Mizuno has been consistent with its use of the ‘Wave’ plate throughout its catalog. This hard, thermoplastic component molded in a corrugated shape imparts a ride character which is distinctly ‘Mizuno.’
Compared to the other Japanese brand (Asics), Mizuno has a far narrower assortment of running shoes. So why does anyone even need a buyer’s guide for Mizuno?
There are a couple of very good reasons. The Wave plate is a common denominator across all Mizuno shoes, so that results in a similar ride quality – especially in models of a similar weight class.
Secondly, after a long lull, Mizuno is revamping some of their models. For example, the Sayonara has been replaced by the Shadow, and the Enigma by the Wave Sky. The Paradox now has new company in the form of the Wave Horizon.
One has to also keep in mind that Mizuno treats its ‘neutral’ and ‘stability’ shoes differently than other brands. It distinguishes these two categories by simply using a variation of the Wave plate instead of features like foam wedges or high sidewalls.
In most cases, the functional boundaries are blurred between the neutral and stability categories. The Wave Rider and the Inspire are good examples. A runner looking for a supportive ride could buy either with no problem.
For this reason, we’ve omitted a few ‘stability’ shoes from this curated list. More specifically, we’ve recommended only the Wave Sky instead of including the Wave Horizon or the Paradox. Similarly, the Wave Shadow is mentioned while the Catalyst is not.
We believe the Wave Sky performs the role of a premium neutral and supportive trainer equally well. The Wave Shadow is a better fast training choice than the relatively bulkier Catalyst. Also, we didn’t feel that the Hitogami offered enough fast-shoe value over the Shadow, so we went with the Ekiden 11 instead.
Using the described method, we end up with a curated list which distills Mizuno’s catalog into six models:
|Cushioned Neutral||Mizuno Wave Sky||Amazon.com|
|Cushioned Neutral||Mizuno Wave Rider 20||Amazon.com|
|Lightweight Neutral||Mizuno Wave Shadow||Amazon.com|
|Racing Flat||Mizuno Wave Ekiden 11||Amazon.com|
|Cushioned mild-support||Mizuno Wave Inspire 13||Amazon.com|
|Speed trail-running||Mizuno Wave Hayate 3||Amazon.com|
1) Cushioned Neutral: Mizuno Wave Sky
The Wave Sky replaces the Enigma as Mizuno’s premium neutral cushioning trainer. We also view the Wave Sky as an alternative to the new Wave Horizon (which will exist alongside the Paradox and the Inspire).
The Sky might be classified as neutral, but it has a supportive ride. The Wave plate is designed to be more supportive on the inner side than it is on the other side. On the medial side, the Wave plate is 3/4th of midsole length. On the lateral side, the Wave plate is present only under the rearfoot.
The thick foam stacks provide plenty of non-mushy cushioning, and the thick insole feels plush underfoot. The upper uses soft-touch materials, so the Wave Sky has a smooth-fitting and comfortable interior environment.
And why should you not get the Prophecy or the Creation instead? That’s a good question. Both the Prophecy and Creation have less foam and more Wave plate. While this construction adds springy responsiveness, it adds firmness and an overall ride character which is an acquired taste.
Due to its foam midsole, it is far more likely that runners will find the Wave Sky more comfortable than the Prophecy and the Creation. The Sky has a better upper too.
2) Cushioned Neutral: Mizuno Wave Rider 20
The Wave Rider is to Mizuno what the Ride is to Saucony or the Ghost to Brooks. It has been Mizuno’s neutral running workhorse for two decades now and offers an optimal blend of cushioning and support.
The foam midsole delivers padding while the sandwiched Wave plate makes the ride firm and supportive. While the upper isn’t the epitome of plushness, it is spacious, breathable, and comfortable.
Mizuno just released the Wave Rider 21, the successor to the 20. We’ll update this buyer’s guide once we have a full review of the 21.
3) Lightweight Neutral: Mizuno Wave Shadow
If either the Wave Rider or the Inspire feel too much of a shoe, get the lighter Shadow. It’s an excellent Mizuno for fast-training runs and half marathons.
The upper’s snug and conforming fit feel just right for speed workouts, and the midsole provides adequate insulation without slowing you down. And if you were considering the Catalyst 2, we recommend the Shadow instead. This lightweight shoe is just as supportive.
4) Lightweight racing flat: Mizuno Wave Ekiden 11
The Ekiden 11 has a best-in-class outsole grip, regardless of whether you’re racing on the road or track. The Ekiden is the only racing flat (across all brands) which has an outsole built entirely using DSP (Dual Stencil Process) lugs.
Instead of using regular slabs, small lugs are attached to a fabric base. While most racing flats use DSP only over the forefoot, the Ekiden’s outsole is completely covered with DSP. This process is expensive, so from purely a material standpoint, the Ekiden is excellent value for money.
The ultra-thin midsole provides just the right amount of insulation for short races of 5K and 10K, and the snug upper helps keep the foot locked in.
5) Cushioned mild-support: Mizuno Wave Inspire 13
The Inspire is in the same weight class as the Wave Rider, except that it’s categorized as a support shoe. Regardless, both shoes have a supportive ride with a spacious upper.
We’ve put it here just as another mid-weight option. It doesn’t matter if you’re ‘neutral’ or ‘stability,’ the Inspire 13 will work for both use-cases.
6) Trail speed-running: Mizuno Wave Hayate 3
Most trail running shoes have a general purpose intent. You know, like offering the combination of cushioning and outdoor-oriented elements which make trail running comfortable yet protective.
But the Hayate isn’t your typical trail shoe. It is a ‘fast’ trail shoe designed for speed runs; the low-profile midsole provides a quick touch-and-go.
The Hayate 3 is also a massive upgrade over the Hayate 1 and 2. Underneath the midsole is a brand new Michelin outsole along with a rock plate – features which were missing in the first two editions.
The upper has a secure hold but lacks a tongue gusset – a non-negotiable element in trail running shoes.