For the past few months, I have worn the Vibram Five Fingers for forefoot running and had no problems with aches, pains, and injury. Before then, I wore the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 for forefoot running.
I thought they were perfect for forefoot running because of their racing-flat design and supreme lightness. However, my legs were sore during and shortly after running in the Mizuno’s.
I looked at the wear-pattern on the bottoms of the Mizuno’s and discovered that the heel was completely worn down -this meant I was heel striking without even knowing it!
The Mizuno Wave Universe 3 is marketed as a minimalist shoe, therefore I assumed, how naive of me, that all minimalist shoes encourage forefoot running or at least, a non-heel strike landing. However, after researching the shoe, I learned that the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 was for heel strike runners.
It turns out that the cushioning in the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 is heaviest at the heel and extends to the forefoot.
There is also an elastic thermoplastic material shaped in a parallel wave pattern under the heel to allow less impact at heel strike.
Essentially, the plastic material under the heel undergoes vertical deformation during heel strike and that is how the shoe ‘absorbs’ impact.
Another component of the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 that alters a forefoot strike landing is the shape of the outsole is of a convex curve (bulges outward), which facilitates heel-toe rollover during heel strike running.
It’s hard to learn forefoot running in shoe designed for heel strikers even if it’s marketed as a minimalist shoe, like the Mizuno Wave Universe 3.
The Mizuno Wave Universe 3 is a catalyst for heel strike during running and my leg pains vanished as soon I was wore a more forefoot-strike friendly shoe such as the Puma H-Streets and the Vibram Five Fingers (pure minimalist shoes) during my runs. Why?
These shoes do not have cushioning under the heel. However, the Puma H-Street does have some heel cushioning, it is not enough to elevate the heel and cause a runner to heel strike.
Comparatively, the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 has a lot of ‘stuff’ under the heel, including the plastic-wave material. Material of this natural under the heel of a shoe is a red flag that the shoe was not designed with forefoot strikers in mind.
So, what exactly caused my legs to ache in the Mizuno Wave Universe 3?
I was a heel striker for a long time before switching to forefoot running and I wore the Mizuno Wave Universe 3’s at the beginning of my transition process. Therefore, I hadn’t fully learned forefoot running and was still in the process of eliminating my heel striking habits.
Running in the Mizuno Wave Universe 3, a shoe designed for heel strikers, was a barrier that prevented me from learning forefoot running properly. This is why I was heel striking, mistakenly, while in the Mizuno’s.
If the heel contacts the ground first when running, there is an increased emphasis on over-striding and a longer stride length.
- heel striking in a minimalist shoe causes a sudden force in loading known as an impact transient as well as an increase in peak force and pressure under the heel.
- these forces increase intramuscular pressures of the lower leg, resulting in discomfort and pain.
Kirby at el., also found that anterior compartment pressures increased when a heel strike running style was utilized.
I am unsure how durable the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 are, but I do know that after 400 km, the cushioning under the heel of a standard running shoe deteriorates fairly quick. The reason?
The Mizuno Wave Universe 3 does not have the excessive cushioning under the heel like the traditional running shoe, therefore heel striking may degrade the material under the heel even quicker. And when this happens, the body is exposed to greater shock at each step.
The Take Home Message
Keeping runners healthy has been a major challenge for the footwear industry, primarily because they keep on manufacturing the wrong shoes. Barefoot-inspired footwear is the way to go in forefoot running and research is quickly piling up to support this.
If you are new to forefoot running, think twice about the running in the Mizuno Wave Universe 3’s. Despite their lightness and massive flexibility, they are tailored for heel strike runners, not for forefoot runners. Heel striking in minimalist shoes will almost certainly result in a wider array of running injuries.
More From Run Forefoot:
- Forefoot Runners Run Safer on Harder Surfaces than Heel Strikers
- The Benefits of Running with an Injury
- How Forefoot Running Fixes Knee Pain
- Forefoot Running: Run Without Getting Tired
Kirby, RL and McDermott P. Anterior tibial compartment pressures during running with rearfoot and forefoot landing styles. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 1983; 64:296-9.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.