Sunday, April 11, 2021

Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 Review

Article by John Tribbia and Sam Winebaum

Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 ($135)


It is time to talk about MIZUNO ENERZY if you haven’t heard about it already. Mizuno is starting to announce and release updated shoes with this softer and lighter cushioning compound. The Wave Inspire 17 is an updated version of the 16 (RTR Review) debuting this new foam as a heel wedge to soften the ride. Historically known for being a moderately stable and firm trainer, the Wave Inspire 17 becomes softer with an updated geometry and integrated stability using their tried and true wave plate technology (now TPU, formally PEBAX).


stable, soft cushion, structured and versatile ride John/Sam  

stability when you need it, comfortable, classic shoe, quality construction, comfortable Adam/Sam

high drop and flexible forefoot makes finding toe off easy at any pace Sam

consistent feeling rear stability with no “sharp” edges, easier transition from giant groove Sam


 heavier with slower response compared to the 16 John 

 higher drop then I’d like.  Adam/Sam

 doesn’t like to go fast for me Adam

 on heavy side for a daily trainer at 10.8 oz, gains weight of Inspire 16 which was 10.2 oz: Sam

Tester Profiles

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva , Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs.


Approx. weight: men's 10.8 oz / (US9) 

Samples: men’s  10.55 oz / 299g (US8.5)

Stack Height: 31 mm / 19 mm, 12mm drop

Available now.  $135

First Impressions and Fit

John: This is my second version of the Inspire that I have tested, with the 16 (last year’s) version being my first test. That said, I’m not unfamiliar with Mizuno since the Alchemy were my first trainers that I consistently bought when training in college. 

With the Inspire, my overall experience with the 17 differs from how I felt about the 16. I’ll share more details in the sections below, but overall I felt like the energy, nimbleness and responsive ride of the 16 is traded for increased cushion and structure in the 17. Differently put, when I put on the 16s I felt like I was driving a peppy 2-door hatchback and in the 17s I’m driving a luxury sedan. The Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 are a versatile shoe, but seemingly designed for the daily grind with stability, and for miles of comfort.

Sam: My first impressions of the first Inspire I have ever run: quality, conservative in upper looks and scary and radical underfoot. Kind of a strange mix! The elaborate double fan wave plate on the medial side combined with a very squared off side profile had me expecting a rough stilted ride. 

I noted the much more streamlined lower profile wave on the lateral side (photo above) indicating a mellow landing. 

Flipping them over I saw a gigantic deep crash pad/ decoupling groove running from the heel towards the front and I was intrigued as such grooves can really help transition the foot from landing to toe off. I was amazed at the lateral heel rubber thickness as well, a solid 5mm or so!

The big full stack at 36mm heel / 26mm forefoot of course told me this was a big stack, high 12mm drop shoe and also a deeply cushioned one. I started to understand where the 10.8 oz / 306g in a US9 came from. While I found Enerzy not much of an add in the Wave Sky 4, a firm shoe, the flavor here immediately felt softer to the touch and walking around.  I was very impressed that both shoes in my pair weighed exactly the same to the gram.

The fit of my true to size pair is impeccable with plenty of toe box room and a very secure mid foot and heel hold that doesn’t overwhelm.


John: As with the 16's, the upper is a double layered engineered mesh with a few strategically placed overlays. For added structure in the upper, there is a reinforced Mizuno logo in the midfoot and taped overlays atop the lace eyelets for extra lace cinching ability. This yields a flexible fit that can be snugly customized thanks to the overlays on the medial and lateral sides. For a slightly narrow foot like mine, the Inspire 17 fit perfectly (though I like a slightly wide fit) and true to my size 9.0M, but if you need to splay or have a wider foot then there is a wider version of this shoe for those who need the room. The heel is very well padded and overall provides sufficient security.

Sam: The upper is as the guys a soft pliable engineered mesh with large forefoot ventilation holes. It is fully lined with a soft mesh. The toe box is accommodating if not super broad with wide sizing available. 

To provide a secure midfoot and rear hold Mizuno uses an elaborate if visually quite subtle array of overlays.

The taped overlays around the laces extend downwards part way and to the rear while triangular quite stiff panels start at the 3d lace hole and extend to the rear. Looking closely we can see the medial panel is slightly more extensive and stiffer extending all the way to the third lace hole.

This is one comfortable supportive upper that does exactly what it is supposed to do. Keep the foot aligned and tracking forward while controlling pronation. Even for this neutral shoe runner the upper just works. While I did not test in warm conditions I expect the toe box’s more open structure to adequately balance out the rest of the upper’s essentially closed construction with the lack of a gusset to the tongue, often required for such soft engineered mesh uppers not required given the effective lock down of midfoot


Not an airy or light upper it is a highly effective one. Lace up is easy and secure, never requiring any adjustments on the run.


John: Without initially knowing the engineering details, the Inspire 17 will feel much different compared to the version 16. The ENERZY heel wedge is the first noticeable update that softens the landing considerably. It is softer, lighter and stiffer than the U4IC cushioning in the Inspire 16 and the foam being used in the remaining parts of the 17’s midsole. Above the wave plate, there is more U4IC than before, which provides yet another softer, though more bounce than the ENERZY, feel. Additionally, based on my research of replacing PEBAX with a softer TPU wave plate, the midsole becomes more forgiving and it definitely feels more flexible when combined with the foam enhancements. Overall, the points above indicate the Inspire 17 underwent some major changes in the midsole, translating into a softer, more cushioned experience.

Sam: John describes the midsole well. Mizuno did a remarkable job here balancing the “need” for stability with forgiving cushion at the heel and a relatively agile toe off, all assisted of course by the big 12mm drop which tends to do that!

The asymmetrical design of the wave plate does its job seamlessly in terms of feel. 

There is notable rear stability with no discontinuity or sensed difference between lateral and medial sides in terms of firmness or pressure as one might find with a plate. This is despite the dramatic difference in appearance between the two sides with the medial heel (above) squared off with a far more prominent and acute shape to the wave plate than the more mellow wave like shape of the lateral side (below).

Landings are soft enough from the Enerzy insert, the deep rear crash pad groove and the lateral more wave like geometry of the double wave plate. There are no harsh jarring landings here.  The geometry moves you forward at any pace helped along mightly by the giant decoupling groove. 

The rear sensation is one of a consistent feeling and stable landing “block” or maybe more positively saying it a "platform" of support instead of a system of overt prescriptive guidance. As a neutral runner I do wish the medial rear was less squared off for a bit more roll in the early stages of the stride but after all this is a moderate stability shoe.  

The forefoot has plenty of cushion at 26mm with the flex groove in exactly the right spot to allow a smooth and flexible toe off. I find “stability” shoes with such an easy forward flex essential for me. Overly stiff and the rear support gets in the way. And not only for shoes with firmer medial posts but for those with “rails” and rarely do those rails end soon enough for me. The Nike Infinity React being a good example of overly long rails I can’t seem to get past. 


John: Just like with the Inspire 16, there is a lot of rubber on the outsole in the 17, specifically in the heel. The outsole uses the same X10 rubber of the 16 and still covers the front part of the toe, midfoot, and slightly curls over heel. The main difference is the tread pattern to give more grip in varied conditions. I ran on snow and wet roads, finding both conditions easy to navigate.

Sam: Tons of durable rubber here and especially thick and firm at the heel all of it in a lugged pattern that would make light trail use feasible. I measure the lateral heel lugs at around 5mm of rubber for what should be long, long wear. But does all this rubber also add to weight? 

One might expect the outsole to be a firm even stiff element in the mix but the rubber’s geometry of small lugs, lots of segmentation, and that deep rear decoupling groove make it an effective and not noticed element of the overall platform with for sure Mizuno taking great care in delivering this.



John:  The Wave Inspire 17 brings a versatile ride. In fact, one could argue that running in them has two different experiences. It feels light, with an energetic forefoot, yielding a more nimble and responsive ride when running at a high cadence with a mid to forefoot strike. On the other hand, the Inspire 17 can function as a slow-paced, well-cushioned and dampening shoe for the long haul when the heel wedge is engaged. Functionally, the ENERZY midsole in the heel slows down the heel to midfoot transition, making it feel less harsh than the Inspire 16.

Sam: John describes the Ride well. The Inspire does have two personalities. For slower paced running when you just want to amble along stable and forgiving at the heel it delivers a consistent very stable but in no way over prescriptive ride with, as mentioned in midsole, a rear block like feel (in a good sense) from the heel through the midfoot, then an easy enough transition and finally easy toe off from its big drop, deep decoupling groove and front flexibility. As the pace picks up, it gets more agile with the rear stability area more or less disappearing in the mix in terms of being noticed. The only negative in the ride for me is the weight. While not ponderous as shoes in its weight range often are it is nonetheless sensed in the mix.

Conclusions and Recommendations

John: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 is a great daily trainer to add to the mix, especially for runners who need moderate stability and tend to favor firm shoes. That said, the shoe brings a two dimensional versatility with the ENERZY midsole and the geometry by softening the heel strike and improving the transition into the midfoot. With the update to a TPU wave plate and the integration of the two types of foam, the Inspire 17 feels comfortably cushioned for those daily uptempo paces or the slower and more casual cruises.

John’s Score: 8.7 /10

Ride: 9 (uptempo runs feel responsive while slow and steady feel comfortably dampening)

Fit: 9 (improved fit over the 16 with slightly more room in the forefoot)

Value: 9 (very versatile for the daily trainer who wants to transition from fast to slow)

Style: 8.5 

Traction: 8 (improved traction compared to )

Weight: 8 (not a lightweight trainer by any means, but feels light when going uptempo on the forefoot)

Sam: The Inspire is a “moderate” stability shoe where the overt stability element (the wave plate) is for sure present but not in the way, sharp in feel, or even really noticed. Many brands seem to think a stability shoe must be decisively felt as such with firm posting, side support pieces, rails, and such. Not so here as the stability is delivered by a seamless combination of the fan wave plate and geometry. 

By incorporating Enerzy into the mix for softness and bounce (great for heel strikers such as me) , the asymmetrical design of the wave plate, and the decoupling groove the ride is in no way firm or awkward at any pace for me  It has consistent feel and flow underfoot if one characterized by that blocky yet friendly rear of the shoe. 

The giant drop is for sure noticed, and may not be for everyone, but for the intended purpose it is a positive as it allows the shoe to better transition at any pace and as the pace picks up allows it to be quite nimble for such a big shoe. My key negative for the shoe is its weight which puts it beyond what I prefer for general daily training. The superb upper is potentially overbuilt adding to weight as is the durable outsole. Reducing the heel stack a couple millimeters ( the lateral outsole heel lugs  are as much as 5mm thick) and thus also the drop might be a positive in terms of feel and weight. At $135 this high quality shoe with expected long term durability is a great value.

Sam’s Score: 9.03 / 10

Ride: 8.8 (50%) Fit: 9.2 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 8.5 (5%)

Watch Sam's Wave Inspire 17 Initial Video Review


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Wave Inspire 16 (RTR Review)

John: Throughout this review, I’ve made comparisons to the Inspire 16. I truly feel like these are two different shoes. The heavier Inspire 17 takes a different approach to support with the ENERZY heel wedge compared to the Inspire 16. As Adam mentioned above, the 17 somewhat forces a heel strike whereas in the Inspire 16 I felt more inclined to run on my mid/forefoot. As a result, the 16 feels more nimble and is definitely lighter.

Wave Sky 4 Waveknit (RTR Review)

At 11.32 oz / 321g the yet heavier Sky 4 even with Enerzy in the mix ends firmer, not nearly as smooth in transition, and stiffer. It too has some stability of the more inherent type. Its slightly lower drop is not nearly as felt and it has far less rear decoupling to soften landings and move it forward. At $25 more the Wave Sky 4 has less character and agility,  less underfoot comfort and just doesn’t inspire nearly as much as Inspire in this match up.


Hoka Arahi 5 (RTR Review)

Sam: The considerably lighter takes a different approach to stability with a J -Frame of firmer support EVA on the medial side which even wraps the heel to the lateral side. It has a considerably firmer heel as a result and the stability element is more noticeable than in the Inspire. It has a similar forefoot feel with a bit less flexibility than the Mizuno and less drop so the toe off takes a bit more work but is more responsive in feel. It runs far better faster than slower and given the light weight is a great (and better) choice as faster daily trainer with stability while the Inspire has a more forgiving slower pace focus.While I scored the Arahi 5 higher a few months ago, at this point if I had to choose one, I would choose the Inspire. Both fit me true to size with Inspire’s (heavier) upper more polished and comfortable.

Saucony Guide 13 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Guide is lower stack and firmer and uses a side of midfoot plate for stability. While lighter (and noticed) I prefer the less noticed Mizuno Wave approach and the Inspire's geometry (deep groove and higher drop) which delivers a smoother overall ride.

Nike Infinity React 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: I ran the Infinity React 1 but as there are no noted changes underfoot will compare on that basis. The Infinity React is 2 oz lighter and that is felt. It relies on a broad platform for pronation support and long plastic rails on both sides to stabilize the knee. The rails are overly long and noticeably impede transitions for me while Inspire’s approach to stability is less overt with its drop more noticeable. For easier paced running the Inspire, despite its weight is clearly a more comfortable ride although its weight is far more noticed. 


Saucony Omni 19 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Omni weighs 11.1 oz so 0.3 oz more. It has a somewhat lower stack but is equally well cushioned if a bit more firmly so overall than the Inspire. It relies on a barely noticed somewhat firmer medial post for support. It is less flexible and somewhat lower drop at 8mm vs 12mm  and thus a bit harder to move along smoothly especially at  slower paces.. True to size in both the Omni upper is higher volume and almost but not quite as comfortable. 

ASICS GEL-Kayano 27 (RTR Review)

Sam: Definitely close competitors here in the not that noticed stability category. While the Inspire focuses its stability towards the heel, the Kayano focuses stability further forward with a combination of a mid foot shank and an outer firmer layer of foam up the medial midsole sidewall. Then adds a massive and highly visible rear exoskeleton. All of this adds up to shoe 0.3 oz heavier and $25 more expensive than the Kayano with not as smooth a transition and toe off for me. Clear nod to Inspire here.

ASICS GEL- Kayano Lite (RTR Review)

Sam: 1.5 oz lighter and $25 more at the cash register the Kayano Lite relies on the inherent geometry of its broad platform with no added ingredients to provide moderate stability. It does not have the “character” of the Inspire; namely that blocky consistent heel followed by the big drop and more agile toe off. Its upper provides an equally fine true to size fit in a clearly lighter more airy package. As a stable, very well cushioned easier days add on trainer to a rotation the Inspire is a superior choice. If you are looking for a stable more all arounder the lighter Kayano Lite 

Skechers Forza 4 (RTR Review)

John: The Forza is lighter, smoother transitioning, more equipped for faster running, but comes with stability control in the midsole. The Inspire 17 has a very nice cushioned feel and definitely more forgiving in the heel. I’d use the Forza for more uptempo long runs and the Inspire 17 for recovery days.

Sam: Concur with John here. Adding the firmer medial midsole foam of the Forza is considerably more noticeable than the Inspire’s more smoothly integrated approach to support.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review other than potentially sales commissions via the links below. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Anonymous said...

“I need a a new pair of running shoes. I’m going to get a pair of mizuno’s.”

- Said by no one ever.

Joseph said...

Did you like the inspires better than the wave rider 24s?

Joseph said...

Did you like the inspires better than the wave rider 24s?

Joseph said...

Did you like the inspires better than the wave rider 24s?

Joseph said...

Did you like the inspires better than the wave rider 24s?

Sam Winebaum said...

Sorry Joesph no recent experience in Wave Rider.