Mizuno began to establish itself as a major player in running shoes in the 1980s. In 1982, it released its “RunBird” line of shoes in America and debuted a new logo, which still adorns Mizuno products today. The RunBird led to several notable shoes in the ‘80s. The Air Genova ST featured a precursor to the company’s wave plate, an insert that helps the midsole absorb impact forces while supporting the foot. At the time, that kind of stability technology was a big leap forward and it helped runners avoid injuries from hard impacts. Mizuno then set out to build the ultimate speed shoe, which resulted in the Racing Star 100 in 1988. Designed to be lightweight and highly flexible, it featured 462 different spike layouts to match the exact foot shape and ground feel preferences of the athletes who wore them—an unheard of level of customization. The Racing Star 100 shoes were more than just a novelty, however: They propelled Carl Lewis to break the men’s 100-meter dash record in 1991.
Riding the Wave
Mizuno continued to refine its running shoe tech through the ‘90s, and it eventually scored a hit with its unique wave plate design. Designers took the midsole concept first used in the Air Genova and refined it into the company’s signature wave plate system, which was released in the Wave Rider shoe in 1997. When combined with cushioning material, this plastic plate increases energy return, dissipates impact forces, and helps the cushion keep its shape throughout the stride. For runners, that means Wave shoes deliver a potent combination of cushion, support, and a responsive foot feel, which have remained hallmarks of Mizuno shoes to this day.
Mizuno’s Wave technology still underpins the company’s shoes, though designers have improved on the basic formula over the years. Infinity Wave, released in 2007, is a novel sole design made up of two Wave plates sandwiched on top of each other. They’re held together by pillars of soft cushioning material surrounded by open space, which saves weight (On’s CloudTec construction uses similar principles). The result is a supportive, lighter, and more durable shoe, like the Wave Creation and the Wave Prophecy.
In 2016, Mizuno released its Cloudwave technology in the Wave Rider 20, in which the wave plate has a special concave geometry to cup the bottom of the heel. Cloudwave’s unique shape allows it to flex with the heel on impact for a softer ride, especially for heel strikers, and it’s often paired with additional foam in the forefoot for even more cushion. The result: a smoother, plusher ride combined with the stability Mizunos are known for.
Beyond the Wave
Aside from the wave plate, there are a few other flagship innovations to look out for. Mizuno’s midsole cushioning foam is called U4ic—pronounced “euphoric”—and it’s used in many of the shoes below. First released in 2013, the main benefit with this material is its weight: Mizuno claims it’s 30% lighter than the company’s older cushioning platform while still providing the same level of softness and shock absorption. U4icX, an improved version released in the Wave Enigma 5 in 2015, is refined to deliver even more softness and energy return. Together, these foams help make Mizuno shoes comfortable and supportive, but they lack the lightness of newer foams like Nike’s React. On the upper, Mizuno debuted its new AeroHug system in the Wave Sky 2 in 2018. With a combo of supportive wraps and areas of open mesh, it’s designed to cradle your foot and maximize breathability.
Another upper innovation, called Waveknit, debuted on the Waveknit R1 in late 2018. It’s an upper material woven in an overlapping vector pattern; the vector shapes have a thicker knit that is less stretchy than the rest of the fabric, which gives support to your foot while also allowing the upper to flex as you move. It’s the key feature on the Waveknit C1 and R2.
How We Picked
Nearly every shoe here has been tested by our team of over 350 active wear-testers, or by staff here at Runner’s World. In addition, we research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience to determine the best options. We also included shoes that haven’t undergone our strenuous testing cycle; instead, these picks were recommended using expert knowledge and evaluation.
—BEST FOR STABILITY—
Wave Horizon 3
The Wave Horizon is Mizuno’s top of the line support shoe. Like the previous iteration, the midsole utilizes U4icX and U4ic foams for superior shock absorption and has a full-length wave plate to help you roll through your stride. It now features a redesigned upper with AeroHug technology, which wraps your foot for a snug fit and provides additional support as you run. Although it’s very stiff and doesn’t grip well in the rain, the Wave Horizon’s combination of responsiveness, cushioning, and stability makes it a good pick for distance training.
—BEST FOR NARROW FEET—
The Waveknit C1 is a Frankenstein shoe, in a good way. To make it, Mizuno took the bottom half of the Wave Creation and matched it with its lightweight, flexible Waveknit upper. The result is a shoe with the superb cushioning, durability, and response of the Infinity Wave midsole system matched with a snug-fitting, sock-like upper. The C1 makes a great pick for distance runners who prize a comfortable foot feel in just about every way—it’s soft, it’s responsive, and it wraps the foot without interfering with your stride.
—BEST FOR HEEL STRIKERS—
Wave Inspire 15
The Wave Inspire has been a part of Mizuno’s lineup for awhile, and the latest version continues on the improvements made in the shoe’s 14th iteration. The midsole construction—U4ic and U4icX foams sandwiched around a fan-shaped wave plate—creates an exceptionally soft shoe, especially at the heel. The upper has been tweaked for an even softer fit and more low-key styling. Overall, it remains a great pick for shock absorption and stability, and its carbon rubber outsole provides good grip and durability across all kinds of road conditions.
Wave Sky 2
The Wave Sky is built for cushion and comfort, and it makes a good choice for neutral runners who don’t need a full stability shoe. With the Sky, you get a midsole comprised of Mizuno’s new U4icX foam layered with tried-and-true U4ic cushioning. The shoe also features a Cloudwave plate in the midsole to dissipate impact forces and remain stable, and Mizuno’s AeroHug upper material wraps the midfoot for extra comfort and breathability. Overall, it’s a comfortable training shoe that can handle high mileage.
Wave Rider 22
A veteran in Mizuno’s lineup, the Wave Rider has for years graced runners’ feet with superb comfort and cushioning. The latest version hits the mark with a softer heel (thanks to a key placement of Mizuno’s U4icX foam) and a Cloudwave layer in the midsole for support and shock absorption. The Wave Rider was the shoe that helped Mizuno win a devoted following—and with such a comfy ride, it’s easy to see why. It’s also available as the Waveknit R2, which comes with Mizuno’s stretchy Waveknit upper.
—BEST FOR HEAVIER RUNNERS—
Wave Creation 20
The Wave Creation uses Mizuno’s Infinity Wave support system, which gives it the unique open outsole under the heel. This construction is designed to give superior shock absorption, support, and responsiveness while also keeping weight low—a hard balance to achieve with more traditional cushioning materials. It also features a full-length layer of U4icX cushioning for extra energy return, and this layer is scored with crosswise grooves to increase flexibility. It’s a great option for runners looking for a supportive ride that also lets them feel the road.
—BEST FOR UPTEMPOS—
Wave Shadow 2
The Wave Shadow falls on the lighter, leaner end of Mizuno’s stable of shoes. It has a combo of U4ic and U4icX foams, with U4ic in the midsole and the softer U4icX in the heel. On the road, it makes a competent neutral trainer, with just enough cushioning to protect your feet when you rack up miles and plenty of bounce to help you pick up the pace. The breathable mesh upper provides a snug fit that wraps the midfoot, but it did feel too tight for some wear testers.
—BEST FOR LONG RUNS—
Wave Prophecy 8
As the price tag indicates, the Wave Prophecy is the star of Mizuno’s lineup. Like the Wave Creation, it rides on an Infinity Wave plate, but with even more open space underfoot. The design provides good shock absorption and durability compared to foam, and the latest version comes with a new sockliner for a better step-in feel and increased cushioning. For a high-mileage shoe that checks all the boxes, the soft, stable, and responsive ride of the Wave Prophecy is hard to beat.
—BEST FOR RACING—
The Wave Sonic is Mizuno’s racing shoe, and it’s stripped down to be lightweight and fast while still delivering the smooth, supportive ride the company is known for. A lightweight mesh upper provides a snug fit and good breathability, U4icX foam in the midsole cushions impacts and provides good bounce, and the outsole features a zig zag pattern that helps the shoe flex for better toe-offs. It’s also designed with a lower drop than most of the company’s shoes, which promotes a more natural, efficient stride.
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