Mizuno Wave Ekiden

waveekidenMizuno makes some of the coolest running shoes in the world.

And I’m not just saying that because of my, um, thing for the Japanese run culture.  japanrunningnews.blogspot.com is a daily visit; Toshihiko Seko was one of my early heroes and his heir apparent, Yuki Kawauchi is the working man’s idol; my mom had a crush on Toshiro Mifune, but that’s pretty irrelevant; and Kaori Yoshida is fast and hott!

The Wave Rider are the ones that you’re most familiar with.  They’ve been the Mizuno go-to for more than a decade and remain relevant in the running specialty market still.  The popular Wave Precision will be replaced by the Wave Sayonara, which should be super legit.  The Wave Kudos are not available in the US, but should be, because they look like a, I don’t know, cooler version of the Musha, which are pretty simple and have a small cult following.  The Musha are the shoe, inmyveryhumbleopinion, that Mizuno could use as the model for all their other shoes.  Simple, low profile, complete ground contact; they have the smoothest transition of any in the Mizuno line, save the Universe, which is just foam, isn’t it?  Back in the day, I was a big fan of the original Phantom, which predated the Wave technology and was cushioned, light, fast and pretty obviously old school.  (Years ago I found several pair at the old Fleet Feet in Albuquerque, which was like going into a combination running shoe museum and hoarder’s paradise.)  The Universe is the minimalist runner’s archetypical shoe and in the current purple and yellow, has a look of royalty about it.

The Wave Ekiden are a Japanese model brought unadulterated to the US market.  And that’s a good thing, because I think many of the Japanese market models would function far better than most of the US market models.   I tend to believe that most of the US market designs–from all brands, and not just Mizuno–are created with marketing in mind, rather than with functional product as the focus.  It isn’t right or wrong, it’s just how things are, which I guess sucks for us who buy running shoes.  Maybe that is why, in the last few years, the minimalist movement was born and shoes like the Kinvara have become so popular.  This new breed of running shoe falls under the form-follows-function design umbrella and not the other way around, thankfully.

When the generous people at Mizuno sent me a pair, I wept openly in pleasure and excitement.  I wrote a sonnet about the shoes, and then I wrote I haiku about them because of the, you know, heritage thing.  I’m not going to share either of those with you, because my haiku are shit, but you know what I’m trying to say.  The Ekiden, like the similar adidas Takumi Sen, feel like they could be handcrafted.

The uppers are ridiculously light and pleasantly roomy, but not baggy.  The overlays and stitching are such that I can’t imagine them binding or irritating the foot anywhere.  It is common these days to have uppers with heat welded overlays and such in an attempt to reduce weight, but the downside of those types of uppers is that they never really form to the foot and they tend to be a little baggy from time to time.  For lack of a better term, sometimes they just feel, I don’t know, cheap, especially when you compare them to an upper like on the Ekiden or on the Takumi Sen.  I’ve worn them sockless, too, on some grass loops around the park near my house, without any troubles whatsoever.

But the Ekiden are the shit because the midsole is just so right.  Firm, lightweight, with complete ground contact, flexible.  The Wave plate in the rearfoot isn’t really a plate, but probably more a resin paint job to reduce weight and increase the smooth transition.  There is a wee bit more protection with the Ekiden than with the Universe, so you might be able to put some distance on them.  The ground feel is really noticeable, and the faster you’re going, the more it feels like you’re barefoot, nomesane?  The main thing I think about on those occasions when I do run barefoot is how much fun it is, how much I feel like a kid again.  When I put the Ekiden on, I feel like a kid again.  Except older.  They make me want to run, which I’d think is about all you could ask for.

I’d really like to see the Ekiden with a full blown rubber outsole too.  The softness of the blown rubber might make for a more palatable–at least by American tastes–marathon flat.  I’d like to see the Ekiden with maybe a few more millimeters of foam underneath as well, so that we could have a real, grown-up Wave Rider.  But what I’d like more than anything is to see Mizuno bring over some of the simpler designs from the Japanese market, where the marathon and distance running are almost national sports.  The Japanese designed models are, for the most part, simply better shoes, done simply.

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10 responses to “Mizuno Wave Ekiden

  1. Just ordered the Hitogami, but reading this, I’m thinking I made the wrong call. I have been in mostly Minimus Zero, RoadGlove, and Altra Instinct since early 2012.

    I have been running more in the Kinvara 3, the Hagio, and the Go Bionic lately and am digging a touch more midsole, especially as a larger-framed runner. Looking for something as a long-run shoe that will let me go fast over mileage without being too much shoe or too much drop relative to what I’ve been using. Should I get the Ekiden instead of the Hitogami? Both?

    • I think that the Hitogami will serve you more as a daily trainer, knowing what you have been running in lately. Pretty light, yet still protective enough.

      Of course, I like to mix things up and keep something like the Ekiden handy. The Ekiden is a really beautiful shoe, but for daily stuff, it is too thin for me.

      If you get both, you’re likely to spend more time in the Hitogami, but the Ekiden is brilliant for getting the foot on the ground and feeling super fast.

  2. Perfect. Thanks. I oughta get the Hitogami in the next couple of days. Looking forward to trying them out. I appreciate the feedback and your reviews. I also need to stop into your store sometime, since I live up the road in Georgetown.
    Thanks for your frank reviews. Lays enjoy your approach to shoes and your writing.

      • Well, the fit is just not right for me in the Hitogami, and the wave plate is still a bit stiff for me, I guess. I find the a bit too snug in a 12.5 and too long in a 13, especially on my slightly smaller left foot. I will probably take a go at the Ekiden soonish, but I am actually considering the Brooks Launch for now as I am looking to try something with more underfoot now that I think my form is ingrained a bit.

      • I’ve heard others say similar things. The Hitogami is almost, but not quite, too narrow for me. Almost across the board, the Mizuno rearfoot tends to be a bit rigid, but the Hitogami is more forgiving.

        It might also be worth checking out the NB 980. Firm, responsive (on the narrow side, for sure, so make sure to try them on first) and feels to me like a lower, firmer Launch.

      • 980 or 890? The 890 is a recent discovery and maybe on its way to favorite status (v3). I’m finding it actually feels like a shoe, not a slipper, but it gets out of the way once I’m running. I forget it is there, which is the goal, so yeah. The 980 looks a bit too thick in the midsole for me, but I haven’t tried on the Fresh Foam and read reviews that say its a responsive material, so I’m open to the possibility.

      • The 890 is, in many ways, like a beefy 1400. Sorta. Kinda. ‘Cept different. One guy I know says it is his favorite trainer right now and he’s got sponsorship from another brand.

        The 980, on the other hand, is lower, firmer and faster. The fit is snug, so much so that broader, higher volume feet don’t like it. It does soften up a bit after some miles, but it is a real stretch to say that it is plush. It just isn’t.
        And the midsole just looks fatter than it is. A little smoke and mirror action there. It has lower stacks than the 890, according to some.
        I’m generally not a big fan of the fat collars and tongues, but those are forgiven, since the ride of each is so good.

        If given only one option, I’d take the 980. I’d wager most would go with the 890, but I really like ’em light, low and firm.

  3. How does the Ekiden compare to the NB1600? Love my 1600 but the sole is kinda narrow on the medial side which gives me the feeling of rolling inwards, especially after the sole has worn down somewhat.

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