Barefoot Shoes

Mizuno Wave Universe 3 Racing Flats Initial Review

Guest Post by LindseyRacing Flats as a Minimalist AlternativeI’m no marathoner (far from it!), but lately I’ve been looking for the best alternative to VFFs. I’ve been running in VFFs for several months now, and throw in a little barefoot running…

Guest Post by Lindsey

Racing Flats as a Minimalist Alternative

I’m no marathoner (far from it!), but lately I’ve been looking for the best alternative to Vibram Five Fingers. I’ve been running in VFFs for several months now and throw in a little barefoot running as well.

Since I have to wear a conventional looking shoe for my upcoming military training, I needed to find something that would suit my needs. I wanted a shoe that was light, flexible, and as minimalistic as possible. I had long considered the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 flat, but its price tag made me consider other options first. So instead, I decided that perhaps cross country (XC) flats would be a good substitute as I could find them cheaper than the Mizunos. I tried the Saucony Shay XC 2 first as it met all the basic requirements. Unfortunately, I had to send them back twice for the proper size (they run small), and once I did get the proper size, I disliked the molded sole around the arch, and the general narrow fit of the shoe. I can imagine the Saucony Shay XC 2 as a great trail shoe, one that excels in its purpose, but the aggressive tread and fit of the shoe made it inappropriate for my needs.

I also purchased a pair of Saucony Kinvara on a whim. Unfortunately, these are more like reduced running shoes than actual minimalist shoes. They do promote more of a midfoot strike as advertised, but I didn’t really enjoy running in them. I think they might be a decent transition shoe (akin to the Nike Free, perhaps), but they are somewhat stiff and way more shoe than I want to run in. I believe that their cushioning might be beneficial for me as a marching shoe. I found if I took the insole out, the shoe felt much flatter, more neutral, and more along the lines of what it should have been in the first place. I will be playing around with these more to see if they will fill the role of a marching/drill shoe while I am in training. Unfortunately, they just don’t suit my needs as a running shoe. Nevermind the fact that that they’re fluorescent pink. Yikes!

Enter the Mizuno Wave Universe 3

I decided to just purchase the Mizuno flats. I’m glad I did! I went for a three mile run in them as soon as they came in, and I was very pleased with them as an alternative to Vibram Five Fingers. The shoe is exceptionally light, weighing in at a whopping 3.6 oz. The mesh upper seems to be constructed well, contributes to the lack of weight, and is very breathable. The thin sole (6mm forefoot) offers excellent ground feel for a shoe; it’s not far off from the VFF Bikila in that aspect. There is a heel drop, but I honestly could barely feel it, and it did not affect my gait whatsoever. The toe box is very roomy, and I enjoyed how I felt my toes being allowed to move and foot working in a similar manner to barefoot or in VFFs. I found myself immediately striking as I do in VFFs, with little to no transition time to get used to the new footwear. They felt like part of my foot, much like the VFFs do. The Mizunos offered me protection without getting in my way.

Photos of the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flat

Top/Inside View of the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 Flexed Mizuno Wave Universe 3 Sole/Outside View of the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 Mizuno Wave Universe 3 Profile

The Importance of Running Form

This is certainly the shoe I will be running in during training, and until I can return to VFFs full time. I felt perfectly comfortable in the Mizunos. My test run in them was on concrete; a surface I had previously avoided for the better part of a year in favor of grass, dirt, and running tracks. Why? Because before (in my cushy running shoes and poor form) I had always managed to get injured quickly when running on concrete. The test run went splendidly, with no pain in my shins or feet. I honestly think it’s less about what you wear on your feet, and more about how one runs that contributes to one’s success. Thanks to barefoot and minimalist running, I have that form, and can go barefoot or in a shoe like the Mizuno over hard surfaces with no issues. I also enjoyed a short barefoot run on the concrete afterward. It was a fun day!


So to anyone considering the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 as their next racing flat, I would highly suggest them. They are wonderfully light, neutral flats that (in my opinion) are just slightly more muffled than the Bikila in terms of ground feel. They compliment BR/MR form beautifully, and running in them is as effortless as it should be.

About the author —

Recently, Lindsey shared her collection of Vibram Five Fingers with us, but mentioned that she would be running in Mizuno Wave Universe 3 (Find’em at Zappos for about $120) racing flats (also mentioned by marathoner Edward Edmonds) while going through Officer Training School for the U.S. Air Force. Thanks for the review Lindsey!

Future Racing Flat Reviews —
Though it veers a little off the path of being a barefoot purist, lightweight racing flats, with small heel to toe drops, are an interesting alternative for a forefoot strike runner. For those logging big miles, they can provide a little extra padding not found in Vibram Five Fingers or barefeet. So, we will be blogging reviews on various racing flats from time to time.

I (blog post publishing guy Britt) have also begun to alternate between my Bikilas and Saucony Grid Type A4 flats (The A4 sells around $95 at on my runs. I chose the Saucony because of its very small heel to toe drop which makes it easier to maintain my forefoot strike. Though not a truly flat shoe like the Evo, it has just a 4mm drop. For comparison, The Mizuno Wave Universe 3 has a 9mm drop. Check back, I will be publishing a review of my impressions of the Saucony Grid Type A4 soon.

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

19 replies on “Mizuno Wave Universe 3 Racing Flats Initial Review”

You should check out the Inov-8 line of minimalist running shoes, basically cross country flats that are very light, not 3.6 oz, but for trail/road running they’re very nice IMHO. I’ve been running in them for years now after transitioning from beefier trail shoes. While definitely not barefoot like, they are low profile with minimal heel-toe drop and are extremely flexible (by design). For roads I’d recommend the F-lite series, for trail I’m a big fan of the X-Talon or RocLite series…

What military training are you doing that you can’t wear Vibrams? My squadron allows me to wear Vibrams during PT.

I realize that, Ben, but it’s been gone over before. I am just not interested in the extra grief associated with unconventional footwear in a training environment (emphasis on “training environment”). I achieve similar results with these flats, so for training I will go with those until I’m at my first permanent assignment.

Lindsey, what’s your designator? I tried for AF OTS, but didn’t make boards and was picked up as SNA for Navy last year. Due to a fracture, i’m not re-applying so that I can get back to OCS. good luck!

Not sure about “racing flats” as they are not flat. There is still that elevation gap from heel to toe that strikes me as odd. Yes it’s a lower profile, but still a decline.

And for a bit more than KSO Treks you can look into Terra Plana Barefoot Evo’s.

I wanted to add to what Rob mentioned. We also carry the Inov-8 shoes and I personally own 4 pairs. I have the F-lite 220 and 230, as well as the x-talon and roclite 285.
I can tell you that they are introducing a new style that they released at the crossfit world games last weekend in California. This is in the F-lite family and its called the F-lite 195. Its 195 grams which is about 6.8 ounces. Not as light but they have 3 mm differential which makes them super low profile. They wont be in stock in our warehouse until around august 13th. You can pre-order them now before they are gone until November.
For people looking for something with a little more padding the F-lite 230 is there best low profile selling shoes. They are 9mm in the front and 15mm in the back. They have a 6mm differential which really helps to keep you on the bal of your foot. I hope to have Justin do a blog on these when we have them in stock.

Wearing racing flats as minimalist shoes is OK for me. I’m a VFF user but I also wear Zoot Ultra Speed and Adidas Adizero Adios. I found out that although the VFF are perfect for long distances races (such as marathon), they can’t compare to racing flats for shorter races such as 10 km (which I’m not able to run under 40 minutes with my VFF but at 38 minutes with my adizero).

Lindsey, thank you for the review of the Mizunos. I’ve been curious as to whether a dedicated VFF wearer could make the transition back to “regular” shoes. My brother went through OCS last year and I understand your reluctance to rock the boat while there. It’s hard enough. Thank you for your service to our country.

The Saucony Kilkenney is a much better choice for a cross country flat. It is lighter and more flexible than the shay. unlike most x-c shoes, it does not have the extreme curve up in the front to put you on you toes. I’ve used the Kilkenney for years as a minimalist walking and running shoe. And it retails at an easy $49.95.

As I was reading, I said:
“Darn, and here I have a pair of Saucony Grid Type A4 coming tomorrow.”
Then, I read your last comment…
Looking forward to the review.

I just sent pairs of KSOs & Bikilas back that were too small.
And I may be kind of a self-conscious wimp about the attention level of the VFFs.
They Saucony seemed like a compromise (4mm heel drop, fairly light)

If they don’t do it for me, I’ll look at the Mizunos…

Follow-Up: I now realize that the coming Saucony review was from Brit, not Lindsey.

OK, what about the Asics Piranha SP 3?
According to the Running Warehouse site, the Mizuno has a 9mm rise in the heel versus a 4mm rise in the Asics.
But, the Asics is 1.1oz heavier and the forefoot pad is 10mm vs 6mm.

The closest I’ve come to running in these type of shoes is the Nike Lunaracer 2 and I can’t recommend it.
The heel is still too prominent for me.
And, perhaps it’s imagined, but I think the lugs jutting out of the forefoot mess with my balance.
I like the flexibility, weight and the upper though.

I’ll receive the Saucony tomorrow, in the middle of a 106degF heat index.

If the military training your doing is run by the Army, then those shoes are not allowed because by Army standard, racing shoes are not allowed, so if you want to be honest, because you probably won’t get caught try something else, like the vibram, because that is in no way a racing shoe, and is becoming more accepted in the military day by day.

The Mizunos are my favorite running shoes and I have been alternating between them and VFFs for the past year. My only complaint with the Mizunos is that the sole is more like hard plastic than rubber, which gets slippery on smooth concrete, especially if there is a little sand on the concrete. Anyone have any ideas why they don’t give them a sole similar to the VFFs? It seems like that would be a huge improvement.

I run in my BIKILAS and im active ARMY. 🙂 showed my commander and he always wanted those and my 1SG is a fan too! lucky me. i wear the white injinji socks witht he logo hidden by the bikilas. yeee just bring them to PT in hand and throw some knowledge behind it.

Just a clarification. The Mizuno Wave Universe 3 only has a 4mm heel differential and not a 9mm heel differential as reported. In fact, even on the site, they’ve revised the specs and report a 5mm heel differential, so it’s basically the same as the A4. I used a digital caliper to verify the 4mm heel differential.


Had to get a more regular looking shoe for the Army, love the Mizs and doing 7-9 miles 3x a week in them. VFFs for my charity runs still, but the Mizs are great. Highly recommend them.

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