A swell, a surge, a trend, an obnoxious, poorly-coordinated movement by a large group of people at a sporting event. What does Mizuno’s Wave Catalysts have in common with those waves? Nothing. But I needed some kind of quirky intro to serve as the stimulant, or, wait for it…. CATALYST… to pique your interest.

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A similar patterning of materials to what we see in Mizuno’s Sayonara 4, the Mizuno Wave Catalyst features a horseshoe design comprised of Mizuno’s high abrasion X10 rubber along the the heel of the shoe. In fact, when comparing the bottoms of the shoes side by side, there is very little visible change between the construction of the Catalysts and Sayonaras – something that isn’t completely unexpected, considering both the Catalyst and Sayonara are part of Mizuno’s “Wave” family of running gear. The same high-abrasion rubber we see in the heel makes its way to the mid and forefoot with a brief gap in construction where the elastic thermal-plastic Wave plate is visible (horizontally under the shoe’s arch). Blown rubber makes up the anterior-medial portion of this shoe, with a distal border of the X10 high-abrasion rubber. In the 175+ road miles I’ve put on so far, only the faintest patterning in the anterior 1/3 of the shoe shows any wear, with most of the subtle texture remaining intact. The patterning throughout the shoe has many of the same narrow grooves you see in other running shoes, permitting debris and pebbles (three in mine as I look right now…) to become lodged in the tread.  We see the outsole of the shoe continue forward, wrapping around the front portion of the toe box, and just ever so slightly tilted up in the heal, ensuring high durability whether your heel-strike and/or push off with the toes (calm down, Brandon… I’m not doing this.)
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Another one of Mizuno’s shoes featuring their “Wave Technology,” the Wave Catalyst is designed with their Fan elastic thermal-plastic plate running horizontally(ish) through the rear half of the midsole.  Mizuno utilizes one of three shaped plates in their Wave shoes, with the Fan plate designed to provide added stability for those runners who may pronate. Additionally, the shape of the plate is touted as providing cushioning and force dispersion generated by the foot strike, but stability is the name of the game with the Fan plate.

The foam making up the midsole is Mizuno’s U4IC [euphoric], and it runs the entire length of the shoe. The only posterior area of the Catalyst where the midsole foam does not directly contact the outsole is the underside of the arch, where the wave plate emerges. This is of course a non-issue, as the only way that arch of the shoe would receive contact is when running over rocks or other debris – which this shoe is not designed to do (not a loaded comment.) This amount of U4IC foam results in moderate cushioning, with maximum cushion being experienced by heel strikers.  The midsole provides some flexibility, but not much. Certainly on the stiffer side of running shoes, I appreciate not feeling every bump and groove I go over – especially on longer runs.

The Catalyst has a 10 mm heel-toe drop, with a height of 26 mm in the heel and 16 mm in the forefoot. Naturally, it’s a great minimalist shoe… KIDDING! KIDDING! This shoe is designed for midfoot to heel strikers, though I tend to err towards mid/forefoot striking and found no area of contention with this midsole build.

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Designed primarily of a dual-mesh layer, the upper of the shoe features a larger-perforated mesh under a finer synthetic mesh. These layers are placed over either a more substantial, cushioned construction in the posterior of the shoe which erupts up to the collar, or a very thin synthetic layer in the anterior of the shoe.  Construction of the upper allows for maximum breathability while still preventing the admittance of any debris into the toe box. Moisture on the other hand is a different story… If you’re running through dewey grass, you’re gonna get some wet toes.

Some designs on the shoe are more traditionally stitched on, while others are 3D printed directly on the upper material.  This shoe brandishes the same giant Mizuno logos on the medial and distal portions of the mid foot: a feature purported to provide added support.

A tongue guide is placed centrally. I found this was effective in preventing significant tongue drift, but not mild. After a few minutes of running, the tongues routinely moved towards the outside of the shoes, though never disappearing completely the way some other shoes do. The laces feature a slightly-elastic property that I’ve grown to love. I don’t know if it is just me or what, but MAN! Those LACES!  They are the LONGEST LACES I’ve ever had in a shoe!  And they took me a good 10 minutes to figure out what to do with all that extra lace.  I finally settled on a loop-length that bordered on looking “sloppy,” and that was with triple knotting.  Even if I had laced through the very top hole (does anyone do that? It would be so uncomfortable…), the laces would have been on the longEST side of normal, double-knotted.  I guess if you find yourself routinely needing a somewhat elastic rope, this may be the shoe for you.

The sock liner is anti-microbial, and yes – I smelled my shoe again. It smells better than most babies. While you may not be as concerned about the olfactory aesthetics of your workout gear as I am (have you BEEN to a David Barton gym? No margin for error…),  what that lack-of-stank should mean to us is a shoe where bacteria isn’t propagating. If you want to run long distances, you want healthy feet.

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I like this shoe. I found the fit to be supportive but not restrictive, and not “boxy,” which is my #1 complaint when I typically don’t like a shoe.  Some find the height of the toe box or heel to lean towards the smaller/narrower/less roomy side, but for me it was perfect. If you have wider feet or require that extra bit of space, you might find these a bit confining, but then again – you might find a lot of standard fit shoes to be.

I particularly enjoyed the fit through the mid-foot.  I find that shoes sometimes start to splay out a bit prematurely here, relying on the wearer to lace within an inch of their life.  Mizuno does a great job of navigating this by providing support via the previously mentioned stitched-logos, effectively adding structure without rigidity.  Occasionally toward the end of a longer run, the toe box felt a little “clumsy” to me, but this only occurred over runs of about 11 miles, and is admittedly more likely due to my own anatomical changes than any shoe alterations occurring during my runs.

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This shoe for me is perfect for tempo runs or any run that you might be tossing in some intervals/pick ups.  I ran my first 1/2 marathon in this shoe, and my feet felt PERFECT after and the next day.  I don’t pronate, so I can’t attest to the benefits of the wave plate in that regard, but this shoe provided just enough stiffness to let me lay into some quicker speeds, but adequate cushioning during more sustained tempos.

Taking corners with this shoe is not where it excels, likely due to the stiffer ride I value for other situations, but the supported fit also doesn’t result in the loss of anything around them.  One negative I did note about the Wave Catalyst was it seemed to lose more traction than I’m accustomed to in wet weather.  Water is slippery, but I felt the need to be a little extra careful when running in these shoes over wet pavement.

The Catalyst weighs in at 9.6 oz (size 9) I can’t tell you how much this blew my mind.  Coming from the Sayonara, the first few runs I had in this shoe I thought, “man, this is a lighter shoe.”  The construction and response of the shoe result in a fitted, less bulky ride than a lot of other lighter shoes I’ve encountered.  And when I found out that this was actually .6 oz heavier than the Sayonara’s, it really surprised me.  All this to say, I’m glad I didn’t look at the weight of the shoe before I took it out for a spin.  Moving forward, I will purposely not look at shoe weights without first evaluating the fit and ride.  And I’d like you to join me to do the same. We’ll start a club; I’ll get t-shirts made. Dues are $1500 annually – see below for where to send the checks.

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This shoe has won awards and received some great reviews and I can see why. It’s not my favorite shoe I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely not far from the top.  The versatility of the shoe is where it shines – from 13 mile tempo runs to 7 x 7’s (7 minute pick ups and 3 minute rests,) this shoe feels responsive and/or supportive as the burden I place upon it changes.

I’ve been training for the Chicago marathon (so soon!) for over a year now, and these are my favorite shoes for the type of training I’m doing (that I’ve worn so far).  With an MSRP of $110, these shoes are a great deal for any distance runner looking to up their mileage and work on some speed. Would I run sprints in them all day? No. Would I run sprints all day in anything? NNNNNOOO!!

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Steve Uliana
Born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth (no joke,) Steve now currently resides in Chicago where he’s a graduate student in speech-language pathology at Northwestern University. Former fat kid, current runner, and future marathoner.

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