Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Review Facts
Mizuno Wave Universe 3 was one of the best selling racing flats for the company. But with all running shoes, there is always room for improvement. With the same outsole and midsole, the Wave Universe 4 features an improved upper and design and comes in bright orange or purple colors with black flame-like highlights. The Universe 4 is a unisex racing flat designed for minimalist runners. This incredibly lightweight shoe (under four ounces) offers cushioning and comfort with a barely-there feeling. Minimalist runners or conventional runners looking to switch to minimal shoes will appreciate all the features this fantastic racer has to offer.
A proprietary Mizuno G3 outsole provides superior grip and comfort despite its thinness. This blown rubber outsole features sets of hard rubber dots, squares, and other shapes that make up the tread of the shoe. This unique outsole design provides a very good grip on asphalt and other paved surfaces giving the shoe more traction when needed. Skeptics of the traction design were soon convinced of its effectiveness after a few runs.
Flex grooves and flex controllers in the forefoot section of the outsole work together to ensure natural movement of the foot. This feature also continues the forward roll of the foot for responsive toe-offs and a smooth ride.
The midsole of this shoe is made from Acceleration Polymer (AP) + foam which is a responsive and very lightweight material. Despite its thinness (around 18mm) the midsole still manages to provide some shock absorption for the runner. An elastic, thermal plastic wave plate runs from the heel to the midfoot and creates energy return with every step. Midsole grooves, known as Mizuno’s SmoothRide technology, help with acceleration and deceleration for an exceptionally smooth ride. Most runners described the shoe as adequately cushioned, yet still firm. This shoe is meant to be a racer and is best for runners who have multiple shoes that they use exclusively for racing versus training. Runners who prefer more cushioning
in the shoes may find this shoe has too much road feel.
The upper of this shoe is made from a very fine, AirMesh material. Some runners said it was much like the material of their running clothes. Overlays throughout the shoe provide the only real structure. The overlays consist of the Mizuno logo which is stitched on the sides of the shoe and black flames which are welded to the upper. The heavier material on the toe, sides, and heel give the shoe its strength. The upper is seamless and very breathable and gives the shoe a sock-like feel. There is some padding around the heel collar which protects the ankle from chafing. There is no removable sockliner typical in most running shoes. The footbed is covered in a terry-cloth material which runners said was very comfortable. This shoe is meant to be worn sockless and there were few reports of blisters
or chafing. The toe box is wide with ample room to splay the toes. For runners with a more narrow foot, tightening the laces should remove any slack in the upper material. The lacing system consists of very thin, flat laces
. The laces look like they could break if pulled too hard, but are actually made of a very strong and durable material.
This shoe is incredibly lightweight. A men’s size 9 is listed at 3.9 ounces. This shoe is advertised as a unisex shoe meaning the sizes listed are men’s sizes. Women need to subtract 1.5 sizes to get the correct fit. The shoe definitely has a “barely there” feeling and runners who like the barefoot
feel will appreciate this shoe. All of the components that make up the shoe are light, but quality and design provide for a solid and comfortable ride.
This shoe is extremely breathable. The AirMesh upper is very thin and allows air to easily enter and exit the shoe. The thin material of the upper also keeps the foot from getting hot. A wide toe box keeps the shoe well-ventilated as well. With so many shoes running narrow, runners enjoyed being able to splay their toes. Along with air, water can also enter the shoe. On rainy runs, these shoes will get wet. The upper material is moisture-wicking so it will dry fairly quickly once the rain has stopped. These shoes are meant to be worn sockless. Runners who do decide to wear socks
with the shoe should choose very thin, moisture-wicking socks.
Despite the minimal cushioning, most runners said the shoe was very comfortable. The full-length midsole and wave plate provides shock absorption and cushioning in the heel area. The breathability of the upper keeps the foot cool and dry and prevents blisters and chafing. This shoe has very good width in the forefoot and toe box for toe splay. Runners with medium to slightly wide feet will find these shoes very comfortable. There is no real sockliner, but a soft terry-cloth material provides adequate comfort to the underfoot. Runners with very flat or very high arches may find these shoes a bit uncomfortable.
The shoe has a very low-profile, minimal look. Runner’s have two color options - bright orange or purple, with modern black flame overlays throughout the upper. The shoe comes only in men’s sizes, but is considered a unisex show. Women will need to subtract 1.5 sizes to get the correct fit. A woman who normally wears size nine would need to order size 7.5. The shoe does run true to size and there were very few complaints about the shoe being too wide or too narrow. Women with very small feet may have a hard time finding this shoe in their size.
The outsole of this shoe has some durability issues. With such thin tread and not much midsole foam, the outsole wears quicker than standard running shoes. This is especially true for heel-strikers. After only a few runs, most runners saw significant scuffing. The unprotected area of the outsole is soft and wears quicker than the tread sections. The upper material is fairly durable, but these shoes are not meant to be daily trainers. Save them for race day and the shoes should hold up for a season or two.
This shoe offers good underfoot protection despite its minimal design. The G3 outsole and 18mm midsole keeps the foot just off the ground and provides adequate protection from rough pavement while still allowing for good ground feel. Even with its minimalist construction, runners said there was enough cushion to get them comfortably through their run. The shoe's upper material is too thin to give the runner much protection from the elements. This would not be a good shoe for a cold weather
run. The overlays give some structure and a thicker overlay on the toe protects the front of the shoe. Runners brave enough to try this shoe on the trails said it performed well.
Some runners said the shoe was very responsive. The wave plate in the midsole is designed to provide energy return and the cushioning is firm, yet resilient. At fast speeds
, the shoe has a rockered feel. Other runners were not as pleased with the shoe's performance. They liked the flexibility and good ground contact, but did not feel much energy return. Some described the shoe as “running in house slippers.”
This shoe does not offer much support. Racing flats are designed for runners with good form who are focused on speed. The midsole wave plate helps some with overpronation, but is designed more for energy return. The wave plate also offers some arch support, but would not be good for runners with high arches. The stretchy, thin upper does little more than keep the runner’s foot in the shoe. It is not designed to be supportive. Runners who need a supportive shoe will want to look elsewhere.
This shoe is designed for road use and also does well on tracks. Some runners were confident enough in the shoe to test it out on various terrain such as soft trails and loose gravel. The shoe performed well, but has no protective features for sharp rocks or trail hazards
. As a road shoe, it has excellent traction and flexibility to help the runner attain maximum speeds with no worry of their shoes slowing them down.
The list price for this shoe is $120. This is a fairly typical price for a racing flat. Because the Wave Universe 4 is an older model, you may find this shoe on the sale rack. Considering the shoe's durability issues, the cheaper the price, the better. Few runners will want to spend $120 on a shoe that will only last for a season of races. The trade-off is a shoe that is incredibly light and will be ready to run on race day.
The Mizuno G3 outsole provides great grip on hard pavement and various other surfaces. Runners reported feeling very grounded while running in the shoe. The outsole material and design have just the right amount of grip for strong toe-offs without being too “grippy”. As the thin outsole begins to wear, runners may notice a decrease in traction. The shoe also did fairly well on wet surfaces, but there were some complaints of the shoe feeling soggy after very wet runs.
The flexibility of this shoe is incredible. Much like a house slipper, this shoe can be curled up into a ball. Midfoot grooves in the outsole make the shoe pliable and help with the natural motion of the runner's foot. The shoe also features Mizuno’s SmoothRide technology which consists of midsole grooves that allow the shoe to bend in any direction. The stretchy, thin upper, also moves with the foot and has a sock-like fit that does not interfere with the run in any way.
The wave plate in the midsole offers some motion control, but for the most part, this shoe does not have much stability. The overlays on the very thin upper offer some structure to the shoe, but are not meant to lock the foot to the midsole. The shoe's outsole does provide some stability in the form of good traction. The grippy G3 tread prevents slipping and keeps the runner safely moving forward. The overall flexibility of the shoe assists with the traction and helps the runner with secure push-offs and stable landings. Runners were very pleased with the shoe’s great traction which allowed them to focus on their run and not worry about slipping or sliding. Racing flats are designed to be light and fast and work well for runners with good form
and a very fast turnover.
With a stack height of 18mm in the heel and 14mm in the forefoot, this shoe has a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. Runners used to higher drop shoes will want to transition to a lower drop before putting too many miles on this shoe. Running in a racing flat without prior conditioning can put extra stress on the joints and muscles, especially the calf muscles. Low drop shoes encourage a forefoot strike which is ideal for fast speeds and quick turnovers.
- Seamless and breathable AirMesh upper
- Bright colors and attractive design
- G3 outsole with good traction
- Cushioned and very lightweight AP+ midsole
- Wave construction for flexibility
- SmoothRide Technology for a smooth ride
- 4mm heel-to-toe drop
Despite its durability issues, the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 is a favorite with runners seeking a lightweight and comfortable racing flat. Most wearers described the shoe as insanely light and incredibly fast. Slight updates from the previous version make this shoe more comfortable and faster than ever. The barely-there feel of the shoe means runners can concentrate on their run without being slowed down by their shoes. This shoe is not a daily trainer or a long distance shoe, but runners looking for their next PR or finish line win will greatly appreciate all the features of this minimal, light, and flexible shoe.