Mizuno Wave Universe 4: A Near Perfect Racing Flat

Mizuno Wave Universe 4I just returned from a solid 7 mile run in the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 racing flats, and it reminded me that I have yet to write up my thoughts on these shoes here on the blog. Much like the review of the New Balance MO10 that I posted yesterday, this review will be fairly short as the MWU4 is only a minor update to the previous version, which I reviewed previously here. However, the updates that were made address two of the major complaints that I had about the Universe 3, which was in many ways an incredibly solid shoe. I would go so far as to say that the Wave Universe 4 is just a small tweak from being a virtually perfect racing flat.

If you haven’t run in any iteration of the Mizuno Wave Universe before, you’re missing out. The shoe is ridiculously light (under 4oz), plenty flexible, and has a very roomy forefoot for a racing flat (the Adidas Hagio is the only flat that comes close in forefoot comfort). It is listed as having a 4mm differential (18mm heel, 14mm forefoot), which feels about right to me (the sole of the MWU4 is identical to that of the MWU3 as far as I can tell). The ride under foot is fairly firm, but there is enough cushion to allow for comfort on the roads – I do know folks who run marathons in this shoe.

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Side

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Medial

I had a very favorable opinion of the Mizuno Wave Universe 3, but the shoe was quite frankly ugly (almost looked pink in color), and the material lining the inside of the shoe was abrasive. The Universe 4 resolves both of these issues – the bright orange upper with flame patterns looks great (it is now being replaced with an identically patterned red version), and the interior is now lined by a soft mesh that is more comfortable against the skin if sockless.

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Top

Unfortunately, there is one issue that still gives me trouble when running sockless in these shoes – the smooth, synthetic-leather-like material lining the ankle collar rubs my skin and causes blisters. If I could change one thing about this shoe it would be to add a softer, fabric lining around the ankle collar, perhaps with just a small amount of cushion underneath. I can’t comment on durability (I never get enough miles on a single pair of shoes to wear them out given the number of reviews I do), but know people who get a lot of miles on a pair – as always individual results will vary depending on the specifics of you stride.

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Sole

I think what I like best about this shoe is that it’s so light that you barely feel like you have anything on your foot, but it provides just enough cushion to save my legs if I feel like running fast on the roads. I finished my 7 miler today with two miles at around 6:30 pace, which is faster than I’ve run in a bit, and my legs felt great. This is a shoe that does not get in the way, and that’s perhaps the highest compliment I can give a running shoe. Finally, one complaint about the Wave Universe is it’s price – MSRP is around $125. I’d guess the steep price tag is probably because it takes some effort to make a shoe this light that doesn’t just fall apart after a few uses. That being said, these shoes were a personal purchase and not media review samples, which tells you how much I like them. Because a color update has arrived, the orange MWU4 can be had for a considerable discount in Running Warehouse closeout shop. If you’re looking for a new flat, this one is definitely worth a try!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Hey I just purchased these and will begin working them in. Hopefully full time soon. One question though. Do you think these shoes can handle 50+ miles a week? I weigh about 135 and midfoot strike.

    • Pete Larson says:

      You mean can the shoes handle 50 miles, or can your body handle 50 miles in them? Probably depends on your body and your stride, not an easy question to answer from afar.

  2. Hey Pete. I’ve been running solely in Vibram Sprint’s for a while now, but looking for something with slightly more comfort. It’s not really the lack of padding in the Vibram’s that bothers me, but the fit in the toes. (My last two are really curved, and a pain to even get on).

    So I’m looking at “shoes” with as thin a sole as possible to mimic the sprints, but hopefully more comfortable to run in. What do you suggest? Waves or the Merrell Road Glove? What’s the biggest difference between the two?

    Thanks again and love your blog.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Neither. For the feel and flexibility of the Sprints in a toeless shoe, get the Inov-8 Bare-X 180. I bought a pair last week and I don’t want to take them off. Loving this shoe. http://www.runningwarehouse.co

      • Just placed my order! Haven’t bought a pair of shoes in a year. Have had the sprints for about 1.5 years, and tried some Kinvaras for a while…but I’ve been doing the sprints several times a week (2-4 miles at a time) and if I try and wear the Kinvaras now, they feel like running in mud.

        Can’t wait to try the Bare-X 180s!

        • nathan118 says:

          Really enjoying my Bare-X 180s Pete…thanks for the rec. Only issue was the laces are SOOOO long. Ordered a pair of  of 36″ laces, and they’re perfect. (Originals are 54″)

    • Your preview of the New Balance Minimus Road MT00 looks good too. Though running warehouse isn’t showing that sexy red!

      • Pete Larson says:

        That’s a good shoe, as is the Merrell Bare Access. But, they all have some cushion and thus lose some feel and flexibility when compared to the sprint. The Inov8 and Vivobarefoot Neo are probably the closest approximations to a toeless Vibram Sprint, and the Merrell Road Glove might be next closest.

  3. Sorry to keep you busy Pete :)
    But what is your size for the Universe? Same as Kinvara 3?

  4. These look absolutely awesome – my next purchase for sure. Nice review

  5. Kyle Rickert says:

    Can you break down the firmness of these shoes in comparison with a couple others?  Specifically compared to the Newton MV2, Asics Piranha?  Also, is there any arch support?  I’m a fan of a flat arch.

    • Pete Larson says:

      MV2 is probably firmer, have not run in the Piranha. Not much arch support in the Universe, I prefer it to the MV2.

  6. Dave Robertson says:

    Great review Pete.

    I actually gave my Dad a pair of these for Christmas, and he is loving them.

    Previously he was using bigger, bulkier shoes but hasn’t had a problem transitioning to the racing flats full time.

    He actually wiped 1:30 off his 5K time in a week – giving credit to the new shoes!

    Its classic to see a 65 year old guy knocking out the miles in a pair of bright orange racing flats…!

  7. Scott Vanwinkle says:

    Pete,

    My son needs a shoe for training on the track. He runs the 800 and 1600. He currently uses the Kinvara for most of his track workouts.

    Would this Universe 4 be a suitable choice for his track workouts.

    Thanks, Scott

  8. I recently bought a pair of these and they’re awesome! I was hesitant at first to even try them on, since I always get disappointed with racing flats given my very wide feet. Fortunately, as you said, these shoes provide a lot of room in the forefoot. I also like the fact that they go well with no-tie speed laces, fit-wise. However, my only issue is the ankle collar as well, since I train a lot sockless. Although I’ve had no blisters so far, the lining might create problems during runs beyond 10 miles or so. Nevertheless, the MWU-4 is a great running shoe and looking forward to version 5. Thanks for the review!

  9. I bought a pair of these, and I have to they feel like they are going to fall apart on my first run. I am glad to hear that people are getting around a 1000 miles out of them, because they look like they are going to be worn out in 100 miles. I haven’t run in them yet, though, because I am not sure they fit correctly. I usually wear a size 10, so I ordered a size 10. At a size 10, however, they are a snug fit, meaning I can wiggle my big toe and feel the end of the shoe. I am wondering if there is a rule of thumb for how these are supposed to fit? Should they be on the snug side, or loose, or what? This is my first pair of flats, so I am in new territory. I am coming from a pair of Altras that I really liked. I am looking forward to trying something even lighter, though.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Your toe should not touch the tip of the shoe. Strange though, as I wear a 10 in these and all of my other shoes, so I did not size up. Shoe wear and durability is often very much a function of an individual’s stride – some people are a lot harder on shoes than others.

      • So given I can stretch my toes and feel the end of the shoe at size 10, would you recommend I order a size 10.5 or 11? I just don’t have a feel for how loose I should wear them.

  10. Justin Reed says:

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I ran across a pair of Saucony Kilkenny XC3 shoes online really cheap. I don’t typically run trails just on pavement do you see any obvious problems that I would run into using these on pavement exclusively?

  11. Ashwyn Gray says:

    Nice description of the Universe 4, Pete! I agree that the leather-like piping around the ankle is somewhat bothersome. It also makes the shoe feel a bit loose on the foot, I think. But, I don’t notice it too much once running. These really are great flats, especially because of the weight. 

  12. Great post, again, Peter:

    I bought the Wave (will get it tomorrow) with a very nice discount at the running warehouse.  It will enter my rotation, which currently includes an old Kinvara 1, a new New Balance MT110, an old New Balance Minimus Trail (which underwent the same surgery as yours).  I am taking a break from the Bikilas as I am only returning to my runs following a clean fracture (5th metatarsal).  I am trying to maintain diversity in training surfaces and shoes with the Kinvara being the softest shoe and both New Balances tied for “hardest” (they are not stiff at all).  I should find out soon, but was wondering if you had any guess as to where  where the Wave will fit in the soft-hard spectrum among these shoes.  Thanks and keep making this one of my favorite blogs! 

    Best,
     

  13. Kyle Schmidt says:

    I like your review except I liked the look of the 3 better than the 4. The 4 just looks gaudy!

  14. LOVE the MWU3/4.  I completely agree with everything you said, except the color part.  They can make these whatever color they want and it is still the best shoe going.  I had the same experience with the ankle collar, particularly rubbing on the achilles, so I cut it off (the achilles tab, just sliced it off), which fixed the problem :) .
    Mileage – I got > 1000 miles on my first pr of MWU3 but somewhere around 800 miles the upper split (medial, low near sole).  My second pr of MWU3 I use mostly on hardpack, non-technical trails.  My main road shoe if the air temp is above 30F is the modified MWU4.
    The thing is, once you run in something so light, you are ruined for anything heavier!!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Bob,

      Are you the Bob Newman who has done all of the ecology work with wood frogs? If so, I read a ton of your work in grad school.

      Pete

      • yup, that’s me.  Need to run to stay in shape for walking many miles in waders :)
        btw, I post as dogrunner at BFTs google group.

  15. I bought these over the summer (based on your recommendation of the Universe 3). I must say say that i wholeheartedly agree that they’re a great racing flat. I set a PR in them at the 5K (19:47)  

    However, of all it’s uses, I actually use them as my go-to treadmill shoe.  While I’ve found them to be a bit too hard for long training runs on the roads, I don’t have that feeling on the hamster wheel. They’re also great for ensuring quick turnover, good form, and they’re wonderful when you decide you want to pick up the pace a bit.  

  16. Steve Fines says:

    Hey,

    These look nice. Went to RW to get a pair to try but above size 12 they only do whole sizes. I’ve found pretty consistently that if a shoe has a true fit I need a 12.5.

    Oh well, thanks for the great review.

  17. Love the smokin’ hot look!

  18. Hi, I am looking for a minimal shoe with a drop between zero and 4mm for my half marathon race in three months. I have been running on vibram five fingers (Bikila) and on invisible shoes for road; and on New balance MT 110 for trail. In other words, I have been running with little shoe support for almost two years; but I am looking for a shoe with a little bit of more support for my long runs and long races. I was considering on getting the Mizuno wave universe 4, Mizuno wave evo levitas, Mizuno evo cursoris and the Nike streak LT. Can you help me to make a smart choice or give me suggestions?

    thank you

  19. Emilie Reas says:

    I just purchased these per your “virtual shoe wall” recommendation and gave them a test run today. Your review was spot on and I’m truly impressed by them. They’re certainly the lightest shoe I own (excluding my huaraches) and the cushion and heel lift were almost non-detectable. Easily kept my natural forefoot strike – they’re a great choice if you’re looking for minimal interference. Thanks for the great review!

  20. Scott Whitacre says:

    Pete,
    A question, but first a little background.  I’m looking for something to complement my Hattori’s. I’ve had the Kinvara but had to put them up after a bout with plantar. I think it was too much arch for me. Do you think the Wave Universe 4 has less arch than the Kinvara?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I think so, but I’m not particularly sensitive to a bit of arch. There is no removable insole in these so the arch is just formed by a rise of the medial midsole.

  21. Kelly Mahoney says:

    I seem to recall the previous versions of this Mizuno racing flat being cheaper. Perhaps Mizuno has figured out that this shoe fits in the minimal category, and thus can fetch a minimal, err maximal price.

  22. Thomas Neuberger says:

    Super Fast 7 Peter! Pricey racing flat. I typically love the same detailing and color combo as you, these are a little to fire themed for me. 

  23. anonymous says:

    this shoe is amazing

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