Skip to Main Content
Brand Heritage

ASICS’ Founder Story and Brand History

September 2, 2021

ASICS is one of the first global running shoe brands. Dive deeper into the history of ASICS, the founder’s story, and the company’s various achievements.

ASICS grew from a two-person team to one of the world’s most influential sports brands. ASICS was built on the idea of “Anima sana in corpore sano,” a Latin phrase which translates to "a sound mind in a sound body". This philosophy became a legacy that remains an essential part of the brand to this day.

ASICS' founder, Kihachiro Onitsuka, believed being active creates a better lifestyle. Onitsuka lived to inspire, support and encourage everyone to embrace an active lifestyle. He wanted his brand to be accessible for all sports consumers ranging from beginners to professionals.

The story of Kihachiro Onitsuka

Who is Kihachiro Onitsuka? Onitsuka was a military veteran who eventually decided to venture into the shoe business. He began making footwear for top athletes under the business name "Onitsuka Co." This company started small with just a handful of employees and initially sought to produce basketball shoes.

For one of the company's first shoe models, Onitsuka found inspiration in a dish of octopus salad. He compared the shoe's grip to the suction power of an octopus tentacle. With this strength, the shoe allowed athletes to elevate their game. It was named "Onitsuka Tiger".

This product was worn in various professional sporting events, thus paving the way for Onitsuka to build a global sporting empire.

Are ASICS and Onitsuka the same company?

Onitsuka Co. was originally founded in 1949, later merging with GTO Co. and JELENK Co. in 1977. Following the merger, the company officially formed “ASICS”. Today, under the umbrella of the ASICS company are the ASICS and Onitsuka Tiger brands.

ASICS historical timeline

ASICS has grown and shifted over time. From the company's inception to today, ASICS has had the opportunity to celebrate the 100th birthday of Mr. Onitsuka. The company has also rolled out innovations like GEL™ technology and other materials featured at major sporting events.

Through the years: 1950 - 1980

Brand Heritage Image 1

ASICS has been working on developing high-quality products from the customer's point of view in the sports business, and has continued to propose innovative products to the sports market. The company launched the “Suction cup” basketball shoes in 1951, the Marup marathon shoes in 1953, the Nylon shoes in 1954 and the Magic Runner™ marathon shoes in 1960. The current stripe design (ASICS stripe) was created in 1966.

1976 - Lasse Viren

Viren, a Finnish long-distance runner, wore ASICS shoes to win a gold medal. On his victory lap, he famously took off his Onitsuka Tiger shoes and waved them to the crowd.

1977 - ASICS is born

Three companies — Onitsuka Co., GTO Co. and JELENK Co. — merged together, creating ASICS. ASICS stands for "Anima Sana In Corpore Sano", a phrase coined by ancient Roman satirist, Juvenal. This saying, which means "a sound mind in a sound body," is the company's guiding philosophy.

Through the years: 1980 - 2000

Brand Heritage Image 2

During this period, ASICS launched numerous products, including GEL™ technology, in addition to developing several important partnerships.

1986 - Rosa Mota

Rosa Mota is a Portuguese marathon runner. While sponsored by ASICS, Mota became a European champion in 1986, a Rome champion in 1987, and the first female Portuguese gold medalist in 1988.

1990’s - GEL™ Technology Development

GEL™ technology was created in 1986, but became fashionable during the 1990s. This technology was revolutionary, and it still is today. GEL™ technology remains one of the go-to choices for runners across the world. This technology supported and cushioned runners' feet during its early popularity. Today, you can find this technology in the GEL-LYTE™ III, the GEL-KAYANO™, the GT-2000™ and the GEL-NIMBUS™ running shoes.

Through the years: 2000 - present

During this time period, ASICS created innovative products used by professional athletes around the world.

ASICS champions in the 2000’s

1. Naoko Takahashi, 2000.

Takahashi, a Japanese long-distance runner, wore ASICS Marathon SORTIE JAPAN to win a gold medal in the international women's marathon.

2.Stefano Baldini and Muzuki Noguchi, 2004.

Italian international men's gold medalist Stefano Baldini and Japanese international women’s marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi wore ASICS' marathon shoes.

3. Saori Yoshida, 2012.

Yoshida, a Japanese freestyle wrestler, wore ASICS' wrestling footwear and singlet to win a gold medal in international women’s wrestling.

4. Vissel Kobe, 2019.

Vissel Kobe is a Japanese professional football club who won a championship in the 2019 season. Their home, away, third and goalkeeper shirts are all being designed and made by ASICS.

5. Novac Djokovic, 2019.

ASICS partnered with Serbian tennis professional, Novak Djokovic to launch an exclusive new tennis shoe, the Court FF NOVAK.

The passing of Kihachiro Onitsuka, 2007.

On September 29, 2007, Onitsuka passed away from heart failure at a hospital in Kobe, Japan. The quote “if you fail, keep going until you succeed” is one way to describe how Mr. Onitsuka lived his extraordinary life. He was 89.

Kihachiro Onitsuka’s 100th birthday, 2018.

In remembrance of Onituska, ASICS released “100th Birthday Commemorative” models on May 29, 2018. The products were designed with a sunflower that Onitsuka painted. This line includes the ASICS’ GEL-QUANTUM™ 360 KO100, the ASICS Tiger GEL-MAI™ KO100 and the Onitsuka Tiger CORSAIR™ KO100 running shoes, as well as a line of apparel.

The future of ASICS

ASICS will continue to embody the legacy Onitsuka left behind. This company was originally founded to raise the spirit of Japanese youth, but ultimately promoted a healthy lifestyle throughout the world. These ideals helped form the ASICS of today. ASICS has taken notes from its humble beginnings to build a brighter future for its customers. Believing in the power of physical activity and wellness, researchers and engineers at ASICS are dedicated to helping create happier lives one step at a time.