The Case for Racing Flats
Suitable for ‘serious‘ athletes happy to compromise foot protection for an extra 2% performance. Ironically, you’re better off reversing the 10% weight gain during an Easter chocolate binge. Nevertheless, there is a fun-factor and placebo effect that justifies one pair.
My distances range from 10k to 42k, depending on when I give up during a 42k race. I use flats for racing and ‘proper‘ speedwork. Major brands are the same (ASIC, Saucony, Adidas, Mizuno) in that their flats are light, flexible and low drop. My struggle is primarily width, cushion, durability and value. I have 5 Saucony Type A6s in my personal inventory.
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 11
The model arrived on Aussie shoes in 2016 and is suppose to displace a $10 bowl of ramen as the ‘beacon of Japanese perfection‘. These are difficult to obtain – I got mine from Running Science here.
Summary: cookie-cutter racing flat for serious road runners. This will tear up your feet but for your troubles you’ll feel fast and light. Assuming it fits, then this is perfect for 5k and 10k road and track events. Lack of protection puts this as a back-up to my default Saucony flats.
– Main positives: zippy, responsive and extremely minimalist.
– Main negatives: not overly versatile, high injury risk from impact, poor ankle fit, questionable durability, high cost. at RRP.
At under 180g, this is a effectively a mesh wrapped on top of a rubber sole. I have never owned a more flexible high tech ‘sock‘.
The 5mm drop will immediately scare away those recreational joggers that prefer board shorts, cotton t-shirts and tennis shoes for running. Everyone else will immediately feel 10% lighter and ready to knock out a 5k.
Dotted studs on the bottom provide the level of grip that would in theory, let you do sprints up and down a bowling ally. There’s other complex shapes and wedge inserts that seem more gimmick than function.
Relative to my favourite Saucony Type A6s, the sole is much thinner – I would prefer these for a 5k race only. Note the more pronounced upward curve (or tilt) probably helps lift your foot on each step. A rule of thumb in life – lift is good.
Do they feel comfortable?
Once you put the Ekiden’s on, you should know in the first 10 steps if there are issues. This was very obvious when my 18th month old tried these on …
First fit? I look at whether (i) my little toe is crushed, and (ii) my heel slips. If it fits bad in the shop, then you’ll be in tears 41k into a 42k race. Initial reaction was pleasing. The front-upper reshapes well due to the thin material whilst the heel section holds shape. My main issue is the ankle fitted too loosely – a problem partly solved by better lacing. This leads me to conclude Mizuno is sympathetic to elite Japanese runners with ‘cankles‘.
The tongue is very thin and crinkles to the side when I put them on. This is annoying.
In motion, grip is excellent but I feel very ‘slap‘ on the concrete. By shortening the stride, lifting cadence and reducing bounce I can protect my feet. Arguably this is good in that the shoe forces you to run more naturally.
The sizing is true to the major brands including New Balance, Nike, Saucony and Adidas. I’m a US11 in all of these.
Is it functional?
Very happy to use these sparingly for intervals and all the time to race. I really enjoy the sole on wet road and grass where other flats may underperform.
Breath-ability is good and I have no blisters from rubbing.
Areas of weakness include utility for the 42k distance – where your feet will start to hate the ground – and undulating courses with aggressive down hils. Also, avoid technical trails due to thin upper mesh and poor lateral stability.
Do they last?
It is early days, but at 80k I can see early wear on the grip pads. If I were to guess, these will go to shoe heaven at 500k. At that point (hypothesis only), the grip will be gone and the sole may not ‘bounce’ off the ground as readily. In shoe years, the photo below was taken at 20 years (i.e. 80k).
– There’s a wave plate in the heel. It does nothing.
– Colour range is very limited. Mizuno shoes in general are not fashionable.
– G4 Outsole, U4ic midsole compound sound great but in the end it’s a piece of rubber.
– Fit – 3/5
– Function – 4/5
– Durability – 3/5
– Overall: 3.5/5
Will I buy buying more?
Only if I were to move to track, 5k and 10k racing. This is a real possibility.