The 9 Best Mizuno Running Shoes

Michael Charboneau
Photo credit: Trevor Raab

From Runner's World

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.

Refined Support

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.

Photo credit: Trevor Raab

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’re heavier than newer foams like Nike’s React. Mizuno is continuing to innovate, however: In 2019, it debuted XPOP foam on the Wave Sky Waveknit 3. This new material is made from springy TPU pellets embedded in polyurethane foam for longer-lasting cushion, though at the expense of more weight and decreased energy return.

Photo credit: Trevor Raab

Like other shoe companies, Mizuno has also been rolling out knit uppers on its shoes. Mizuno’s version, called Waveknit, debuted on Waveknit R1 in late 2018, and it’s made from synthetic fibers that are 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. That gives your feet more room to splay out in the toe box and a more comfortable fit. Waveknit has been migrating to more and more shoes in the lineup; it’s now the key feature on the Waveknit C1 and Wave Sky Waveknit 3, for example.

How We Chose These Shoes

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.


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.

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Waveknit C1

The Waveknit C1 (also known as the Wave Creation 20 Waveknit) 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.


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.

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Wave Sky Waveknit 3

An update to the Wave Sky 2, this new version has a softer, smoother ride than its predecessor thanks to a blend of U4ic, U4icX, and the all-new XPOP foams in the midsole. Mizuno swapped out the Pebax wave plate and instead shaped the U4ic and U4icX into a “Foam Wave” shape, with the XPOP added as an insert. The new Waveknit upper offers more stretch in the toe box and a snug fit elsewhere, and testers found the blown carbon rubber outsole to be exceptionally durable.

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Wave Rider 23

The Wave Rider is a veteran shoe in Mizuno’s lineup, and it’s known for excellent comfort and cushioning that doesn’t feel clunky underfoot. Not much has changed in this latest version: It still retains the U4ic and U4icX foams and Cloudwave construction in the midsole, which together deliver a good balance between softness and energy return. It does have a new upper, however, which features a tweaked eyelet design and offers better breathability.


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.


Wave Shadow 3

The Wave Shadow falls on the lighter, leaner end of Mizuno’s stable of shoes. It’s a neutral trainer that offers a light, snappy foot feel that helps you pick up speed. The latest version keeps the same midsole blend of U4ic and U4icX foams and the durable carbon rubber outsole, but comes with a revamped upper for improved breathability. The midfoot overlays of the last version have been replaced by an internal polyurethane strap, which might address some testers’ complaints about the fit of this shoe.


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 this one runs the entire length of the shoe. The design provides good shock absorption and durability compared to foam, and although it produces a firm feel, the latest version comes with a new sockliner for increased cushioning. It offers a soft, exceptionally stable, responsive ride, but with its overlays and large heel counter, it’s definitely a hefty shoe.

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Wave Sonic

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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