Fun fact: I don't have arches in my feet. This isn't hyperbolic—I legitimately do not have arches in my feet; I have a connective tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome that makes my joints and their supporting tissues super bendy, which in turn, caused the muscles in my arches to collapse at a young age. While my pancake-flat feet surprisingly don't hurt, they do require a ton of extra support from shoes, particularly in my walking sneakers.
Since my ankles are weaker (a symptom of severe overpronation), I tend to stay away from the trendy "rocker" sneaker that has recently made a splash in the footwear scene. Though that rounded bottom is great for shock absorption and forward propulsion, it can be a bit risky for my roll-prone ankles. (Typically, a higher stack and more pronounced contoured sole can cause instability in people with weak feet or balance issues.)
Thinking I'd have to rule out rocker sneaks completely, I was surprised to recently find a style that's not only stable enough to support my fallen arches and weak ankles, but is so comfortable, it's quickly replaced all of the other walking sneakers in my wardrobe. In fact, I love the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 ($160) so freakin' much, I bought another pair in a second color so I could mix and match with outfits: the subtle Fawn/Cream colorway on the days I'm feeling classic, and the Pale Apricot/Light Garnet for when I want a pop of pink. For a commerce editor who gets sent countless of shoes to test every month, to have a shoe stand out this much is really impressive.
Available sizes: 5-13, in half sizes and two widths
- Thick, cushiony midsole for maximum shock absorption
- Ortholite footbed
- Stretchy, supportive upper knit with pull-tabs
- Breathable and lightweight
- Made with recycled materials
- Available in 18+ colors
- Select colors/sizes sold out
- Might be too soft for running
About the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25
As you can glean from the name, the Gel-Nimbus 25 is as soft as a cloud. Actually, it might be a cloud (has anyone checked?!); the bouncy outsole is pretty much as lavish as it gets without being unsupportive or sloggy. The 25 is the softest of the Nimbus shoes thanks to the addition of gel in the midsole (an updated version of Asics PureGel for better shock-absorption). This gel combined with 20 percent more of the brand's plush, FFBlast EcoPlus foam gives it a light-as-a-feather, bouncy feel that's akin to walking on marshmallows.
And, yes, they are technically a rocker shoe, although the contour is less severe than other rockers on the market. If you look at the shoe's predecessor, the Gel-Nimbus 24 ($100), you'll see that both the forefoot and heel in the Gel-Nimbus 25 boasts higher stack heights (aka, how far off the ground they come). As for the total heel drop, it's still high (8mm) although not as high as the Gel-Nimbus 24 (13mm); regardless, it's right in the strike zone for a high-performance running shoe (though I use mine exclusively for walking).
Why I love them
Unsurprisingly, the Gel-Nimbus 25s are incredibly comfortable. The cushioning is an absolute dream on joints; the best way I can describe walking in them is like you're wearing lil' personalized mattresses on the soles of your feet. The thiccc-with-three-c's gel/foam midsoles have the perfect amount of energy return that's simultaneously lightweight and bouncy, absorbing shock with every step without weighing you down or imitating the feeling of being stuck, which some cushioned sneakers do. Whether I'm walking on the concrete sidewalks around my neighborhood, over dirt trails in my park, or even on gravel/unfinished pavement, I can walk for miles and miles without my feet, ankles, knees, and hips ever getting tired.
The subtle, neutral rocker
As I mentioned, rockers are typically a no-no for my unbalanced ankles. However, the rocker bottom on the Gel-Nimbus 25 is subtle enough that I don't feel like my ankles are going to cave in on themselves mid-walk. Instead, the slight contour gives you the feeling that you're walking on air, propelling you with every step to make ambling along easier and more enjoyable. I've tried other rocker shoes that propel you too much so that you have to be careful with how your feet fall as you step—these don't do that. And I'm happy to report that after a summer wearing them on all sorts of terrain, they haven't rolled in once.
That said, the contour is noticeable, so if you struggled with instability or balance issues, test them out before you wear them for a long stint or over more inconsistent surfaces, like gravel, rocky trails, or sand.
The lightweight, sock-like upper
I usually hate wearing sneakers on hot summer days because my feet inevitably sweat, which leads to itchy socks and a whole lot of stinky smells. But the upper on these cloud-like kicks are just as light as their namesake (not to mention, they're made with 75 percent recycled polyester that reduces waste and carbon emissions.) The mesh upper is also so stretchy, it's almost sock-like. There's no fighting with the tongue to get it to lay flat or get it unstuck from the laces, as a simple tug gets it to stretch out and contour to your feet. Additionally, the flexible pull-tab on the heel makes getting them on and over feet easy-peasy.
The stretchy upper means it's easy to accommodate orthotics, too. The removable insole—an Ortholite X55 sockliner—is comfortable as is, but if you do need more support, you can pop those out and pop in additional insoles or orthotics. I popped in a pair of Fulton insoles for additional arch support in the pink pair I own and they fit like a glove.
Me and my flat feet are hard to please, but the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 sneakers have managed to make both of us very happy customers. They're well worth adding a pair (or two) to your closet.
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