Mizuno Be: Mizuno’s Foray into Minimalist Footwear?

I was doing a bit of poking around as I tend to do from time to time and came across a German website which had photos of a shoe called the Mizuno Be – appears to be a new minimalist spectrum “training” shoe from Mizuno. Here are the photos that were posted on Laufschuhkauf.de:

Mizuno Be Bluemizuno_be_modellemizuno_be_sohle

Since I don’t read or speak German, what I can gather from Google Translator is that this appears to be a shoe designed to activate and strengthen foot and leg muscles when you are not running. I also came across this photo in a Runner’s World forum thread that popped up in Google (unfortunately, I don’t read Japanese either…):

Mizuno Be

It would appear that there is some sort of ledge behind the toes that lifts up the forefoot, and I’m a bit wary of this as it would seem that it might increase pressure under the metatarsal heads, and also alter the interaction between the toes and the ground (as this recent video by Jay Dicharry on the Running Times website shows, the toes can play a very important stabilizing role during stance phase of running). Why this concerns me is that if the ledge reduces the load bearing capability of the toes by lifting up the MTP joint, it could lead to increased pressure on the met heads and increased bending of the metatarsal shafts as pointed out in this 1979 paper by Stokes et al. (boldface text is my emphasis):

“Disorders of the foot which reduce the load-bearing function of the toes result in less load in the m.t.p. joints. However, they also give greater bending moments in the metatarsal bones, and produce greater stresses at the attachments of the metatarsals to the tarsus. This may be a common reason for pain and march fractures in the metatarsals, and for progressive changes and deformities in the midfoot joints.”

I’d be curious to see pressure tracings taken while wearing this shoe. One of my big concerns about the Vibram Fivefingers is that I personally feel like the structure of the toe pockets in some models limits my ability to flex my toes, and thus my mets take a beating. I have a suspicion (totally speculative) that this may be related to why some people develop metatarsal stress fractures in the VFF’s. In fact, I went for a run this past weekend in VFF Komodo’s for the first time in quite awhile and was surprised at how achy my forefeet felt after the run – I couldn’t wait to rip them off at the end so I could wiggle my toes (this does not happen to me in other zero-drop shoes). I have no idea what the effect of the Mizuno Be insole might be, but altering forces between the toes and forefoot can be problematic, and is something to watch out for when these shoes are out on the market. At the very least, heeding Mizuno’s advice to use these as a non-running “training shoe” might be wise until we get a good handle on what the effect of this insole design might be on the foot and leg. Alternatively, if Mizuno provided a flat insole for use while running (if you wanted to try it), that might solve the problem.

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. In regards to the vff they are exactly the same as being barefoot just with the protection so you are probably getting the wrong size and you said that you hadn’t been running for a while in them which is why they probably ached as you have to transition slowly. As a big fan of the VFF you can’t say anything wrong about them because they are exactly the same as being barefoot we were born barefoot and evolutionised barefoot so where’s the argument. 

  2. Translation of what they wrote about the Mizuno Be:

    “Completely new to Mizuno is the “activation” line named “Be”. There will be 3 color schemes for women models, and 3 for men models. Price 110€ . The goal, as by all natural running shoes is to strengthen the calf and feet muscles with the ultimate objetive of correcting the posture and sink the injury rates. The model is made of vegetable/plant fibers such as the Waraji Sandals (which were shorter than the foot). The inner sole is flatter close to the toes, thus allowing the toes to move freely. The construction is quite flat with 9:3 mm. The drop is low 6mm. The shoe weights 200g in US 9 size, such as the competition, a lightweight shoe. Be should pickup the Mizuno natural running shoes lineup and it is mainly thought as a show to train the muscles, aside from normal running shoes. In 2013 the assortment will be expanded. It isn’t as there weren’t enough Fußtrainer ( shoes to train the feet) but every company and every new model in this class, pushes this topic forward. The revolution in the running shoe deparment comes with “Rollen”. We are excited. [I am not sure what they mean with this, literally ie means rollen = to roll, Rollen = rolls, I believe it has something to do with the sole]

    • Pete Larson says:

       Thanks for the translation, much appreciated!

    • Good translation – comes with “Rollen”, respectively “etwas kommt ins Rollen” is a german phrase and means that the runningshoe-revolution (= more natural running) has started, the revolution start rolling (and getting more and more power and supporter).

  3. Jammywrighty says:

    Im with Hodie, I know one of the Mizuno UK reps very well and he has been wear testing last 6 months and its not designed as a “running shoe” but more as a strength tool.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Just realized that my title said running – my mistake, as I wrote the title before I read the translation. Changed it to footwear.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Which is what I said in the post, but my concern is that some folks will likely try to run in them. I just got a message from a friend in France who wrote “The French representative told me they’re not for running but to wear after a run for example but he also told me he was curious to see if a minimalist expert (well, that should be me I guess) could run with them. So I’m waiting for a pair :-)”

      My concern is that as with the Nike Free and Vibram Fivefingers (which were not initially marketed for big running miles), people will not listen to advice and will try to run in them. I don’t blame Mizuno for this if they are marketing them as a non-running shoe, I just would agree with them because I see some risk in the insole design for runners.

      • Hey! 
        I can give a little review of them. 
        I was given a pair of the Be this week to wear test and analyze at the clinic. It’s certainly got the look of a running shoe and this may cause confusion and tempt people to treat it as a running shoe. They are a very light, nice generous fitting last and upper for me. I was pleased to see that the toe box is more of a true anatomical shape that leaves both good width across all the metatarsal heads as well as not squeezing the toes together. This is essential for good alignment to the great toe and its stabilization efforts. The ridge that allows the toes to drop, flex and engage the foot’s intrinsic muscles is very interesting. I notice a difference more when I stand in place with respect to balance and my foot’s position in the shoe. It becomes less noticeable when walking.They are stiffer than I was expecting. Torsionally have a more semi-rigid midsole. It isn’t a typical soft EVA foam but more rubbery. At a 6mm drop I thought I would notice the heel differential. It feels quite flat overall. There is no heel counter aside from a small plastic external counter around the back of the heel.I think, after a few days with them, I wouldn’t expect people to find the ridge distal to the met heads very comfortable to run with. During a discussion with the rep who provided me with them she made it clear that the shoe’s durability is not made to take running mileage. The forefoot portion past the ridge is completely soft (kind of like the Hattoris) and I’d expect would break down fast if someone ran with them.
        I am enjoying standing and working in them and haven’t had any discomfort with respect to foot, arch or metatarsal fatigue or pressure. I think those that wear low drop casual shoes such as VivoBarefoot, NB Wellness, or Merrell Barefoot would like these.
        Hope this helps.

        • Pete Larson says:

          So the big question is whether you think it’s plausible that they could strengthen the foot and leg muscles. I admit to being skeptical – it seems like any modification like this may strengthen some muscles but not others. It simply would redistribute the load.
          Sent from my iPad

          • I am reluctantly to pick a side yet. I generally wearing flat, flexible shoes at work. NB Minimus, Sanuk or even my VFFs. For the short few days I have had them I haven’t noticed things feeling more ‘worked.’ Perhaps someone working down their support needs from more structured shoes in these might notice more. 
            Pete- I think you were the Aquas right? If so, you’ll find these shoes considerably more supportive to be honest. That said, I think it may help condition the foot for many but depends what that person is already comfortably using in minimalist footwear.The idea that the toes can flex more is a nice idea given most shoes put some extension on the MTP joints with rocker  and often stiffer soles. Theoretically, this should engage more intrinsic foot activity or even foot stabilization from lower leg musculature. (post. tib, FHL, FDL, peroneals.)

          • Pete Larson says:

            My thinking would be that forcing a bit of extension requires the toes to more actively contract to come flat, which is why I don’t entirely understand the thought behind removing the base from under the toes. It might increase range of motion, but does it really increase resistance?

  4. Runningcoach262 says:

    Pete,

    It’s funny you should post this today, because just this morning I was thinking about the stress fracture I got a few years ago running in a pair of Vibram Flows.  Well, I actually had two at the same time, one in my second toe and one in the second metatarsal.  Both were proximal in nature, leading my sports med doc to speculate that they were more from the repeated force of initial footstrike than from the loading of full stance (the fractures weren’t in the thinnest parts of the bones).  Though I don’t have any proof of this, I always felt like the toe pockets of the Flow, which were especially stiff and thick because they were designed for cold temps, not only kept my toes from moving freely but may have actually even forced them into an unnatural position.  I remember how the areas between my toes would hurt, as if the seams had been getting jammed back into my foot.  I also remember very clearly how happy I was to get them off after every run even though I enjoyed running in them otherwise.  Incidentally, I have run in a slew of minimal shoes since healing and abandoning the Vibrams and have never had another met problem, not even an ache (knocking on all available would here).  Thanks, as always, for the post.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for sharing – I find that if the fit is not perfect and my toes touch the tips of the pockets in a VFF, it makes it hard to flex the toe down, particularly if it is in a version with a thicker rubber sole. I have my suspicions that restriction of normal range of motion may be a part of the met stress fracture problem in some of the Vibrams.

  5. Chris Jessiman says:

    I have also seen the shoe from a Mizuno rep visit and would say it’s similar in style to the Merrell Bare Access shoe but without ANY of the firmer structural parts (outsole, upper overlays, etc). Didn’t look like a shoe you could run in, more like a pair of slippers or post-run as mentioned.

  6. Hey Pete. Some more about the Laufschuhkauf article (from someone that does speak German ;) ):

    Mizuno is starting a whole line of shoes that they market as “activation”.The “Be” seems more a Nike Free competition for strengthening the foot than a real minimalist running shoe. Heel-Toe difference is 6mm. Apparently it’s supposed to be the first in the new line and more shoes are supposed to come out in 2013.Oh, and you’re right about the toe, apparently they were inspired by some Japanese sandals that are shorter than the foot, letting the toes move completely freely. Somehow I doubt that those were really meant for running, though.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for the info – google is not a great translator :) Unfortunately, if you look at a lot of the Nike Free ads, it was not intended to be used for heavy running either, and the Vibram Fivefingers were a boat shoe. What is suggested and what happens do not always match up. I fear that some folks may try to run in these with that insole…my gut feeling is that it’s not a good idea.

  7. Are these to be worn with or without socks.

  8. Thanks for posting these reviews! I just found a pair of the Mizuno Be Minimalist shoes in my size (7 1/2W) at TJ Maxx. For $25, I thought I’d give them a try to maybe help strengthen my calves/feet and give my regular Brooks a break. I have at least 4 half-marathons coming up this year. I certainly won’t be running with them, but cross-training for sure. They are my first pair of minimalists. Any advice, other than to not run with them?

  9. Just want to chime in here be I came across a pair of these at TJMaxx and tried them on and they felt pretty awful! I wear vivobarefoots daily and run in Merrell pace glove and just had to check these out as curiosity struck me. The ledge just beyond the toes is quite uncomfortable even for the minutes I walked nigh e shoe isle with them on. I’m not sure where the idea for this came from but I see why they’re at TJMAXX for $16!

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