Mizuno Wave Ronin 5 review – black and blue shoes

I first came across the Mizuno Wave Ronin thanks to Toby Lambert at Alton Sports. After talking to a few runners about what they thought made for a good racing flat, I got so confused that in the end I emailed Toby, told him about me and my running, gave him my credit card details and asked him to suggest and send me a pair of racing flats.

My first Mizuno Wave Ronin

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 00.07.21What arrived was a pair of Mizuno Wave Ronin 3s. They were impressive out of the box, not least because they were jet black and I had never had a pair of black running shoes before. They looked stealthy and certainly drew a few comments and enquiries from other runners. They also felt amazing on my feet and have come to be one of my favourite pairs of shoes for races up to half marathon distance and for threshold and tempo sessions. I even raced a track 3000m in them once!

The other thing about the Wave Ronin 3 that came as a bit of a pleasant surprise, was their durability. Despite feeling like a real racing flat with an upper as aerated as Ron Hill’s famous string vest and an out sole that has sections of little dots that I always think wear away pretty fast, my good old Ronin 3s are still going, although I must admit that I now tend to just use them on the track.

So I was rather pleased when the lovely people at Mizuno offered to send me a new pair of Ronins. And rather surprised when I discovered that whilst enjoying my light, black, resilient 3s, I had skipped a generation and a pair of the Mizuno Wave Ronin 5s – in a bright electric blue with yellow accents and laces – landed on the doorstep. I just can’t help but wonder what the Ronin 4s were like…

Straight outta the box

The first thing about the Wave Ronin 5s is a familiar lightness. It is almost hard to work out how Mizuno manage to pack so much in to a shoe that weights so little: there is a proper grippy looking out sole, there is a decent looking heel to offer some cushioning, then there is the wave plate. On top there is a really nicely cushioned tongue and collar. And a solid feeling heel counter.

And yet the shoe feels like it is made out of helium. That must be in part due to the very open-meshed upper material that you can completely see your socks through. But then in my opinion, having a really open upper is a great thing: I can’t remember the last time my feet got too cold when I was out running in normal weather conditions and if it is freezing cold I tend to be wearing more substantial shoes anyway (but maybe that is just me)!

How do they feel? And perform?

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 00.07.04On the feet, like all the Mizuno shoes I have run in, the last is not too ‘racey’ and curved, so my feet feel really comfortable. The midfoot lacing means that you can find a really good level of snugness and yet there is a nice wide toe-box that perfectly accommodates my ample feet (do my feet look big in these…?) The lacing is also slightly asymmetrical, which is a development from the Ronin 3s, and mean that the upper of the shoe conforms to the shape of my foot really nicely.

Under the foot, the sole is nicely wide and feels really stable. The heel and midfoot also incorporates the plastic ‘wave’ that gives the shoe part of it’s name (the word Ronin refers to a samurai with no lord or master during the feudal period (1185–1868) of Japan and literally means ‘wave man’) and the design of the wave is intended to give the shoe high levels of responsiveness through the gait. There are also a couple of ‘bridges’ linking decoupled sections of the EVA in the mid-sole which also seem to be there to create spring during the toe-off.

When running in the Ronin 5s, I have been really impressed with the level of grip. The tiny dots of black material seem to ensure that no matter what is under foot there is as much as possible in contact, giving a really secure feel. Since I have been trying the shoes I have not actually managed to run in the rain in them – that has to be a record in the UK, because I have had them for at least a month! – but I will update this review when I have tried them in the wet. From what I can feel so far though, I think they will cope with typical English weather admirably.

Black or blue, the Wave Ronin still impresses

So there you have it. I have long been a fan of Mizuno shoes and the Wave Ronin 5 does not disappoint. I think that if you are looking for a racing and ‘fast-paced training’ shoe that is not of the minimalist variety – something that will feel appropriately light and fast for a track 3000m as well as offering cushioning sufficient for a half marathon or even a marathon if you are light enough – then the Ronin 5 is a good choice. And if anyone tried the Wave Ronin 4, please let me know what I missed out on!

The Spider and the Fly

The famous poem, The Spider and the Fly, was written by Mary Howitt (1799-1888) and published in 1829. It is the story of a spider using flattery to capture and eat a fly, which has become blinded to the dangers the spider posed, by its own vanity. It is a tale that a designer I used to work for would have liked, because he was obsessed with the phrase ‘form follows function’ which was coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan in 1896 to describe his approach to architecture. Sullivan and my ex-boss were not people who would be blinded by vanity – it was all about function for them.

Form follows function

I think that the same should apply to running shoes and apparel; form should be secondary to function. It is all well and good looking cool, but that is less useful than feeling good and having the right kit for the conditions. That said, heaven for me would be kit that is functionally excellent which also looks great and I know that all the major brands intend to produce great looking functional kit, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in my experience, the stuff that is the best to run and race in, is the stuff that I am least likely to want to wear in the rest of my life. However sometimes form and function seem to come close to being aligned in perfect harmony and I might have discovered something like that in Nike’s Gyakusou range for end-2011/start-2012.

I have been excited about some news that I heard at a recent Nike event about the launch in the UK of a new racing shoe – the LunarSpider. What I didn’t know was that I would get my hands on them in the form of a Gyakusou shoe. This could be the perfect combination of function (the LunarSpider) and form (from UNDERCOVER LAB which heads up the Gyakusou International Running Association).

Nike LunarSpider

My initial trial of the shoe is really positive. I was worried that the shoes are quite narrow but the flywire technology does seem to allow a bit of ‘give’ to the upper although the sole is not going to feel any wider. Overall this gives the shoe a real race-y feel. The shoes are very light indeed – 201g according to my scales – and they are very low profile. There is a really good amount of grip, but if you are looking for support or cushioning, this is probably not the shoe for you. These shoes compare favourably with all the racers I have tried recently – the ASICS Tarther, Mizuno Wave Ronin and the Brooks ST5 Racer – although I think that whilst they probably have a little more under the foot than the Mizunos and therefore might not offer enough cushioning for the marathon, they are a perfect shoe for everything up to the half marathon.

I was also lucky enough to get my hands on a very lightweight running jacket with a zip-off hood and sleeve unit which leaves a gilet for those cool autumn days that we are enjoying now. The jacket is not water- or even shower-proof and I must admit that I have only very, very rarely worn a hood whilst running, but I think that very lightweight jackets are great especially for long runs when the weather might be changable. And again, thanks to the UNDERCOVER LAB input, I think the jacket looks great.

The Gyakusou range

The whole range will soon be available and the video at the bottom showcases quite a few of the pieces whilst firmly positioning the brand in its cultural homeland; it is worth checking out.

And so I am left thinking about Nike’s Spider and how the new range might help you to ‘fly’ (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) I have only been able to try a couple of pieces – the LunarSpider shoes and the jacket. But I am impressed. These are both highly technical pieces and the LunarSpider shoes are a really great addition to the Nike racing shoe range and I will enjoy running in them, purely from the point of view that they are racing shoes. The fact that in my opinion they also look great is an added bonus. I would still say, however that we should still always choose our kit based on practicality first and foremost. But if you are not convinced, I’ll leave the last word to Mary Howitt;

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.


Review of the Mizuno Wave Ronin 3

I read recently that it is more complicated buying running shoes than it is buying a car. I whole-heartedly agree (despite the fact that I gave up owning cars a few years ago and now rely on running, cycling and public transport to get around). One of my on-going personal missions is trying to find the perfect racing shoe.

What I am looking for

My requirements are fairly simple; low profile but not zero heel drop*, wide toe-box, snug heel, light-weight. I spent a few years racing in ASICS Tarthers which certainly did the job for me, but recently I have been looking around at other shoes. I have raced in the Brooks ST5 Racer which I like a lot, but which has quite a plush heel – more than I think I want for racing – and a medial post that I don’t think I need. I have also raced in the Saucony Mirage (a review on them is in the pipeline).

Mizuno Wave Ronin 3

The shoes I love at the moment are the Mizuno Wave Ronin 3’s that I bought from Toby at Alton Sports. They tick all the boxes as far as I am concerned, although the toe-box is a little narrower than on the Tarthers, but not so much that it causes me a problem.

Mizuno describes the shoes as “Fast and dynamic with great flexibility and cushioning” and I tend to agree. There is a very lightweight and highly breathable upper made from a mesh material that is bonded to the G3 outsole which is described by Mizuno as being made from a lightweight material “which provides awesome grip without weighing you down”. Actually the only issue I have with the Wave Ronin 3 is the same that I had with the Tarther; the durability of the outsole. Made up of a million little dots (actually it might not be a million, but I’m not going to count them), the outsole does tend to wear pretty quickly, especially at the front of the toe box. On the other hand, these are racing shoes and there has to be a compromise between weight and durability, so really my issue is not one that will stop me buying the Mizuno Wave Ronin 3 in future.

So in conclusion, I would say that the Mizuno Wave Ronin 3 is a great racing shoe. I have raced 3,000m races on the track in them, 5k park-runs and a half marathon. So far they have been really comfortable, especially for such a light shoe, weighing 210g according to the kitchen scales, which means they are in the same weight category as the Adidas Adizero Adios (209g) or the ASICS Gel DS Racer 8 (219g). They could just be the shoe that gives you the extra ‘pop’ you need for that ever-elusive PB.

* Heel drop is loosely defined as the difference in thickness between the front of the shoe – the midsole and the outsole – and the heel. In theory a drop of zero would mean that the when wearing the shoe the heel and the ball of the foot would be at the same level. In a shoe which is described as having a drop of 10mm, the heel sits 10mm higher than the ball of the foot. As for why we worry about these things, the normal answer is that with a small or zero heel drop it is easier to land on the mid-foot which is considered by many to be more efficient. For me, I prefer racing in a shoe with a minimal heel drop but I suffer more when I run in those types of shoes so for training I run in a shoe with a more cushioned heel and therefore a bigger differential.