ASICS GEL-Cumulus 21 Review

A mainstay in the running industry, the GEL-Cumulus 21 is the newest version of ASICS’ reliable standard-weight neutral trainer. After a considerable update for the Cumulus 20, the 21 maintains the same midsole and outsole and just gets an upper refresh and sock liner change.

GEL-Cumulus 21 vs GEL-Cumulus 20:

ASICS has made some slight changes to the upper and and has switched up the material of the sock liner, but the 21’s overall experience is very similar to the 20’s.

  • There are no significant changes to the midsole or outsole, so the general character of the shoe remains the same
  • The toebox might be a little deeper, but the overall fit is unchanged
  • The GEL-Cumulus 21 gets ASICS’ new sock liner, making it feel a little less plush upon step-in but giving you a little more progressive cushioning when running
  • The sock liner makes the shoe feel a little lower overall, but also may feel a little softer
  • Unfortunately, the 21 has gained a little weight – but not so much that you would notice it on-foot


ASICS had gotten back to a better fit with the GEL-Cumulus 20, and that fit is maintained in the 21. The past few generations of Cumulus’ have been plagued by fit issues. The main problems have been overall narrowness, small toebox, inconsistent length, and tapered toe. The GEL-Cumulus 21 is running more true-to-size while providing a more accommodating fit throughout the shoe. One defining characteristic of the Cumulus is the very structured heel. It is a significant amount firmer than the previous Cumulus’ and one of the most firm on the market.


The GEL-Cumulus 21 maintains the traditional standard-weight neutral feel that runners have come to expect in a Cumulus. It’s less flexible than some of its competitors, but the FlyteFoam midsole gives it a little more responsive feel than some previous Cumulus’. The Cumulus 21 is still on the stiffer/more structured than most neutral trainers, so runners who prefer a flexible loose feel might want to look elsewhere. The Cumulus 201 remains right in the middle of the spectrum in terms of ride (halfway between the firmness of the New Balance Zante and the plushness of a Hoka Bondi). The new sock liner does do a better job of both keeping you a little lower to the ground and providing a more progressive cushioning experience. The old sock liner of the 20 and before were pretty much on or off affairs, but the new memory-foam-like material that they’ve put in the 21 is initially soft but gets firmer as you step down. The only thing that you loose with the new foam is a little of the step-in plushness that the old sock liner had.


As a standard weight neutral shoe, the ASICS GEL-Cumulus 21 is one of the classic neutral trainers. It provides very little inherent stability and will allow the foot to be flexible. While great for neutral runners, it’s not going to provide any guidance to prevent pronation.

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ASICS GEL-Cumulus vs Brooks Ghost:

The Brooks Ghost 11 has become one of the best selling running shoes in specialty running recently – a position that the Cumulus has often held over the years. In their current versions, the shoes have a very different feel. The Ghost has an overall softer feel, both in the upper plushness and in terms of midsole/ride. It also feels more flexible and has a little more smooth transition than the Cumulus. With the sock liner update, the Cumulus 21 gets a little closer in terms of ride and now feels appropriately low for how performance-biased it has become. The GEL-Cumulus is more structured in the upper and feels like a more solid platform. Each runner might have their own opinions on which feel calls to them. Weight is almost identical for each shoe and neither feels significantly heavier than the other on-foot. The Ghost is a little wider than the Cumulus, with a much more flexible upper with fewer overlays. The flexible upper allows even more room for both shoe width and toebox volume.


ASICS GEL-Cumulus vs Mizuno Wave Rider:

While in last year’s models these two felt pretty similar, we have reached the point where the Rider is actually softer than the Cumulus. Tracking each shoe for the past few versions, this point was inevitable at some time… but throw out the traditional stereotypes of the Rider being a faster, firmer trainer and the Cumulus being more soft and bulky. ASICS’ shift to a performance feel and Mizuno’s shift to a soft, cushioned ride has ended up flipping what you might traditionally think from these two shoes. The Wave Rider is wider than the Cumulus, with about the same amount of width and depth in the toebox. Weight is very similar for both shoes. The Rider feels a little higher and has a much softer heel counter. The amount of guidance in each shoe is minimal, and both are great options for neutral runners.


ASICS GEL-Cumulus vs Nike Zoom Pegasus

Two of the titans of neutral trainers! In their current forms, the two take very different approaches. The GEL-Cumulus 21 maintains its structured upper and midsole while the Zoom Pegasus 35 is a much more flexible, contoured trainer. While both weigh about the same amount, the Pegasus’ smooth transition, contoured shape, and flexible upper give it a lighter, more playful feel. Conversely, the Cumulus feels more substantive and supportive of your foot. The Pegasus is a little softer than the Cumulus, with a very noticeable lateral heel bevel. Neither are designed to provide any amount of guidance and the differences in inherent stability are negligible between the two. The fit of the two are pretty different, with the Cumulus having a pretty traditional fit while the Pegasus is really contoured and trim.


ASICS GEL-Cumulus vs Saucony Ride

The Saucony Ride ISO 2 is softer than the Cumulus and much more flexible, but the Cumulus feels a lot more stable under the foot. The transition of the Ride is much more smooth, and overall the shoe feels a little higher than the Cumulus. The upper of the Ride feels softer and plusher but some runners might not like the loose/flexible feel of the Ride. As each is designed as purely neutral trainers, guidance for each shoe is minimal.