Celebrating 25 years via the ASICS Gel Kayano 5
The reputation of the ASICS brand comes down to a few things. Namely, this historic footwear label is an innovator of the very concept of performance. Kihachiro Onitsuka’s company, since its early inception, puts an unflinching emphasis on getting the technical designs right.
That stringent focus leads to some memorable breakthroughs. For most of us, the GEL cushioning system comes to mind. To celebrate 25 years of runner experimentation, the brand is also bringing back the Gel Kayano 5.
In 1993, ASICS sets their sights on a very particular goal: creating a dynamic, all-purpose athletic shoe. Showing a mastery of the classical runner, they take notice of the cross-training trend that finds ubiquity in the early 1990s.
Brands such as Nike and Reebok start addressing this need early, so it was only a matter of time before ASICS found their footing in this category as well. The mission is to create a shoe that performs just as well on outdoor runs as it does during indoor training sessions.
The man who receives this assignment is a veteran designer by the name of Toshikazu Kayano. In his five years with the company, Kayano had worked on all sorts of projects for ASICS. His work spans several categories including basketball and running. Inevitably, Kayano’s dynamism finds its way onto the Gel Kayano 5 in 1999.
Before we get to the Gel Kayano 5, it’s important to note that Toshikazu is a man who takes inspiration from all kinds of sources. He brings with him a reputation for expressive mood boards that touch on a wide array of motifs. This is part of the reason why the original Gel Kayano takes its design cues from the stag beetle.
Another part of that was ASICS letting him know they do not care about the retail price of the final product. It just needs to have a clear vision.
The ASICS Gel Kayano 5 is inspired by the human body – exoskeleton, vital organs and all. One of the anecdotes that tell us something about the designer’s temperament. Toshikazu remarks that a part of the shoe’s upper looks like human organs: “This looks like a stomach!”
The Gel Kayano 5 also sports all sorts of retro design aspects that resonate with the current bulky sneaker trend. Though it is admittedly the quintessential dad shoe, this shoe also comes with technical sophistication.
The upper is in a mesh base that includes protective caging. The heel sports a Gel section that stands out, a detail that even the designer admits was “ridiculous” but not in any bad way.
In 1999, this design is a response. There was criticism suggesting that ASICS was not very good at putting together technical shoes. Needless to say, it’s an adequate answer.
Available on November 17th, the Gel Kayano releases first in its OG look. Then, we’ll be seeing, four more iterations. They’ll be available via the good folks over at Sole Box.