Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 :: First-Run Impressions Review

Against my better judgment, fiscally speaking, I ventured over to my favorite local running store and tried on the spiffy, new Mizuno Wave Universe 4.

"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.
Mizuno Universe 4 First Impressions
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-O

The Mizuno Universe 4 weighs as much as a 3.9 oz box of instant pudding
If 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 Cone

Mizuno Wave Universe 4 First ImpressionsThat 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 fox Runbird on the lateral sides of the shoes, is nice for those of us who run on pavement in the wee hours of the morning or evening. Safety is important. And, having a shoe that helps motorists see you better is a good thing.

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 Places

I 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 Socks

If 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.


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.

My Impression

Assuming the Universe 4 isn't going to fall apart on me after 100 miles, I'm very happy with this shoe so far. It's going to be my go-to road shoe for longer distances. Buy them if you can stomach the cost. (Yes, I know they're incredibly expensive for racing flats. Don't remind me, please)


  1. Very nice review...thanks for posting it. If you can, post an occasional update; it'll be interesting to read how well your Universe 4's stand the test of time (and road wear).

  2. Ooooo... so jealous!! I loved my MWU3's and the 4's look *so* much sweeter in the flame job scheme. Where did you get them? I want to check them out. Hopefully my fat foot won't fit and I'll be forced *not* to buy them. ;-)

  3. sramfl: Thanks for reading! I'll definitely post an update on the durability of the Universe 4 after 30 or 50 miles.

    Scott: I purchased these from the good people at Raleigh Running Outfitters on Six Forks Rd. (They have a Cary location, too). RunningWarehouse also has them available, if you'd prefer to order them online. How would you rate your MWU3s on the durability scale?

  4. Where does he get these wonderful toys! Wow, Those look great. I wish I had the extra scratch to pickup a pair of these. The wide toe box comments have me jonesing for a pair.

  5. Would I ever like to strap on a pair of these babies! But I'm not sure I could handle the ribbing I would get from the rest of my 'back-of-the-pack" peeps!!

    Wonder why on the guys at the front wear racing flats? I need light weight too!!

  6. I never realized that the Mizuno logo is supposed to be a super-stylized fox.

  7. Ah! I meant to type bird! I used to think it was a fox until I was corrected by a Mizuno representative. Looks like my subconscious habit crept in here. Thanks for mentioning that, Joel!

  8. How are the Universe 4's holding up? Do much more running in them?

  9. sramfl: I'm still happy with them so far. The lightweight foam shows wear very quickly. But, it doesn't decrease performance. And, the hard rubber nubs are definitely durable. I'll post a detailed update review this week. Thanks for asking!

  10. In my opinion, this shoe isn't meant to be a trainer. Wear them only in your 5k to 5mi road races in order for them to last longer. These are truly a racing flat only

  11. C.J.: I certainly respect and understand your point of view, there. In the strictest sense, the Wave Universe is a racing flat intended for short distances in competition. But, I had a salesperson tell me the same thing about the Wave Ronin 2. o_0

    If a runner wants his shoes to last longer, then, of course, saving them for short-distance races will be conducive to that desire. But, where's the fun in that? If I have a fantastically designed, minimally supportive running shoe that weighs as little as the Universe 4 and suits me for long-distances on pavement; I want to wear it when I train, too.

    I'm a big believer in the notion that one should race how he trains and train how he races. In other words, I don't save shoes for race day. And, if the MWU4 wears out more quickly because I wear it more often, I can fully accept that. It wouldn't be an indication of a flaw in the product. I'm just reporting the wear-and-tear factor of this shoe here, because I figure that readers would want to know how it stands up to the use I put it through.

    Thanks for reading the review!

  12. Hi Im from Philippines, i am planning to buy a new pair of shoe and still searching for the review between mizuno 4 and asics piranha. .they are both lightweight. just like you i do love longer distance, so hows mizuno 4? Because its pricey I am worried about the quality of this shoe, the upper material, is it really durable? i mean is it not easily tear specially when competing?

    Nice review and looking forward for more updates for this shoes :)

  13. I've had the MVU3's for over a year now and although they wear slightly more than typical shoes, they're not bad at all, depending on how you run. I train and race (few hm's) outdoors in this pair exclusively and look forward to the 4's next season!

  14. I have had great success with the Universe III for speed work, racing, and strong-finish long runs. Imagine my disappointment when I got some Universe 4s out of the box and found that my size 9 was now substantially too small. I am planning to swap them for a .5 size bigger, if Running Warehouse will accommodate me on that.

    I notice that the Universe III was a bit lighter. And my experience was that they do get chewed up pretty quickly. Fortunately, I don't care. Yesterday I PRed in a half-marathon wearing a pair of Unis so old and battered that people told me they should be in the garbage. If you are under the influence of the minimalist school, you will enjoy wearing these down to nothing till they feel like bedroom slippers, and really being in contact with the surface.



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