After becoming very popular in the Japanese market, Mizuno has introduced the Wave Ekiden, a neutral racing flat, to the US. The name of the shoe is a reference to competitive relay racing in Japan, which is as much (or more) a part of the athletic zeitgeist there as collegiate cross country and track & field are in the United States. With these competitions in mind, Mizuno sought to create a racing shoe that is light, responsive, and versatile. (disclosure: the shoes reviewed here were provided free of charge by Running Warehouse)
The first thing anyone will notice about the Wave Ekiden is the light weight. They are under 5 ounces (for a men’s size 9, the published weight is 4.7 oz; my size 9.5 test pair weighed just under 5 oz on my scale). The lack of weight means less total cushioning, which in turn leads to a firmer ride. In my opinion, this is a good thing in a racing flat intended for shorter distance road races.
The overall feel of the shoe is characterized by flexibility in the forefoot and firmness in the heel. The heel cup feels very solid to the touch, and underneath the heel and midfoot, Mizuno added a lightweight Wave plate. From the midfoot forward, the shoe is made of very flexible materials; the upper is entirely mesh (except for one spot above the toe box, which I’ll get into in a bit), and the outsole is a combination of flexible AP material (like EVA) and rubber arranged in a dot pattern. This design approach leads to a shoe that doesn’t feel overly soft at impact, and feels very responsive with a quick transition to toe-off. In my opinion, Mizuno hit the nail on the head for a road flat in terms of ground feel and responsiveness.
The Wave Ekiden has a 6mm heel-toe offset (20mm heel stack height, 14mm toe stack height). Although this is a slightly larger offset than some other flats in the marketplace today, I didn’t feel as though the shoe was encouraging a more-pronounced heel strike than normal, and I find no wear on the heel after 100 miles logged in the shoes. They feel like a road racing flat should feel, and when running they aren’t noticeable in any particular way. A good flat should mainly disappear from your mind when you’re running, and these shoes do that.
There are a couple of design elements in the Ekiden that I don’t love. Neither of them impact the performance of the shoe; I would call them both minor annoyances:
1. Mizuno put a crinkly-sounding material in the toe box underneath the mesh (i.e. directly above your toes). In my opinion, this material provides no real benefit. What is does provide is that crinkly sound. I just took all of the laces out of the shoes and cut the material out of my pair once I had access to the toe box.
2. Mizuno also likes to leave empty space in the heel so that you can see the Wave plate. This also helps keep the weight lower. However, this also becomes a convenient place for rocks to get lodged. This shouldn’t be a problem during a road race that is all paved, but it could be a liability during a race that has sections of gravel.
I tried running both easy and fast over a variety of surfaces with the Wave Ekiden on my feet, and they had the same level of responsiveness and good traction over road, grass, trail, and even mud. The dot patterned rubber outsole is able to grip pretty much anything, so I was confident pushing the pace on all surfaces.
I am generally willing to push the limits of recommended distances for flats, having run marathons in the 4.3 oz Asics Piranha SP4, and the slightly heavier Nike Zoom Streak 3. However, I am going to stick with the other recommendations that I am seeing for the Wave Ekiden, and suggest keeping it to the half marathon distance or less. Mizuno has done a good job creating a firm and responsive ride, which is ideal for shorter racing, but could become a fatigue risk in a longer race.
Final Word: The Mizuno Wave Ekiden is a well-designed and reliable flat for workouts and races up to the half marathon. It’s best suited for runners who like a firm ride and a snappy transition from landing to toe-off. While it’s likely not enough shoe for most marathoners, it is a durable option to have in the rotation for short and fast road racing.
|Caleb Masland is the founder and head coach of Team Wicked Bonkproof, where he works with runners of all abilities and distance specialties. Caleb has PRs of 15:45 (5k), 1:10 (half marathon), and 2:34 (marathon), and has won races ranging in distance from 5k to 50k. You can follow Caleb on Twitter, dailymile, and Google+. You can also find out more at coachcaleb.com.|