There is a 45,000-square-foot lab in Kobe, Japan where the future of running shoes is decided. 200 employees are responsible for the research and creation of new materials and their testing in a full-scale biomechanics lab with a climate chamber that can replicate almost every condition on Earth. The shoes are built from scratch in the materials lab where new chemical mixes are and different sole moldings are used.
The Gel-Kayano is the popular running shoe and has changed a lot in the past 25 years. It is going to be its 25th version and the company has allowed the world to see how the shoe materials, design, and technology has changed inside the Asics Institute of Sports Science.
“The difference between the first shoe and 25 as far as making the shoe is a big [one],” says Toshikazu Kayano, designer of the Kayano 1 through 13. (He is also namesake of the shoe because marketers thought his name was catchy and for an English-speaking audience to pronounce, he tells PopMech.) “The stability is the same, but the designs are quite different and the use of materials are different. If I talk about every single thing that is different, it would take forever.”
The original Gel-Kayano Trainer was released in 1993 and was very much like the early day running shoes which were so heavy that nobody would touch them today. By the 6th edition in 2000, they built the shoes to absorb impact. The 16th version in 2010 was designed to keep the foot straight while running to increase stability. The 23rd version, a couple of years back in 2016 was 55% lighter than the industry standard.
The designers have gone all out for the 25th version and created something that would not have been dreamt of 25 years ago, They created two new styles of FlyteFoam – Lyte and Propel – to merge with the gel. The new version will be released in June and it has a 20% enhancement in strength and durability and is extremely light.
“In normal midsoles, if you try to make it light, the strength and durability will decrease,” says Junichiro Tateishi, footwear material development team manager. “That is the problem we had to solve. Because (researchers) were able to put nanofibers in between the air bubbles, it keeps the foam light but with no reduction to the strength or durability. It allows longer runs. During the research and development process, we were inspired by the materials in a bouncy ball.”
The latest version of the Gel-Kayano running shoes weighs under 12 ounces for a men’s version and includes gel materials in the rear and forefoot for shock absorption. What makes Asics stand out from the other companies is the fact that they develop their own materials and design their shoes in the same facility ever since the lab opened in Kobe in 1990 and the relationship between materials and designs continues to evolve as the years go by.
Have you tried Kayanos before? Let us know what you think in the comments section.