When the lead footwear designer at ASICS, Toshikazu Kayano, made ASICS’ most advanced running shoe in 1993, he could hardly imagine how his creation would look 21 years later. While shoe concepts often start within a shoe company’s product development department, with thought toward reaching different customers and filling holes in the existing product line, this shoe was unique as the original concept came from Mr. Kayano himself. Naming the shoe in his likeness was originally a temporary plan as a placeholder during the development phase, with a different name intended to be created to take its place as the shoe came to market. However, the name Kayano became popular among the developers and the GEL-Kayano was born. To date, this is the only ASICS shoe ever named after a designer.
As with any 21 year old, the GEL-Kayano has gone through many changes to get to their current state. With every trend setting innovation that the GEL-Kayano brought to the industry, great care was taken to ensure that the shoe’s legendary ride persists undiluted.
The GEL-Kayano Trainer was born in 1993. From birth the Kayano, broke barriers for comfort and support in the industry. With GEL units in the heel and forefoot and supportive elements in the midsole and upper, the shoe delivered a premium experience that ASICS didn’t offer in other models. The first Kayano was the most expensive running shoe in the industry and many people doubted ASICS’ ability to sell a shoe at its price point. “Trainer” was initially included in the name to reflect runner’s lexicon for high mileage running shoes but the shoe came out right as cross-training became popular and the word “trainer” was dropped from subsequent models.
By its 5th generation, the GEL-Kayano had started to excel among its running shoe peers. Sales exploded with the 3rd rendition when ASICS included the first Trusstic System included in that model. The Kayano reached its 5th year in style as it started really showing off with more exposed GEL units than before and a bold logo on the side. 5 is the age that many of us experienced our first day of school, the Kayano was certainly prepared to be the coolest kid in class.
By the time the Kayano reached double digits, it had taken comfortable support to the next level. With four years of refining its impact guidance system the shoe’s ride grew ever smoother. For the first time ever the GEL-Kayano X (the shoe had been showing off its age in Roman numerals in the title from VII) featured Biomorphic Upper Fit, with upper materials that give an equivalent custom fit experience to the GEL units underfoot.
When the Kayano became a teenager it gave up on Roman numerals and took on more GEL in the midsole than ever. This GEL was added without making the shoe heavier thanks to lighter materials in the upper. The updates included in the GEL-Kayano 13 would lay a foundation for some very successful subsequent years.
When the Kayano reached its sweet 16 it was coming off of consecutive Runner’s World Editor’s Choice awards. The GEL-Kayano 16 introduced the Guidance Line, a groove that spanned the shoe from heal to toe to encourage an efficient stride without sacrificing support. As many of us did, the Kayano certainly passed its driving test on its 16th birthday.
The GEL-Kayano 18 celebrated its status as a legal adult by shedding over an ounce to be the lightest Kayano to date and with out losing any of the innovative features that made the shoe so successful. With the drop in weight the Kayano became more flexible but managed to stay incredibly cushioned.
And that leads us to the Kayano’s 21st birthday. The GEL-Kayano 21 retains everything that has made it great and, coming in at 11.5 oz is the lightest yet. The FluidRide midsole compliments the FluidFit upper perfectly to conform to the unique needs of every foot while keeping the foot springing toward each stride. GEL cushioning units continue to provide the lasting protection from the road and this generation has the most gel yet. While the Kayano is a shoe that accommodates all footstrike points, a larger portion of the additional gel is in the forefoot, upping the protection for forefoot and midfoot strikers. A new heel crash pad engages the Guidance Line earlier in the ground contact cycle and the Guidance Line has been reshaped to bring the foot through the optimal movement and waste as little energy as possible when toeing off to the next stride.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that refers to continual improvement. Perhaps no other shoe in the industry embodies this philosophy like the GEL-Kayano. The 21st birthday is the ultimate coming of age moment for Americans and signifies that one is finally entrusted with virtually all rights and responsibilities of an adult. It provides and opportunity to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to future improvement and success.
Whether you are a Kayano faithful or have never tried the shoe, join Running Warehouse in celebrating a shoe that continues to set innovative trends for the industry and keeps runners around the world hitting the pavement for mile after mile.
We will have a more detailed review of the new Kayano when we can thoroughly test the shoes.