If you are indulging in some trail running, you’ll know that trails are unforgiving if you use your normal road shoes. You need something with altogether more grip to tackle the roughness underfoot, and to keep you upright when you stride through puddles, mud and grot.
Mizuno’s trail shoes are among those chosen by orienteers – arguably the runners who tackle the toughest conditions anywhere to be found (ultra-runners might argue that point – RE). I should know – it’s my sport. Bogs? No problem. Marshes? Bring them on. Rivers – I’ll wade them. Grass, bracken, heather, gorse, ling, slippery wild garlic, pebbles, mud, sand – I will run through it.
This is more severe and challenging running than most people will encounter – most trail runners tend to stay on tracks rather than head off across uncharted terrain, but the principles for what makes a good shoe remain the same.
The key to a good trail shoe is being able to mix the ability to grip all kinds of different surfaces underfoot while allowing you to feel the surface. Your feet have to roll with what they find on every stride. Your gait is uneven because you’re dodging the stuff you don’t want to land on – tree roots, rocks, puddles etc, but you can’t avoid everything. If you can feel the rock, root or mush underfoot you know your foot is compensating for it and you have a better chance of staying upright as your body alters your balance. Dealing with the unexpected microsecond by microsecond is one of the thrills of trail running – and your shoes are a crucial ally.
Mizuno clearly gets this point and has done a great job of turning theory into practice with the Wave Ascend 8. The business end of this shoe is the sole. It is relatively thick and solid, while retaining remarkable feel.
There’s a sort of princess and the pea thing going on. I could feel pebbles or lumps underfoot easily and knowing the surface gave me great confidence. The grip is good too. Muzuno uses what it calls ‘X lugs’ on the sole – cross shaped ridges – to help with multi-directional grip. They’re mostly on the forefoot. Regardless of where you actually strike the ground – you probably push off from your toes so good grip here is important.
If you’re wondering about ‘wave’ it’s the technology Mizuno uses in the midsole area of its shoes to dissipate the force created by your foot landing on the ground. The shaping of the midsole varies from shoe to shoe so that different running styles and different types of running are catered for.
In contrast to the solidity of the sole, the upper is remarkably minimal and very flexible. There’s room to flex the foot while feeling it is held snugly in place. The heel is nice and high, which is of particular importance to me. I’m very picky about this part of a shoe – especially on trails where my foot can go at all sorts of odd angles, I want a heel that’s high and well cushioned so that this part of my foot feels protected and the shoe won’t come off easily. Yes, I have lost orienteering shoes in bogs in the past, and that’s far from fun.
That ‘X lug’ design I mentioned earlier gets a nod on the upper where it appears as a cross in the toe section. There’s a solid toe protector. Off-road runners will appreciate this as it is really easy to stub toes on all kinds of nasty surprises that nature throws at you.
The off centre – asymmetrical – lacing system never quite does it for me in any shoe. I don’t hate it, I just don’t feel it offers a real plus point. I found the laces a bit on the short side, and the tongue too thick for my tastes.
The lighter and thinner the upper of a trail shoe the better as far as I am concerned. Breathability is important here, but also, when the shoe gets wet – and you should expect that to happen a lot – it needs to be able to dry out quickly before the next run. Trust me when I say there is nothing quite as bad as putting on wet running shoes. Yes it’s only momentarily that you feel the cold wetness on your foot, but it’s still a horrible moment.
Overall, though, I’m giving the Mizuno Wave Ascend 8 a big smile. Comfy and easy on the feet, I actually used these shoes for a couple of long walks and it fared well there too. The only slight issue in everyday situations might be the garish orange, pink and black colour scheme of the women’s version. Men get a barely less violent yellow, red and black colour combination.
The Mizuno Wave Ascend 8 is a great shoe for the trails. Tough on the sole yet allowing you to feel and connect with the ground, the upper is flexible and the fit snug all round. Importantly for me there’s a high back.
These shoes are definitely coming orienteering with me.
- Good grip
- Flexible upper
- Toe protector
- Comfy fit
- Asymmetrical lacing system does nothing for me
- Might take a while to dry out