Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.3 oz
Stack Height: 30mm/18mm
Classification: Neutral Trainer (with Knit Upper)
The Waveknit upper provides a snug but comfortable fit. The heel is especially snug due to a high level of cushioning in the upper. This opens up into more room in midfoot and forefoot. The fit of the Waveknit R1 is very different from the Wave Rider, which is traditionally higher volume.
The Waveknit weave is fairly thick. This is not thin Nike Flyknit. The upper is still very thick and durable provides a snug fit to lock down the foot. This thickness increases the hold on the foot and this is one of the first knit shoes I can go around corners without my foot slipping off the platform. This is especially apparent as mentioned in the heel with the amount of padding and cushioning around there. There is a heel counter back there, but I cannot feel it at all due to the cushioning and I have had absolutely no irritation of my calcaneus (heel bone). Which is extremely rare for a shoe that I have worn so much sockless.
The sizing is very true to size. Many will be fine wearing socks in this shoe and there will be enough room (although snug). I found wearing my normal size 10 with and without socks just fine. With thicker socks it almost feels like a compression like fit (which some may enjoy).
I found plenty of comfortable room wearing these shoes sockless. I do not know if this is from the high number of miles I have put on my feet (and the skin toughness), but I found the against skin comfort incredibly high. This is one of the first shoes I have been able to take sockless above 10 miles without the fear of blisters. My longest sockless run was 14 miles and while my legs were a bit trashed due to doing this at 5am, I had no issues. I believe I have said that shoes "disappear on my feet" before. This one actually does and I have to take back that comment from others.
Another surprise from the upper is that these breath very well. I was expecting the thicker upper to get very hot, but there is plenty of ventilation to keep the foot cool. It is certainly not the most ventilated shoe, but I have had no issues running sockless in +80 degree Southern California weather.
The sole of the Waveknit R1 is firmer as typical Mizuno go but slightly softer than Rider 21. I do not know if this is from the upper, but it feels much lighter than 10.3 oz weight. I have used these for long runs, steady state runs and fartleks without issue. I do need a little more stability than the Neutral Wave Rider sole, but for picking up the pace a little these shoes are great for me. There is a bit more inherent stability due to wave plate and firmer ride, but I still need a bit more on easy runs.
The ride of the sole is very smooth. With the Smooth Ride tech (gender specific flexibility), flexibility seems to be placed in all the right places in the forefoot. Combined with some toe spring, toe off is smooth and seems to unload the calves a little. The heel and midfoot are somewhat stiff, but thanks to the wave plate and a correctly place posterolateral heel bevel (which helps with forward transitions), the ride is smooth. The heel bevel and wave plate make for extremely smooth heel landings.
While this is a traditional 12mm drop shoe, I have never really felt the heel got in the way. I will fully admit that I tend to land higher back, but when the pace picks up, landing further forward feels fine. Many shoes with most of their cushioning tech in the heel feel very unbalanced. Mizuno seems to do a better job of evening this out despite the wave plate being all in the heel. This might also be due to the fact that the wave plate takes up less weight and the width of the forefoot tends to be wider (thus may make a more stable landing). Thus the 12mm measurement is likely inaccurate and may be far lower when the midsole is under load. Dynamically loaded and static stack heights are different! Would I complain about the drop being lowered a bit to 8-10mm? No, and that is already starting to happen in a few of their other trainers (Shadow, Sky, Horizon).
As mentioned previously, the Waveknit R1 feel lighter than they actually are. These are trainers, but they can handle fartleks, strides, hill repeats and uptempo runs. They are responsive when the pace picks up, but I would choose a far lighter shoe for most workouts or races (check out my review of the Mizuno Wave Emperor 3). For those looking for additional protection over the marathon distance, these would be a great shoe as it does feel lighter and does have some bounce to it from the firmer sole and wave plate. However there are far lighter and faster shoes out there. This is a trainer after all.
As with most trainers, particularly from Mizuno, the durability is fantastic. I have not seen any fraying of the upper or major sole wear after almost 80 miles. I expect to get many hundreds of miles out of these and will even retire them as casual shoes because I expect the wave plate and upper to hold on for quite some time.
THOUGHTS AS A DPT
The knit uppers are just the beginning of a new era of custom fit shoes. The fit of running shoes are based on what is called a last (shoe shape). Some companies may use the average shape of a group of professional and recreational runners to develop the last to reach a broader audience. Others may just use the foot shapes of their elite runners. As a customer, you are always trying to find the last that fits your foot best. With the onset of knit uppers, the shoes are fitting better to people's feet because they stretch and accommodate variations better. People do NOT have the same shape or size feet. Men and women have differently shaped feet (arch lengths, widths, etc), different people have different shaped feet, different cultures have different shaped feet. Just look at the shoes in the Asian vs the US market. There is a reason there is a wide version available of every shoe INCLUDING racing flats in Asia! However, the next step is to have not only the upper, but the sole customized to the foot. Imagine having flex points, plates, posting, stability and more customized to your foots preferred motion path?
The Waveknit R1 is a shoe with a knit upper done right. It is thick enough to provide durability and a good lock down of the foot while being very comfortable with or without socks. The ride is similar for those who love the Wave Rider series, providing a lighter traditional trainer that can still handle some uptempo training. I really hope Mizuno does more with the knit uppers as I think they hit a nice balance between keeping the foot comfortable and locking it down on the platform. Plus I am still impressed I was able to run 14 miles sockless in this shoe. So definitely give these a try, if for no other reason than to see how comfortable that upper is!
Thanks for reading!
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow