Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review

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The Mizuno Wave Universe is one of the lightest running shoes available, and it's surprisingly comfortable. The Universe is a great minimalist shoe, and I use it to provide strength training for my feet and ankle muscles. It's rare that I find a shoe in which there's so little I'd change. As long as you accept it for an ultra-lightweight minimalist shoe, it's wonderful. Of course, being a minimalist shoe it lacks the cushioning that would improve your Running Economy, so it's slower than you might expect. When I want to go faster, I'd rather put on the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. Some runners have had problems with the upper of the Wave Universe tearing, so be extra careful of getting the right fit. The lack of outsole in the rear of the shoe means it doesn't last long unless you're a forefoot runner that never touches down with your heel. I've rated it as "Highly Recommended." (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside

1 Cushioning, Running Economy, & Performance

The Science of Running Shoes indicates that some cushioning improves Running Economy, which will reduce the effort required to run. I found that the lack of cushioning in the Wave Universe clearly changes my running stride, and even though it's amazingly light, I was slower than I would be is a slightly heavier, but better cushioned shoe like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed.

2 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The Wave Universe is the best option for someone wanting the lightest shoe available. On the other hand, if you're after something for running fast, then the Asics Gel Hyper Speed is heavier, but offers more cushioning. The extra cushioning probably gives an improvement in Running Economy that will make you faster in the Hyper Speed than the Wave Universe.
  • Cushioning . The Wave Universe only has 9-12mm of quite firm foam, so it provides only the most minimal level of cushioning. This level of cushioning is not enough to provide the full improvement in Running Economy you'd get with a more cushioned shoe.
  • Drop. The Wave Universe is only a 3mm of drop, which is not ideal, but does not make a noticeable difference to my foot strike. With a shoe this thin, the main issue with the drop is that I'd like the same level of cushioning at both ends of the shoe.
  • Structure. The Wave Universe looks like it's made of two different foams, with Mizuno's Wave Plate between them. However, both types of foam have the same density, and there's no plastic plate involved. This appears to be an illusion to justify the 'wave' that's in the name. I think this is a good thing, as the simplicity of a single density foam works better than multiple densities in most cases. A wave plate might improve cushioning, but it's doubtful it would justify its weight.
  • Flexibility. The Wave Universe is even more flexible than you'd expect given its thinness.
  • Outsole. There are patches of outsole made of a high grip, durable material. As you can see from the pictures, these patches are well placed on the forefoot, but the rear patch will only help someone who has an extreme heel strike. In practice the rear of the foot wears even faster than you'd expect due to the cutout (seen as a black oval in the images).
  • Shape. The shape of the Wave Universe is closer to the human foot than many designs, and I didn't need to cut open the toe box for comfort. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is extremely thin and slightly stretchy, with no seams. It's a remarkably comfortable upper that does better than many far heavier shoes. There is only a small amount of padding around the ankle opening, but it's sufficient. I've heard of some runners having problems with the upper tearing, which they think might be due to extra pressure they put in some areas. This means that getting the right fit is especially important with this shoe.
  • Tongue. The Wave Universe a thin, traditional tongue that is held in places by a tab for the laces. There is no padding, but I found it comfortable.
  • Lacing. The thin flat laces worked well, and I had no problems with the laces coming undone while running.
  • Heel Counter. There's a tiny tab in the rear of the shoe that's kind of like a Heel Counter, but even more pointless than most. I realize that it probably only adds a tiny bit of weight, but the shoe would be better without it.
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3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Mizuno Wave Universe

How Mizuno Wave Universe compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Mizuno Wave Universe compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Mizuno Wave Universe compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Mizuno Wave Universe compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

5.1 Wave Universe and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

Comparing the Wave Universe and the Asics Gel Hyper Speed, the Hyper Speed is nearly twice as heavy, but offers a lot more cushioning and the hyper speed is likely to be the faster shoe.

  • Similarities
    • Flexibility. Both shoes are remarkably flexible.
  • Advantage Wave Universe
    • Drop. The Wave Universe is 3mm drop, the Hyper Speed is 6mm.
    • Grip. The Universe has more grip in the forefoot.
    • Shape. The Wave Universe has a better toe box.
  • Advantage Asics Gel Hyper Speed
    • Cushioning . The Hyper Speed is a lot more softly cushioned.
    • Weight. The Wave Universe is a lighter, but the extra cushioning makes the Hyper Speed faster.
    • Longevity. The Hyper Speed lasts longer.
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside

5.2 Mizuno Wave Universe and Merrell Trail Glove

The Universe and the Merrell Trail Glove are both minimalist shoes, but they approach minimalism in different ways. The Wave Universe is extremely light weight, and less than half the weight of the Trail Glove. However, the Trail Glove will last far, far longer than the Wave Universe.

Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside
Merrell Trail Glove 3 top
Merrell Trail Glove 3 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 3 inside
Merrell Trail Glove 3 outside

5.3 Wave Universe and Altra One

Comparing the Wave Universe and the Altra One, the Altra wins on cushioning and comfort, but the Wave Universe is a lot lighter. The two are not direct competition, but if you want something lighter than your current shoes, the Altra is well worth considering.

  • Similarities
    • Grip. Neither has much grip.
    • Availability. Neither is widely stocked.
  • Advantage Wave Universe
    • Weight. The Wave Universe is a lot lighter (the lack of cushioning means that the Altra is not much slower.)
    • Flexibility. The Wave Universe is a bit more flexible.
    • Longevity. The Wave Universe lasts longer.
  • Advantage Altra One
    • Cushioning . The Altra is a lot more softly cushioned.
    • Drop. The Universe is 3mm drop, the Altra is zero-drop.
    • Shape. The Altra has a slightly better toe box, though it's close.
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside
Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.