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Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra: Sustainability Meets Max Cushioned
By Content Manager Bach Pham, Global Brand Manager Nathan Brown and Chief Editor/Founder Matthew Klein

Sustainability has become a hot issue among running shoe companies. How each company has handled the transition into the discussion has been entirely different though. Some have slowly incorporated recycled materials into popular models. Some have swapped midsoles with materials like castor bean or hybrid recycled foams. This month Mizuno decided to take things a step further with not just one, but two brand new releases that are built with both performance and sustainability in mind. In today's review, we explore the Wave Neo Ultra, Mizuno's premium cushioned trainer that's newly-built  with sustainable materials from top-to-bottom, including a new hybrid midsole called Enerzy Lite.

Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra
Price: $250 (limited release)
Weight: 10.9 oz, 309 g (men's size 9), Women's Weights Not Provided
Stack Height: 39mm / 31 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Maximal Cushion Trainer


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra is a maximally cushioned, high volume fitting, beautifully sustainable and premium running shoe. Three types of Enerzy sit in the midsole (Lite, Core and normal) providing a ride that is mildly firm initially and breaks into a middle bouncy but highly cushioned one. An undyed white yarn upper (to save water) sits up top with a high amount of flexibility that provides a higher volume and wider fit. A durable and sustainable option for long miles for those wanting a neutral highly cushioned shoe with a higher volume fit, the Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra is part of the new (Neo) generation of sustainable performance footwear. 

Bach: Mizuno took a big gamble with the production of their two sustainable shoes. The Wave Neo Ultra we are reviewing here is the bigger, maximal cousin to the Wave Neo Wind. Using a layered foam strategy seen in shoes like the Wave Sky and Horizon series, Mizuno combines their sustainable Enerzy lite foam with an Enerzy Core in the center and regular Enerzy layer to form a maximal stacked shoe focused on a cushioned, fun ride. At $250, it comes at a steep pricepoint, but Mizuno focuses on creating sustainable, highly durable and long-lasting ride that is also future-forward in its sustainable design.

In performance and function, the Wave Neo is a mildly firm, maximally cushioned running shoe designed for comfort. It is the more sustainably designed sister of the Wave Sky series. The Enerzy Core center of the midsole adds a bit of life to a shoe that was created for packing on mileage with a focus on durability.

Similar Shoes: On Cloudmonster, New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v12, Saucony Endorphin Shift 3


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra fits me a half size long in my normal US men's size 10. The volume is quite high in this shoe especially width wise. I have enjoyed the wider fit for my toes, but it is wide throughout the length of the shoe. I did have to lace lock the shoe and tighten down the laces to get a secure fit, but still felt some movement in the rearfoot. The upper is made of a non-dyed sustainable knit upper with large overlays in the heel to midfoot. It is one piece with no tongue, which does cause some creasing when you tighten the laces down. Given this is a one piece upper, there is no heel collar or heel counter. This provides a high level of flexibility, however some mild structure is put in place with the external overlays. While there is little structure, this shoe will do well for those who do not do well with heel counters. The area where the heel collar normally is fits almost like a sock, with the thinking upper cradling the ankle. Given the mild structure to this upper, those wearing this shoe should take time to lace lock the heel and tighten down the laces to get as secure a fit as you can. Those looking for a non-obtrusive upper with a higher volume fit will enjoy this and may need to size a half size down. 

Bach: The Wave Neo Ultra features a sustainable knit upper that does a nice job of locking the foot down. I did have to lace lock to feel fully engaged with the shoe. The forefoot was a touch short for me. It didn't cause any issues during testing, but was noticeable. It has a bit of a taper to it too, making it feel a touch shallow and low volume. The shoe feels best for standard to narrow feet. I would say true to size is still recommended. The upper is very breathable though and I found no issues on the hottest of days. The heel does a decent job of locking down. There is no heel collar - part of the goal in cutting materials down - but it does have a bit of structure which helps with locking the foot down. The width of the midfoot, however, felt a touch wide to me and I had a bit of movement there which I felt during longer efforts. Really lacing the shoe down helped reduce this, and I recommend taking the time to do so.

The Wave Neo Ultra has a bootie construction fit, and overall Mizuno dialed it in well. I have no issues with the fit surrounding the collar and through the midfoot, which is great considering I often get folding of bootie-uppers as they loosen. This upper has maintained its structure, likely due to the reinforcements in the heel and through the midfoot and lacing system. Mizuno seems to utilize two lasts. One that is for the Wave Rider and Inspire, and the other that is for the Wave Horizon and Sky. This upper has a similar fit to the latter, which has a bit more of a taper in the toe box. However, I have not had any issues with toe irritation and I'd say fits true to size. 


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra is a maximally cushioned daily trainer for longer miles. There is a ton of cushioning from three different types of Enerzy. An Enerzy core sits in the middle with additional Enerzy Lite and normal Enerzy. This initially feels slightly firm but breaks into a soft and moderately bouncy ride. This bounciness helps make the ride feel lighter than the 10.9 oz weight (men's size 9) and offsets the small heel bevel. The foam compresses so much that heel landings are still fairly smooth, although the lateral flare does make for an early initial contact that goes away as the sole continues to break in. The drop is affected by the softer material as the 8mm drop feels closer the 5-6 mm. The forefoot has a significant rocker and is moderately flexible and offsets the lower drop feeling, which is surprising for such a tall stack height shoe. The ride overall works best for daily training miles. While the bounciness makes the shoe lighter, it still is best for easy paces especially over long distances given the higher volume fit and size. The easy flexibility of the forefoot is not snappy, but bouncy instead. I found the Enerzy core could handle some uptempo running, but the higher weight made for a shoe that handles consistent paces better than faster ones.

As a longer mileage mileage shoe, the durability is also excellent. I have 100 miles on my pair and while there is some wear, I have not worn completely through the outsole yet. Thus, this shoe not only handles long mileage well, but should also do well in the "long run."

Bach: The Mizuno Enerzy Core, the central foam that is aimed at providing bounce and cushion throughout the midsection of the Wave Neo Ultra, has a unique property in that it is bouncy as hell. Once you really get it activated after a little bit of warm-up, it really wants you to move and do some uptempo work. That is at the "core" of what I feel is a bit unusual about the Ultra. A maximal shoe by nature, it visually screams a shoe that is going to excel at steady, slow long runs. What the Enerzy Core does for me, however, is make the shoe feel best at uptempo work. I really, really liked taking the Ultra out for some speedier miles, which does not make any sense at all. The way to shoe propels when you put some pace into though is very fun, and would be exciting in a shoe that's packaged for speed.

The ride of the shoe itself is fluid. It has a solid forefoot with a mild rocker and hint of flexibility that makes toeing off really steady. The rear transition is beveled just enough that the whole shoe transitions well. The combination of foams underfoot does feel a bit weighted though, which has made it not my most favorite shoe for a long run. I found it best for middle distance days where I wanted to do some uptempo work, or relatively brief recovery runs. At easy paces, the shoe does fine and can log the miles, but it just doesn't feel like you are totally taking advantage of the shoe's best properties there.

The outsole is a subtle design that works to emphasize smoothness and softness. It does a nice job of just rolling you along. I felt a little less confident though on very wet, slick surfaces due to how smooth it feels underfoot and found myself being a little extra careful in those areas. It has been durable so far, showing little signs of wear after 35 miles.

The ride of the Neo Ultra is both basic and unique. The higher stack of the foam makes the ride protective, but as is consistent with Mizuno (save a few of the most recent models like the Rider 25) it sits on the firmer side. It has a mild forefoot rocker and heel bevel, and overall transitions nicely without any hitches. Therefore it is a very consistent but uninteresting (not necessarily bad) ride at slower paces. I preferred using this shoe for anything 10+ miles where I had no agenda and just wanted to be out on my feet for a while. What makes the ride unique is the Enerzy Core, which does give some pop when you push into the ground. This does add some small versatility, but the weight counteracts this a bit. It would be nice to see Core (which I presume to be a heavier material, which is what could make this difficult) integrated into something lighter and geared for some tempo runs. I have found the outsole to be extremely durable and no change in the ride characteristics. If this shoe is going to be worth $250, it better last. 


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra is a neutral shoe. However, there are a few elements classic to maximal stack height shoes that create some mild inherant guidance. The sole is wider throughout the length of the shoe with a decent amount of sole flare on the medial and lateral sides of the heel and forefoot. There are side walls in the rearfoot on both sides of the shoe. The forefoot is flexible and well rockered, which makes progressing forward easy once you get there. While the sole is softer, it isn't mushy soft. This creates some mild guidance, but overall the Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra is a neutral shoe. 

Bach: For a lot of foam, Mizuno does a good job of sticking to its guns and balancing the shoe with some textbook stability elements to help balance it out. The sole flare and width of the shoe in particular help provide a very stable base to land on. The Core does help encourage you to bounce forward a bit as well. There is forefoot rocker that further shoves you forward and gets you moving along. The midsole itself is protective, but still firm enough that you are unlikely to roll either way. I've really enjoyed picking up in this shoe as a result as each stride feels very confident. It is still a relatively neutral shoe overall with the stack height what it is, but the elements in play help make it fairly stable in my book.

Nathan: We speak a lot about inherent stability characteristics around here, and the Neo Ultra has a lot of them. It sports a wider base with the flaring of the sole from side to side, a firmer foam compound, a secure enough upper, and a geometry that promotes nice transitions from back to front. Depending on your foot type, one area that may decrease stability is the bootie upper if you have a very narrow foot and cannot get a good lock down. There are no uses of dual density design or formal stability characteristics in this model.


Durability is very difficult to measure. One easy way to know that it is difficult to measure is the recommendations you hear from running shoe companies, running stores, and even pages like ours. Often you'll hear "replace your shoes after 300-500 miles". That's a huge range. The reason that the range is so large is because of a mismatch between testing processes and the real world.

To test durability, foams and shoes get put in an impacter that measures the stiffness (how much a shoe/foam compresses) and resilience (how much it returns to its original form). Over time, the amount that the foam returns to its original form (resilience) decrease, and once that foam hits a certain threshold it is considered no longer functioning as it should. Ultimately, a shoe company knows the number of impacts performed before the foam is no longer viable.

However, there's an obvious difference between an impacter hitting a shoe and someone running in a shoe. The impacter hits the foam in a uniform, top-down fashion with predictable and precise impact forces and distribution area. Less so with runners. Within the same runner, we change how we impact a shoe based on how tired we are, if we are changing directions, if we are running uphill, if we are on a trail versus pavement, and if we are running faster versus slower. The same running might put a shoe through very different experiences each run and even within the same run.

Then we have between runner differences. Weight, foot strike pattern, ground contact time -- all of these variables (and more) will lead runners to wear out a midsole at different rates. Finally, you look at environmental factors. Runners live in different climates and store shoes in different areas. Over time and via more exposures, shoes are influenced by temperature differences and changes in foam properties that occur simply as time goes on. Lab impact testing is done in a single session until the foam is worn out, whereas runners wear a shoe over the course of days, weeks, months...and for some, years. 

We haven't even touched on outsole durability, which is actually what most runners think about when replacing shoes, likely because it is much easier to visually inspect. We purport that midsole durability is of more importance, but the outsole does play an important role in protecting the midsole and providing grip.

In the end, runners will learn their own signs when a shoe has lost its foam characteristics, and whether you land in the early or later phase of that 300-500 mile range. Mizuno is moving the Wave Neo series forward with hopes of increasing durability to decrease the number of shoes that need to be used. As we learn more about the data Mizuno has collected regarding the improved lifespan of their new foams, we will be sure to share.

- Nathan Brown


Matt: This is an incredible shoe for being bio based and continues to demonstrate that sustainable shoes are beginning to catch up with traditional shoes in regards to performance. It is comfortable for longer efforts, but could use a few changes to improve its function. The first is the length and volume. I have less of a problem with the higher volume as I prefer a little more room. However, I can feel my heel sliding around in the rear, so a better lockdown may be needed despite the fact that I like that there is no heel counter. This could be accomplished by firming up the external overlays or by increasing the height of the sidewalls to lock the heel in. The length feels a half size long and needs to be adjusted not just in the upper, but the length of the shoe. My MTP pivot point is a little farther back than I would like and especially with the larger volume, a half size down may fix this for me. However, at $250 I expect the fit to be dialed in immediately. Those between sizes though will probably do fine. My last point of improvement is the stability of this shoe. Particularly with the flexible upper, I have had to tighten down the laces and still had some movement of my foot. Mizuno could easily improve the stability and foot lockdown by increasing the sidewalls on the medial and lateral sides. This is also a common strategy for softer/maximal shoes to keep the foot on the platform that should be integrated into a shoe that fits exactly into that category. 

Bach: There are a few recommendations I have to this ultimately very fun, high-performing maximal shoe. I think the first is a subtle adjustment in length and volume to be a touch bigger and more true to size. I could feel my toes just slightly getting to the edge on some runs. Just a little more length and volume would be helpful to getting something true to size.

Regarding the shoe itself, I think there is a case to either limit or remove the Enerzy Core altogether, which would both reduce weight and also give it more trainer leanings. The Enerzy Core really wants to pick up and go, but I really wanted this to be a more relaxed trainer for distance runs. I think the combination of reducing or removing would help both make it feel nimble and more purposeful as a highly cushioned trainer. From a sustainability standpoint it would also help reduce on materials further to two very solid foams. I know Mizuno has put a lot of time into this Core, but something about it doesn't quite align with what I feel the Ultra's purpose is: a really cushioned, maximal trainer for long distances. I think either a redesign of the Core or a removal altogether is quite viable here in favor of geometry.

From a performance standpoint, I think that this shoe has a platform and fit that can work well for a protective long run. Like Bach, I wonder how much the Enerzy Core itself contributes to this versus the overall shaping and stack. Therefore I'd be VERY interested in trying a shoe with a softer top layer of foam to give it a bit more forgiveness. If they can create a slightly softer platform, I think this would be even better for longer runs. If Core doesn't contribute much at slower paces (it might...but IF it doesn't) you could simplify the shoe design and maybe drop the price. 


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra is a premium, sustainable maximal cushioned and bouncy shoe for longer efforts. The entire shoe is made from sustainable materials, from recycled yarn in the upper to bio based materials in the sole. The upper fits slightly long and higher volume, so those with normal width or narrow feet may need to go a half size down and lock down the upper. The midsole is bouncy and rolls well through the forefoot, makes for an excellent shoe for longer miles especially with the higher durability. This is an incredible effort from Mizuno that shows how well sustainable shoes can perform and is only the beginning of the much needed long term effort toward protecting this planet. 

Bach: The Wave Neo Ultra presents a conundrum; you have this highly-stacked, highly-cushioned shoe built for the long run, yet has a core that's so eager to go that it becomes a fun uptempo trainer best for middle distance runs. From a sustainability standpoint, Mizuno is doing a lot of fun things here, proving that you can do a lot with plant-based materials and create high performance. On the other, its identity crisis poses a unique problem. If you are a Wave Sky fan, I do believe this is a no-brainer, even at the price due to how durable it is. The ride is 10x more fun and overall design just flat out better. It feels decently nimble for its size on foot and just can tackle more goals. If you are new to Mizuno though, and enjoy a more traditional ride I think it is much more worth visiting the Wave Neo Wind out of the two shoes if you want a daily trainer for raking in the miles. Larger runners may be able to get more of the Ultra though in the way they may be able to engage the material better without putting as much force down. I really feel like when I could engage the Enerzy Core, the shoe comes alive and finds its true calling.

The Wave Neo Ultra is a stylish, protective shoe that can function well for long runs and has a bit of pop at faster paces. At this price point, you have to be someone who wants to invest in a shoe that is promoting sustainable efforts in the running world (which is invaluable), but doesn't want to sacrifice performance. The Wave Neo series does this well -- proposing more sustainable running shoe options that still perform as well as any other shoes on the market. This, however, comes at a price. And that price is $250.


Fit: (Half size long with higher volume fit throughout the length of the shoe. Definitely need to lace lock)
B+ (Bouncy ride with surprising flexibility in the forefoot. Best for longer miles)
Stability: B/B+ [Neutral] (Fairly neutral shoe with some mild guidance elements, ie wider sole, forefoot rocker. Sidewalls could be better)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Excellent sustainable performance shoe that is extremely high quality. Some fit issues create a pivot point a little early for me and the ride could be more stable for a softer bouncier shoe, ie through larger sidewalls)
Personal: B (A fun midsole, but the upper needs some better lockdown and a little more guidance in the sole from me. An extremely comfortable casual shoe that I wear frequently and one that I can easily get some longer miles on when I need to.)
Overall: B/B+

Fit: B (Somewhat shallow in the forefoot and some width issues in midfoot hold it back)
Performance: B/
B+ (When fully engaged, the Core is FUN. But for a maximal shoe, I would rather be able to log really comfortable easy miles, which puts the shoe in a strange place)
Stability: A- (For me, it was well done here with some basic principles like sole flare and width)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Making performance out of plant-based materials is not easy, but impressive attempt here)
Personal: B/B+ (When pushing the pace, this is really fun and honestly one of the most fun shoes I have. But a struggle at easier pacing which is not ideal)
Overall: B/B+ (Lots of potential here, but the cost I can see being off-putting for what it delivers currently and the pricing)


Fit: B+ (Comfortable trainer fit, a little much of a taper)
B+ (Nice for longer runs, can give a little extra if needed)
Stability: A- (No formal stability measures, but inherently stable)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (Nice geometry and true performance for a sustainably made shoe)
Personal: B- (Love the style and comfort for "no thinking" runs and I plan to use this shoe a lot, but I couldn't personally buy a $250 trainer unless the proof of durability is undeniable...which I hope comes!)
Overall: B+ 


Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra
Price: $250 (limited release)

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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.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Mizuno USA for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our 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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