First we have to give you a brief history lesson, because we don’t want to confuse you. Onitsuka Tiger, ASICS Tiger and ASICS are all the same brand. The names just stand for different time eras. Just to keep it simple, Onitsuka Tiger was established in 1949 by Kihachiro Onitsuka. In 1977, the name was changed to ASICS which is still the name of the company. In 1981, ASICS Tiger was established as a new base for market development in the US and for some years ASICS brought out some models under the ASICS Tiger flag. Make sense? OK, now kick back and enjoy the ride as we take you through some very rare ASICS, from the Tiger Alliance to the Corsair and Gel Excel, you’ll freak when you see these up close.
ASICS AP GEL-LD Racer (1989)
This was designed for long distance road racing and had a GEL system in the forefoot of the mid-sole for protection from peak impact forces. Now for fans of the split tongue and the GEL Lyte III, it’s cool to know that the GEL-LD Racer was actually the first shoe to have the special split tongue design that ensured positioning and a better fit. Both sides had different colors, which was unique. This special colorway wasn’t part of the inline collection, but was part of the 1990 ASICS Performance Package which also included apparel and three other models (GEL Exult, GEL Lyte III and the Ekiden Racer). The GEL Lyte III in this package is the famous white/orange/purple colorway which was re-issued in 2006, a nice little detail.
ASICS Tiger Alliance (1985)
This is definitely one of my favourite ASICS sneakers of all times! The shape of the shoe is just perfect. It’s not too bulky, not too slim and the length of the tongue is perfect as well, I just hate it when a tongue is too short. The padded silver lining of the Alliance is the cherry on top of the cake. The Alliance was a high performance-training shoe with a unique ripple shock-dispersion mid-sole. This shoe was for the mid-mileage runner who wanted the lightness of a racing shoe plus the support of a training shoe. By the way, I have a nice little unofficial story for you, which is of course off the record! I heard through the grapevine that Florence Griffith-Joyner was wearing these shoes during training. Now I ask you people… did she had a contract with ASICS?
ASICS Tiger Corsair (1984)
This is probably one of the most important sneakers in history! Old school heads may know this story, but let’s tell it one more time to the rookies! It was initially developed for the American market with increased cushioning, arch cookies, a full-length mid-sole and a redesigned thicker heel. This enabled greater shock absorption and made the shoes more comfortable for non-sports use. The Corsair not only kickstarted the seventies jogging boom, but it was also the first shoe to be used as lifestyle leisurewear and not just sporting goods. Since the introduction of the Corsair, it became ASICS’s most popular training as well as casual shoe.
But now comes the most important part. This model was originally introduced in 1969 as model T-24 and known as Cortez. It was renamed the Corsair following a 1974 legal judgement in favour of the company then already called Nike (before that time the company was called Blue Ribbon Sports). Blue Ribbon was started by Phil Knight after he persuaded Onitsuka Tiger to make him a distributor of Tiger running shoes in the United States. When the first set of sample shoes arrived, Knight sent several pairs to Bill Bowerman, hoping to make a sale. Instead, Bowerman stunned Knight by offering to become his partner and provide his design ideas to Onitsuka Tiger. One of those designs was the Cortez/Corsair.
Onitsuka Tiger ROTATION 6 (1964)
The ROTATION 6 was introduced in 1964 and has a mixed foam rubber sole which promotes flexibility and is fatigue resistant. The built-in shock-proof system reduced the risk of getting injuries. The UI striping pattern had been used before 1966 until the company developed the world famous ASICS striping pattern we all know today. The blue and red UI stripes were named the Olympic Lines at that time.
The ROTATION 6 was made for the legendary Japanese (6-member) women’s volleyball team. At that time, there were also 9-member volleyball teams. The Japanese National Team of the Tokyo Olympic Games was known as ‘TOYO no MAJO (Oriental Witches)’. They got the name because of their amazing volleyball tricks which resulted in winning the gold medal! Sounds like a legendary sneaker don’t you think so?
Some extra info about this amazing team: The triumphant Japanese women’s volleyball team consisted largely of members of the Nichibo (now Yunitiaka) Kaizuka team. Established in Osaka in 1889, Nichibo Kaizuka was a major firm in the textile industry. The team’s strength could even be said to have symbolized that of the textile industry, which had been one of the driving forces behind the Japanese industry since the latter part of the nineteenth century.
ASICS GEL-Lyte V (1993)
I can’t get enough of the GEL Lyte series and we were very happy to find two colorways of the GEL Lyte V. It was designed for high mileage distance runners seeking a lightweight shoe with a control fit. The GEL system was located in the rear foot and had P-GEL (Porous Gel) cushioning in the forefoot of the mid-sole for shock absorption. In contrast to the GEL Lyte III, this one didn’t have a split-tongue design, but a mono-tongue system. (As used on the Huarache series). This was a big technical trend in the beginning of the nineties.
ASICS GEL Lyte III (1990)
Without a doubt the GEL Lyte III is heading towards stardom, almost 20 years after its introduction. Of course projects like the ones ASICS did with Patta and Alife gave the GEL Lyte III a boost! The shoe featured additional rear foot cushioning and shock absorption, which made it perfect for high mileage runners who desired an extremely lightweight shoe. This classic model (talking about the previous released GEL Lyte and GEL Lyte II) had been given a unique and modern twist, a special split-tongue design which prevented the tongue moving from side to side. ASICS GEL was placed in the rear foot of the tri-density compression molded mid-sole for excellent shock absorption. It also had a medial and lateral vertically extended midfoot frame and external PVC counter for additional motion control.
ASICS GEL Excel (1993)
Unfortunately this model isn’t part of the Endorsed collection. This shoe is in possession of Remco Korf of ASICS Europe. Nevertheless, I just had to show this one to the readers of Sneaker Freaker. The first reaction people have after seeing it is that the heel unit looks like the Nike Air 180. Even Woody mailed me the following text “I love the pair with the 180 style heel unit…WOW! I have never seen them before!” The GEL Excel was designed for the serious runner and was the first shoe to introduce the new Gel cushioning system called GEL WAVE SUSPENSION. It was the combination of EVA, GEL and GEL-WINDOW of the mid-sole construction that improved the cushioning and shock absorption.
This article appeared in Issue 12 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here