Minimal Running Shoes (cont.) - Chi Running

Minimal Running Shoes (cont.)

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Fri Mar 26th, 2010, 26 comments

I just received a pair of great running shoes from the good folks at Mizuno. They’re called the Wave Universe 3…sounds like a good name for a water park. When I picked up the package I thought they’d sent me an empty box. No kidding, I’m a size 10 and these flyweight running racers tipped my postage scale at a mere 4 ounces each! I almost feel lighter than when I’m running barefoot. I can no longer offer the excuse that my legs are tired because my running shoes are too heavy.

Another thing I really like about these running shoes is that, unlike most racing flats, which are built to be tortuously narrow, these have a toe box that can easily accommodate my EE feet and my toes can breathe easily for a change.

This is interesting. It’s the first pair of running shoes I’ve ever seen with a warning on the hang tag. There’s actually two warnings. First they warn against running on wet surfaces and then they say something to the effect that only highly paid running athletes should even attempt to wear these things. After checking out the sole materials I took the first message to heart, and by default, had to ignore the second message.

I just ran a little over an hour on trails with them and I must say, they feel like moccasins. I could sense every twig and minute undulation in the trail. It was heavenly.

Getting to and from my nearby trail, I have to run on hilly paved roads. The extremely minimal heel offered just enough cushioning on the downhills that I didn’t have to slow down my speed (which I do have to do in my EVO’s and VFF’s).

All in all I’d say that Mizuno has set a pretty high bar with these Wave Universe 3′s, but take these words with some amount of caution. I could run just about any distances in these on trails, but I wouldn’t run a road marathon in these without a very slow build-up in mileage. Because they’re so minimal, they do a great job of forcing you to pay very close attention to all of your Chi Running focuses.

The only major downside is the $110 price tag. Minimal running shoes, in my opinion, shouldn’t cost this much. Racing flats have always been the cheapest running shoes because they use less materials and they don’t last as long. Maybe that’s why they have the warning that they’re only for highly paid athletes.



  • midfoot strike,
  • minimal running shoes,
  • running shoes

26 CommentsLeave a comment below

G.E. Anderson Mar 26th, 2010 04:42am

Minimal shoes used to command a minimal price. Unfortunately increase in demand has driven the price up—that and the need for shoe companies to replace revenue lost from selling fewer thick-heeled shoes.

I’m not sure why the warning is necessary. Only a highly paid athlete would be willing to pay $110 for almost nothing—especially when “nothing” is completely free.

Hey, G.E.,
Very well put! I’d like to see that outdated supply/demand business model put to rest someday. Just because something is in demand doesn’t mean that it has to be over-valued or over-priced.

No wide sizes… Seems like VFF is the only option for people with wide feet.

Hi Oleg,
You might have to just go into a shoe store and ask to try on all their flats to see if any fit your width. VFF shouldn’t be the only choice for wide feet. It amazes me that the shoe companies haven’t yet gotten hip to the sales that could happen if flats were sold in widths wider than AA.


Hi Danny,
Haha, thats very funny ‘only for highly paid athletes :]
after reading your 1/2 marathon race report last year i bought a pair of Newton distance Racers and @wow’ these shoes are AWESOME!!! only downside is the price, i hope they wear well, Thanks CLINKY

I just got a pair of these and love them.  But they are thin.  I ran a 5k and my feet were a little sore—probably revealed some form problems I need to work on.  I ran the rest of my miles that day in my Brooks Green Silence shoes (which are awesome) and they felt like running on pillows compared to the Mizunos…

I just wore these at the National Marathon here in DC.  Went under 3 hours (2:58) for the first time since 1982.  No problems whatsoever.  For me, the shoes make form easier to maintain.  I did have the same experience with the package—so light, I thought it was a pair of socks.  My first reaction was to laugh.

I just ran a road 1/2 marathon in the Wave Universe 3.  Enjoyed them immensely.  I plan to run the OKC marathon in them in a few weeks.  These shoes basically are a sole (with a very small Mizuno wave plate in them), and some mesh on top.  Anything that could be eliminated to reduce weight is gone.
They’re the most minimal shoe I’ve found to date.  I’m glad Danny likes them.

Laura Houston Apr 7th, 2010 09:18am

My only issue (besides the price tag) with this shoe is the sizing. It’s ‘unisex’ and the smallest size is a 7. Sadly, I won’t get to try this shoe as that’s about a half size too big. When are the shoe companies going to figure out that women run in racing flats too??? grin (disclaimer: some companies DO make their unisex sizes go a little smaller)

What do they mean by “wet surfaces”, dangerous on pavement after rain?  Are they ok for a slightly muddy trail?

Hi Mober,
What I mean by wet surfaces is that the tend to lose traction on wet rock, asphalt and other types of hard surfaces. On a slightly muddy trail the lugs on the sole of the shoe are what give you traction, not necessarily the materials the soles are made of.

I have a wide forefoot.  Roads, trails, and beach, I have been running in the Asics piranha 2.  More accomadating of my wide front and still holding my heel cozily.  They show no wear after about three months of use.  Unlike deeper cushion shoes there is no noticeable collapse of the cushioning under my forefoot.  Everything you say about the wave universe is true of the piranha.  Except, on wet surfaces, in the NW they give excellent traction.  I especially recommend these ultralights for older runners like me who are light on road impact, rapid with the cadence, and put the whole foot down and lift the whole foot up.  My knees, the soles of my feet, and my plantar fascia all tell the truth.  I hesitate to send this out because the piranha and the wave universe are pretty much sold out on most of the websites.  A bidding war?  The next bubble?

I’ve been running in Nike Frees for training, some trails, some dirt type roads. My old I just bought the NewBalance 100’s and a pair of Sportiva Crosslites. This morning i tried the crosslites. a while after my run my left heel hurts and the achilles just above the heel is very sore. I’ve never had and achilles or heel issue before so I’m wondering if these shoes are not the right ones for my feet (they actually feel really good to me) or the shoe is changing the way i run. I was very focused about keeping the mid foot strike happening. Can anyone offer me any suggestions?

Hi Dianneo,
If you’re feet are used to the full flexibility of the Free they might be a bit disgruntled, at first, by the less-flexible Mizunos. Do a slower break-in and give your feet a chance to adjust to the new shoes. start with 2 miles and only increase by no more than 2 miles at a time.
Good luck,

Thanks for the writeup, Danny! I have a pair and like them a lot—though I had to put superfeet (the slimmest ones) inside because they were hurting my arch. I have narrow heels but need a wide toebox, so it’s hard to find ANY shoes that are comfortable. The Mizunos really do feel like moccasins.

As for the pricetag, I got mine for $95 at, so if anyone else is interested—try them first.

Where are these AA shoes for women? So far, have found nothing my narrow foot doesn’t slip and slide in.

Wish they made them in my size.

Wish they made them in my size.  Men’s size seven is way too large for my women’s size 6 and a half D feet.

Tried a pair.  FIrst off be prepared to be ticked off that you paid that much money for what feels like slippers in your hand.  But, they are certainly light.  And a little cushion which I can see getting used tovs. VFF.  But reminds me a lot like my 2nd pair of nike frees (I loved my first pair) where the footbed is too narrow.  Feels like I will slide right off one side or the other and the lightweight construction doesn’t help and I can see an ankle twist in the offing.  I have very narrow heels and very wide forefoot, so I don’t think I am typical.  So going back.

Hola, - da mejor. Guardar va!


It sounds like we have the same feet! Narrow heel, wider toe box. Which shoes have you found to work for you? Thank you.

Hi Mober,
For that i’d recommend the EVO’s or the Mizuno Wave Universe 3’s.


I have the hardest time w shoes!  For past couple years I run most mileage in North Face Arnuva 50s (laced version).  They are a bit heavier than the normal shoe recommended here but the heel isn’t very much thicker than the rest of the sole, so pretty “flat”.  Very flexible/breatheable.  Low cut.  I also like the dual road/trail shoe (I don’t like lugs that much).  But alas they don’t make them anymore.  I think I bought the last 11.5 on the planet last time!  Since I have had a good experience I gave them the benefit of doubt and bought a pair of Singletracks last weekend.  A lttle narrower but way lighter.  We shall see, I haven’t busted them out for a run yet.

I just ordered there since the Newtons are so hard to come by in Europe.
Also, since I started teaching myself ChiRunning with your book, my knee issues (a result of bad posture on the bike & running) have all but gone away. Thanks! Half Marathon in June (Munich) and November (Malibu), here I come.

Larry Neumann May 17th, 2010 06:56am

Like Danny, I have become a lightweight shoe junkie since my favorite shoes (Saucony Fastwich II) were discontinued three years ago. I tried Saucony Fastwich III—toe box shape sucked. Same problem with NB 790 - not enough space for big toe in my size. I tried Zoot Ultra and Zoot Ultra Silver (7 oz) and they were close but not quite and a little expensive. I came close to settling on Nike LunarRacer+, but they were still not as good as my prior shoe. I tried two shoes that I returned after 1 run: Nike Zoom XC2 (6 oz) and the Mizuno Universe 3 (5 or 4 oz?). In both cases, the material on the bottom of the shoe gave me water blisters after about 5 miles. I don’t think this is a form issue, since I have had exactly 3 blisters in 10 years, two of them in these two pairs of shoes. Why would my form be ok for 25-30 miles in one 6 oz shoe and get a half dollar sized blister at 4 miles in another? Based on comments here they are working for some people, so it appears they just don’t agree with my feet. The Mizuno in particular felt like disposable shoes. I would be interested to hear form people how long they last. I will not be trying Newtons, mostly because I have heard mixed reviews and the price is obscene.

I have a pair of Five Fingers, and I like that they force excellent form, but most of the routes I run cover gravel and they are not much fun on gravel. In my experience, running in five fingers forces too much attention into the feet while running, I like to keep the attention moving through all aspects of form equally.

On a trip to NYC, I found a pair of Saucony A3, and they have closed the book on my search. Frankly, before finding them in a store, I had never seen or heard of them. For me, they are perfect. Light (about 7 oz) and flexible, comfortable with mesh uppers. Good on trails, or road. The only complaint I have is there are small holes running lengthwise down the middle of the shoe which are designed to drain water (and reduce weight/material) but are better at picking up litle rocks. When rocks get jammed in there, and you continue to run on additional gravel, the rock on rock effect can push up into your feet. Small price to pay: these are the best shoes I have found in 3 yrs.

Of course, now that I have found them, Saucony is discontinuing them. I am holding out hope that Saucony A4 will be as good, but history suggests I may be searching again.

Thanks Danny, for driving dialog on this important issue.

Patrick Gallagher, D.C. May 17th, 2010 08:42am

Greetings Danny,
I have been a Chi Runner for the past 3 year.  My first shoes were the New Balance 800’s.  A good exsperience for a marathon and a half, I needed some newer shoes.  I was informed by a local sports store that you put the Issac Newton shoe on your top ten list. After two easy runs and a walk I found out that my right middle knee and miniscus began to complain just as loud as they could. It is pretty frustrating to pay that much and then find it seems to be what is causing the injury.
I did err on what you taught at the Chapel Hill seminar “you body doesn’t lie”.  I started hurting early on in the second run but pushed through it thinking I had never been hurt before and this would clear out, well I was in for an umpleasant awakening.
Recovery has been almost a month now and is slowly progressing.  A key part of my recovery has been a chiropractic adjustment to my right tiba to take the stress out of my knee.

Doc G.

HI Patrick,
Sorry to hear about your injury. I would say that all of the shoe recommendations work, but not for all runners equally. It’s always best to body sense (as you learned) to see which shoes work best for your body. As we all should be learning by now, it’s not the shoe that makes the runner, but the running technique. If that’s good, there is a much greater latitude as to which shoes will work well.

All the best,

Been running with these Mizunos for about 2 weeks now and love them! However, I really feel my calves and inner thigh muscles after my runs. I did about 3-6 miles with them so far and really try to relax my legs, but it seems the lack of support is something your legs have to get used to. Surprisingly, no feet issues though. Is this normal when switching to minimal shoes? Thanks!


Not sure I understand the shoe list.  I will be running in the city on sidewalks.  Are the trail shoes recommended for that environment as well?  I am finding the selection of a proper shoe for the Chi Running confusing.  I am new to running and new to Chi Running so I wanted to start with the right shoe.  How do I go into a running store and get them to help me select the right style shoe for this style of running.  I really do not have any particular foot problems

Trail shoes are generally recommended for trail running. All of the rest of the shoes I"ve recommended can be used for streets, sidewalks, roads or treadmills. You’ll need to sense in your own body the ones that work for you. The best way to do that is to go to a local running shoe store with the list of shoes you’d like to try.


Rachel Mellish Aug 10th, 2010 12:27pm

Hi Danny, having a nightmare finding the right shoes in the U.K! Can’t get any of the NB’s that you recommend, apart from the 840, but I run a mix of road, grass common land and trail, so they may be too aggressive. What would you recommend that is available now? I’m still in my old Mizunos with a built up heal, I’m a natural mid foot striker. I’ve been running for 5 years and chi running ( at least I think I’m chi running!) for a couple of months. I read your book and the Barefoot Running book, and I’m finding running more enjoyable and I run further than before. I only run about 3-4 miles 3 times a week to keep fit. I’m a yoga teacher, so I have found the posture and core focus comes naturally to me. Rachel

Hi Rachel,
You might want to see if you can find a pair of racing flats that feel good on your feet. Mizuno makes a couple of good models: the Ronin and the Musha II if you can find them. They’re both a bit more cushioned than most racing flats and they’re both good on trails.


Margaret Aubie Nov 13th, 2010 06:55am

I am 77yrs old & would like nice walking shoes, any sugestions

Hi Margaret,
I just turned my stepfather (82 years old) onto the EVO II by Terra Plana and he’s in heaven. He’s had two hip replacements and he says it’s been the best thing for his walking.

mizuno running shoes Sep 16th, 2011 02:44am

This is great. Thank you for sharing.

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