at the races Exclusive: interview with Norihiko Taniguchi, leader of the Future Creations Department at...

Exclusive: interview with Norihiko Taniguchi, leader of the Future Creations Department at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science

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With a slew of new shoes dropping in their METASPEED line, it felt like a good time to check in with Norihiko Taniguchi, General Manager, Future Creations Department, at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science. We’ve tested out the METASPEED Sky racing shoe and want to know if it’s indicative of a general change in running shoe design. Taniguchi, based in Japan, was also peppered with questions about the summer Olympic Games slated to begin this July in Tokyo. Lots of new people are getting into running, what does ASICS believe it will mean to our sport? Ben Kaplan conducted an email interview with one of the more influential people in our sport.

Ben Kaplan: At this stage of shoe design, how can you create something new? 

Norihiko Taniguchi: At ASICS we believe there is always something new – more we can do! Our fundamental human-centric design philosophy that drives all our development is driven by our commitment to continuous improvement and innovation. At ASICS, every product delivers balance of PERFORMANCE & PROTECTION—and is better than the last or we don’t release it. That goes for all our products and services. 

BK: How do you do such a thing?

NT: We look at how runners move and listen to what they say. Their voices are always the source of our innovations and the motivation to innovate. This is how we discovered METASPEED – if we didn’t have this approach – we wouldn’t have found this exciting new discovery!

BK: Without giving away company secrets, what makes METASPEED unlike anything else?

NT: One goal, but two ways to achieve it based on our approach to human-centric design. METASPEED truly focuses on how to support individual running styles and their specific needs.

BK: What went into the launch of the METASPEED—for a line of three new shoes of this calibre, how long does it take from original concept to stores? 

NT: We had the idea of creating METASPEED Sky, a pinnacle racing shoe, by extending the stride lengths for a while, however full development started about a year ago.

BK: Again, without sharing too much, but, according to your research, if two runners train exactly the same and race exactly the same, is there evidence-based research that an athlete wearing METASPEED Sky will finish first? 

NT: We of course cannot state that runners will finish FIRST in METASPEED – what we can say is that test conducted by ISS show conclusively that runners perform better in the right shoe for them so cadence/stride in respective shoes.

BK: Is there a new type of foam or plastic or something you created that no other company has? 

NT: METASPEED is not about any one technology—but how we have brought the best of our latest technologies together to adapt specifically to each running style. This is what we have done differently.

BK: Has something been unlocked in the METASPEED design that will influence what ASICS does next?

The breakthrough for us was to be able to discover the distinct styles with which runners, bio-mechanically increase their running speed.

BK: Will the METASPEED line be on display at this summer’s Olympic games? 

NT: We will have some new products that Olympians will wear in the games, including the METASPEED shoes.

BK: With headquarters in Japan and Tokyo written on the trainers, talk about the importance of this moment in time to your brand.  

Fiona Berwick, General Manager of Global Marketing Communications: This is simply a reaffirmation of our brand heritage at a time when we have seen and believe we will continue to see the growing importance of our founding Sound Mind, Sound Body Philosophy – and recognition of the positive impact of sport on people around the world. This is part of our campaign we started in January to support this mission.

BK: What do you see as the future of running shoes?  

I would like to be a part of developing a shoe that is so efficient and safe that it outputs 100% of what athletes input.

BK: How do you think COVID-19 will affect the sport? 

Fiona Berwick: We believe now more than ever sport has a role to play and we have seen increase hugely over COVID-19. Our whole recommitment to our founding mission – of a sound mind in a sound body – and to enable everyone to experience the positive mental benefits of sport is back on our masthead and all we do going forward is centred around this – from products, services and beyond! More to come.