Asics has a loyal following and an innovative approach to shoe design—and these shoes prove it.
Asics got its start nearly 70 years ago, when Kihachiro Onitsuka began making basketball shoes in his living room in Kobe, Japan. He soon expanded to running shoes, and his first pair, the Marathon Tabi, came out in 1953. His business grew, and in 1977 he merged it with two other companies and began selling footwear in the United States. He also changed the company’s name to Asics, an acronym for the Latin phrase “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano” (a sound mind in a sound body). Since then, Asics has grown into one of the premier running shoe companies.
A Scientific Approach
A strong commitment to research and performance has helped Asics design consistently high-quality running shoes, and made it a favorite among all kinds of runners. Shortly after its arrival in the US, Asics released the California jogging shoe, which featured new developments like a flared sole and reflective tape on the heels to keep runners visible at night. In May 1990, it opened the Research Institute of Sports Science in Kobe, where the company conducts materials tests and biomechanical research to fine tune its designs. This lab has produced some of Asics’ hallmark innovations, like the Gel shock absorption system, its new GuideSole design, and other midsole features that combat overpronation and help prevent injury.
Gel and Beyond
Perhaps one of Asics’ best-known innovations is its Gel technology, which the company first released in 1986. It consists of a gel-like substance implanted in the midsole that helps absorb impact forces for a smoother ride. It’s found in the midsoles of many of the company’s flagship shoes, and it’s the primary cushioning system in the Gel-Quantum Infinity. Another key innovation is the Impact Guidance System, which combines an external heel counter and specially-designed plates in the midsole to aid in a more natural foot movement while running.
The company has continued to churn out new technologies in recent years as well. Like other shoemakers, it pushed past EVA foam with its own proprietary cushioning, called FlyteFoam. This foam is formulated to be lighter and more resilient than EVA. It’s further refined into subgroups of FlyteFoam Propel, which includes a special elastomer to increase energy return, and FlyteFoam Lyte, an even lighter-weight version. The company’s latest development is GuideSole, which debuted on the MetaRide. It’s a rocker-based sole construction that’s shaped to help runners roll through their stride and reduce ankle movement—the company claims it cuts energy loss by up to 19 percent. That means you can push through longer distances more easily, since you’ll expend less energy with each step. We’re still testing these claims, but it’s an exciting development nonetheless.
How We Chose These Shoes
To choose the shoes below, we scoured the Asics lineup, talked to a brand rep to get the scoop on the company’s newest models, incorporated info from Runner’s World reviews, and used our own knowledge of the running shoe market to flag the most important kicks. We also worked to include a variety of shoes that would appeal to different runners and styles of running. Of course, it’s impossible to choose the right shoe based on a picture and a paragraph, so we’ve listed pros and cons for each shoe and linked to RW reviews wherever possible. In those reviews, you’ll find an in-depth breakdown of the shoe along with feedback from hundreds of wear testers and data from the RW shoe lab.
Generally speaking, Asics makes workhorse road shoes that can power through high mileage, and they’ve been scrutinized from top to bottom to help you run farther, faster, and more comfortably. It has led to some remarkable running shoes—here are a few of RW’s favourites.