Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 Review

Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 Introduction

The Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 is the latest iteration of a staple in the Mizuno line. 20 years of one shoe name shows that there is a place in the market for this offering. In this case, the company uses their Wave plate to help alignment during your run and an ENERZY Foam midsole to cushion you as you go.

At a list price of $140, the Wave Inspire is in heavy competition with some of the most popular stability shoes on the market.

This model must compete against such stalwarts as the Saucony Guide 17, New Balance 860v13, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23, Brooks Hyperion GTS, HOKA Arahi 7, adidas Supernova Solution, ASICS GT2000, and Altra Provision 8.

Although I have not run in all of those other stability offerings, I am aware of the midsole technologies used by most of them. In this case, Mizuno is well established as a firmer runner, and that has not seemed to change over time. For those runners seeking a firm ride, Mizuno will always hit the mark.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 First Impressions

When these shoes showed up, I was impressed with their looks. The blue colorway with three different shades of blue, gradient into white and a bright volt green is very visually appealing. The materials of the upper are soft and move well out of the box. The overall look was immediately motivating to put on my feet.

On that first run, a 4-mile slow effort, the shoe did an admirable job. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was supportive and consistent. I felt it lacked bounce compared to some of the previous shoes I had tested, but hoped that with time the cushioning would break in and become bouncier (like what happened with the Saucony Triumph RFG).

Using them as an all-day wear shoe for my job (teaching) was great. The firm cushion kept me supported, and relatively fresh all day. I have continued to use them at school.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 Upper

The upper is a single-piece knit unit with embroidered overlays for structure. This soft, stretchy upper give great support throughout the foot and moves along with you through your entire running motion. Due to the knit structure, the shoe is quite breathable when it’s warmer. However the knit is tight enough that it wasn’t too cold for runs in freezing temps.

The shoe fits true to size with ample room for a more natural feeling foot structure. The heel is quite tight, helping lock the heel in without the need of locking lacing, widening a little in the midfoot to be supportive, and finally widening substantially in the toebox to offer room for your toes.

The tongue on the upper is padded and stays in one place throughout your run, while helping to displace pressure from the laces. However, be aware that the laces that come with the shoe are ridiculously long. If you do not use the locking eyelet, you will have too much lace and even while tied the laces will be underfoot.

This upper was a dream.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 Sole Unit

Mizuno uses their ENERZY foam on the top and bottom of the midsole which gives a cushioned ride. Between the two layers of foam, they have inserted an Elastollan N series Wave Plate – a plant-based plastic that offers support and a snappy feel.

This plate is inserted under the heel and through the midfoot following the natural anatomical curve of the foot to give more support and balance during your run. However, there was not much bounce to the cushion at any point of any run I did in them.

Below the midsole, Mizuno uses an X10 blown rubber outsole to give incredible traction. This outsole outperformed many of the outsoles from other companies which I’ve tried recently. This outsole responded well in dry, wet, and snowy conditions on cement and gravel.

This sole unit stacks up at 37.5mm under heel and 25.5mm under the forefoot, with a 12mm offset. The footbed is fairly wide under the toe, and offers a natural feel to your toe-off due to the designed rocker and widening from heel to toe.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 20 Conclusions

This shoe is a dichotomy to me. On one hand, the upper is one of the best uppers I’ve worn in years. It’s dialed in, supportive, breathable, soft, and well designed in its proportions. However, on the other hand the midsole is truly uninspired.

At the end of the day, I place more importance on the sole unit of a shoe than I do on the upper. There are plenty of great options out there with sole units that feel soft, bouncy, and supportive but the uppers are just OK. And you know what? I’d likely rather run in those than a shoe where the upper is dialed in but the cushioning is not.

This shoe just didn’t do it for me. The cushioning was entirely too firm for my tastes and the ride felt jolting at times. But I’ve run in some firm shoes that also provided bounce, and this did not.

I put in over 70 miles of runs in the shoe the cushioning never softened. At first I thought it was a matter of breaking in the shoe, but that just never happened. So it was Mizuno’s intent to have the shoe stay firm.

If I tried to up my pace, it almost felt like I had to fight the shoe to get there. Unfortunately, that means that the shoe is relegated to LSD runs. However, if I’m not getting a soft ride on my slow runs, then I’m not going to enjoy it.

Other runners out there may enjoy the Mizuno Wave Inspire, and I can understand why they might. Those runners just don’t include me.

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