Mizuno Wave Ekiden Racing Flat Review by Coach Caleb

Mizuno Wave EkidenAfter 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.

Mizuno Wave Ekiden sideMizuno Wave Ekiden medial

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.

Mizuno Wave Ekiden top

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.

Mizuno Wave Ekiden sole

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.

Mizuno Ekiden rock2. 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.

The Mizuno Wave Ekiden is available for purchase at Running Warehouse.


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.

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. Pete Larson says:

    I have a pair of these as well but may send them back as they seem to run a half size small to me (have not run in them yet as a result), though I tend to be sizing up to 10.5 more and more these days. They seem to be a bit snugger than the Wave Universe, but I do like the sole feel just walking around in them.

    I also agree about that crinkly material – I have no idea what purpose that stuff serves other than to make a strange noise!

    • M Louise Cunningham says:

      Ran in my tonite.. love them! Just the right amount of “cushiness” and still able to feel the road. :)

  2. I haven’t noticed anything crinkly, but I’m going to pay closer attention now.

    Agreed: Flats–and trainers, really–should disappear on your feet. It’s kinda the main thing to look for in my book. Weight, offset, fit, etc., are all variables that can combine in so many different ways to make a great shoe.

    I love the Ekiden. When this shoe is on, it’s pretty durn near impossible to run slow.

    I think I’m coming to the decision that I like the old fashioned soft mesh and stitched pleather (fuede?) uppers best. They just tend to fit the foot cleaner and they don’t ripple and buckle like the new fangled welded overlays on crunchy meshes. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Kinvara, but the uppers like on the Adios 2 or the Ekiden to me appear to be of, I don’t know, better craftmanship maybe, if that’s at all possible. And after you’ve worn it several times, it feels almost customized; or at least it takes the shape of the foot better.

    I’d like to see a trainer version of the Ekiden too. Maybe add another four mm of foam under fore- and rear- and you’d have a bitchin’ daily trainer. Maybe we can get Mizuno to lower the offset of the Sayonara in the next iteration.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I agree on the upper material, I like the cloth-like feel. Feel he underside of the forefoot material and you’ll find the crinkly stuff, no idea what it’s for,
      Sent from my iPad

  3. John Nguyen says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who was weirded out by the crinkly material haha!

    And I found them to be half a size small when I first got them. I was lucky and had purchased two pairs, one half a size larger and got to compare them size by side with a pair of Mizuno Ronin 2s. The larger Ekiden was spot on in length with the half a size smaller Ronin. I actually kept the smaller Ekiden though, on the hunch that the minimal upper would stretch out. After about 16 miles it’s stretched out some and I would say it feels an odd “quarter size” small to me. But I’m happy with them and just came back from a 5k race where I think the tightness was a good thing for me and I’m going to keep them as my purpose 5k racer.

  4. Gary Whorwood says:

    What’s the key difference between the Ekiden, the Ronin, and the Universe then?

    • Pete Larson says:

      The Ekiden is like a slightly beefier Universe – a bit more cushion underfoot. The Ronin to me is more like a lightweight trainer or a long distance racer, more shoe than either of these and slightly greater heel-toe offset.
      Sent from my iPad

  5. M Louise Cunningham says:

    Mizuno sent me a pair this winter and I have yet to do any long distances with them. I like the fit and feel so far, but will know more after I get some miles into them. I asked about the crinkly stuff in the beginning and no one seemed to have a real good answer. It doesnt bother anything, just makes wierd noises that scare my dog. :P

  6. Will Ekiden come to the European
    market?

  7. Looks like a beefed-up version of the Wave Universe to me. It looks like also the Ekiden hasn’t got a removable insole. The toebox looks quite wide too. In comparison to the Wave Universe the shoe is a bit longer and has a bit less toe-space. I have the wave Universe in size 12 and Shoefitr suggests that I should get a 11.5 for the Ekiden.

  8. Samuel Hartpence says:

    Also be weary of any Mizunos in winter conditions. The hallow heal also seems to act as a magnet for large ice balls that create a fulcrum under your heel.

  9. Hey there! Trying to revive this post. I just got my Ekidens and after few weeks and approx 30 miles on them I still feel calf pain that lasts for 3 days. Had any of you experienced that?

    • What were you running in prior to the Ekidens? Moving to a racing flat can require more work out of the calves, so soreness is not uncommon. A gradual buildup is typically appropriate.

      • Thanks Pete!

        I’d been using Newtons Gravity and Mizuno Universe 9 for training and recently Kinvara 3 for racing.

        • In that case I would say that it’s surprising that the one shoe is causing you problems since the others are similar in being lower drop. Not sure what the problem might be.

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