When the minimalist running shoe trend literally boomed around 2010, many people asked why Asics – the Japanese running footwear giant – didn’t introduce any minimalist running shoes.
Almost exactly one year ago I went to the Asics European Headquarters and had a long chat with Rene Zandbergen, Product Manager for running footwear.
I asked Rene this very question and his answer was that it would have been very easy for Asics to quickly design and mass-produce a stripped down, zero drop shoe and claim a piece of the burgeoning minimalist market. But that wasn’t how Asics worked, that they were not the company to just jump on the bandwagon: that they want to lead by innovation and they want to only release footwear their research shows provides benefit to the runner.
At the time (october 2011), they were releasing the first shoes in the 33 collection. The 33 collection takes its name from the number of bones in the foot and it does not want to be strictly a “minimalist” collection, but a collection of shoes a runner should add to their rotation as an aid on experiencing natural running. I will be talking about Asics Natural Running more in detail in the coming days. (For more info about the original 33 collection see here, or check the review of last year’s Gel Excel-33)
Yesterday I assisted at the launch event for the new 33 collection in Berlin where we had a chance to learn about Asics involvement with Natural Running, see the shoes and test drive them on a track running clinic by Dr. Matthias Marquardt.
Let’s come to the shoe. I have only run briefly in them so this is not a full review but just a preview. The concept around which the Lyte 33-II has been built is FluidAxis. This is a new and definitely unseen before flex groove (deeply carved in the midsole and outsole of the shoe) that is better explained by looking at the picture below.
As you can see, the FluidAxis groove cuts through the shoe not longitudinally but somehow transversally. The idea is that running shoes take into account only the movement of the ankle, that flexes the foot up and down. But never before shoes have taken into consideration the movement of the subtalar joint, which moves the foot from side to side and is responsible for pronation and supination.
The shoe has a 6mm heel to toe drop and is meant for faster training for runners that are efficient and want to train natural running.
Once on, the FluidAxis can definitely be felt. I am a heavy overpronator and walking around with the shoe felt absolutely accentuating that. My foot was not guided in any way and free to move, but never before a shoe has accentuated my natural pronation like that before and I wasn’t really sure that was going to be the shoe for me. My opinion changed in the afternoon when we had a chance to actually run in the shoe, and run in the way the shoe is supposed to be run in.
When you walk you have a full heel-to-toe gait. But one of the principles of natural running is to land on the midfoot with your ankles slightly behind your center of mass. There and then, the shoe shined. Fast, nicely cushioned but responsive – and with a great feel for the road. I look forward to start training in them, with relatively short mileage while working on my form. Here’s below some more pictures, and the full press release from Asics. Stay tuned for the review !
‘FLUIDAXIS’: A REVOLUTION IN NATURAL RUNNING
ASICS introduces the latest in cutting-edge footwear design with its NEW 33 COLLECTION
November 2012 sees the European launch of the next generation of ASICS’ ‘natural running collection’. The new ASICS 33 range, features the latest ASICS technology known as ‘FluidAxis’, a game changing design feature which revolutionises the build of running shoes and offers runners a more natural feel and greater flexibility whilst maintaining protection and support.
Until now, running shoes have been designed around the up-and-down movement of the ankle joint. But the foot also rotates around different angles. The subtalar joint in the foot controls the side-to-side movements, called pronation and supination. When these are combined with the movements allowed by the ankle, the foot is able to move completely naturally. Acknowledging this, ASICS developed FluidAxis, a design feature which works with the natural geometry of the foot and allows the running shoe to instantly recognise and adapt to the load and positional changes of the foot whilst running.
key to the new 33 collection is in the innovative re-design of the mid and outsole of the shoe, with significant changes in the way the Flex Grooves are designed. ASICS has created a deep segmented groove design, which is aligned directly with the subtalar joint axis. This allows the foot to pronate in a natural way giving the wearer a more natural ride with unparalleled fit and comfort.
The new ASICS 33 represents an evolution of ASICS natural foot movement philosophy that has applied to it technical footwear since 2001. As an increasing number of runners look to vary their running experience – 40% of all runners currently make use of different technical running shoes – the 33 collection helps maintain running efficiency and comfort over prolonged distances whilst offering a responsive ride.
Simon Bartold, Specialist Sports Podiatrist and ASICS International Research Consultant says:
“FluidAxis is a game changing way of developing footwear. No other footwear company has taken into consideration the most important joint in the whole foot, the subtalar joint. FluidAxis technology will revolutionise running footwear, allowing every part of the shoe to adapt to your foot’s natural movement.”
A key addition to the European ASICS 33 collection is the GEL-LYTE33 II which is aimed at well-trained runners with an efficient gait looking for an ultimate running experience. With the GEL-LYTE33 II, ASICS has designed a high performance running shoe which includes FluidAxis, along with reduced upper-support, a soft heel counter and a heel raise lowered to 6mm, (all other ASICS 33 models have a 10mm heel raise.) When added to the deep segmented grooves which adapt to load and positional changes, the overall result is a light, flexible and breathable trainer.
FluidAxis will be included in the GEL-LYTE33 II, GEL-EXCEL33 II and GEL-HYPER33 II.