Asics, a brand story.

GEL-NIMBUS™ 24 (Image from

Have you ever seen Asics sneakers? What do you think of first when you see Asics? Dad shoes? Staple fashion brand? Gel trainers? Running shoes? I think these are few of the things that people would think.

Asics is a brand with a very interesting history and to know more about the history of Asics we need to first look at Onitsuka Tigers. Because, Asics’ history starts with the Onitsuka Tigers. 

After Japan lost WWII, Japan received aid from the USA until 1952. The country was in a mess and the economic situation looked terrible. Now that the war was over, one of the many Samurai generals, Onitsuka Kihachiro (1918 – 2007) needed to do something different for the country. Onitsuka Kihachiro received advice from Hori Kohei, who was then working for the education department, to start a shoe making business in Japan. Due to the war, Japan did not have any big industries. Kohei used a Latin quote “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano” to convince Onitsuka. This translates as “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. Since the kids are Japan’s future, it is important to help kids to have a healthy body first. At the very bottom of this, they needed proper trainers

Onitsuka chose basketball shoes as their first product. The idea behind this is that if the company can produce basketball shoes, which is a bit more complex to produce compared to other types of shoes, the company can make any other type of shoes easily.

The First Onitsuka Tigers Basketball shoes (Image from

Onitsuka Tiger’s basketball shoes look similar to converse, which used to be a really popular basketball shoe. However, the main difference comes from the outsole of the shoes, which looks very similar to octopus tentacle suction cups. In 1956, the Japanese Olympic basketball team wore these as their official basketball shoes.

The first Tabi design sneakers?

Onitsuka tiger was the originator to produce running shoes with tabi type toes. It’s a Japanese traditional shape of shoes where the big toes are separate from the rest of the toes. That is because a lot of people were using tabi socks as their main shoes.

However, the Asics running shoes were terrible in the beginning. The running shoes were not suitable for long distance running due to the amount of blisters it was causing. 

So Asics decided to innovate and produce running shoes with air cooling systems. Asics named it “Magic Runner Marathon running shoes”. These got famous because in 1960 Abebe Bikila wore these to win the 1960 Olympic marathon.

Nike and Asics

Phil Knight (CEO of Nike) always showed a great interested in Japanese shoe industry. Phil Knight’s master’s thesis for his Stanford Business school is titled “Can Japanese sports shoes do to German sports shoes, what Japanese Cameras did to German Cameras?”

After traveling to Japan, Phil Knight initially decides to sell Onitsuka Tiger (Asics) in America, with the name Blue Ribbon Sports. This becomes a great experience for Phil and Bowerman for Nike. In a way, Asics played an important role in Nike’s history.

Are Nike's Cortez and Asics Corsair the same shoes?

In its history, yes they are from the same root. Cortez or Corsair was initially named TG Mexico. It was a pair of running shoes aimed at the 1966 Mexican Olympics. The name TG Mexico then changed to Aztec, but it had the same name with Aztec gold from Adidas. Therefore, they changed their name to Cortez, a Spanish conquistador who defeated the Aztecs. Later when Nike and Asics contract ended, Nike took the name Cortez and Asics had to change the name to Corsair. Nowadays, they are produced in different factories, but have similar designs.

When was Asics founded?

In 1977 Onitsuka Tigers merged with several other companies such as GTO and Jelenk and named themselves Asics. Acronym for “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano”. So I guess in a way you are able to say that Onitsuka Tigers changed their name and became ASICS. Onituska Tigers still exists as part of Ascis and remained as a brand.

What does Asics stand for?

If you read the first letters of each word in “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano” it reads ASICS and later becomes the company’s name in 1977.

If you are interested in Asics, here is the link.

This article does not sponsored by anyone.

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