Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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Mizuno Wave Shadow 3 Review

Mizuno has a vibrant history of elite racing flats including the likes of the Wave Emperor, Aero, Wave Cruise, and Ekiden series. However, most of these shoes don't end up selling well in the United States (sadly) and have either been discontinued or only sold overseas. The Wave Shadow 3 may not be a racing flat, but it is a stripped down, lightweight trainer that can handle some race paces and is suitable for a wider audience. This is one of the lightest shoes available in the US from Mizuno and is worth checking out for those of you who want to pick up the pace.

Specifications (per Mizuno Tech Sheet)
Weight: 8.8oz (men's size 9)
Drop: 8mm
Classification: Lightweight Trainer


The Wave Shadow 3 provides a lightweight and snappy ride that feels connected to the ground while still providing protection under the foot for longer distances. A snug yet breathable upper helps secure the foot while turning and picking up the pace, which makes this a versatile shoe for workouts and moderate length tempos alike.


This shoe fits true to size for me length and width wise, but overall has a smaller volume toe box, which might limit people with slightly larger or wider feet from fitting well. The upper is streamlined and secure, which is what decreases the volume of the shoe. For those with moderate to narrow feet, it will feel great. The upper, although secure and not very adaptable, is very breathable and did not create any hotspots in the warmer weather.

There is a slightly more narrow heel cup with a rigid heel counter, but it has adequate padding to protect the achilles and calcaneus (heel bone) from any rubbing. The last of the shoe is moderate in width even along the midfoot and there is also an internal strap that assists in locking down the midfoot once laced. The more snug fit of this shoe felt great for speed workouts.


This shoe is lower to the ground, and with the decreased cushion comes a much firmer ride, notably stiffer than even the Wave Rider 23. It is a shoe that helps you feel connected to the surface you are running on, and given how stiff it is, it did have a break in period of about 10 miles for me. The outsole is fantastic and has many more grooves than other Mizuno models. With those grooves, it gripped really well on both dry and wet pavement, helping with propulsion. The wave plate really came alive in this shoe at higher tempos, which created a springy and snappy transition from the rear to forefoot, but overall only gave moderate responsiveness. At slower tempos, the ride was a bit more clunky just due to the firm nature of the shoe. Unlike other trainers in the Mizuno line, this has only an 8mm drop. The drop, their new cloudwave technology, a heel bevel, and shaping of the outsole through the midfoot off of the wave plate made this shoe feel smooth for both rear and midfoot striking.


Mizuno shoes are consistently stable even in their neutral lines. The rigid heel cup, firm nature of the shoe, and secure upper make this shoe inherently stable without providing any specific support for the foot. Given this shoe is built for some speed, the forefoot platform is more narrow which decreases some stability with push off...but that's what you want in a shoe like this.


This shoe ran as a cross between a racing flat and daily trainer. It had no problems going fast for interval or fartleks, and given the lower ride and secure upper it worked well even for track workouts. It won't be as fast as true 5K/10K racing flats, but can handle a lot of pace. In addition to the speed, it has enough cushion for longer tempo runs and running half marathon distances. As mentioned above, it was a bit firm/clunky for recovery and slower runs, so this shoe should be used for tempo or workout days.


Mizuno always has great durability due to the robust X10 rubber outsole and the wave plate. The design of the rubber outsole is something that assists with the ride, and given its durability and the known durability of the wave plate, this shoe looks good as new and rides like it too. Just as snappy as it was on day 1. The upper is more thin and has shown some areas of minor wear, but nothing of concern yet.


In the running world you are inevitably going to encounter thousands of different camps.."barefoot running is king", "more cushion is key", "zero drop or bust", "we all need stability in our shoes", "stability shoes are a farce", "forefoot running is the best way", "heel striking is better and more efficient"...the list goes on and on. If you've read any of my posts, you'll notice that I glean much from all these different viewpoints because each contains at least a sliver of truth (the world is more "gray" than black and white, and that's true for running too). I rely as much as I can on available literature (randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews of studies) regarding running and footwear and then fill in gaps with strong theory based on biomechanics, pathomechanics, and psysiological properties of different body tissues. Okay, I'm done on my mini soap box.

Given that I've spoken to the more firm nature of this shoe, I just wanted to touch on whether that is a good thing, a bad thing, or a little bit of both. For those of us who have run barefoot or truly minimalist shoes, all the shock absorption is up to your body when you land. When you hit the ground, your muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments accept the ground reaction forces. When you add cushioning underneath, that is less energy that you have to use to absorb the force (in theory). However, when you start adding too much cushioning in the shoe, you start losing what some people love, which is the awareness of the ground and inherent stability. Some impact and ground reaction forces are good. The forces through all those parts of the body I mentioned earlier help activate various nerves and sensors throughout those tissues that give your brain a better idea of where your feet, legs, and body are. That way your body can properly react, activate muscles at the right time, and stabilize itself. A highly cushioned shoe delays that impact force, so instead of reacting at the right time, you get a delay in stabilization (albeit very small and quite possibly inconsequential). Instead of dealing with high impact forces, now you have to deal with joint torques as the body does not properly stabilize and you may see more joint motion in different planes.

Now, neither cushioned vs firm is necessarily better. There is an optimal balance and benefits and draw backs of each...welcome to the "gray". The Wave Shadow 3 slides more to the firm side of things, so you get the benefits of muscle activation timing, but do sacrifice efficiency over the long haul due to having to absorb a bit more shock, which is why I like this shoe for half marathon distances and under. That being said, there are many minimal racing flats that people use for by all means, this shoe could work for that distance too.


One minor recommendation given the lower volume toe box would be to offer this shoe in a wide version. Not sure exactly the market for it, but I think that would allow this quick shoe to work for a lot more people.

We also recently reviewed the Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 (see review HERE), which debuted Mizuno's new XPOP foam. This is the type of shoe I'd love to see with the XPOP. A light, quick trainer that could work for some races. This shoe ran rather firm with only moderate responsiveness, so adding a foam that gives some bounciness may be a great addition to this shoe.


The Mizuno Wave Shadow 3 is a quick, sleek shoe with a firm snappy ride that will work well for people training towards their next PR. It could work very well for some as a transition to more aggressive racing flats and also double as a performance trainer for short to moderate length tempo runs. For those who like to feel connected to the ground but still feel like the cushioning is giving back to each stride, this is a great option for you.

Fit                     8/10 (-2 for lower volume toe box, high marks for secure fit)
Ride                  7.5/10 (high marks for responsiveness, -1.5 for high firm feel, -1 for clunkiness at moderate to slow paces)
Stability            8.5/10 (-1.5 for more narrow forefoot platform)
Speed                8.5/10 (high marks for ability to take speed and moderate distances, -1.5 for clunkiness at slower paces)
Durability          9/10 (high marks for wave plate and outsole integrity, -1 for thinner upper)

Total Score: 8.3/10

Thanks for reading!

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.

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

***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 35-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 35 miles on my pair. My 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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