Monday, September 12, 2011

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Review

I'm in search of a replacement as my staple running shoes - the last of my Asics Piranha SP 2's completely lack any tread and can fill a small house with their aroma, yet the new Piranha 3's just don't feel as light & flexible as their predecessors. The good news is there's a bunch of new companies out there making great looking flats like Inov-8 along Merrell, New Balance, and Mizuno at the top of my list.

I use my road flats for 90% of my runs including long slow training runs (up to 24 miles ~ 7:30 pace) down to 5k races (realistically mid 16's, just under 16 on a great day) and I look for a few main things: light weight, flexible, low heel to forefoot padding difference, and comfortable barefoot. So far (about 30 miles in) the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 is doing well on all those points.

 Weight & heel/forefoot difference is easy to measure - Running Warehouse puts these at 3.9 ounces (size 9) with an 18mm heel and a 15mm forefoot for 3mm of difference. This just slightly beats the Piranha's (4.2oz & 4mm) so the numbers look great.

Fit / Feel:
On the foot they actually feel even better. It looks like these were designed to run barefoot, as instead of a traditional liner than can come out or slip around, they basically just have a soft piece of felt glued to the bottom. On top of this, the entire forefoot has no stiff stitching structure on the top of the shoot, so when the foot bends nothing bends down to rub on the tops of your toes. This is an issue I had with the Piranah SP 3's - they have an extra piece that would constantly fold down and give me a blister on the tops of my toes but in the Mizuno's there's no way this could happen. I did get a slight bit of irritation on my left heel from rubbing, but this didn't happen at all on my right foot so I'm guessing I'll just need to make sure I'm lacing the tops well - we'll see after more runs.

Sole: Flexibility, Grip, and Stone Grabbing
With running flats I don't expect much cushioning - just enough to keep sharp things from poking my feet and little enough to feel like I can feel the terrain I'm running on get good flexibility. Again the Mizuno does well here - definitely a good feel for the road with just enough padding to feel safe. My favorite flats have had a rubber bottom in the past, which means they last a little longer than the flats that have just the light, hard tack on the bottom. Mizuno has blended those two together here and you can see the black arrow like part is the hard tack stuff, but the rest of the bottom is rubber. It will take a lot more miles before I fully see how they wear down, but so far it feels like a pretty good balance. You can see the small grey plastic piece in the arch on the bottom of the shoe. I'm not actually sure what the purpose of that thing is but I was a little worried it would pick up small rocks in the grooves. So far I've been running on road & light trails with pebbles where that's often a problem, and it hasn't been an issue with the Mizuno's yet. As I get in more miles with them I'll definitely be watching for this.

Overall this seems to be a great new replacement as my go to running shoe. I'll know more after a few hundred more miles, but I've also picked up a few other new shoes including the New Balance Minimus, the Merrell barefoot trail shoes, and some Inov-8 flats and as I test those out I'll definitely put up some thoughts and comparisons.
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