August 1, 2012
by John Schrup
Mizuno has an almost cult-like following. Or maybe that’s just how I perceive it. When I’m at the IGA or something, there is always at least one person sporting a pair of the Inspire. It happens often enough that I expect to discover that they were purchased at Costco.
Back in the day, which for you kiddies let’s call the late ‘90’s, Mizuno got hip and re-marketed the brand in the U.S. The first Wave Rider were good, though really not that impressive, but Mizuno were prescient enough to keep the focus on that one shoe until they got it right. By the very early 2000’s, the Rider was the shit. The fit and feel were right on, and each incarnation was an improvement over the previous version. People bought into the whole Wave thing and the product was certainly and quite obviously lifted up by the multiple Editor’s Choice awards. I won’t go into the fix that it was, but an EC award then was a much bigger deal than it is now. These days, an EC award these days means that you are looking at some of the biggest pieces of shit produced and marketed in the running footwear business.
(Other shoe companies would still do well to follow the Mizuno marketing model of a decade ago: They focused on one shoe, got it right and then built a line around it. Nowadays, everyone is throwing a ton of shit against a wall and seeing what sticks.)
But, much like the other big Japanese running company, ASICS, Mizuno got caught behind the curve and lost momentum. Either they got complacent, resting on their laurels, or they were just too conservative in their approach and took too long to redirect their focus. Whatever the case, Mizuno has always produced some of the best fitting and feeling shoes on the wall, though in the past few years, they have gone a bit soft underfoot, caving to the masses need for marshmallowy plushness.
It should be noted that the Rider and Inspire and all those other models you’re familiar with were all created for the American market, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that those shoes began to resemble the people who were buying them: A little too big, a little too soft. This is, after all, the company that sells the Wave Prophecy, which has my vote for the stupidest shoe on the market. It’s a sofa. Or a car. The Japanese market models are noticeably simpler in design, and I hope that one day Mizuno will use some of those models—or variations of them—for the U.S. market.
The Wave Precision is what the Wave Rider used to be, before it got super sized: A great fitting, good feeling, moderately light running shoe. The most recent incarnation of the Precision is solid. It is, for the most part, a standard build—the heel heights are not skyscraper-ish, and it will never be mistaken for a minimal shoe—which will work well for people who are comfortable with the status quo and haven’t gone too far down the injury hole that they need to make an about face with their footwear. It is really smooth for a traditional shoe. Surprisingly so. And the fit is clean and snug without pinching your piggies.
Being a relatively conservatively marketed brand, Mizuno never really put much effort into the aesthetics of their shoes. Form, mostly, followed function. Kind of like the interior of a Subaru, except shoes. But now on various Mizuno you can find tiger stripes, Kanji lettering, cherry blossoms, and a sort of subliminal Mount Fuji. (The Elixir, next year, will have a checkerboard pattern on it. I’m not so sure about that, I’ve got to be honest. When the rep showed us those, the first thing I thought of was Spicoli, and I wanted to pound my head with the sole of the shoe, but I thought that no one would get the reference and I’d be asked to leave the meeting.) The Precision are not without a bit of flash, either. They don’t have any ninjas or shit on them, but the bright blue-almost-turquoise-sun yellow colorway is pretty rock star.
I’m a big fan of the Mizuno brand. With the Precision they have a well-done, traditional shoe that has worked well for years. This Precision is one of the best yet. It has the fit and feel that made Mizuno what they are. They would do well to continue in that direction.