Created in 1993, the ASICS GEL-KAYANO was originally developed at the brand’s lab in Kobe under the codename “TOP OF RUNNING SHOE.” The product has been renewed annually ever since, its name an homage to perpetual evolution – or kaizen, in Japanese, meaning “constant change.” Launched in 1999, the GEL-KAYANO 5 high-end performance trainer became part of a family of shoes that set the benchmark for “stability running,” and responded to the global trend toward cross-training then particularly prevalent in the US – the shoe’s primary target market. Now, 20 years later, ASICS is re-launching the substance-over-hype GEL-KAYANO 5 – with updates that translate the original athletic technology for today’s market-driving sneakerheads – as the GEL-KAYANO 5 OG, and promoting the project through a series of images that channel the aesthetics of late 90s magazine advertisements. The re-issue appears alongside the release of ASICS’ new light-weight GEL-KAYANO 25, and comparing the two shoes side-by-side, one begins to consider the heart of ASICS footwear: a familiar yet curiously dense look that makes a lot of sense once you unpack it.
Back in the early 1990s, ASICS designer Toshikazu Kanayo got to work on the GEL-KAYANO by looking to the methods of the company’s founder Kihachiro Onitsuka, who conceived of his first pair of basketball shoes by studying octopuses. The marriage of technology and influences from nature was critical to his thinking. The GEL-KAYANO wrought together technologies aimed at stability (orthotics), dryness (Coolmax), and fit (Hytrel skeleton stripe), latticing one upon the other in a design that echoed the natural “armoring” of a stag beetle. ASICS distinguished itself as a brand by integrating a section made from P-GEL, proven to help counter over-pronation in runners. Over the years that followed, ever-newer technologies combined with increasingly varied sources of inspiration – including samurai outfits, praying mantises, battle tanks, clock faces, and human anatomy – all evident in subsequent GEL-KAYANO designs.
It was the arrangement of blood, muscle, and bone that informed the GEL-KAYANO 5, whose “OG” model made a star turn at GmbH’s Spring 2019 menswear presentation in Paris earlier this year. The brand sees the 1999 shoe as the antecedent to the comfortably chunky “dad shoes” that remain ubiquitous, but their latest release features a quadra-lacing system and a return of ASICS‘ DUOMAX tech, which reduces inward rotation of the foot. A new color palette completes this marriage of vintage and contemporary styles, showcased in promotional visuals that conjure the advertising language of the GEL-KAYANO 5’s early years: soft grey backgrounds a studio product shot, overlaid with the voice of a friendly corporate culture – rendered in the classic Garamond font popularized in the early 90s – for an overall effect reminiscent of Apple’s iconic “Think Different” campaign. As print aficionados, we get excited when magazine culture makes it online, and ASICS will be running their 90s-inspired editorial materials on their social media channels, narrating the GEL-KAYANO’s origins through Instagram stories that tap into the aesthetic of the special interest publications that promoted the shoe in the first place. Keep scrolling for a campaign preview.