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 Inspire 16 & WaveKnit Multi-Tester Review

The Mizuno Wave Inspire, Mizuno's long standing stability shoe, receives both a new upper update and a new upper option this time around.  While the sole (reportedly) remains similar to the previous version, the upper has drastically been changed.  The Waveknit finally arrives as a comfortable option for the Inspire 16, while a non-waveknit version provides a far better lockdown targeted mostly at the midfoot, but effects the entire shoe positively.  Continuing to sport a special wave plate for stability and cushioning along with a 12mm drop, the Wave Inspire 16 and Inspire 16 Waveknit provide surprisingly different fits that create two unique shoes.


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.1 oz (men's size 9)
Stack Height: TBA
Drop: 12 mm
Classification: Moderate Stability Trainer



HOW DOES IT FIT?

Forefoot - Matt: Slightly short, medium to snug fit
                 David: Knit: snug fit // Mesh: true to size (wider than knit)

Midfoot - Matt: Medium to snug fit
                David: Knit: snug fit // Mesh: snug fit with lace down

Heel - Matt: Medium fit
           David: Knit: true to size // Mesh: true to size

     Matt: The Inspire 16 and Inspire 16 Waveknit have two very different fits.  The normal version features a engineered mesh upper with new midfoot overlays that lock the midfoot down very securely. The fit is on the snug side without being narrow thanks to the lockdown provided by the new design of the midfoot.  The forefoot fits slightly short in my size 10 in both versions, but the uppers do stretch after only a mile or so.  This may be due to the internal toe cap, that does seem to help lock the foot in, but may cause some irritation in some people initially. For those between sizes, this may warrant changing sizes, so be sure to try before you buy.  The normal Inspire 16 features a snug forefoot, which further locks the foot in.  It does not feel narrow thanks to the Dynamotion Fit that expands with the foot while keeping it locked in.  The heel however does fit normal to slightly wide, so many may need to lace lock the shoe for a secure fit.  Overall the Inspire 16 provides a more snug and secure fit that those with a medium to narrow fit will enjoy.


     The Inspire 16 Waveknit however provides a very different fit.  "Comfortable" is a key word I would use to describe it. The fit is wider throughout the shoe compared to the normal Inspire 16 as well as more flexible. The Waveknit stretches quite a bit more in the forefoot and midfoot and also is very smooth, allowing for sockless wear without issue. The trade off is a less secure hold on the foot, which can make turning corners a little unstable.  So for those looking for comfort, the Waveknit is hands down a great option for runs in a single direction and even for casual wear.  For fast paced runs with turns, stick with the non-Waveknit version.

     David: Above the midsole, the Wave Inspire 16 and Inspire 16 Waveknit have some pretty key differences to point out (both good for the right runner). I will begin with the Waveknit upper. The Waveknit upper gives a much more snug sock like fit than the mesh upper. It breathes well and is sock like in nature. It runs a little warmer than the mesh upper, but it has never given me problems. The snug fit is very comfortable and has some stretch built into it. The stretch is nice to have, but does make the shoe more likely to have small foot translations in turns (which happened a couple times in sharp turns). The engineered mesh upper also breathes well but is less stretchy. The fit is more spacious than the knit upper, but holds its form better. I did a tempo at some soccer grounds in both shoes and found turns to be nicer in the engineered mesh upper. The heel collars are very similar and have no translation. The engineered mesh upper's heel rides a little higher, but again no problems. So... I like both for different reasons. If I'm not taking sharp turns I'm going with the knit. If I know I'm going to be in more varying terrains or making a lot of turns I'm going with the engineered mesh.


HOW CUSHIONED IS IT?

Forefoot - Moderately Firm

Heel -   Moderately Firm

     Matt: The wave plate and U4ic create a firm ride that is classic for Mizuno.  From heel to toe, especially initially, the ride is quite firm.  The U4icX heel wedge does provide a little bit of softness during heel strike, however this takes some time to break in.  Overall the firming cushioning and plate do create a more responsive feel for a traditional trainer.  This is not a soft shoe by any means but the ride is not bone crushing. The firmer cushioning is still protective and will carry you for longer miles.


There is a traditional 12mm heel drop and that can be felt immediately.  For those that are looking for this kind of ride in a world of lower heel drop shoes, the Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 has it.  Given the firmer sole, the heel drop is fairly consistent.

     David: I agree with Matt that the ride is moderately firm. Though firm, it still has enough cushion to take some serious mileage. I ran a long run at 13 miles just fine and had no concerns with it being overly firm. After the first few runs, both models soften just a hair and "break in" pretty well. Some of the factors that go into this firmness notably would be the dense outsole and the larger wave plate in the midsole (not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation). I will write more below about how this firmness contributes to a slightly more responsive daily stability trainer.


HOW DOES IT RIDE (TRANSITION)?

Forefoot - Smooth

Midfoot - Smooth

Heel - Mildly Rough (for those not accustomed to Mizuno's Ride)

     Matt: Most Mizuno shoes usually feature a forefoot with less toe spring and deeper flex grooves than most shoes.  The Wave Inspire 16 keeps the deep flex grooves that makes for the extremely smooth from midstance to toe off, but appears to add a bit more toe spring compared to versions 15 and 14.  For those that like that, this will add to the forward roll by emphasizing the forefoot rocker of the foot. The midfoot transition is also smooth thanks to the end of the wave plate as it begins the transition into the flexible forefoot.  The heel, featuring a thick wave plate, very stable cushioning and a 12mm drop, is a little chunky.  Landings at the rearfoot take several miles to break in if you are not used to Mizuno's ride.  Landings are a bit abrupt given the extra weight in the posterior section as well as the higher heel drop. There is a gentle posterior lateral heel bevel which smooths the ride out a bit.  For those that land farther forward on the foot, this won't be an issue. 

     David: The ride of the shoe is good, though can be improved. I agree with Matt that midfoot to forefoot and toe off that this shoe is pretty dang solid. My main focus of review and feedback will focus in the rearfoot/heel and how the transition can be improved. There are many different ways to create stability. I am a big fan of not using traditional posting and using the wave plate as a means of providing dynamic support. The involvement of the plate itself should be enough to keep this shoe nice and stable. The Inspire 16 however does have another component to the shoe (not confirmed intentional) that makes this a little stability heavy for me. If you look from directly behind the shoe there is what is called a medial sole flare. The midsole is made to extend a little further than the upper in the medial direction to create additional stability and less of a chance of the shoe folding in that direction. For me, the wave plate does such a good job that the sole flare is not needed, and I think that may be one big reason for why the heel transition may come off as a little clunky until the shoe is broken in more or the runner becomes use to it.


HOW RESPONSIVE IS IT?

Forefoot - Moderate Responsiveness

Heel - Moderate Responsiveness

     Matt: The Inspire 16 is on the lighter and more responsive end for moderate to high stability shoes. At 10.1 oz with a plate and firmer midsole, the Inspire 16 can be used for tempo runs, hills, easy and long runs.  For anything faster than that, a lighter shoe would be a better choice.  However, the plate combined with the firmer midsole does provide decent rebound throughout the shoe.

     David: For how stable this shoe is, it is pretty quick. I was able to some slower tempo work (5:45 mile pace) in the shoe with no problems. The wave plate and dense outsole that normally comes with Mizuno shoes gives the shoe a more rigid and springy feel to it. Though responsive for a stability trainer, I would elect for something faster if doing faster tempos, interval, or lactate type workouts. I would like to add that though there is a good amount of shoe here, it has surprisingly good ground feel through toe off which I think helps with confidence in picking the pace up a little.


HOW STABLE IS IT?

Forefoot - Moderate Stability

Midfoot -Moderate Stability

Heel - High Stability

     Matt: The Mizuno Wave Inspire is the highest stability shoe I have put on my feet in the last year.  The double fan wave in the heel, which is how Mizuno does stability compared to a post or wedge, creates a very stiff and stable ride from the heel to the midfoot.  The extension of the wave plate into the midfoot extends this stability forward.  Although the plate does not extend into the forefoot, the deep flex grooves do facilitate forward motion very well.  So for those who do prefer a great deal of stability in the rearfoot, this is your shoe.

     David: This shoe is STABLE. For those who really like high stability that is great news, but it one way I think it may be a little too stable. As stated earlier, I like the double fan wave plate for stability. I think it holds the shoe and foot well while still providing some responsiveness. One thing I think is not as necessary though is the medial sole flare in the heel. The midsole extends a little more medial than the upper and creates another point of stability. For me, I think it may be a little overkill and I would like to see the flare a little more flush with the upper.

HOW DURABLE IS IT?

Forefoot - High Durability

Midfoot - High Durability

Heel - Matt: Moderate Durability
           David: High Durability

     Matt: The blown rubber, solid sole and wave plate all make for a very durable ride in both versions of the Wave Inspire 16.  The rubber in the forefoot has little wear over the 40 miles I have on each pair.  I am observing some early wear at the heel through the X10 rubber.  However I attribute more to my hard landing possibly exacerbated by the higher heel drop.  The rubber in the heel is slightly softer, so this may explain the quicker wear, but I do not notice any changes in ride. The ride has remained the same other than becoming slightly softer with these 40 miles.  As with most Mizuno shoes, I expect a long life given that much of the cushioning comes from the wave plate, which will not break down as fast as EVA.  Both uppers have demonstrated no signs of wear at all.  The waveknit upper has begun to stretch with time and now fits a little wider than when I began, but it still provides an extremely comfortable ride and feel.  The non-waveknit upper continues to provide a very locked in feel that feels great as the tempo starts to increase. 

     David: The X10 rubber outsole is arguably the most durable I have run in. I am convinced that Mizuno shoes can survive the apocalypse because nothing really seems to break down significantly. The wave plate itself is very durable and also helps preserve the life of the midsole foam as well from what I can tell. The outsole is dense and has a lot to burn through so I can see it lasting a very long time. This shoe can definitely handle high mileage and base training.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

I have discussed previously my impressions on using the wave plate, specifically a double fan wave plate for stability as opposed to a traditional post, in my review of the Inspire 14 review (REVIEW).  What I'd like to discuss is whether heel drop affects injury rates.  As demonstrated by recent research, heel drop does not seem to largely associated with injury rates, other than lower drop shoes being suspected in increasing injury rates in higher mileage runners and decreasing it in lower mileage runners (Malisoux, Chambon, Urhausen, Theisen, 2016).  What seems to be more important are how the runner is moving, their training and conditioning levels.  Non-optimal movement combined with exceeding the body's load tolerance is an excellent way to overload tissue and cause injury.  Further evidence recently has demonstrated that runners that tend to land with more knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion and pelvic drop have increase injury risks compared to those who do not have those movement patterns (Bramah, Preece, Gill & Herrington, 2018). Some would argue that the extended knee and dorsiflexed ankle landing pattern sounds like a heel strike pattern, but evidence suggests there is insufficient and conflicting evidence that certain foot strike patterns are related to injury rates (Anderson, Bonanno, Hart & Barton, 2019). This body of evidence suggests that it is not footstrike or heel drop that effects injury rates, but movement patterns that place excessive load on certain tissues.  So landing on your heel is likely fine, but try to do it closer to your body rather than straightening everything in front of you.  While some would argue that a higher heel drop shoe may exacerbate this movement pattern, I would again refer you to the above evidence that suggests that injury rates are actually less in those with a higher drop shoe training at higher mileage.  This is not to say lower or higher heel drop shoes are better.  In fact, I argue that there likely is a balance between heel drop and movement patterns that are unique to EACH PERSON.  Many people have a sweet spot, so find what works for you (and don't be surprised if it changes over time).


RECOMMENDATIONS/WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

    Matt: While I have enjoyed the rides of both versions of the Inspire 16, I highly suggest pairing down the chunkiness of the heel.  There is a little too much going on back there, which also creates an unbalanced ride in the heel.  One of my favorite Mizuno shoes continues to be the original Sayonara, which was able to balance weight between the heel and forefoot very well.  I challenge Mizuno to do this with the Inspire as well as think about a little drop in the heel height (not too much).

For those looking for a traditional drop trainer with a smooth fitting upper and a very stable heel, this is your shoe.  The Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 and the Inspire 16 Waveknit provide two very different fits.  The Inspire 16 is a high stability shoe with a secure and snug upper, while the Inspire 16 Waveknit is a super comfortable high stability shoe with a more relaxed and smooth fit.  Both will fit a variety of people looking for high drop, high stability shoes with traditional posting.

    David: This is a shoe for the runner who likes a high drop stability trainers that can run until the cows come home. As far as deciding between the uppers, it will depend on the type of runner. The waveknit upper is a bit more snug and very comfortable, though a little more flexible and does not handle varying terrains or turns as well. The engineered mesh upper is on the other end of the spectrum. It still breathes well, but is a little wider throughout and holds it shape and structure in terrain and turns better than the knit. If someone knows they are going to take this shoe into trails or are required to be making sharp turns in streets or workout spaces, the mesh upper may be preferable. However, if you don't plan on taking into uneven terrain or turning hard in the shoe, I think the waveknit wins in comfort.

My recommendation mainly lies within the heel mechanics of the shoe. As stated earlier, I am a big fan of the double fan wave plate for stability. I am not a big fan of the medial sole flare, for I think it makes the shoe a little overkill with stability and makes the heel of shoe come off as a little clunky. By making the medial sole flare a little more flush with the shoe, I think the dynamic stability nature of the shoe will come more to life. I flip flop on drop ratio, but I do think the shoe would be a little more smooth if lowered to at least 10mm and may lower the shoes demand/influence to make the runner land a little more posteriorly.

GRADING

Matt's Score: 85%
Reasoning: -5% for Chunky Heel, -5% for weight bias toward rearfoot, -5% for overly high heel drop.  Positive scores for comfortable and smooth uppers, smooth transitions in forefoot, stable rides without traditional posting. 

David's Score: 88%
Reasoning: -5% for medial sole flare and clunky heel, -5% for lack of smooth transition in heel to midfoot, - 2% for minor foot translation in turns. Positive marks for comfortable and high preforming uppers, high durability throughout the entire shoe, and maximizing use of wave plate.

Fit: Medium to Snug
Cushioning: Firm
Transition: Stiff Heel, Smooth Forefoot/Midfoot
Responsiveness: Moderate
Stability: Max Stability
Durability: Matt: Moderate to High // David: High

TESTER PROFILES

Dr. Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up.

Dr. Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs of 3:54 1500m, 14:56 5k, 31:06 10k, 1:08 for half marathon. He typically runs 40 to 50 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

The Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 and Inspire 16 Waveknit are not currently available.  For those looking to pre-order, head over to Mizuno's website in the links below (Note: we receive no compensation in any form from anyone clicking on the links or ordering).

Mizuno Wave Inspire 16

Mizuno Wave Inspire 16 Waveknit

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.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
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 PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
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 35-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 50 miles on my normal pair and 40 miles on my Waveknit pair (Matt); 36 Normal pair and 36 Waveknit pair (David). 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.

References

1. Anderson, L., Bonanno, D., Hart, F. & Barton, C. (2019). What are the Benefits and Risks Associated with Changing Foot Strike Pattern During Running? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Injury, Running Economy and Biomechanics. Sports Medicine.

2. Bramah, C.., Preece, S., Gill, N., Herrington, L. (2018). Is There a Pathological Gait Associated With Common Soft Tissue Running Injuries? American Journal of Sports Medicine. 46(12): 3023-3031.

3. Malisoux, L., Chambon, N., Urhausen, A., Theisen, D. (2016). Influence of the Heel-to-Toe Drop of Standard Cushioned Running Shoes on Injury Risk in Leisure-Time Runners: A Randomized Controlled Trial With 6-Month Follow-up. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(11): 294-2940.

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