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!

Riding the crest of a wave – Mizuno Wave Rider review

When I started running I lacked loyalty to any shoe brand, let alone to any one model. I went into Runners Need in Camden and ended up with a different pair of shoes every time. I actually don’t think this is a bad thing: I think that as my running developed, I probably needed different shoes – not least because as I lost weight and improved my times, the heavy, super-cushioned Nike Pegasus that I had been sold on my first visit to the shop were no longer appropriate.

While I was still in my dis-loyal phase, I bought my first pair of Mizuno running shoes. I watched a video interview with Andrew Lemoncello, where he talked about the Mizuno Wave Rider being his “everyday training shoe” that he would use for easy runs, recovery runs and even for off-road runs. I thought they sounded perfect so bought a pair.

And indeed they were ideal. The shoe was light but still cushioned enough to be used for the majority of my runs, especially as the mileage increased as I got closer to a marathon. The forefoot had just enough give to soften the effect of running on the pavements around London but not so much that they felt clumpy. And the plastic ‘wave’ that gave the shoe its name and provided the cushioning in the heel, was rigid enough that the shoe didn’t have any of the squidgy-ness that I had found with other cushioned shoes.

Becoming loyal

After a while I found that as far as shoes were concerned, I was being drawn back to the same models time and time again. I started to value consistency because I didn’t want to run the risk of changing anything that might cause an injury or a niggle and disrupt training.

I think that I was also becoming lazy about reading reviews and trying to figure out what was going to be better than the shoe I had. So I ended up with several pairs of the Adidas Adios AdiZero racing flats (a couple of which came from Adidas as shoes for me to review). You can read a review of the Adidas shoe here. And a number of pairs of every version of Saucony’s excellent Kinvara (again, thanks to Saucony for sending me a couple of pairs as they were released). My Kinvara review is here.

Mizuno Wave Rider 16: used to be yellow!

And I bought more pairs of the Mizuno Wave Rider. I bought the Wave Rider 13, 14 and 15 – at least two pairs of each. The thing is they just felt great straight out of the box. The forefoot in every version has remained nice and roomy, so no foot crushing there! The upper and especially the collar around the ankle, is neat and fits really well. I liked the fact that there is enough grip for running on grass but the shoes are not so lugged that they grip the road like a koala on a eucalyptus tree.

Mizuno Wave Rider 16: used to be yellow!

There was a blip – I didn’t like the Wave Rider 14 as much as the 13. But once the 15 came out, the shoe was better than ever – lighter and slightly firmer in the forefoot. Still ideal for easy, steady, and recovery runs and for my long runs.

Now there is the Mizuno Wave Rider 16.

Having had a pair of the Wave Rider in my arsenal of shoes for three editions of the shoe, when the 16th version was released, Mizuno’s PR company wrote to me and asked if I’d like to try a pair. I did!

The lovely, yellow Wave Rider 16

The Mizuno Wave Rider 16 is my favourite yet. The AP+ midsole material feels as light as ever but seems to offer just the right amount of cushioning, which means these shoes are perfect for tired legs on recovery runs and for long runs. There is not so much cushioning however, that you feel disconnected from the ground so I have worn the Wave Rider for tempo sessions.

The outsole seems really durable and the flexibility that comes from grooves cut across the foot – they are probably called something fancy, but to me they are just groves! – means that the shoe can be firm without being stiff.

As with the blue pair of the 15s that I bought (I wanted a pair of the limited edition purple ones, but not so much that I was going to go out of my way to spend more money to get a pair… they’re running shoes after all), the shoes are striking looking. The ones I have are bright yellow. Initially I was concerned that the upper looked less breathable than earlier versions and so far I have only been able to run in them in cooler conditions, but they seem to be pretty good at keeping my feet at the right temperature.

And there doesn’t seem much more for me to write about. I think that these are really good shoes. There are some rivals in this sector of the market – Saucony’s Triumph and Brooks’ Glycerin are good options. But I think that I will have a pair of the Wave Rider clogging up the stairs in our hall way for a while to come. If you’ve run in these shoes I’d love to know what you think.

The Wave Rider generations: 14, 15 & 16 from L to R

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.