Monday, August 3, 2015

Review of the Mizuno Wave Universe 5

Mizuno Wave Universe 5

On a visit to my local running store to pick up a 5K race packet, I noticed the Mizuno Wave Universe 5 on the shelf. The owner gave me a bit of ribbing while I was looking because he knows that I am a barefoot runner. However, when I picked them up, I was quite impressed with the weight of the shoe, the relatively thin and flat-ish sole, and the thin material in the uppers.
After trying them on, I decided to purchase the pair to try as a backup shoe for running trails that might require a little bit of protection. One note, these are probably the most expensive pair of shoes that I have purchased either as a former shod runner and as a minimalist/barefoot runner. The price tag came in at about $125 (Nov. 2014).
First some basic stats on the shoe according to the website:
Weight: 3.2 oz ea (Size 10.5 US)
Stack height: Heel 13mm, Forefoot 11mm
At the time of my purchase, I had assumed that as a minimalist shoe it would have a zero drop. However, after having run in them a few times and then looking up the information on the shoe for this review, I was surprised to find that there is a 2mm drop from heel to toe (13mm heel/11mm toe). The other thing I discovered when researching online is that the shoe is considered a racing flat. However, a someone who refers running barefoot, I usually am looking for a lightweight flat shoe for added protection on technical trails. So, a racing flat could fit the bill if I like the shoe.
I ran approximately 20+ miles in the Wave 5. The test runs were conducted on a combination of paved bike path and single track dirt trails.
First impressions:
The shoes are incredibly lightweight. They almost feel like you have nothing on your feet. One downside is that the toe box narrows in a similar manner to traditional running shoes. Despite this, it does not feel overly constricting on the foot but does not allow for full toe splay typically found in other minimalist shoes that have a wide toe box. The thin sole does allow for fairly decent ground feel. The sole is flexible and allows your foot to flex. There is almost nothing to the uppers. It is basically a thin layer of very breathable material.
The pair I purchased was a 10.5' which is my typical shoe size. They fit comfortably and snug around my foot. The uppers are so thin that they do not constrict your foot as much as a more traditional upper might do. They are extremely flexible.
The footbed is lightly padded. It is thick enough to take the edge off of any rocky terrain, yet thin enough that you have decent ground feel.
Test runs:
On my first run with the shoes, a buddy of mine and I went out for an 18 mile out and back run along a portion of the American River 50 mile course starting near Folsom Lake. Approximately half of our run was on a paved bike path/gravel fire road and the remainder of the runner was on dirt single track. The shoes allowed me to run the gravel sections without any hesitations that might occur when running these sections barefoot.
The next run was at a nature preserve where the video of the shoe was filmed. This run was primarily single track trail running. One thing I noticed on this run was that the dew on the grass easily penetrated the shoe. This did not cause any problems on the run that morning, but it is possible you could have issues with blistering in damp shoes. That being said, the shoes also seemed to dry quickly since the material is so thin.
On the whole, I enjoyed my time running in the Mizunos. My main concern at this time is the drop on the sole. My worry is that changing between barefoot, zero drop shoes, and into a minimal drop shoe might play havoc with my Achilles tendons. The reason I state this is that when I was training for my first 50 miler, I trained almost exclusively barefoot, but on my first run in my Merrell Trail Gloves, I ended up straining one tendon resulting in my only race DNF. With that in mind, I have done lots of running since then in my Merrells without any issue. Since I had no issues following my runs with the Mizunos after 20+ miles it is not likely that there will be an issue.
One odd thing I noted when walking on wet concrete or on tile floors is that the oval shaped recess in the heel acts as a suction cup. This is not a factor when running, but does give an unusual sensation when walking on smooth surfaces.
On a final note, I think despite my reservations about the 2mm drop, the Mizuno Wave's ultralight weight and thin profile has won a spot on my limited shoe shelf.

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