"I'm just going to try them on," I told myself. "They're probably not going to be all that impressive, not impressive enough to warrant buying them, anyway," I reasoned.
Well, yadda, yadda, yadda—13 miles later... And, I completed my first run in the Mizuno Universe 4 this morning. Here are my initial impressions:
As Light as a Box of Instant Jell-OIf you've never picked up a 3.9 oz (US size 9) shoe before, it's hard to imagine exactly how light a running shoe can be. So, for the sake of comparison, I did a little research to find that a full box of instant Jell-O pudding also weighs 3.9 oz. Pretty freakin' impressive, right?
I don't know how the clever people at Mizuno make this shoe so lightweight. Fancy marketing terms like "AP copolymer" and "G3 Sole" are a bit too vague for my textile-challenged mind. So, suffice it to say that Mizuno uses magic stuff to provide "lightweight, responsive, yet durable cushioning." It's a really lightweight shoe, people.
Orange Like a Traffic ConeThat bright orange color you see in the photo is even brighter during the dim hours of the day. This enhanced visibility, in conjunction with the highly reflective Mizuno
The upper material is not as mesh-like as my other shoes. It's similar, actually, to a technical fabric you would find comprising one of your running shirts. Mizuno calls it "AIRmesh" (uppercase letters and all), and it's extremely flexible and breathable.
The large, black material overlays help maintain slight structure for the shoe and hold the foot in place when running, I suppose. Also, as you may have noticed, the flame-like design elements make you look like your feet are on fire. Good thing these shoes are so cool, eh?
Firm in All the Right PlacesI was happy to notice that the Universe 4 has a great, firm feeling for the road, in my opinion. It's not incredibly squishy. And, it's not like running on a sheet of plastic. It's just what I'd want from a long-distance road shoe.
That observation wasn't too much of a surprise considering that there's relatively little between the road and your feet in this shoe. With a fixed insole, the shoe's stack height measures at 18mm in the heel and 15mm in the forefoot. I think that's decent for a pavement runner who needs something for longer runs on hard surfaces.
Toe Box with SocksIf you think there's a lot of space in the NB Minimus Trail toe box, wait 'til you try on the Universe 4. The flexible upper and rather wide forefoot really make toes happy when they're in the Universe 4. I can flex my toes, splay 'em, and wiggle as much as I want. Even my pinky toes feel free.
I purchased these in a size 12, which allows for a full thumb's width between my big toe and the end of the shoe. This is how my size 12 Ronin 2 fits, as well. They're on the big side for my feet in a 12. I could have fit into a size 11.5 without feeling overly cramped. But, the extra room in the toe area of a slightly large shoe is especially pleasant during the later miles on those long runs. Plus, I can wear thicker socks when all of my favorite thin-ish socks are in the laundry.
So, my advice if you're buying these online: Assume your sizing in the Ronin 2 is equal to what you'll want in the Universe 4. If you don't wear the Ronins, assume your sizing in the NB MT10 is equal to what you'll want in the Universe 4. If you don't wear those, well, give the RunningWarehouse.com Shoefitr a try and order two sizes to try on.
Durability?After just one 13-mile run, I see wear on the outsole already. If you look closely at the top picture, you can see some scraping toward the middle of the forefoot. This makes me curious to know how durable the Universe 4 actually is. My Ronin 2's outsole is still in relatively good shape. And, I certainly didn't see wear like this on that after just one run.
Of course, I expect that a shoe as light as the Universe 4 is going to have to sacrifice some level of durability. And, maybe this is just a trade off the Mizuno Universe 4 wearer must accept. (Perhaps those of you who've had the Universe 3 can attest to the durability of the Universe model in general.) I'll have to watch that wear-and-tear factor closely over the next 30 or so miles, at which time I'll write a more thorough review of the Universe 4.