Mizuno's marketing pitch: A guidance shoe with a perfect blend of smooth ride and support.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperatures of 18° C/64° F
Upper: Spacer mesh, synthetic leather, fused TPU 'Dynamotion'.
Midsole: Compression molded EVA (dual density), Pebax heel Wave plate.
Outsole: Hard carbon rubber (X10) in heel, softer rubber in forefoot.
Weight: 287 gms/ 10.12 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10/EUR 44.5/CM 29
Widths available: D-regular (reviewed), 2E (wide)
Well, this was rather unexpected, we’d say. Under usual circumstances, a ‘support’ shoe is more firmer than a neutral shoe. Saucony Ride 7 more so than the Guide 8, Nike Structure 18 to the Pegasus 31, and so follows the assumed order of things.
Except that Mizuno Inspire 11 isn’t of that mold. While it is differentiated in a few ways, cushioning is softer than the Wave Rider 18. It is a lighter shoe too. Maybe that is what one of our readers meant when he said Mizuno was confusing. And just how much is the extent of functional separation from the Rider 18?
We’ll show and tell as we usually do, but after we tackle some of the smaller details. The reason why we’re referencing the Rider 18 is that we haven’t got any experience with the Inspire 9 or 10. If you’d like to share some thoughts on the previous models, the comment section is just the place to do that.
The Japanese brand’s ‘one-upper-many-midsoles’ cookie cutter approach is applied on the Inspire 11’s design, and thus you are greeted with a silhouette which looks strikingly familiar.
A stitched-on synthetic leather toe-cap right at the tip, joined to an overlay-free mesh forefoot. Molded Runbird logos, now seen umpteen times on other Mizuno models, is part of Inspire’s landscape too.
Other parts of sameness appear on the Inspire. There’s that leather eye-stay with punched-in eyelets, two-toned lacing of a somewhat twisty nature, and the padded wide tongue with a soft lining.
As was the case on Rider 18, you’re unlikely to experience much tongue slide on the Inspire. The extra width around the top keeps the un-gusseted tongue from sliding into available space on either sides.
Bereft of much padding, a malnourished collar area wraps around the ankle in the heel area, and comes flanked on the outside with the metallic label and circular patch. Despite that, grip isn’t bad, and we did not experience any heel slippage during our wear-tests.
These are parts from Mizuno’s standardised design template for the year 2014-15, and come in exact shape and texture as seen on recent shoes. The metallic patch (first picture of the review) says Wave Inspire in English and Japanese Katakana script, and yet again, reflectivity is reduced to the size of the heel Runbird logo.
Fit is similar to a shoe like the Wave Rider 18 or Sayonara 2, except for a key difference which we’ll shed light on after a few paragraphs. Roomy is the forefoot, runs nearly half size larger (you might need to go half down on Inspire) with ample ventilation coming from the unlined spacer mesh. Top down lacing pressure is kept at bay with the padded tongue, and the removable insole is a top job as usual. Comes equipped with the soft fabric lining used in other models as well, with blown foam as a cushioned base.
Inspire’s upper design would have been identical to the Wave Rider 18, except for the midfoot. It features the theatrical sounding ‘Dynamotion’ layer, which means different elements depending on whether you’re looking at the lateral or medial side.
On the lateral face of Inspire 11, a layer of perforated hot melt is fused on to the midfoot. This is meant to make the midfoot fit snugger, and looks like a hotrod flame graphic with its graduating dark-to-light colors. Or fish scale, depending on what you want it to look like. The medial treatment of Dynamotion is in form of synthetic leather fingers connecting the midsole base and lacing.
Does it work? While the panels make the upper look visually more compact, its effect on actual fit isn’t substantial. That said, the Inspire 11 does feel snugger, and not entirely so because of Dynamotion. You see, most of Inspire 11’s key elements of differentiation ( because of it being a support shoe) lies packed within its sole unit. One of them happens to be a wider midsole/outsole footprint. For comparison’s sake, let’s take the Wave Rider 18, where the sole unit has a narrower profile. The Inspire has a approximately 5 mm wider periphery compared to Rider 18.
Now assume that the upper fit was unchanged (from Rider 18) along with the increased midsole area. This would have created much more room than the Rider 18, and made the upper absolutely floppy. To counter this, Mizuno has made the upper shallower so that it adjusts to the larger footprint of Inspire 11.
However, horizontal width and vertical height are two different things when it comes to footwear, because actual foot height stays unchanged. This has the upper draping shallower over the foot, and hence making the fit snugger. So in plainspeak, the Inspire 11 and Wave Rider 18 are built on two different lasts. The insole markings also state likewise, with a M123 marking on Rider 18 and M124 on Inspire 11. There is more at work here than just the Dynamotion panel.
The problem with blanket standardisation of upper design is that good and bad both get washed up with the tide. Good in this case would be the roomy fit, anti-slide padded tongue and breathability. Bad is the internal seam, which is a one way ticket to foot chafing. Since the Inspire 11 is snugger, the seam makes its presence felt even more so. Wear thin socks, and the mild sensation of the rough edges passes through. Barefoot? Thank you very much. The current crop of Mizunos’ need to worn with thick socks so as to insulate the bare skin against this offending interior seam.
Except for this blemish, we find the fit of Mizuno uppers quite agreeable. There is plenty of room for splay, and the materials are nice, never mind every shoe visits the same convenience store for material shopping.
That was the upper. What goes on in the lower realms?
Apart from a wider midsole base – approximately 5 mm more than Wave Rider 18 – there are four more things which make the Inspire 11 the shoe it is. We will address these in numeric order.
1) This being a support or motion control shoe, the geometry of the Wave plate is designed differently, and specific to Wave Inspire 11. A typical Wave plate is corrugated on either sides, rising up and down in curves as it goes from back to front. This design is meant to better absorb impact forces during footstrike – though more for heel strikers than anyone else.
If it is a neutral shoe like the Rider 18 or Sayonara, the Wave curves on either sides will be on the near-same level. However, the Inspire being a motion control shoe, the Wave design on medial side (image above) is aggressively pointy. Compared to the gentler lateral (outer) side, the peaks of the plastic Wave rise sharply upwards. This has the obviously intent of controlling the deformation of the Wave plate on the medial side, and hence making the lateral Wave easier to compress. That makes the Inspire 11 a motion control shoe, doesn’t it?
And it is functionally effective too, to some extent. The Inspire 11 is at best, a mild motion control running shoe. It does have a bit of a lateral lean, but really, just a little more than a Rider 18 – which by the way has some degree of motion control too. The pointy ends of medial Wave seems as if they will poke into the foot, but they don’t.
2) This might come as a surprise to you, but the midsole foam used in Inspire is actually much softer than both the Rider 18 and Sayonara. The Inspire 11’s midsole has two foam layers, the white part forming the majority of it, and the green foam used as a lining between the heel Wave plate and outsole.
Both these are noticeably softer than what we have experienced in either the Rider 18, Sayonara 2, and even the Creation 16. Haven’t tested the Paradox or Hitogami yet, so as far as we’re concerned, the jury’s out on that.
3) Look at the Rider 18’s Wave unit from the side (or Sayonara 2 for that matter), and you’ll notice a hollow space around the curves, meaning you can see the other side. Not so in the Inspire 11.
There is some open area till the center, and then the soft, green foam fills in. Here, we flashed a torch (image below) into the Wave unit, and the foam part is clearly visible in the center.
With more lower density foam filling the crevices around the Wave unit, rear-foot landings feel cushioned, with the weight loaded on the soft heel core. It is certainly more cushioned than the Wave Rider 18 and Sayonara 2, and feels responsive too.
Softer foam means easier access to Wave’s deforming properties, so the Inspire’s ride combines cushioning and responsiveness in equal measure.
It is quieter too. The X-10 outsole used might still be hard, but a softer base allows the outsole pods to piston inwards, making landings less jarring. The heel crash pad also becomes more effective, as the soft foam extends its range of motion.
And then there’s the forefoot, which we’ll talk in the breakout below.
4) The forefoot blown rubber is thinner (than say Rider 18), which makes the front feel softer during transition. We also think that the rubber used is softer as well, though can’t be absolutely sure without using a durometer gauge. It could just be because of the thinner sheet.
Flexibility is good for a Mizuno, and bending happens ahead of the ball of the foot – as opposed to early stage flexing of Rider 18. The rubber grips well, and durability’s good too – although better in the heel than front.
The Inspire 11 is a light shoe. It comes in at 287 grams or 10 ounces, which is lower than Rider 18. It is not hard to see why. Despite the addition of Dynamotion upper welds, the foam is lower density, and there’s some weight saving off forefoot rubber. The mesh upper isn’t much of a weight drag at all, since most of the upper is un-lined mesh with a scattering of synthetic leather overlay. But looking at that mesh makes us nervous – how is this fabric going to hold up after 200, 300 miles? Don’t have any answers yet, but will find out after a few months.
All that said, what does one make of the Inspire 11? Its wide midsole base (including a flared forefoot) lends it stability, while the softer foam and lateral lean gives its character a motion-control trait. Throw the cushioned ride in, and the shoe becomes a curious mix of all three.
But gradually, it begins to make sense. The Inspire 11 is a cushioned, mild motion-control shoe, with acceptable levels of stability. We’d club it in the same family as the Saucony Guide 8 and adidas Supernova Sequence 7, so you’ll get a sense of what we mean.
Just don’t use the Wave Rider 18 as a cushioning benchmark, otherwise the Inspire 11 will leave you a bit befuddled.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price.)