Mizuno started as Mizuno Brothers Ltd in Osaka by the brothers, Rihachi Mizuno and Rizo Mizuno (younger brother). The company was established in 1906 selling western sundries, including baseballs.
In 1928, Mizuno produced their first track and field cleats. In the 1970s when running as a sport picked up, Mizuno introduced their M-Line shoes which catered for daily use to athletic requirement. The track was where many company started in making running shoes and it is the same for Mizuno. Mizuno’s famous logo today was first used in 1982/3 and named as “RunBird”. Look carefully at the logo and you can make out the bird which is charging forward. In 1991, Mizuno’s running shoes made world stage with Carl Lewis winning the 1991 World Championships 100m race in 9.86 secs, breaking the then world-record.
Mizuno not only has business in running but also golf, baseball, football, among other indoor, outdoor, and winter sports. Research & Development is critical for any company and Mizuno has undertaken plan to develop their new R&D innovation centre by March 2023. Mizuno’s running shoes series all incorporate the “wave” technology.
Mizuno Running Shoes Line-up
For Mizuno’s running shoes line up, it took me some time to understand how Mizuno was strategizing their running shoes line up. In my attempt, there are at least 3 starting points where you can find out which running shoes are for you. The first is simply by your foot type (i.e., neutral or overpronation). When a runner overpronate in his or her gait cycle, the typical recommendation is to get a stability shoe (which has some form of support in the medial side). The second is with their Wave Plate types; there are at least 5 types: (i) Parallel Wave, (ii) Fan Shaped Wave, (iii) Double Fan Shaped Wave, (iv) Infinity Wave, and (v) Foam Wave. The last is to use the Com-Path, a dedicated running shoes finder for Mizuno. Link here. Not all of Mizuno’s running shoes are available in the country where I am based (online & offline), as such, I will provide a few prominent running shoes which can be found in most countries.
Neutral or Stability
For neutral runners, the most prominent running shoes would be the Wave Rider and the Wave Sky. The Wave Rider is now numbering at Rider 25 and Wave Sky in its 5th iteration. What sets the two apart is the level of cushioning. The Wave Sky series is built with more cushioning under foot than the Wave Rider series. That is not to say Wave Rider does not have cushioning under foot, just lesser relative to Wave Sky. Another difference between the two is in the stack height; Wave Rider has a 12mm drop (from heel to forefoot) while Wave Sky has an 8mm drop. Lastly, the Mizuno foams used in the midsole is different (except for the base Enerzy foam) and their wave plate type; Wave Rider uses the Parallel Wave while Wave Sky used the Wave Foam. Based on the information and stats of these two pairs, both will make great daily training option.
For stability runners, Mizuno has at least 4 running shoes: (i) the Wave Inspire, (ii) Wave Horizon, (iii) Wave Paradox, and (iv) Wave Equate. Here I will touch upon two pairs which are readily available in my country of residence; the Mizuno Wave Inspire and Wave Horizon. While both are stability running shoes, the method to achieve this is different between the two. The Wave Inspire utilize the Double Fan Shaped Wave technology while the Wave Horizon utilize Wave Foam technology to achieve the stability. We will touch more on the Wave Plate technology in the later paragraph of this article. With the different types of Wave Plate technology, the Horizon and Inspire is likely to cater towards a different group of runners, abide somewhat similar. The key point here is the midsole and the implementation of the plate technology. The Horizon, on top of using the Foam Wave, also has the XPOP midsole which is a PU (Polyurethane) foam to deliver higher level of cushion and energy return. The Foam Wave achieve a level of stability by using two layers of foam with different properties. This results in the Wave Horizon taking a step closer to neutral running shoes in term of implementation. On the other hand, the Inspire retains the traditional method of achieving stability by introducing Mizuno’s Double Fan Shaped Wave technology; a structure.
There is something which Mizuno has done with their Wave Rider series and Wave Sky series, and they released 2 iterations of it. The Wave Rider Neo and Wave Sky Neo. There are a few differences which are easy to spot. The first is the price, where the Wave Rider costed about S$189 (SGD) while the Wave Rider Neo costed S$229 (SGD). The second is the upper design and material used. In the Wave Rider series, it appears to be an engineered mesh while in the Wave Rider Neo it is knit upper with the heel flare. Lastly, the outsole is different. The Wave Rider Neo uses Mizuno’s G3 crystalized rubber, which is said to provide excellent gripping power, while the Wave Rider uses X10 carbon rubber.
Wave Plate Technology
The 2nd starting point is from their Wave Plate technology. Mizuno uses the Wave Plate, a pebax material, and achieve a certain outcome, for example the stability function. There are at least 5 different types of wave plate known in Mizuno.
- Parallel Wave: targeted for neutral running shoes. It can disperse shock evenly throughout the sole with its wave plate.
- Double Fan-shaped Wave: targeted for stability running shoes. On the medial side of the running shoes, the 2 layers of fan-shaped wave overlap to provide enhanced stability for runners with serve pronation.
- Foam Wave: this is Mizuno’s way of bringing stability without a structure or stability lite. The Foam Wave is made up of 2 layers of foam/midsole which acts to not only provide the cushioning but also the structure for stability.
- Fan-shaped Wave: A single layer fan shaped wave.
- Infinity Wave: this consists of two parallel plates stacked with soft cushioning pillars in-between. The result is a higher level of cushioning and improved durability of the running shoes.
Based on latest running shoes, there are more using the Foam Wave, while the parallel wave is used in the Wave Rider series and Double Fan-shaped Wave in the Inspire series. The Foam Wave is used in the Wave Sky, Wave Skyrise and Wave Horizon series among others. How I see the Foam Wave is Mizuno’s move towards appealing to runners who do not want outright stability shoes with those structure but wanting a hint of it. I think this also makes the manufacturing process easier.
With the understanding of the different types of wave plate technology, it becomes clear which type of running shoes can be the choice.
The final starting point is to use Mizuno’s Com-Path. At the time of writing, the Com-Path application is still online and working but I am not sure if Mizuno will remove it or decommission. The Com-Path is basically a “Shoe Finder” for Mizuno running shoes only. There are three outcomes: (i) Propulsive, (ii) Floating, and (iii) Grounding. Depending on the choice of your answer to the questions asked, you will either be led to more questions or to the outcomes. I have mapped out the Com-path’s decision tree for your reference.
What is Floating?
Floating shoes, such as the Wavesky or Wave Horizon series, are running shoes with higher stack height and level of cushioning. Through the higher level of cushioning, it insulates the impact and ground feeling during a run. The following are the decision pathways to obtain a Floating outcome.
- Force Efficient, Fluid, Fluid.
- Light, Effortless, Force Efficient.
- Light, Effortless, Acceleration, Plush, Fluid
What is Grounding?
Grounding running shoes provide a direct and connected ride during the run. This is a result from the lower stack height. In this category, there are the Wave Shadow and Wave Inspire series. Through the examples of running shoes, we can understand Grounding as running shoes which provides certainty as you transit through your strides. The Wave Inspire is a stability running shoes equipped with Mizuno double fan-shaped wave technology. While the Wave Shadow is a low stack and lightweight targeted for runners going at a faster pace than they would in Wave Rider. The following are the decision pathways to obtain a Grounding outcome.
- Force Efficient, Effortless, Fluid
- Fore Efficient, Effortless, Acceleration, Acceleration.
- Light, Supportive, Reliable, Fluid
- Light, Supportive, Effortless, Acceleration
What is Propulsive?
Propulsive shoes, such as the Wave Rider series, is marketed to provide an optimal balance between stability and cushioning. This is in hope to keep a runner going in the stride without worrying about cushion or footing. The following are the decision pathways to obtain a Propulsive outcome.
- Force Efficient, Fluid, Bounce
- Force Efficient, Effortless, Acceleration, Supportive
- Light, Supportive, Effortless, Supportive
- Light, Supportive, Reliable, Supportive,
- Light, Effortless, Acceleration, Plush, Force Efficient
My Thoughts on Com-path
I have tried to reverse engineer and look at the decision matrix by Mizuno’s Com-path. While there are certainly unique attributes which can be identified by examining the first level (i.e., the choice immediately before the outcome), it isn’t always the case. For example, the choice of acceleration is unique to Grounding while supportive is unique to Propulsive. For Floating, there is no unique attribute attached to it. Fluid as an attribute is matched to not only Floating but also to Grounding. Taking another level further (last 2nd choice before outcome) to examine the attributes does not result in any fruitful insights. For example, acceleration is a unique attribute at the first level for Grounding, but it also appears in a decision pathway for a Floating outcome.
My hypothesis is that Mizuno’s Com-path either relies only on a few factors or the decision matrix is flawed in some ways. Certain questions do not make a difference to the outcome you attain. You might be better off just using the neutral vs stability and other factors (e.g., price, weight, aesthetics) to decide on which running shoes to buy. I wonder how much money they paid to get Com-path working.
Summary & Conclusion
Mizuno is a brand with rich history and has its name on the world stage. However, it certainly is not as prominent in my view among runners. Among my survey of random runners, Mizuno is not a brand to be seen often. There are runners in Mizuno but not a lot relative to other brands. A point worth noting is that consumers from different markets will have their exposure and options to Mizuno differently. In addition, it also depends on the company’s overall strategy and the role of the running department in its strategy.
As part of Mizuno’s mid-term plan for the international markets, key growth drivers include running and golf as well as increasing its international markets revenue ratio. By 2023, the company targets to reach about 60 billion yen (about US$540 million) for footwear and an overall revenue ratio of 32.5%. Certainly, not all footwears are catered for running but there are also other sports. Therefore, we will need to see if Mizuno will be improving their game in the running shoes market or not.
What is encouraging or the first sign of light is the release of Mizuno’s Wave Rebellion. The Wave Rebellion introduced some new features (e.g., new midsole Enerzy Lite and Glass Fiber plate) which does indicate the company is taking note of its competition in the market. Else it could have stayed with its Wave Rider and other legacy series. I have not owned any Mizuno running shoes before. However, the Wave Sky series and Wave Shadow series have gotten my interest slightly higher for Mizuno. It is certainly worth investigating how they perform and find out for myself what value is there with Mizuno’s running shoes. I will post a review if I do grab a pair of Mizuno.
Till then, just keep running!