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Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 Review: Streamlined
By Matthew Klein & Bach Pham

As stability shoe numbers have dwindled, only a handful of them exist that reach the 20 year mark. The Mizuno Wave Inspire finally hits it, holding steady providing stability for two decades. A great deal has changed over that time. Once one of the lighter stability shoes, the Inspire saw some changes that made it heavier and clunkier. The previous iteration, version 19, finally saw an improvement in heel bevel design that allowed some of the relatively newer foams Mizuno was working with to shine a bit brighter. Known for their consistency, the Mizuno wave plate continued its tradition of providing stability in a non-post-like fashion. Version 20 carefully builds off version 19 with a new upper and new plate, which slightly changes the fit and ride. Read on to find out what that may mean for you.




Mizuno Wave Inspire 20
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 10.6 oz, 300 g (men's size 9), 8.8 oz, 249 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 37.5 mm / 25.5 mm
Drop: 12 mm
Shoe Purpose: Moderate Stability Daily Training Shoe

Pros: Rare high drop, mild to moderate stability daily training shoe with smooth transitions
Cons: Still heavier than it needs to be


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 is the latest update to Mizuno's moderate stability daily training shoe. Featuring a new upper that provides more volume in the forefoot, the fit continues to be best for those want a secure heel/midfoot and a little extra room up front. The midsole continues to feature a wave plate that provides stiffer, centered stability from the heel to the midfoot. A high drop is offset by a well rockered midsole, providing unloading for the calf muscles without being clunky. A refinement of the prior version that makes some subtle changes. The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 is best for those who want a high drop, mild to moderate stability shoe for daily training and long runs. 

SIMILAR SHOES
: Brooks Adrenaline 23
PAST MODEL: Mizuno Wave Inspire 19





FIT

Matt: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 fits me true to size in my normal US men's size 10. The upper is the biggest change in this version and now features a wider/slightly higher volume forefoot. This transitions into a normal/slightly snug heel and midfoot. The tongue in the midfoot is gusseted and moderately thick. It is secure and I did not have to tie the laces down for a secure fit. The heel features a stiff heel counter and mild heel collar cushioning. It is rounded, so it did not bother me too much but those with sensitive heels should approach cautiously. Those who like stiff heel counters will do great. One of the shining features of this shoe is how comfortable the inner liner is. I have worn this shoe sockless for half of my 30 miles without any chaffing or irritation. The higher volume forefoot did cause some mild sliding when turning, so I would still suggest socks for most people. However for standing, walking and shorter runs the upper does great against bare skin. 

Bach: The Wave Inspire 20 fits true to size for me. The upper feels fairly on par with last year's version and fits well from front-to-back. There is more width in the forefoot here that feels very comfortable for standard-to-slightly wider feet. If you have wide feet and tend to go with wide models, I would still seek a wide if it is available for the most comfort. I don't know if I would suggest this for narrow feet though. I did find myself sliding a little bit in the Wave Inspire 20 when I was going downhill. I was able to remedy this with thicker socks, but if my feet were any more narrow I would suggest trying it out first if you can and for men maybe considering trying the women's model. I had no issues on the run otherwise. The heel is very stiff and structured all the way up in a very classic stability shoe manner. The upper has a lot of overlays on both sides that keeps the structure of the shoe sound. The fit overall is very breathable and comfortable, without any irritations.

Doctors of Running Checklist

Is This a Good Shoe for Walking: Yes
Is This a Good Shoe for Standing: Yes
Is the Forefoot Flexible: Somewhat
How Flexible is the Shoe: Fairly stiff Heel/Midfoot
Is This a Good Heel Bevel: Yes
Recommended for Haglunds: No
Recommended for Sockless: Yes
Durability Expectation: Average 





PERFORMANCE

Matt: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 is a high drop daily training shoe for easy and long runs. The dual layers of Mizuno ENERZY makes for a slightly firmer but well-cushioned heel and a slightly softer forefoot. The Inspire 20 is listed at 10.6 oz but it feels lighter than that thanks to a slightly resilient midsole. The 12mm drop is apparent but thanks to the solid heel bevel it feels more like 10mm. The plate combined with the bevel quickly rolls you forward into a smooth/stable midfoot. This transitions to a slightly flexible forefoot that also has a solid rocker that easily rolls you forward.

As with previous versions, the combination of weight and high drop keep the Inspire 20 squarely as a daily training and long run shoe. It is not light or responsive enough for fast miles but it shines most with consistent longer paces. The easy transition, stable ride and ENERZY cushioning make it easy to click off miles. The durability of the shoe is fairly average both for a daily trainer and compared to prior versions. There was accelerated wear the first few miles on the posterior lateral outsole that slowed down considerably after 15 miles. I have 30 miles on my current pair and the midsole feels fresh with a bit of wear on the outsole. For that reason, I am expecting at least an average number of miles for a daily training shoe out of the Inspire 20. Use-wise I would keep this to road, although it grips well on both wet and dry surfaces. The exposed plate/gap makes it easy for small rocks to get stuck, so I would stick to solid and stable surfaces in the Inspire 20. 

Bach: The Inspire 20 is a shoe that has run hot and cold for me. When I am in good shape, prepared, and able to run rhythm, the Inspire 20 runs really nicely and feels good no matter the distance I'm going. On the days where I'm trying to rattle off a few miles quickly and not my best, the rearfoot suddenly feels a little clunky, and the stiffness a little much. I found this to be a surprising difference form the Wave Inspire 19, which was one of my personal favorite stability shoes of 2023. Version 20 attempts to streamline last year's model. Somewhere in that streamline, it feels like the forefoot lost some sole flaring which despite being very small, is just enough to feel a little less cushioned.

When the Wave Inspire 20 rolls though and you get into a good groove, the shoe is actually quite good. It feels right rolling through the plate and into the smooth outsole, moderately rockered forefoot. It also runs far lighter than its actual weight, the shoe itself being marginally lighter than last year's model. I was able to pick up the pace a little bit without issue. The shoe feels much closer akin to the Wave Rider in this model with its slightly slimmer profile, with the major difference being the plate design offering a more stiff heel and midfoot. The 12mm is somewhat noticeable only because the plate keeps you elevated without sinking down, but when you are on the run it quickly feels more like a 10mm drop shoe as you are turning over through the forefoot. I would not let the 12mm distinction scare you here. The shoe overall does run on the firmer side, with the forefoot being protective. I didn't feel uncomfortable logging longer efforts in the shoe (as someone who doesn't mind lower profile shoes).

The outsole is actually only just okay gripping the road. It is actually surprisingly more flat and smooth than its luggy nature appears which helps facilitate a fluid ride. Off-road, however, the lugs do well enough to tackle dry grass and trail roads. Last year's outsole was fairly durable for me and there is plenty to chew through. Being a bit lighter on shoes than Matt, I would expect slightly above average durability out of my pair based on last year's pair and prior Mizuno shoes I've tested over 100 miles, but not as much as the Horizon series.

I did find the Inspire to be a solid walking and standing shoe for folks who want something less maximal and more traditional. The sturdy heel offers good standing support for those who want a firmer feel underfoot all day.




STABILITY

Matt: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 is a mild-to-moderate stability shoe. It does not feature a medial post and instead has a wave plate with curves that are supposed to match the arch(es) of the foot. The far medial and lateral aspects of the plate are thicker compared to the middle in strategic places to keep the foot centered. This provides additional stiffness in the heel and midfoot. Version 19 felt like there was a great deal of pressure at the medial heel. Version 20 provides more broad stability that spans the length of the midfoot and heel. It does feel less intense than Version 19, which may be due to the use of a slightly more flexible (at least what it feels like) plant based plate now. However, it feels like it provides stiffness/guidance to a wider area along the medial side. This makes for a rearfoot/midfoot that feel guided and appropriately stiff without being overbearing. This transitions into a wider forefoot with a decent amount of sole flare and a solid rocker. This makes for a more naturally guided forefoot compared to the rearfoot/midfoot. There are also small pinpoint sidewalls on the medial and lateral sides of the foot. Overall, Version 20 feels slightly less obtrusive in the heel but has pressure spread out along the medial side of the foot, providing mild to moderate stability for those who need it. 

Bach: The Inspire 19 helped introduce a new plate design for Mizuno that promoted the runner being guided forward rather than supported with a medial post. For me and my flat feet, this was a very welcome change. The plate does a good job of facilitating that movement while also providing a lot of heel and midfoot stability and didn't cause any issues with my feet. I agree with Matt that in general the concept works well and when the runner is on point with the shoe, things are great in the Inspire.

Notably for me, the forefoot is a little less stable than last year for me this year due to the extra toe box width and what feels like a little less lateral sole flaring in the shoe. I found while running down steep hills having to be a little more careful due to some sliding in the shoe whereas the Version 19 I felt confident enough to just bumble down them without too much thought. For most situations though, the shoe feels very stable.

Inspire 19 vs. 20. You can see a little more width on the lateral side of toebox


Thoughts as a DPT: Unloading of the Posterior Tibialis
By Matthew Klein 

I have written previously on why each person may do well with different heel-toe drops. Heel-toe drop heel offset, or heel drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and forefoot. Currently, the average is around 6-8mm with a few shoes that sit in the 10-12 range and far more in the 0-5 mm range. Higher heel offsets put the ankle in a plantarflexed position (imagine your foot is pointing) compared to lower heel drops which keep your ankle in a more neutral position. Some people (not all) may benefit from a higher heel drop as it requires your ankle to go through less end range of motion, reducing the stress on muscles like your calf muscles. The lower the heel offset, the more dorsiflexion (opposite of plantarflexion, imagine your foot is pointing up) and flexibility from your calf muscles is required. Some people have this motion, others do not. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including variability in calf flexibility, talocrural (ankle) joint mobility and more. 

The posterior tibialis is a deep muscle that sits beneath your calf muscles in your posterior lower leg. The tendon of the posterior tibialis travels down the inner side of your ankle behind that large medial bone (medial malleolus) that sticks out and inserts on several places on or close to your medial arch. Because of the medial (inward) direction of the tendon, it is important in controlling pronation and supination during the stance phase (foot on the ground) phase of running gait. When you naturally pronate to shock absorb after landing during the first part of the stance phase, called the loading response phase, the posterior tibialis muscles has to eccentrically lengthen (contracting while lengthening) to control the motion at this phase. This requires a high level of strength to attenuate the stresses associated with this. The posterior tibialis muscles acts to both invert and plantarflex the foot/ankle. This means that if you do not have adequate strength/tolerance in this muscle, pronation/eversion and dorsiflexion can be a challenging motion. Additionally, a common compensation at the ankle for stiff calves/limited ankle mobility into dorsiflexion is to add more eversion/pronation. Thus, a stiff posterior tibialis will limit both eversion and dorsiflexion. If this is an issue, a high drop stability shoe may help to reduce the amount of dorsiflexion needed for a forward progression during gait and may reduce the amount of eversion/pronation needed. For those with posterior tibialis issues, this may be a helpful tool either long term or in the interum as the tissue heals during appropriate rehabilitation. There is evidence that stability shoes work best for those with a history of pronation-related pathology (posterior tibialis issues, Achilles issues, etc), so the Inspire 20 may be an option for this group (Willems et al., 2021). 

This does NOT mean if you have a history of pronation-related or posterior tibialis injuries that you cannot wear any shoe but a high-drop stability shoe. It means that if you have this history, you need to work on addressing whatever deficits led you there in the first place. If you want to wear different shoes, you will need to work on your ankle strength, stability and range of motion. It also means that you can try different shoes, you will just need to ease into them and let your body adapt. The human body is amazingly adaptable if you give it time. That said, some people do best in high-drop stability shoes while others do not. The purpose of this website is to continue to help you learn what works best for you while also giving you the information and opportunities to try different things. 

References:

Willems, T. M., Ley, C., Goetghebeur, E., Theisen, D., & Malisoux, L. (2021). Motion-control shoes reduce the risk of pronation-related pathologies in recreational runners: a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 51(3), 135-143.



RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: The changes over the last two versions is sole design have been great. The heel bevel and transition are so much more smooth than they were for several years prior. The upper is a decent refinement for those who need a bit more room up front. As I have said previously, I would NOT change the heel drop in this shoe as it provides something unique on the market in regards to a high drop stability shoe (the only real one besides the Adrenaline series from Brooks). My biggest suggestion is to get back to the roots of the Inspire and drop the weight. 10.6 is pretty heavy for a shoe that should technically need less midsole due to the plate and current concepts of geometry. Right now, the Inspire really does not set itself apart from other stability models like the Adrenaline, Structure or others in this weight range. Mizuno has accomplished this in the past and I challenge them to again get this shoe (and the Rider series) way lighter. There are enough lessons from the Rebellion Pro's geometry progressions to really elevate Mizuno's daily training line. Some gaps can be added without comprising the midsole integrity and stack heights can be increased without increases in weight. It may take some unique engineering and potentially a foam upgrade, but based on Mizuno's prior history, it can be done. 

Bach: For this edition, while the toebox is accommodating I would like to see a little bit more of a dialed in fit to help prevent any kind of sliding. I think about Mizuno's knit version of the Wave Rider all the time in the way it really dials the foot in and I think that would really elevate this model. I would also love to see the heel more beveled to really emphasize a fluid forward motion. I think there's room to improve the lateral heel bevel we often talk about at Doctors of Running to help roll runners just a little more and really promote the guidance of the shoe. The rearfoot right now can sometimes feel a touch on the clunky side and I think helping to improve that end of the shoe to something more akin of the Wave Rebellion series of shoes would be a big change.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE MIZUNO WAVE INSPIRE 20?

Matt: For a specific person, yes. Those who want a high drop, non-posted mild-to-moderate stability daily trainer and long run shoe will do best here. Those who also have slightly wider forefoot who want some extra volume and width will also do well in the Inspire 20. It does not follow current trends of moderate drop but it does do central guidance concepts well. It oddly feels like a stiffer Wave Rider, so those coming from the neutral counterpart who want more stability in the heel/midfoot will also do well in the Inspire 20. 

Bach: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 is a solid shoe for someone who has been in premium stability shoes and is looking to dial back stability a bit and dip into more moderate stability. It's also a great choice for runners who want a high drop, guidance based stability that is unobtrusive, and for runners who also want a fairly accommodating amount of space in the toe box.

Rotation-wise, if you like more lower profile shoes, the Brooks Hyperion GTS would be a great one to consider for workouts and even racing. The two would be great companion shoes to have for most of your training needs, with a shoe like the Wave Horizon possibly for longer runs if you want more cushioning. I think for runners who like Mizuno's fit and feel, this could be a great marathon trio if your goal is just to complete a marathon without pace in mind - with the Inspire logging most of your weekly miles, Hyperion GTS adding to your workouts, and your Horizon being both your long run and marathon trainer as a good stability set.


GRADES

Matt
Fit: A- (Solid amount of room in the forefoot with a normal to snug heel/midfoot)
Performance: 
B+ (A simple, but enjoyable ride for those who want a firmer rolling shoe)
Stability: A- [Moderate Stability] (An unobtrusive plated guidance system does a solid job moving you forward)
Value: B+ (Standard pricing for a in-line model with average durability)
Personal: B+ (Great stability model for when I need high drop. Heel bevel takes edge of 12mm drop and feels like a great consistent shoe for longer runs. Still wish it was lighter)
Overall Design: B+/A- 

Bach
Fit: A- (Really comfortable fit and feel on foot)
Performance:
B (When it feels good, it's really enjoyable, but there is some unevenness in the ride)
Stability: B+ (Very stable heel and a decently wide forefoot offers a fairly stable ride altogether, but smooth outsole in wet weather and less stable going downhill for me)
Value: B+ (A good price point for a shoe that'll be durable and versatile for most daily training uses)
Personal: B/B+ (I have a real back and forth relationship with this version, but ultimately do enjoy the ride and would recommend this to runners who want a guided, high drop shoe)
Overall Design: B+


SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Mizuno Wave Inspire 20
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse

Shop Men's Wave Inspire | Shop Women's Wave Inspire

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FURTHER READING

Altra Paradigm 7 - Altra's unique zero drop, guidance-based stability shoe
Altra Provision 8 - Altra's Provision offers a stable zero drop shoe for a wide array of runners
Asics GT-1000 11 - The most affordable stability shoe in the market
ASICS GT-2000 12 - A new 3D guidance system provides cushioned, modern stability
Asics Kayano 30 - Big changes bring Kayano into the future, creating a geometric stability option
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 - The long running stability trainer stays true with small changes
Brooks Beast GTS 23 - The highest level stability shoe in the market today
Brooks Hyperion GTS - All-new, lightweight stability offering using guidance
Brooks Launch GTS 10 - An excellent low profile, mild guidance shoe
Hoka Gaviota 5 - Hoka moves to a new H-Frame stability that universalizes the Gaviota
Mizuno Wave Inspire 19 - The redesign for the guidance-based stability trainer is an early 2023 favorite
New Balance Fresh Foam X Vongo v6 - Big changes to this stability trainer
Nike Structure 25 - A mild stability trainer for those who want a traditional ride
On Cloudflyer 4 - An update to the mild stability trainer (a really solid walking shoe)
Salomon DRX Bliss - A new guidance based trainer for the roads
Saucony Guide 16 - A much-improved upper and soft insole highlight this stability shoe update
Saucony Guide 17 - A big update shifts the Guide from post to guidance

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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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, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we 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 for sending us pairs.  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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