Asics 727 Tiger
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Asics 727 Tiger Weightlifting Shoes
Why try to reinvent the wheel when it works perfectly? Exactly.
The Asics 727 Tiger weightlifting shoe has been, in every way, unchanged for over 30 years. Literally. The first generation were fabricated back when all shoe makers used leather, wood, and quality workmanship to assemble weightlifting shoes. In typical Japanese fashion they engineered a high-quality, well thought-out, and beautifully designed shoe. Over the years it never changed. Why? Because it was great and didn’t need improving.
Numerous companies around the world also made weightlifting shoes. Over the years some of those manufacturers disappeared then reappeared like Reebok and Nike, while some completely vanished like Puma and Converse. The only large company that continued to make weightlifting shoes available for sale to the masses during this time was Adidas. Adidas was able to capture the majority of the weightlifting market by staying up with the times; every 2-4 years Adidas came out with new designs, new styles, even modern gizmos like crisscross plastic buckles and velcro straps. They even utilized unique fabrics like carbon fiber and kangaroo leather. Adidas evolved— constantly pushing the envelope to make a better shoe than their previous model, each time striving to make the best shoe possible for weightlifting performance and style. But did they? Did Adidas succeed, or did they lose sight of what a great shoe is supposed to be?
After 35+ years of wearing weightlifting shoes and being Adidas’ biggest fan, I find myself perplexed. I now sit here with the 2014 Asics 727 Tiger in one hand, and a vintage 1979 Adidas Special in the other. The ’79 Specials were made with a wood heel, suede upper, real rubber sole and a leather strap. These felt amazing from day one and lasted forever. The Asics and Adidas are so very similar to one another, nearly identical. So why did Adidas really change their shoe? Pursuit of perfection? Simple: Profit. Sell more shoes with a lower manufacturing cost. They didn’t care about making a great shoe, only about making money.
Meanwhile, back in that small Japanese factory, Asics didn’t change a thing. They faithfully continued to make the identical shoe for decades with the original molds. The Asics 727 are assembled in a purpose-built factory where they are still made by hand, in limited quantities, 4 times per year. Because Asics have kept the same molds, factory, and system in place all these years are major aspect as to how they can continue to produce a high-quality product in the same method and remain profitable.
Some close friends of mine approached Asics Japan about potentially ramping up production so they could import large quantities to sell in the US market. My friends felt, as I do, that the Asics 727 are the best weightlifting shoe in the world. Period. Unfortunately Asics Japan had zero interest. Even with 7 figures on the table, they paid no mind. Don’t change whats not broken.
These hand-made shoes are assembled with pride. These are real shoes that come with a shoe bag for protection and storage. The rubber sole of the shoe is exceptional. It has a great texture that keeps your foot firmly planted where you put it and the rubber is actually sewn on. Having a solid heel is how it should be— made of wood. The rubber sole on the wood heel is nailed on, identically as a high-end, quality dress shoe. The upper of the 727 Tiger is constructed of a reinforced, cloth-lined suede. Some areas of the suede are double-lined, like the inside of the toe box for added stability and strength. Due to the unique staggered lacing and the strong internal support, there is no need for a strap. These fit well and are extremely functional.
The toe box is wider than the Nike Romaleos, which was a major area of complaint for that shoe. The strap which it doesn’t have is not at all missed. The suede is very soft with a nice brushed finish and beautiful classic appearance. The Asics 727 are extremely flexible in the forefoot area and give an immediate feeling of confidence and balance.
Over the past four months we have received five pairs. I weighed them and was not surprised to find they are 10% lighter than the comparable size Adipowers. The weight difference between the left shoe and the right shoe on most was than less than 8g, but on one pair it was 17g. This margin was much larger than the Romaleos and I became more curious about this test. We have always weighed the lifting shoes individually to check for manufacturing consistency believing that the closer the better, so how were the tolerances of Nike’s so much better than Asics?
Being in Las Vegas, I have accessibility to almost every high-end store in the world. Measuring used shoes would not yield consistent results, so I needed new shoes. Lots of expensive new shoes. So I went to numerous shops and weighed Italian, French, German, US and other very expensive, hand-made shoes to see how close their weights were. The results were surprising—not very. It seems that hand made shoes can vary extensively. It then made more sense. If a shoe was pumped out in a massive factory, made entirely of plastic at the rate of thousands per day, they should be relatively consistent —nearly perfect, while a hand made shoe will obviously have inconsistencies due to the various elements involved.
The pitch, or angle of the shoe is ~7% which is nearly identical in both the Adidas and Nike. Even though the pitch and heel height are equivalent to the the Adipower and Romaleos, the Asics 727 feel significantly different. It isn’t in an actual measurement as it is strictly a feel. They feel more stable and easier to keep your balance. It could be the angle of the bottom of the heel, or possibly the width, maybe the suede material or a combination of all. Regardless, everyone felt more in control with them. Some things simply can’t be measured.
The Asics are produced in Japanese sizes 23 to 28. This is equivalent to US Men’s size 6.5 to 10. Subtract 1.5 for Women’s shoe sizing. They are produced in either red or blue suede as standard.
Interestingly, the Asics 727, since they are made by hand, can be custom ordered with personal touches. Unlike the Reebok, which can only be customized for color, the Asics 727 can be built with or without (+,-) 5mm on the heel in 1mm increments. Along with that, custom embroidery with your name or random text can be added. Multiple colors of uppers are available with different types of leather and not just suede. The Asics stripes and outline colors can also be customized. Exceeding the standard size 28 is also an option if you have larger feet. Unfortunately they will only go up to size 31, or US size 13. The downside for all this custom-made hotness is about $500 and a three month wait. If you are larger than size 13, then you are out of luck.
Every lifter who wore the Asics 727 said the shoes felt extremely light and they didn’t need any breaking in. All lifters felt comfortable going to maximum on their lifts the first day wearing them. Three hit lifetime pr’s within the first two hours! Needless to say, the Asics didn’t have any negative effect on positions or hamper the feel for the barbell or balance over the previous shoes the lifters were familiar with. After 3-4 weeks the Asics broke in and felt even better. Two of the lifters literally threw their old shoes in the trash and said they would never wear a different lifting shoe. Ever. They are that good.
How important is a wood heel? The outrageous price surge on used or NOS Adidas models with a wood heel vindicates the demand. But why? I spoke with Adidas High-Performance in Germany a few years back when the new 2012 Adipower was being released. Adidas described to me a heel density test that they perform on all new shoe designs. This test is to obtain scientific quantification of the hardness of a shoe’s heel for forces transmitted from the foot, through the shoe, and into the ground. The result is represented by a number that shows power loss through the absorption of the shoe’s constructed materials. A 1.0 would represent a perfect score for zero loss of force and zero absorption from the materials —ideal for a weightlifting shoe.
Adidas’ testing of the wood heel used in the ’08 Adistar scored a .77 on their machines. The TMU plastic heel of the ’12 Adipower was rated .65. In contrast, the EVA sole on Adidas’ cross trainer was rated lower at .51. For this shoe, a softer heel was ideal because it was meant to absorb shock and be a hybrid lifting shoe. Adidas admitted the wood was a better material to transfer force for a high-performance weightlifting application such as this; however, it was too costly to continue its use in production. In the same breath the rep said the results between TMU plastic and the wood were so very close that the force loss was negligible. .12 is a sizable difference percentage-wise, and when you lift in the shoes, it’s painfully obvious. It’s not close. Not to mention the sound a wood heel makes when striking the platform mid-lift. It’s something no plastic shoe can reproduce.
People ask me daily “How do the Asics compare to the Nike Romaleos 2’s or Adidas Adipowers?” The answer is simple. They don’t. It’s not fair to compare them to this shoe. It’s like comparing a Ford to a Ferrari. Ford builds capable, quality cars, but they don’t build the best hypercar in the world. One is built to provide adequate quality and decent function at an affordable price for the masses, while the other is custom built for discriminating people who have an eye for the finer things, appreciate quality in details, and desire a repairable shoe that can last forever. It’s a simple matter of quantity vs. quality.
Watching videos of lifters over past decades and even into recent years, I’ve noticed numerous world and Olympic champions, world record holders, and some of the biggest names in the sport wearing the Asics 727’s including Dimas, Kakhiashvilli, Klokov, Botev, Leonidis, Kim Un Guk, and the list goes on and on.
I have been lifting my entire life with no plans on quitting anytime soon. While spending $300-500 on a pair of lifting shoes might seem insane to some, for me it’s a no brainer. After wearing my 2012 Adipowers for the past two years I have grown to dislike them (see the long-term review). Almost every other lifting shoe on the market today is similar to Adidas with their plastic this, wedge that, patent this and velcro that. Whatever. I’m over it. After seeing these shoes in person and wearing my old Adidas again, I realized why change something that was never broken. I prefer fine leather, wood, and rubber being hand made by craftsmen who care. Asics stuck to the original plan, and I am happy they did because these are timeless and worth every penny.