Asics: Superior trainer. Superior UX.

A new runner

I recently started running seriously with the goal of completing the two half marathons that are hosted in Sydney (SMH Half + Blackmores Half) along with a couple of 10km runs and a 14km and ultimately a triathlon at the end of 2017.

Full of enthusiasm in October 2016 I pulled on my Nike Free 5.0s, purchased when I last attempted to take up running in 2015, and started hitting the tarmac around Sydney. I thought all was well until my brothers, who are both regular runners, recommended getting new trainers to facilitate better performance and a reduced risk of injury that comes hand in hand with the increased kms I will be putting in throughout the year.

Research

I am not one to commit to a purchase of this nature without ample research going in first. Similar amounts of research went into a wrist watch I asked my wife to purchase for me one Christmas as well as a GPS training watch I bought for myself.

Searching for best trainers for running and training shoe review predictably yields thousands of results. Far and away the best content was returned from runningshoesguru.com, runrepeat.com.

Results from this initial research lead me to a decision between two manufacturers; Asics and Mizuno.

Do you pronate?

During the internet research I was introduced to pronation and I quickly discovered that broadly speaking, trainers are designed to cater to one of the following running styles:

  • Underpronators
  • Neutral
  • Overpronators

This new term introduced an area of uncertainty to the purchasing process as I had no idea how to categorise my running style. I have regular arched feet which apparently reduces the likelihood that I am a serve overprontator but that is where my confidence in my running style left me.

Asics vs. Mizuno

Since I had narrowed my choice of trainer to two brands it was time to hit their respective websites and see how they approached matching trainers to different running styles.

Mizuno

Mizuno has a microsite (myprecisionfit.com) that allows users to follow a few steps in order to determine their recommended training shoe. It’s a pretty good experience however, having just done all my reading into pronation, arch types and running styles I was surprised that the result page didn’t give me much apart from a couple of recommended shoes.

Further to this, I completed the journey from a couple of different paths and was presented the same recommendation which cast a shadow on the legitmacy of the recommendations.

Finally, when I clicked through from the results page here, I hit a 404 page on the main Mizuno website. Sad times for Mizuno and the end of my customer journey with them.

Asics

Asics trainers came highly rated by all the review sites I visited and anecdotal evidence was also given to me by my brothers who both run in Asics.

I hit the website and was delighted to see my newly learnt vocabulary echoed on the page as filtering options.

What was also great to see on the site was a very engaged community that have left reviews on comments on all the trainers I looked at. This may be a minor point but it demonstrates to me that Asics purchasers continue to feel engaged by the brand after purchase has been completed.

In store

Despite all the online research, reviews and recommendations the final step in the running shoe selection process had to move to the real world. Armed with my new vocabulary and a list of potential Asics trainers to buy, it was time to head to the Flagship Asics store in Sydney’s QVB to try them on for size.

Thankfully the online experience was carried over to the in store experience at the mix of superb customer service, knowledgeable team and in store technology to get to the bottom of my pronation question meant I came out a very happy customer and the proud owner of a pair of Kayano 23s.

In conclusion

I do pretty much all my shopping online so much so in fact that I can’t remember the last time I bought anything cycling related that wasn’t from wiggle.com.au.

In a world where so many people shop online it must be hard for physical retailers to even get customers through the door, let alone make a sale.

I was actually tempted to visit the Asics store, get my running analysed, use the expertise of the team and then take my business online and save myself at least $60 but what stopped me was a combination of a great online experience, an even better offline experience and what seems to be a very engaged Asics community.

The learning for me from the whole experience is that high street retailers aren’t dead, they just need to offer something that online retailers can’t and Asics has completely succeeded in my book.

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