Asics Gel-Kayano: 30 years of the legendary Japanese Ugly Sneakers.

Kōbe – Japan, 1993.

Asics’ shoe designer Toshikazu Kayano decided to create a new type of running shoe: more solid and structured than existing ones, lighter and more agile too.

Kayano seeks inspiration from the creations of his predecessors, particularly Kihachiro Onitsuka, founder of ASICS, since, in Japan, the expression Onko-Chishin is used: “You have to respect the past to create the new.”


As he thinks about the brand’s immeasurable legacy, he observes the surrounding nature, as almost all Japanese do when they long for inspiration. In that moment, Kayano finds an unlikely muse: a humble stag beetle. He notices how its tough exoskeleton serves as protection while allowing the beetle to be fast and light; this inspires him in creating the support structure of the new Kayano-San shoe.

Balanced with the cushioning of GEL™ technology in the heel, the final design combines comfort and structure in a whole new way. In that moment, Kayano-San created what would become a legend among running shoes and beyond.

Since then, Asics designers have been working tirelessly to update and make the Kayano-Gel sneaker ever palatable in the marketplace. After 25 interactions of colors, collaborations, and new versions, the Kayano Gel has established itself as a timeless icon. Also helping this process was the trend of Ugly Shoes: shoes considered “ugly” because of their maximalist structure, rediscovered by Y2K trends in recent years.

From humble beginnings come great things. And the ASICS GEL Kayano are proof of that.

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