by John Silvia, Marathon Sports staff member
The year was 1994 – Friends was debuting on NBC, the Red Sox winning the World Series was nothing more than a long-shot pipe dream and still an entire decade away, Red Sox fans had no idea who Pedro Martinez or Big Papi are, Google didn’t exist, and Under The Table and Dreaming was turning Dave Matthews Band into a household name. If you asked anyone “Hey, did you get my text?,” you would be greeted with a blank stare, The Shawshank Redemption demonstrated the power of Morgan Freeman’s narrative voice to the world, and even our very own Marathon Sports was for the first time ever adding a new store with its now-famous Wellesley location.
1994 was also the year runners first chanted “Run Forrest, run!,” and it was the year that one of the most successful running shoes of all time, the Asics Gel-Kayano, debuted. Named after its designer, Toshikazu Kayano, the Kayano is currently the longest mainstay in the highly-cushioned, moderate support running shoe category, and it is one of the longest running shoe lines in existence overall.
And, year after year after year thousands upon thousands of runners depend on the Gel-Kayano as their daily trainer as they prepare for their marathons, and many a running store employee depend on the Kayano for fitting those overpronating runners who need that moderate support as well.
Yet calling the Asics Gel-Kayano one of the most successful running shoes of all time isn’t hyperbole. In fact, trying to write something about the Gel-Kayano that’s never been written before presents its own challenge. All the typical adjectives you’ve encountered in running magazines or running shoe reviews–plush, durable, stable, supportive, cushioned, etc., etc., etc., have been used to describe the Gel-Kayano a thousand times over and then some.
So what could possibly be written about the Kayano that’s never been written before? Well, with the 22nd iteration all the recycled adjectives about super-plush cushioning and great stability still apply–it is in fact super plush with a ton of give and shock absorption, and it does give just the right amount of support to thousands of runners. What’s new and noteworthy however, is that Asics has followed the design trend of using engineered mesh but replacing stitched overlays with laser-printed overlays to create a more seamless, blister-resistant upper.
In turn, this has reduced the weight of the Gel-Kayano and created a significantly snugger fit. What’s a little less noteworthy is that Asics has also slightly reconfigured the plastic trusstic piece in the outsole and adjusted the shape of the Gel in the midsole, both of which Asics seems to tinker with every year. No better, no worse. Effectively the Asics Gel-Kayano 22 is as supportive and as cushioned as ever, but weighs slightly less and fits noticeably snugger, and it will continue to be chosen by masses of runners as their go to shoe for their upcoming races, be it a 5K, 10K, or full marathon.
And for those of you who will be running in the Boston Marathon in 2016 and need to get properly fitted for running shoes, the Asics Gel-Kayano could very well be what you end up training in, too. And for those hard winter days that force even the hardiest of us onto the treadmill, 1994 did give us plenty of Friends reruns for a few laughs and The Shawshank Redemption for some serious motivation.
Or, you could even fast-forward to 2004 and watch Games 4 or 6 of the ALCS, and remember that sometimes when things seem the darkest and most difficult (like when you’re stuck doing a long run on a treadmill in the winter) good things still happen in the end (you finish the marathon and earn your best time ever). At the same time though, it might also help to fast-forward from your old running shoes to the updated Asics Gel-Kayano as well.