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!

Three is the magic number…

Three generations of Kinvaras... in a bowl

There is only one running shoe that I have ever owned every iteration of: Saucony’s Kinvara. I was given a very, very bright pair of the first release of the Kinvara to try out – they were my first foray into a more minimalist shoe. I then bought a pair of the Kinvara 2s, based on the fact that I really did like the original Kinvara. And then three weeks ago I received a very special box in the post – one of only 100 pairs of Kinvara 3s in the world (though don’t worry, they go on general release in the UK in May!)

2% of worldwide Kinvara 3s in Vilamora, Portugal

I was very lucky to get the shoes two days before I went to Portugal for a two week training camp, so I really was in a position to give them a thorough road-test. As it turns out, one of the other two pairs in the UK were also in Portugal at the same time adorning the feet of the incredible Ben Moreau, who is undoubtedly more worthy of testing shoes (he ran a 143 mile week while I was out there with him!) so I can incorporate some of his thoughts here.

The main thing about the Kinvaras for me, is that they are part of Saucony’s minimalist range. The shoe has a 4mm heel-to-toe off-set which means they have a pretty similar profile to a racing flat. However every version of the Kinvara has been aimed firmly at the runner who either wants to begin the transition from ‘normal’ shoes with a 12mm or 15mm heel-drop or runners who are biomechanically efficient and are looking for a shoe that is a little more cushioned then their out-and-out racing flats. The Kinvara is the latter for me.

First impressions

The first thing I noticed about the Kinvara 3 when I slid open the very, very cool looking box and removed the (rather large) Kinvara 3 t-shirt and USB stick that had been sent with the shoes, was the look. These shoes are very consciously stylish. There is undoubtedly performance benefits in the FlexFilm material that covers the upper of the shoe (which I’ll come on to in a minute) but from a purely aesthetic point of view, it is stunning. A big departure from the original Kinvara and the Kinvara 2.

The shoes felt typically light in my hand – Saucony say that they weigh 218g and that is what my scales at home read – but the FlexFilm gives them quite a robust feel. The sole is flared as with all the previous versions, but there are changes to the sole which are supposed to improve durability (I can’t comment on that yet and the shoes feel no different from the point of view of the sole material as far as I can tell).

The differences

There are differences from the first and second generation of the Kinvaras that I could feel however.

Snugger but not sweaty-er

The first is the development of the Hydramax lining. When I was out in Portugal it was warm (I suppose that is the point of a warm-weather camp!) and yet the Kinvara 3s felt cool and dry even on the longest runs in the hottest part of the day. The new lining seems to make the shoe snugger, which is a real bonus as far as I’m concerned in a shoe with such a flexible upper, without making the shoe hotter or restrictive.

This combines with the FlexFilm, whose introduction has mean that the upper can be thinner than the mesh material that the first two Kinvaras were made out of and at the same time feel more robust. This all adds to the feel that this is a fast shoe, more like a racer-trainer then before.

The second noticeable difference is one that Ben and I both commented on – the sole feels firmer. I think that the Kinvara 2, whilst a really great shoe, suffered somewhat from being a bit squishy. I even felt that its usefulness as a racer was compromised by the softness of the sole. The new Kinvara deals with that perfectly. The sole is still flared and there is still plenty of cushioning to ensure that my legs don’t feel wrecked after a long run in them, but the shoe feels more accurate and punchy than earlier versions.

So there you have it. The Kinvara 3 from Saucony is still a shoe that I love. It is light-weight, low-profile and minimalist with the benefit of some cushioning and it looks great. I think that Saucony have done a good job of improving the responsiveness of the sole and the snugness of the upper whilst retaining the good things that all of the Kinvaras have shared so far. It will be my tempo session and long-run-with-faster-bits shoe for the foreseeable future.

The Adidas AdiZero Adios (and a new love affair)

As I have admitted before I have never really run in Adidas shoes. In the case of Adidas it was a big sulk caused by a bad retail experience, the impression that Adidas shoes are too narrow for my rather wide feet and the fact that with so many other brands to try, I never had the need to buy Adidas.

However, after being invited to the launch of the new Adidas range for 2012 and then being sent a pair of the new AdiZero Adios, I am converted. In fact I would go so far as to say, I am really impressed with the shoes.

The new Adidas AdiZero Adios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the shoes worn by Patrick Makau in Berlin a couple of weeks ago when he broke the world record and I can certainly see why they would be his choice for the marathon. They are light and flexible. The upper is really breathable and whilst the fit is snug (bear in mind I do have wide feet) they seem to hug my foot rather than restricting it.

Three test runs

Low profile and yet just enough cushioning

I have worn the Adios for the last week on three runs and they performed superbly on each.

On Wednesday night I had a progressive 10 mile run on the canal towpath in the gathering gloom. This was my first run in the Adios and I was delighted by how light they felt despite providing a good deal of cushioning on a relatively long run on the hard concrete towpath. The grip was excellent despite some dampness on the ground and I really felt like I was floating along in the Adios. I was also really happy that the upper of the shoe is very breathable and as I pushed the pace I could feel the cool evening air through the top of the shoe which was great for cooling my feet.

The second outing for the Adios was a speed endurance session on Saturday. This involved extended threshold periods and multiple short fast hill reps in between. Again the Adios were perfect, with just the right balance of lightness and cushioning to ensure that I finished the session with my feet feeling great.

And then I took the Adios out for a long run today. I always try to do at least part of my long run off-road if I can but today that wasn’t possible. However despite the lightness and low profile, the Adios were great even after 16 miles and I didn’t miss my usual, much more cushioned shoes in which I do most of my easy running.

Features

Continental rubber provides excellent grip

The Adidas AdiZero Adios have quite a few features that I really like;

  • they are really ‘grippy’ – this is in part thanks to the section of Continental rubber at the front of the sole – this rubber from the famous German tyre manufacturer, it is claimed, can save up to 1mm of slip every meter, which I guess over 42,125 meters adds up. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that the shoes had great grip even when I was running on wet canal towpaths
  • the shoes have a very low profile – I’m not sure what the heel drop is, but these – to me – are real racing flats with no sign of a thick heel. As a result they really encouraged me on to my mid-foot as I ran
  • the Adios are really light – 217g according to my scales
  • comfortably wide toe-box aligned with a snug mid-foot means that the shoes were not restrictive but at the same time didn’t feel that there were slopping around as I ran. I would however suggest trying a half size bigger than usual especially if you are not used to racing flats
  • the Adiprene material under the fore-foot provides great, light-weight cushioning, which makes them ideal for the marathon in my opinion

Conclusion

My conclusion is simply this; for many of us the search for the perfect shoe is a long and arduous one, especially the search for the perfect race-day shoe. I have known for almost as long as I have been running that many of the greatest runners in the world wear Adidas shoes and yet I stubbornly refused to give them a try for a rather petty reason. That was a mistake. I really like the Adidas AdiZero Adios. It is a great race-day shoe and one that will have a permanent place in my shoe rack. It is a shoe that for me combines all the things that I am looking for – lightness, breathability, flexibility and cushioning – with the fewest possible compromises. And it is very, very orange (which I like). I’m glad I have finally got over my jilted-lover syndrome and embraced the Adios – I think we’ll have a long life together.

The new Adidas AdiZero Adios will be available in the UK from January 2012.
If Carlsberg made running shoes...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postscript, here are some official notes from Adidas about the technology built into the AdiZero Adios: