Clinical Analysis of Running, Running Footwear, and Injury Prevention/Performance. The Doctor(s) of Running, using knowledge of human movement, clinical biomechanics and performance to bring you cutting edge reviews, science and knowledge.

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Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 Multiple Tester Review


Welcome to a completely new feel to the Mizuno line. For as long as humans have had feet, Mizuno has rolled out their shoes with a midsole directed by the wave plate. Well now there is a new way to "ride the wave". The Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is the first Mizuno shoe to debut their new XPOP midsole and Foam Wave cushioning system. This shoe has a completely different feel than their previous models. Let's check it out.

Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 Lateral View

Specifications (per Mizuno Tech Sheet)
Weight: 11.3oz (men's size 9), 9.3oz (women's size 9)
Drop: 10mm
Classification: high milage running

HIGHLIGHTS

Matt:  Having quite a history with Mizuno, the Wave Sky Waveknit 3 was unlike any I had tried previously.  The ride is softer and protective without a wave plate.  I would even call it bouncy.  For longer miles and recovery runs, this shoe shines due to the softer cushioning.  The upper is breathable in the forefoot and the Waveknit upper continues to be on top for knit uppers with an adaptable fit through most of the shoe.  The Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 has been my go to recovery shoe since.



David: The Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is probably most appealing in its ability to provide a plush ride with a durable enough outsole that doesn't make you feel what is underneath it when you strike the ground. The upper is less breathable than some of the other knit uppers on the market... but man it beats them in durability.  Even though the shoe gives up some breathability (made that word up), it gives you a structure to the shoe that you can count on for LONG miles.  This is a hearty shoe that can take all the miles and wear and tear you can give it.

Nathan: The Wave Sky Waveknit 3 packs a cushioned and plush running experience that is unprecedented in any Mizuno running shoes I have worn in the past. This is a shoe that will protect your foot, give a soft and consistent ride over high milage runs, and seems to have the durability that will last for longer than the typical trainer. The Waveknit upper is always a winner in my book and is the perfect upper for a shoe going for maximum cushion and comfort. I usually don't comment on this, but not only does it provide a comfortable and bouncy ride with the new XPOP, but it looks good while doing it and has a great style.

FIT

Matt: Like the sole, the upper is on the softer side.  The Wave Sky Waveknit 3 fits true to size in my normal size 10.  The fit is normal to slightly wider in the heel and midfoot.  There is quite a bit of padding around the heel and there is still plenty of room in the rear.  The Waveknit upper is very soft but still secure throughout most of the shoe.  The forefoot is a little more snug than I am used to for a Mizuno shoe due to a quicker taper at the toes.  The Waveknit does stretch for a more accommodating fit after a mile or so.  I found there was a little too much room in the midfoot for me but tightening down the laces secured my foot for the most part.

David: The Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is true to size with some minor fit variations that may need to be addressed in the future. The primary feature I am concerned with is the fit throughout the midfoot (this may be more my own personal foot than other people though).  The midfoot portion of the Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is spacious and my foot does translate slightly during stance phases of gait.  However, my foot is narrow.  For a normal foot or even wider foot, I think most people will appreciate it.  The shoe may run a hair short length wise, but still falls under true to size (I am 9.5 and it fits fine at 9.5). Overall, the shoe fits pretty well and I think this will agree with most people!


Nathan: This shoe has an all around plush feel to it. Simply put your feet into the shoe and you will feel your feet sit down into the foam a bit. The heel cup and tongue are maximally cushioned as well, which can protect from irritation from laces or the heel cup, which is rigid. Because of the high cushioning, I had to utilize the extra eyelet for lacing to keep my heel locked down, otherwise I'd slide into the extra cushion.

The shoe fit true to size length wise, but felt wider at the midfoot, which some people may love depending on your foot type. For me, the width made it hard to secure my foot down given the presence of the accommodating Waveknit upper. I wouldn't notice excess motion on my casual days, but when I tried to pick up the pace and turn, my foot would feel like it would slide a bit. The Waveknit upper was, as always, a great blend of accommodating and secure for me.


RIDE

Matt:  Mizuno has typically been a name I associated with firmer shoes.  The Wave Sky Waveknit has a soft cushioned ride throughout.  There is no longer a wave plate, but instead wave foam and XPOP.  I am impressed the XPOP does what claims, providing a bouncy and somewhat float-like experience.  This feeling is consistent throughout the shoe no matter where you land.  The sole is fairly flexible throughout, creating a smooth landing at the heel (thanks to the heel bevel) and an equally smooth toe off thanks to the deeper flex grooves.   The removal of the wave plate makes the shoe far more flexible than any Mizuno shoe I have tried (except the Wave Universe from years ago).  Given the extra cushioning and flexible ride, this is not a responsive shoe, but a smooth rider that is easy on the legs.  The cushioning is not dead like many soft shoes, as the XPOP does a great job of keeping a lively ride going.  I would love to see an XPOP racing shoe, but time will tell if we see that.

David: The ride of the Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is definitely on the plush end of trainers.  The 10mm drop ratio also further solidifies the ride of the shoe feeling like a daily trainer.  One thing I appreciate is that the outsole is very rigid, which helps give a touch of responsiveness for how plush the midsole is (seriously, it's kind of cloud like).  The XPOP feature of this shoe has slowly won me over.  I like responsive shoes and normally don't go for plush ones... but somehow I keep running faster in this pair of shoes than I do my other trainers.  The XPOP really does give some pep to your step and pushes you with out being distracting.  This shoe is so subtle in this feature and is the opposite of the feeling lower profile shoes give where you feel the "push".



Nathan: The Wave Sky Waveknit 3 has a soft cushioned feel to it (do you see a trend here?). True to its name, it has a floating feel while running and you can't really feel your contact with the ground, you just feel the soft and comfortable foam underfoot. There is a slight heel bevel that helps smooth out heel strike for those who land back there, and the combination of the XPOP and the Foam Wave made for a smooth transition to the forefoot, though I would say it is more bouncy than responsive. I am very interested to see what the XPOP feels like independent of the Foam Wave as this is the first time both of these technologies are debuted. Would the XPOP be more responsive on its own? Maybe we will get to find out someday.

STABILITY

Matt:  The Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is a classic neutral cushioned shoe.  There are no additional stability features.   The sole does feature a wider forefoot platform and and full ground contact outsole (Rare for Mizuno).  However, due to the softer ride, this is not a shoe for those that need a stable ride.  The ride and softness is consistent throughout the shoe, so those with additional stability needs may need an orthotic or give the Mizuno Wave Horizon 3 a try (which I would also love to see with XPOP).



David: This shoe is not the most stable shoe one the market, but it's not designed to be. The plush midsole gives up stability to give a softer ride (this is a trade off for every shoe company).  The outsole's rigidity saves it slightly, but this truly is a neutral shoe for neutral runners looking for a plush ride. This shoe has no formal stability features, so someone who is looking for stability should look into the "stability" category.

Nathan: This shoe carries the flagship "stability mechanisms" for a neutral shoe: rigid heel cup, wide forefoot platform, and a thick full contact outsole. However, for some, a plush and soft cushioning can feel a bit unstable, particularly if you have some form of sensory deficit or neuropathy to begin with. This is most noticeable when changing directions at higher speeds.

SPEED

Matt: As I alluded to earlier, the Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is a plush and soft shoe meant for long miles and recovery runs.  While the XPOP does come alive when the speed picks up a little, the 11.3 oz weight and softer ride prevents it from achieving higher speeds.  For long miles, the shoe does an excellent job of protecting and keeping the legs feeling fresh.  It does not feel sluggish at normal paces thanks to the smooth ride and XPOP, but most people will have trouble picking up the pace beyond some uptempo work.  This is not a speedy shoe and does not pretend to be.  This is Mizuno's flagship plush neutral trainer.



David: My brain is still trying to figure this one out.  The shoes weight, durability of the outsole, and ride all lead it to be a daily trainer for easy efforts and long runs.  However, I consistently run about 15 seconds per mile faster on my daily runs in these shoes (I believe in part to the XPOP). Because of the weight, it would be difficult to accomplish moderate paces (tempo/fartlek efforts), but it is not impossible. If you are a runner that is able to grind through a little weight on your feet, you can make it happen.

Nathan: Long story short, this shoe shines at casual paces for long or short runs. I did several runs over 10 miles, and the cushioning combined with the bouncy nature of the XPOP kept my feet and legs happy the entire time, especially on recovery days after long/hard workouts. I did find that I couldn't try to make this shoe do something it wasn't meant to do. The weight of the shoe made tempo runs a bit labored and it was not a good choice for speed workouts. But that isn't what this shoe was designed for. Take these out for long easy runs and be ready for a pleasant experience.

DURABILITY

Matt: Despite using the Wave Sky Waveknit 3 for my recovery and longer runs (where my form generally deteriorates), the ride and outsole have remained exactly the same of 58 miles.  I am typically pretty hard on shoes, yet I have been unable to make a dent in the outsole.  As a neutral plush shoe, I expect an extremely high number of miles out of this shoe, especially with the XPOP, which has helped provide a consistent cushioned ride since my first step in these.



David: This will have my highest grade.  Despite running through various terrains I haven't even dented the shoe.  It is by far one of the most durable outsoles I have ever encountered, and the thicker knit upper is also at no risk of tearing.  Mizuno made the Nintendo Gamecube of shoes with this one.  I do not hesitate to say that it will handle very high mileage before kicking the can.  For those who log high mileage and need one pair of shoes to get them through a training period, it is a pretty solid choice.

Nathan: I'm pretty sure these shoes are going to last me until the Milwaukee Brewers win a World Series. For those who don't follow baseball, that probably won't happen anytime soon (even though they made it to the NLCS last year). The thick outsole is showing no signs of wear. The Foam Wave and XPOP midsole only feel better with more miles, and given the combination I expect them to last just as long as the outsole. I've loved the Waveknit upper on previous models and haven't had issues with those stretching over time. These shoes are in it for the long haul.

THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

If you've been watching trends in running shoes, you've probably noticed that a lot of stability mechanisms are changing. One of the reasons for this is that some pronation during landing is beneficial for shock absorption and may be protective against injury. This may be one of the reasons we've seen a trend away from traditional posting in stability shoes (not that traditional posting is necessarily bad may I add!). A new paradigm, instead of trying to stop all motion, is to allow the foot to go through its desired path without allowing excessive pronation if it is present (Nigg et al 2001). Check out our article on excessive pronation here. I can hear you all asking: why are you talking about stability in a neutral shoe review? I know. I know. My goal is to bring this paradigm further into the light. Try shoes on, support your local running store (unless you are like me and live in the middle of nowhere and the nearest running store is hours away), and make sure they are comfortable. The new research is showing that the comfort of a shoe is a potential sign it's the right shoe for you and it brings you though your "preferred movement pattern" (Nigg et al 2017). Although we all discussed the "instability" related to a cushioned/plush ride, I would recommend trying this shoe on before writing it off for that reason alone. It might be just the amount of stability that you need!



RECOMMENDATIONS 

Matt: I understand this is a neutral shoe, but personally found it to be a bit unstable for someone like myself who needs just a little stability.  This is likely due to the softer ride, which I typically don't gravitate toward.  In the past I have done well in Mizuno due to the firmness as the set up of the wave plate usually gave me some form of mild medial stability.  However, for those looking for a plush ride, they will find it in the Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3.  I would suggest finding a way to make the shoe a little more stable to reach a wider audience (although that is what the Horizon is for).  I would also suggest streamlining the fit a bit.  I found the midfoot especially wide, while the forefoot became a tad snug at the tip.  This is not typical Mizuno for me and would suggest they snug that up a little.  The wideness became a problem as using a lace lock technique created odd creasing in the upper causing additional pressure close to my cuboid bone (Proximal lateral foot).



David: My main recommendation for the Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is to make the midfoot portion just a little more narrow (and I mean 2 or 3 mm).  This feature alone is not a deal breaker, but if they slimmed it up through the midfoot, I believe it would fit well well for all 3 categories of runners (wide, normal, and narrow feet). With how plush this shoe is, maybe the addition of one minor stability component may help add some stability to the shoe as well.  A very small portion of thickened foam in the medial hindfoot/midfoot junction would probably do just fine without jeopardizing the neutral nature of the shoe.

Nathan: There are a few areas that I would love to see some changes to help with the fit. I wouldn't mind seeing some of the maximally cushioned tongue and heel cup brought down a bit to help get a more secure lock in the heel without having to perform special lacing. It would also be nice to see the midfoot secured a bit, either by narrowing the last or somehow securing the upper to hug the foot a bit more. This would help secure the foot more with turning. Lastly, although this is not a change I am recommending for the Wave Sky Waveknit 3, I'd love to see the XPOP thrown into a lighter shoe to see how it would do on tempos or racing. Please and thank you :)

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is an interesting new direction for Mizuno with a plush, soft and protective ride.  For those looking for additional protection over long miles with a wider midfoot fit with a unique and subtly bouncy ride, I highly suggest checking this shoe out.  The flexibility creates a smooth ride that is not common in highly cushioned shoes and should work well for those looking for a long run and recovery day shoe.

David: The Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 is a shoe that is really geared toward neutral runners logging HIGH mileage.  I'm giving it 10/10 on durability. The one subcategory of runners that may enjoy this most would be those with wider/normal feet.  Those with a narrow foot may have a little slippage in the midfoot like myself. The shoe handles well in every terrain and should appeal to a large base of runners, except for those that run hard mountain trails.


Nathan: For those who have avoided checking out Mizuno because of the firmer ride, it might be time for you to check them out again. If you are looking for a shoe that will last you a long time and you are just looking to run at casual paces and stay healthy, this is a great one to check out. For some, it will be your daily trainer and stand alone shoe. For others, it will be a great addition to your shoe rotation for your long recovery days.

GRADING
Matt
Fit                     8/10 (-2 for wide midfoot and quick forefoot taper)
Ride                  9/10 (-1 for heavy ride, great marks for smoothness)
Stability            7/10 (-3 for softer and unstable ride, good marks for wider forefoot platform)
Speed                7.5/10 (-2.5 for lack of versatility, good marks for bouncy ride during easy pace)
Durability         10/10 (Full marks for high durability of outsole, upper and midsole)

David
Fit                     8/10
Ride                  8/10
Stability            7/10
Speed                7.5/10
Durability         10/10

Nathan
Fit                     8/10 (-1 for wider midfoot, -1 for difficulty with heel lock)
Ride                  9/10  (-1 for lack of responsiveness)
Stability            7.5/10 (-2.5 for midfoot moving with turns and plush nature)
Speed                7.75/10 (high marks for feel at casual speeds, -2.25 for lack of versatility)
Durability         10/10 (yeah...this thing is going to last a while)

Total Score: 82.8% (M: 8.3/10  D: 8.1/10 N: 8.45/10 )

Thanks for reading!

REFERENCES
1.  Nigg, B.  (2001).  The Role Of Impact Forces and Pronation: A new Paradigm.  Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: 11(1): 2-9.
2.  Nigg, B., Vienneau, J., Smith, A., Trudeau, M., Mohr, M., Nigg S.  (2017).  The Preferred Movement Path Paradigm: Influence of Running Shoes on Joint Movement.  Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise; 49(8): 1641-1648

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
PhD Candidate APU: Rehabilitation and Movement Science
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas DPT PTLA CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy License Applicant
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Mizuno for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 35-50 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently we have 58 miles (Matt), 50 miles (Nathan) and 35 miles (David) on our pairs. Our views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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