Mr Kenichi Harano, an Executive Officer and Senior GM of ASICS Institute of Sports Science, was at the celebration for the 100th anniversary of ASICS’ founding father, Mr Kihachiro Onitsuka on 21 September 2018.
For the past 18 years, Mr Harano has been conducting in-depth research, developing and refining the technology of ASICS shoes. He was the brains behind the material and structural designs that every customers fancy, inventing countless patents for ASICS shoe manufacturing methods and shoe components such as the foamed sole and shoe.
In this exclusive interview, Mr Harano shares his perspective on the following:
- The technology and innovation behind the sports product solutions offered by ASICS
- What further technological innovations that ASICS has installed for the future
- The history of ASICS and its founding father, Mr Kihachiro Onitsuka, who founded ASICS after the war in 1949
RS: Why did you join ASICS?
Kenichi Harano: I wanted to use my research to contribute to society somehow. Also, I joined ASICS in order to research goods that would be familiar to me.
RS: Can you describe your personal and working relationship with ASICS’ founding father, Mr Kihachiro Onitsuka?
Kenichi Harano: I was told the word by Mr. Onitsuka saying that I should not be caught in common sense. For example, all manufacturers have made the spikes on soccer shoes in cylindrical form, but I asked why do they have to be this cylindrical shape? These words later helped in developing innovative products.
ASICS made the shoe for International Space Station which also is called the ISS. I got an advice from Mr. Onitsuka on this project as well. We developed these, inspired by our first marathon shoe, the Tabi. We focused on proper fit and training effectiveness. We widened our area of activity beyond earth to include outer space and to leave an impression.
RS: What makes the technology and innovation different from other sports brands?
Kenichi Harano: We make a continuous improvement with an approach based on human-centric science. We can do this using bio-mechanism analysis technology, as well as original structural and material design and our own testing technology. We think these points distinguish ASICS from other companies.
RS: Can you share with us some of the exciting technological innovations that we can expect in 2019 and beyond?
Kenichi Harano: The announcements have not been made yet so I cannot offer any specifics, but ASICS will release a new running shoe next year that will surprise everyone. Please wait for it.
RS: How long does it take to launch an ASICS shoe in the market?
Kenichi Harano: Approximately 15 months from design to launch. During this time, the structure and materials are designed. But for special items or materials, the research can sometimes take three years or more.
RS: Which is the best running shoe in your opinion?
Kenichi Harano: The GEL-KINSEI and METARUN models. These were disruptive products, using the latest technology at the time they were introduced.
GEL-KINSEI was the first shoe to use GEL in the entire midsole, and the design led to the GEL-QUANTUM. The project name of the METARUN was Best of Best. Five new technologies were added, and four features—lightness, stability, fit, and cushioning—were improved.
RS: What do you think is the most important factor in designing a good pair of running shoes?
Kenichi Harano: ASICS focuses on eight features in the design to allow the user to run comfortably while improving performance and preventing injury. They are lightness, durability, cushioning, stability, grip, fit, flexibility, and breathability.
Some of these features are counter to each other. For example, typically improving cushioning means reducing stability. Making the shoe lighter in weight means less durability. By combining material design with structural design, we can try to balance the contrasting requirements.
RS: ASICS first started off creating basketball shoes, why did ASICS switch its focus more to running instead?
Kenichi Harano: We began by making basketball shoes, considered to be the most difficult type of sports shoe to make at the time. This was because of our founder Kihachiro Onitsuka’s belief that clearing higher hurdles, in the beginning, would allow later hurdles to be cleared one by one.
Also, our mission is to offer valued products and services not only to athletes but to all customers. Because of this, we apply the technology gained from designing athletic products, like basketball and volleyball shoes, to developing various other products like running, walking, and kids shoes.
In focusing on running shoes, our customers—runners from all over the world—have been able to feel the value from ASICS unique intellectual technology. ASICS also helped to spark the running craze, and as a result grew its base business.
Do you own any ASICS shoes? Why did you choose ASICS running shoes over other brands? Share your thoughts with us!