Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Mizuno Wave Neo Wind Multi Tester Review: Highly Sustainable. High Performing?

Article by Derek Li, Michael Ellenberger, Joost de Raeymaeker and Ryan Eiler

Mizuno Wave Neo Wind ($220)


Introduction

The Neo Wind and its companion heavier duty Neo Ultra seek to prove that a performance running shoe can be made that delivers significantly less impact on the planet. Its claimed sustainability creds include 60% by weight recycled/sustainable materials, a 20% reduction in CO2 vs conventional production, and a 100% reduction in water use to dye the sockliner.


To achieve its leading sustainability stats the Neo Wind uses a top Enerzy Lite foam layer derived from Castor beans, a Bloom Enerzy Foam lower layer towards the heel (white above) is derived from algae as is the sockliner. The trademark Wave plate a bio based PEBA Renew material. Mizuno then tops it with an entirely recycled materials un dyed stretch knit upper. In addition to its praiseworthy effort to reduce the impact of running shoes on the planet how does it perform? Please read on to find out!

Derek: I really haven’t tested anything from Mizuno in quite a few years. My last Mizuno shoe was the Wave Sayonara 2, which was a very popular uptempo trainer back in ~2014. I really haven’t had the opportunity to try some of the newer offerings from Mizuno, so one could say I am coming in with pretty fresh eyes. 


I also want to say that sustainability has become quite a focus in recent years in many industries and I like that it has started to leave its mark on the running industry as well. It is quite unfortunate that a lot of the materials used in the past just did not biodegrade over time. I remember seeing documentaries of huge mountains of footwear waste in some third world countries as a testament to this. I think it’s great that companies like Mizuno are now putting efforts into addressing this, and doing so in a way that doesn’t compromise on performance.

Joost: Unlike Derek, I did get to test a Mizuno last year. The Wave Rebellion was a new shoe in the Mizuno lineup and a letdown for me. This year I got the very eco-friendly Wave Neo, also a new offering in Mizuno’s line of running shoes. The Wave Neo Wind is the faster brother of the maximum stack Wave Neo Ultra. 


Both are brand showcase products, showing the way (Neo stands for future here) forward for Mizuno as an eco-friendly company, while still making performance driven shoes. A big part of the Neo series is made from recycled plastic bottles and bio base material. 


The upper is undyed, further reducing pollution. The Enerzy lite in the midsole is made of castor bean oil. The sockliner is made from a biological product, algae bloom, and even the wave plate is bio-based. I’m a big supporter of eco-friendly products and I think it’s the way forward, but how does all this add up in a shoe aimed at tempo days? Let’s find out.


Pros:

Comfortable fit - Derek/Michael/Ryan

Superb outsole grip and durability - Derek/Michael/Ryan/Joost

A knit upper that shines in the heat! Rare. 

Leading sustainability: 60% by weight recycled/sustainable materials, 20% reduction in CO2 vs conventional production, 100% reduction in water use to dye sockliner -Derek /Ryan/Joost


Cons:

Ride is on firmer side - Derek/Michael/Ryan/Joost

Heel collar takes some breaking in - Michael

Lack of lockdown due to stretchy upper - Ryan/Joost

Low energy ride - Ryan/Joost

Absence of tongue can cause upper to bunch - Ryan

Front-back disconnect  - Joost

Price - Ryan/Joost

Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 9.2 oz / 261g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s 8.95 oz / 254g US8.5, 9.31 oz  / 264 g US9; M US9.5 9.31oz / 264g

                  women’s 7.8 oz / 224 g (US W8) 

Stack Height: (measured) men’s 36mm heel / 26mm forefoot, 10mm drop 

$220. Available Sept 15, 2022.


First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Derek: I really like the clean and sleek lines of the Mizuno Wave Neo Wind. White with some blue streaks is just beautiful and I don't know why other brands don’t use this more often. 

There is just something utterly Japanese in the simplicity of this design, and yet when you consider that ASICS and Mizuno tend to sell very radical colour schemes (apparently vanilla does NOT sell in Japan), this colorway is almost an outlier of sorts. 


I was uncertain what to expect with the shoe. Knit uppers can be really hit or miss and furthermore, this is one of the rare shoes I am testing at a half size down from my usual US9.0. As it turns out, the step in feel is just perfect. The fit is long, so going down a half size is definitely the way to go for most people. The knit is just structured enough that you can easily get a great snug wrap of the foot, and I tried it with multiple sock thicknesses. 


Walking around, the shoe is firm, with very little give in the heel and midfoot. There is a bit more spring in the forefoot as it seems the plastic plate does not extend there. The outsole is really good. I am walking around in my living room on a polished marble floor and the footing is solid. 


The upper is pretty simple and reminds me a lot of the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit. It is appears a thin but dense knit. There are internal laminates at the front to form the internal toe bumper. 

There is no tongue to speak of, but the middle section of the bootie design is composed of a more elastic section of knit. The lace eyelets are spaced fairly wide apart, but because the width of the midfoot is on the slightly narrower side, I have no issues getting a good lockdown once you lace things up. At the heel, the heel cup has no internal and external laminates to create structure and stiffness, in combination with some padding around the ankle collar. 

The shoe has surprisingly good heel hold with minimal fussing of the laces. This is quite a rarity with knit uppers, and Mizuno have done a superb job here. Overall, the fit is slightly on the narrower side across the arch, but the forefoot and heel have decent volumes and widths. I think most people should have no problems fitting the shoe. I love the breathability of the knit in warm and humid conditions.


This shoe really shines in the heat. What’s really interesting is the effort put into using recycled materials. Everything in the upper seems to be recycled, from the knitted fabrics to the lace eyelet reinforcements. Even the shoe laces are made from recycled polyester. Quite remarkable. 



Michael: The Vaporfly 4% Flyknit was also the shoe I first thought of when trying out the Neo Wind - the singular-piece upper is really an awesome look (and feel), and absolutely makes the shoe feel premium right out of the box.


Size- and shape-wise, I agree with Derek that the shoe is generally a little long; my 8.5 fit well (as I’ll detail later, I ran over 250 miles in this shoe!), but it definitely wasn’t a snug fit when it came to shoe length. Fortunately, the elasticity of the material made it a non-issue, but if you’re in-between sizes, a half-step down would be a good call.

There was one issue I had with the upper, and that was the very back of the ankle, where your Achilles rests - even wearing the shoe over several months, I regularly chafed on that portion. It was not awful, but I did have to adjust my socks on several runs to cover that portion. Ouch.


Ryan: I came into this one wearing rose-colored glasses, knowing that Mizuno clearly put forth a ton of effort in creating the exceptionally eco-friendly Neo Wind. The lack of color dyeing in the upper (typically, one of the most pollutive steps in making a shoe) makes for a very clean and elegant knit design. The upper’s one-piece (no tongue) construction feels top quality, and makes for a welcoming, slipper-like step in.

The build quality and strength of the heel was impressive for this knit design which is used for the entire upper. I especially enjoyed the very comfortable internal padding around the achilles.

On the downside, the ample volume and stretchiness of the upper created a very disappointing fit. In part because of how large the shoe ran for me, the knit upper felt baggy and provided far less lockdown than I’d prefer. In tightening up the laces to try and counter the sloppiness I experienced, the section of the knit under the laces began to crumple since there was no tongue present. As for ventilation, I’m at odds with Derek on this one, and found the thick knit to be fairly warm.

I agree with the others that sizing down is the way to go here. My M9.5 ran somewhere would be true to size for someone who wears a 10-10.5, and I’ll admit that this mismatched sizing probably played a considerable role in my difficulties getting the fit to work for me.

Joost: The knit upper reminded me of a NIke flyknit upper, but not the 4%. This one is sturdier and reminds me more of the Epic React Flyknit, which was also more flexible. It is very well done, comfortable and easy to get in, but fits very long. A US M 9.5 in most brands leaves me just a little space up front. I like a more race-like fit and when sizing up, sometimes I get the feeling that the ride of the shoe becomes a little tuned in, a little sloppy even. 


My first impressions of the New Wind were exactly that, it felt a little loose and sloppy. I have quite wide feet, so it was a strange sensation to have my forefoot sort of swimming around in a lot of empty space up front. 

As far as breathability is concerned, I’m with Derek. We were at the end of the cooler dry season here in Africa when I ran most of my miles in the New Wind, so I haven’t run it in the extreme heat and humidity, but it’s easy to tell heat won’t be a problem. As for looks, I like the white with blue waves and the simplicity of it. 


Midsole

Derek: There is a lot of sculpting going on with the midsole, and Mizuno have used two different types of bio-based Enerzy foams here. The new ingredients are

  • Enerzy Lite castor bean derived foam 

  • Enerzy algae-derived biomass foam they call BLOOM and this is incorporated into their Enerzy EVA foams with the end products working out to a net reduction in carbon emissions in their manufacturing process. 

The two foams are used as follows: the top half is a softer and springier Enerzy Lite foam, while the bottom half (mainly at the heel) is the castor bean based Enerzy foam. 


Sandwiched in between is a bio-based Pebax Rnew material Wave plate. One interesting point is that even the EVA sockliner has the BLOOM technology incorporated so everything has an environmental focus here and it uses no water for dyeing, a 100% reduction from the usual processes . 

The plate is interesting. I don’t have any information on the shape of the plate at the time of writing this review, but it feels like it is curved, and covers the heel and the midfoot, thereby serving primarily to stiffen and stabilize the shoe. It appears to curve up a little bit on the medial side, once again contributing to medial stability. In terms of feel, I think the plate contributes a lot to the overall underfoot firmness because there is a distinct spring under the toebox area. Bottom line, this is a bit of a firm heel, softer forefoot type of shoe. Another point to note is that the outsole shape is quite traditional in the sense that there is no rockered profile here.


Michael: This is a step above your usual Mizuno midsole; I suspect Mizuno Enerzy is an EVA-blend, and it’s far from the softest midsole material I’ve ever worn… but it’s also quite a pleasant ride. I didn’t sense any degradation of the midsole over 200+ miles, either, which was a nice treat - if anything, I think it softened and broke in slightly. The plastic Wave Plate is certainly present - and ties it back to its Mizuno roots - but it’s not intrusive, and helps ease a more efficient and quick toe-off. More on that below!

Ryan: While the midsole is a sandwich of differing density foams, the firmer, Enerzy foam is located only in the heel. The Pebax plate definitely adds some stiffness to the experience, and seems to be concentrated primarily toward the rear of the shoe, leaving some flex further forward. This is a highly commendable effort on Mizuno’s part in using so many recycled materials – 60% of the shoe’s weight is recycled – but the midsole comes up a bit short on energy return when compared to its modern-day competitors. I found the ride to be a bit harsh and reminiscent of many EVA based trainers of the past.


Joost: I agree with Ryan. It’s extremely commendable to go the recycled materials route, but at the end of the day, performance counts. The midsole foam is on the firm side, but doesn’t have a lot of “pop”. That’s where I disagree with Michael. Maybe it’s my very tired marathon training feet, with 125mile weeks in the mix. 

The plate extends to the ball of the foot, but the shoe bends a little further back. I got a feeling of disconnect between the heel and the forefoot.



Outsole

Derek: The outsole rubber is firm, extensive, and very durable. It almost strikes me as a trail sort of outsole. If you run on terrain that needs a bit more grip, this is the shoe to try. Every step on tarmac, you can feel the immediate engagement of rubber on the road. It is an incredibly connected, efficient type of feel. I have limited mileage so far, but there is zero scuffing on this shoe. 


MIchael: At 200 miles, I took some supplemental photos - and the outsole looks practically new! I (fortunately) haven’t tested these on winter conditions, but I would expect them to perform above average in that regard, too.



Ryan: I can corroborate the findings of both Derek and Michael – the durability of the outsole is downright impressive. It’s certainly more nubby/luggy than a traditional road shoe, and that can be felt underfoot to a small degree. It’s not as relaxed on asphalt as a smooth, blown rubber outsole, but it does provide a toothier bite without showing signs of wearing out anytime soon. On wet asphalt, I surprisingly didn’t feel a sense of trepidation in taking corners. The texture of the outsole, in combination with the firm midsole above it, lends itself well to mixing things up on gravel or mellow dirt trails.

Joost: I’m with Derek, Michael and Ryan here. The outsole is extremely durable. It feels very grippy on the road, due to the lugs. I don’t have trail shoes in my rotation, but I might keep this one just for that, light urban dirt trails. 


Ride

Derek: The ride is firm. There is no getting around that, and I would say it is almost harsh at slower paces. This shoe shines best at moderate paces in the 5-10 mile range, or threshold runs in the 30min range for me. 


Notwithstanding the firmer ride, it conjures a very efficient and smooth rolling experience for me. It is one where you feel there is no energy lost in the gait cycle, something that I think is quite hard to achieve in a shoe that has very little rocker. 


Despite being on the firmer side, the vibration dampening of the shoe is surprisingly good; my legs have come away from runs surprisingly fresh, compared to other shoes in this class like the Saucony Ride 15 or New Balance 880. I like how the longer plate does just enough to improve the snappiness of the shoe, without making it feel awkward at slower paces. It almost reminds me of the Saucony Tempus in many respects, just less rockered, lower-slung. 


Michael: As someone who tends to prefer a firmer shoe, I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Neo Wind is a “harsh” ride, but it’s absolutely on the stiffer, shorter end - no major sink-in or trampoline feeling here. 


Instead, the Wind provides a really kinetic, fast-feeling sensation that is fine (by my tastes) at easy paces, but undoubtedly improves at more medium-paced running. This became a true do-all shoe for me; it’s comfortable enough for regular miles, but also has enough zip (owing to that pleasant cushion and Wave plate) for true workouts. There’s a reason I put so many miles on them this summer - they just very easily fit into my sort of running!

Ryan: I unfortunately didn’t come away with the same level of enthusiasm as my fellow testers on the topic of the Wind’s ride quality. It doesn’t inspire quick turnover given its average weight, and the sloppiness I experienced with the upper didn’t inspire faster efforts. The midsole is fairly harsh, and while it serves up a decent level of stability, the energy return is relatively flat. I do agree with Derek, though, that its ability to dampen impact is noteworthy. The Wind’s stiffness makes it a legitimate option for quicker, shorter training efforts.


While the shoe transitions nicely and delivers a predictable feeling underfoot, the overall feeling was too much of a harsh, low-energy ride than I’d like. If you were to call me spoiled by all of the lively, modern-day midsoles in existence, I’d say: guilty as charged.


Joost: Ryan summed it up mostly. I’m also not a fan of the ride of the New Wind and couldn’t ditch the sloppy feeling I got when I first put them on. I wonder if I’d gotten half a size or even a full size down, my experience might have been different. For me, there was a distinct disconnect between the heel and the forefoot in the ride. I land on the lateral ball of my feet and the heel and the plate just seemed to get in the way. I agree that they are better suited for medium paced runs and have good vibration dampening. Thanks to the great outsole grip, they also feel very secure in bends, although my foot was slipping somewhat inside in those cases because of the fit.

 



Conclusions and Recommendations

The context should be a combination of your preferences and overall shoe design and performance. Some shoes are not the best for you but may be great for others and both aspects have to be considered in 

Your Score out of 10 

with points off and comments for what could use improvements. The scoring context should be a combination of your preferences and overall shoe design and performance. 

If you choose to use the weighted by category scoring rubrics they are here:

Trail Scoring Rubric

Road Scoring Rubric

New Smiles Score!  Out of 5 This score is about how pleasing/fun the experience is on the run, or in the case of race type shoes how effective it is to race.


😊😊😊😊😊(copy paste as many smiles as you need)


Derek: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one can imagine” Benedict Cumberbatch. And so it is with the Mizuno Wave Neo Wind. 


Here we have a stark reminder of just how good the traditional uptempo trainers were and still can be. With the new plate design extending farther into the midfoot, you have something akin to the good old Wave Hitogami’s and Sayonara’s but with even more snappines through transition now. 


Is it going to rival the super shoes? No, but it is going to be one of the best non-rockered, non-plated tempo trainers on the market. For me, it’s like a more cushioned, but snappier, lighter Saucony Ride 14. 

Derek’s Score 9.08/10

Ride 8.8 (50%) Fit 9.5 (30%) Value 9 (15%) Style 9.5 (5%)

Smiles Score 😊😊😊😊 


MIchael: This is the next-most miles I’ve put on a trainer this year, after the New Balance 1080 v12. Both are quite different shoes, but both can transcend categories - they’re comfortable, durable, and dynamic options. 


While the 1080 can feel limiting at, say, marathon pace, I found the Neo Wind more than adequate for faster turnover. It may be the best do-it-all shoe on the market (I think the Zoom Fly and Fuelcell Rebel may have something to say about that!), but it’s definitely my favorite Mizuno shoe ever.

Michael’s Score: 9.3/10

Smile Score: 😊😊😊😊😊

Ryan: This may be the closest anyone has come to building a fully-recycled, respectable running shoe to date, and I gained more respect for Mizuno for their effort in trying to push things in the environmentally responsible direction. 


Perhaps my experience was bogged down by the sizing issues I experienced, as the Wind’s fit seemed too large by at least a half size for me. The ride is reminiscent of trainers of years past – not necessarily a bad thing, if you like that firm EVA-like feeling. However, if you’re seeking a springier, modern day trainer with better energy return and impact protection, this probably isn’t your ticket. The $220 price tag is hard to overlook. While the extra cost supports the creation of a product which pushes the industry in the right direction, the higher price tag doesn’t result in much extra performance.

Ryan’s Score 7.9/10 (Deductions for lack of lockdown, baggy fit, price, warm upper, ‘tongue’ bunching, low energy return)

Smile Score: 😊😊


Joost: I really wanted to like the New Wind because of Mizuno’s powerful statement on recycling and reducing pollution with this line of shoes. Alas, it didn’t work for me. Not that it’s a bad shoe. As Ryan wrote, it’s a bit reminiscent of firm-EVA riding shoes of the past. I do like those once in a while, but due to the sizing issues I had with this one, it just didn’t work well and I felt I had to put a lot of energy into running without getting much back from the shoe. While the price might be justified by the more expensive eco-friendly processes and materials used, it’s still a lot of money for a shoe.

Joost’s Score 7.50/10

Ride 7.5 (50%) Fit 7 (30%) Value 8 (15%) Style 9 (5%)

Smile Score: 😊😊


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 (Review here)

Michael: The Rebel v2 is a sensational trainer; it’s bouncy and fun while still being more than adequate for the slowest of training days. The Neo Wind isn’t quite as much fun - it definitely isn’t quite as bouncy! - but it’s not far behind. I do appreciate the upper and recycled construction of the Mizuno, but I think the New Balance is a better overall trainer.


Joost: (M9.5 in both): The Rebel 2 is a completely different kind of shoe. It’s bouncy, low to the ground, very flexible and only let down by the upper. The Rebel is the better option.


New Balance FuelCell Rebel v3 (Review here)

Joost: (M9.5 in both) The Rebel v3 is the best Rebel so far, and although most of the “rebellious” nature of the shoe is gone, just like the lateral flange, it continues to be an incredibly fun and bouncy shoe for easy to uptempo work. The outsole seems to be a lot less durable than the Neo Wave, though.


Saucony Tempus (Review here)

Joost (M9.5 in both): Both plateless shoes and both with a minimal support element. The Tempus has foam supporting the medial side and the Neo Wave plate seems a little more pronounced or curved up on that side, as Derek noted. The Tempus feels more balanced and comfortable, but if sizing down and thus fitting tighter, the Neo Wind might be a better option to pick up the speed.


Brooks Glycerin 20 (Review here)

Joost (M9.5 in both): I tested the Stealthfit version of the Glycerin, also a knitted upper. The Glycerin was better fitting and more secure for me, but that might have more have to do with the fact that the New Wind was too big in my normal size. The Mizuno upper is more breathable, though. The rest of the shoe is quite different, with the Glycerin being a max cushion shoe and better suited for easy recovery and some long runs, while the Neo Wind is obviously more oriented towards uptempo work.


The Wave Neo Wind is available now including at our partner Fleet Feet HERE

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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2 comments:

Michael said...

Following!

Alessandro said...

Too expensive....