The Story Behind Asics Gel-Lyte III

Written by Marc | 12/02/2015


Brand Focus

Asics Gel-Lyte III
is a running shoe which was first released by the Japanese sports brand back in 1990. The most recognizable aspect of the shoe is the split tongue and the chunky cushion sole. The Gel-Lyte was a popular running shoe because of the way it looked and felt, but more recently it has become the silhouette of choice for retro sneaker aficionados and has seen countless collaborative re-releases. With a particularly strong following in European markets, some would argue it has inspired many of the designs that now feature in the Asics collection which is online at Mainline Menswear.

2015 marks 25 years since the creation of the Gel Lyte III and some brands make the history and story behind their designs a big part of selling their product, but Asics have an entirely different approach and an obsession with fresh innovation.

The brand has been dedicated to making running shoes with a scientific approach since 1949 but the collection you’ll find on Mainline Menswear at the minute features shoes created for the first time between approximately 1985 and 1995, all with vintage good looks. Amazingly they’re all former high-end running shoes too so they feel amazing to wear in the street.

Below: Some design sketches of the original trainer

Gel-Lyte III pushed the boundaries of design to feature a triple-density sole unit and the brand’s very own revolutionary split tongue, which led them into the realms of a whole new market of fashion-first products, released under the Onitsuka Tiger name to be a range of vintage sport infused footwear.

Asics’ Gel-Lyte III is at the forefront of a revival of these types of running shoes in streetwear, particularly the Gel series with heavy soles. And that’s why we now see the Gel Atlantis, the Gel Saga and Gel Epirus among others being re-released.
Kihachiro Onitsuka formed the label as Onitsuka Tiger at the beginning with the aim of creating athletic footwear, but when the company merged with others to form the ASICS Corporation in 1977, they instead began releasing casual shoes under the original moniker.

The man who created the Gel Lyte III, Shigeyuki Mitsui, still works for the company today- racking up an impressive 30-plus years of loyal service to the label.

He worked as an assistant on the Gel Lyte, designing small parts of the heel protector and midsole, before stepping up to work as the assistant designer on the Lyte II, finally getting commissioned to be the chief designer on the III.
Speaking to Complex Magazine he had this message for fans of his creation: ” I love to see you change the colours, paint and change the laces on the Gel-Lyte III yourself because of your love for the shoe. For me, the Gel-Lyte III is like my daughter. Please be happy with her.”

Asked if he realised his shoe had become fashionable as part of a retro runner movement he said: “No. I spoke to ASICS Europe. They said that the Gel-Lyte III had become incredibly popular a few years later. I thought it was unbelievable.”

At the turn of the 90s, running shoes were quite bland in appearance and the Gel-Lyte III came along and raised a lot of people’s eyebrows. Its upper was heavily modified and it had a much more colourful and exciting appearance than what people were used to.

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