GEL-Noosa Tri brings Aussie color to life
ASICS challenged its designers to incorporate the feel of the Great Barrier Reef into its GEL-Noosa Tri series. The multi-colored runner has proven a hit Stateside, as well as Down Under.
One look at the ASICS GEL-Noosa Tri 7 can tell observers all they need to know about the bold attitude ASICS adopted toward the latest iteration of its series of triathlon-inspired performance footwear.
Mark Doherty, General Manager of Footwear at ASICS Australia; and Jim Monahan, Vice President, Footwear, took some time to lend Striperpedia some exclusive insight to the most colorful family of footwear that ASICS has ever produced.
Striperpedia: Tell me about the origins of the GEL-Noosa Tri series. What was the inspiration behind it?
Mark Doherty: The first shoe ever in this line was the GEL-Bondi, after the beach, of course. The concept was to go outside the norm, have fun with color and design showing the spirit of the Australian culture.
After the first model, I decided that the shoe should tie back to one of our sponsored events, so the next model was called the GEL-Forster Tri – Forster is the small town in New South Wales where the Australian Ironman is run each year.
The GEL-Noosa Tri came about when we took over the Noosa Tri event, which is one of the biggest in the tri series globally, and the Australian Ironman had moved to Port Mcquarie. I figured the GEL-Noosa Tri was better than the GEL-Port Mcquarie!
The GEL-Noosa Tri debuted at the event in November 2005. The GEL-Forster Tri would have been three or four years before that, and the GEL-Bondi was 2000 or 2001.
What have been some significant evolutions through the seven shoes in the GEL-Noosa Tri series? What differences are there between the men’s and women’s models?
In the early days we used the racing flat tooling and then with the feedback from the triathletes, we redesigned the shoe to have more cushioning and support (modeled after the GEL-DS Trainer). This mix of a functional upper with a great balance of cushioning and support from the midsole has led to resounding acceptance for this performance shoe.
Oh, and it looks cool as well. Meaning, it gets lots of fashion play too.
The main difference between the men’s and women’s models is the last on which the shoe is built. ASICS uses a women’s-specific last, allowing for a more gender-specific fit (for example it’s narrower in the heel than the men’s).
Love the colorways! How did they come about?
Noosa is a beautiful beach area of Australia. And with the colors of the Barrier Reef not far away, the designers were asked to use them as a point of inspiration. The designers also were challenged to see how many of these beautiful colors they could place on he shoes at one time. The shoe has become one of the most desired projects to work from the designers’ perspective. They love the creative freedom.
I remember one of the reasons for going even more wild in color was because of Sept. 11 . The world was down, and I felt like it was a way to say, ‘Let’s still have fun; don’t let the negativity get us down!’
Why haven’t the colorways spilled over into any other ASICS’ models?
Oh, they’re coming! The Noosa spectrum of colors will be out in full force in categories like volleyball and training with fall 2012. We also will extend into other shoes within the running category in fall 2012.
What is the difference between a triathlon shoe and a regular running shoe? Just the quick-change lacing, or something more technological?
The lacing is one – to offer both laces – it is important that elastic laces are common in triathlons, but for Ironman, a lot of the athletes still like the security of normal laces.
Other features were to keep the inside of the shoe free of irritation. This doesn’t mean to make a seamless upper – most seamless uppers tend not to hold shape and support the foot, so I didn’t want to go to seamless because of this – but the object is to make the stitching almost invisible internally.
There are other features like the grip pads on the tongue and heel tab to aid in transition fitting. And the sockliner is aerated and has a tacky film so it grips to the base of the shoe, so when a wet foot goes into the shoe, the sockliner doesn’t wrinkle up.
Also, the mesh tends to be super-open to allow moisture to get out quickly when a wet foot goes in, and it lends extreme breathability as the wearer gets into the run.
Even the “glow in the dark” elements are meant to be technical, based on the fact that many Ironman athletes finish in the dark!
The GEL-Noosa Tri series and its forerunners are so different from ASICS’ other offerings, with the wild and exciting colors, it seems like a bold step for the company. How hard of a sell was it to upper management to leave that comfort zone?
The great thing about ASICS footwear development is that the global product directors are allowed to be creative within their own areas, such as we have here in Australia, cricket and netball shoes that are so dominant in our market, while other competitors do not even try. So when one of us has an idea, the Japanese hierarchy has always backed our judgment.
Plus I knew the Japanese would love the wild colors, which worked out well; they were one of the first international subs to pick up the GEL-Noosa Tri!
Because the shoe started here in Australia, it was left to each region to determine when they wanted it for their markets and when that timing was correct.
Again this is the great aspect of our company that a single subsidiary can come up with an idea, run with it and then the others join in when the timing is right. The 33 by ASICS series is another story like this, starting in the US first! This is totally foreign to other big companies and quite a quirky aspect of ASICS: The product and consumer come first! Dollars naturally flow if you get that right.
Jim Monahan: The answer to the timing of this introduction is simple: The shoe started getting such a following in the tri-space that we could no longer ignore the product. The first demands for this product within the Americas region started in Canada (for the performance aspect) and Brazil (for the fun aspect of the shoe along with the performance).
After each season, ASICS America would assess our market opportunity. With color being a trend that we started following a couple of years ago, we knew this item would be great. Also, the performance aspects of the shoe just continued to get better and better. The consumer is always right, and they spoke loud and clear, ‘Give us the Noosa!’ So we did.
Given the apparent success of the GEL-Noosa Tri line, and the positive feedback of the colorways, how might the GEL-Noosa Tri affect other ASICS offerings? What’s the future of the GEL-Noosa Tri?
MD: I should hope it’s affecting other models now!
The future of the next models for GEL-Noosa Tri is simply, “No one knows.” I don’t want them held down by normal restraints. Each year is a matter of “letting the head go and have fun with it!”
Oh, and the theme will be “Aussie!”