. On the medial side of the shoe, you will find firm DuoMax cushioning, which provides arch support. In addition to this, there’s the Trusstic System, which is a supportive plate running the length of the shoe, also on the medial side.
This combination provides an extra platform on the inside of the shoe, which is where overpronators have a problem. It helps their feet to remain in a neutral position instead of rolling over and potentially causing injury.
This additional support in the Kayano is also gender-specific, meaning it’s placed slightly differently in the men’s and women’s shoes to cater for the slight shape differences between men’s and women’s feet.
Both of the shoes have an upper made from multi-directional engineered mesh. This material provides good ventilation, and the multi-directional nature of it adds even more stability by increasing the strength of the fabric.
The Nimbus’ upper is made from recycled material and is softer to provide comfort on long runs. Specially engineered eyelets and a stretch midfoot panel offer flexibility in addition to stability. One of the shoe’s strengths is how well it balances these design priorities.
The Kayano includes an external heel counter, which can be clearly seen just by glancing at the shoe. This adds an extra element of stability to the shoe, keeping your heel stable and secure from the outside.
Both feature reflective materials so that you can be easily seen in low-light conditions, a padded ankle collar for extra comfort and keeping you locked in, and a traditional lacing system.
The midsole is where the Trusstic support system comes into play. Both shoes feature a Trusstic device, although the Nimbus’ offers only slight gender-specific support. The Kayano’s newer Space Trusstic System is a full stability system in the midsole.
Both the Gel-Nimbus and the Gel-Kayano use Flytefoam and Flytefoam Propel in their midsoles. Flytefoam was designed to be 55% lighter than other foams while providing just as much responsiveness. And these shoes are nothing if not responsive.
Flytefoam Propel is a newer and unique elastomer that offers an unusually high energy return. It increases power on the toe-off, and also provides some shock-absorption on landing. It features in the middle layer of the midsole. The very top layer is a plush, breathable, moisture-wicking Ortholite footbed.
The midsole is also where the signature GEL technology is situated. GEL cushions are placed in the heel and forefoot of both shoe models and do a good job of absorbing the impact of every foot strike. It’s basic function is to disperse impact forces so there’s less pressure on the joints.
Both shoes also use Plus 3 midsole technology. This adds an extra 3mm of foam to the women’s shoe, for more softness underfoot.
ASICS running shoes use an AHAR outsole. This stands for ASICS High-Abrasion Rubber, which is durable and has rubber sections placed strategically underneath the foot to target high-wear areas.
Both the Nimbus and the Kayano use flex grooves in the outsole’s forefoot, which works with the Propel foam to push you forward to reach new PRs. They are also shaped differently on the men’s and women’s shoes, as the shape of each makes a difference to the foot strike and how the foot flexes.
The sticky rubber in the forefoot helps to improve traction in all conditions. In the rearfoot, carbon rubber provides a solid and durable base that lasts many miles if you take care of it.
Both of these shoes are classified as road and track shoes. When it comes to stiffness, the Kayano is definitely the stiffer of the two. It’s a stability shoe, so it’s designed with stiffness in mind to keep your foot from rolling as you run.
The Nimbus is the more flexible of the two, but it remains slightly stiff in comparison to other ASICS shoes, due to its plush cushioning.
The Nimbus and Kayano both utilize Plus 3 midsole technology, and they have the same heel-to-toe drop. The men’s is 10mm, and the women’s is 13mm.
These two shoes are both slightly heavier than regular shoes thanks to the combination of foams and the added Trusstic systems.
The Gel-Nimbus weighs 9.1 ounces for the women’s shoe, and 11 ounces for the men’s, while the women’s Gel-Kayano weighs 8.8 ounces and the men’s 11.1 ounces.
If the price is your most important deciding factor, it won’t help you very much. These two shoes are priced just about exactly the same.
They are not the cheapest of ASICS shoes, but both of them contain cushioning and technology that’s considered to be well worth the price.
While both shoes are similar in materials and aesthetics, each one is designed for a specific type of runner.
The Gel-Nimbus is a great neutral shoe. If you have no problems with pronation and don’t struggle to keep a neutral and natural gait, then you should get the benefit of everything the Nimbus offers.
The Gel-Kayano is perfect for overpronators. Its additional support measures will reduce the chances of injury and help you to feel smoother and more secure on the road. The Kayano would also work well for you if you’re a neutral forefoot striker who could do with just a touch more support under the arch on the foot strike.