Friday, February 1, 2013

A Minimalist Start To 2013 - Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Shoe Review

Last fall The Hershey Medical Center announced they needed runners to participate in a barefoot
running study. I'm not a barefoot runner or even a minimalist runner, but I thought it could be fun
so I offered up my services. The study requires that you run 30% of your mileage barefoot or in a
minimalist shoe and complete a survey monthly answering specific questions posed by the
facilitators. The questionnaire focuses on whether or not you've experienced different running
related injuries since running barefoot/minimalist.

I was surprised to find that the study would not be providing the minimalist shoes for
participants. They did however provide a pretty complete list of shoes they approved of for the
study. All the shoes cost around $100 or more and I really wasn't interested in explaining to
Janice that I needed to buy another pair of running shoes so I could be a barefoot running lab rat.
I decided to take a different approach and contacted every shoe company on the list and even some
retailers and explained my situation and asked for their support. I got some responses that seemed
positive, but went nowhere and others that were flat "no". I won't share any of them, but I was
really amused by the response of one of the companies who's shoes are notoriously expensive -
totally cracked me up... I was getting ready to email the facilitator of the study and tell him I
was pulling myself from the group when I got an email from Mizuno. To make a long story short, the
kind folks at Mizuno provided me with a pair of Mizuno Wave Universe 4 minimalist shoes to use for
the study. They arrived the day after Christmas! Thank you Mizuno!

I focus my running on the trail, trail events and longer distances like 50k, 50 miles or more, but
I do about half of my training on the road simply because of schedule and life constraints. Joining
this study and adding the Wave Universe to my stable of shoes, I decided that my road mileage would
be run as a minimalist.

Right out of the box, the Wave Universe are eye catchers, nothing is lost on their design. They
come in different colors, but the pair Mizuno sent me are Royal Purple with Lime Punch trim. I
could see the LSU Cross Country team running in them or for us Pennsylvanians, a West Chester Ram
would be proud in these purple speedsters. Mizuno presents the shoe as a racing flat, but with only
a 4mm drop from heel (18mm) to forefoot (14mm) and a feather weight of 3.8oz, it's no surprise they
were listed as one of the approved shoes for the minimalist study. That light weight is the next
thing you notice when taking them out of the box. I think I own heavier socks. Putting them on,
they give the feel of a laced up bedroom slipper. I must say, my first few steps in them made me
wonder what the heck I was in for with this minimalist running thing. I used one shoe previously
that was scaled down in its support and protection, but nothing like this. That 14mm's of rubber
under my forefoot seemed like nothing, but I already run with a forefoot strike so I was confident
these shoes wouldn't adversely affect my stride.

I didn't ease into this change, I simply replaced my aging road shoes with the new minimalist
shoes. Probably not smart, but hey that's how I did it. I do have to admit my first steps were quite
awkward. The start of the route is a slight downhill and I'm sure I looked like a chicken
scratching downhill. One of the first things I noticed was the semi-slapping sound with each foot
fall. Secondly and I'm sure that real minimalist runners already know this, but if you step on
debris, man you really feel it - yep it even hurts sometimes! The 6 mile road route I run around
Carlisle PA has a short stretch of rugged dirt trail through a local park so I have technically
used them for trail running too. I like the feel of the minimal sole on dirt. Maybe it's the soft
surface respite from the 4 miles of black top that lead to that trail. The shoe does have that 18mm
heel and I find myself using and appreciating it on a steep little downhill where I guess I use a
heel plant for stability. Of the 212 training miles I ran in January, 104 of them were on the road
in the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 in rain, snow, mud and extreme cold. The sole wear is minimal and the
upper is showing no signs of give.

The Wave Universe has been the perfect minimalist shoe for me, I'm a bigger/older runner who has
had my share of running related maladies so I think having at least that 14mm of protection was
just what the barefoot doctor ordered. If you're looking to try minimalist running and you're not
sure you want to go barefoot or the five finger route, give the Wave Universe a shot. If you're one
of those "fasties" who crowd the start line at your community 5k/10k, these shoes feel like wings!

After a solid month of minimalist running, I submitted my questionnaire with pride. As January came
to a close though I developed a little tightness in my left calf after a snowy 10 mile trail run.
It feels like all the other running related calf strains I've experienced, so I'm not going to
attribute it to the minimalist running. Unfortunately the stiffness in that calf muscle comes just
a couple of days before The Squirrely Tail Twail Wun Trail Half Marathon. I'm sure I'll still have
a fun time running around the lake at Gifford Pinchot State Park with all the other crazies even if
I am a bit gimpy. Stay tuned for my race report coming soon.

Posted By Blogger to Perry's Trails at 2/01/2013 09:31:00 AM

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