By Chris McClung
WHY DO THEY DO THAT? You know what I am talking about. Just when you find that perfect shoe, the shoe company goes and changes it. Version 14 rolls over to version 15 and suddenly the upper rubs you in just the wrong place, creating a blister the size of Texas on your heel. Or even worse, they get rid of the shoe altogether and you find yourself neck deep in the bargain bins at marathon expos trying to find the last known survivor of your perfect footwear match.
Well, in many cases, it is purely a marketing move to give you a reason to go buy the next version or perhaps to justify a price increase. In other cases, it is about making subtle changes to assimilate feedback from the thousands and sometimes millions of feet that call that shoe home. Or, in the case of Mizuno nearly 4 years ago, they turned their footwear assortment upside down in the name of simplicity and in a bold attempt to take what were already really good shoes and make them better.
With that decision, the Mizuno Wave Precision, Elixir, Musha, and Ronin disappeared from the shoe wall and were replaced by only two shoes – the Sayonara and the Hitogami. And, simultaneously, Mizuno executed a near-complete overhaul of their flagship shoe – the Wave Rider – to significantly reduce its weight while retaining its cushioning and functional properties. For the traditionally slow-moving and conservative shoe brand it was a bold move, and many consumers were not happy about it.
Though I questioned certain elements of the move, I appreciated it because simpler is better, and out of it, came the best and lightest moderately-cushioned, neutral trainer on the market. Yes, the Mizuno Wave Rider (now in its 19th iteration) is just that good… but more on that another day.
The Sayonara was an attempt to replace both the Precision (neutral) and Elixir (light stability), two of the best lightweight trainers on the market at the time. That was an order that proved too tall, and versions 1 and 2 of the Sayonara were total busts, burdened by a seamless upper that they just could not get right. In addition, the Sayonara, which was predominantly neutral, had trouble pleasing those familiar with the more rigid and stable Elixir.
Realizing the error, Mizuno completely overhauled the Sayonara in version 3, making it very similar to the old Precision, while also going to work on the new version of the Elixir.
Enter the Mizuno Wave Catalyst (released in February). Now, Elixir fans can finally come back out to play… or run!
Just like the Elixir, the Catalyst falls into the lightweight stability category for those looking for a lighter shoe with a little bit of support. The stability is relatively subtle however, so the shoe also works well for any neutral runner (like myself) that might be looking for something a little bit more responsive and less flexible than the Sayonara.
Those currently training in the Asics DS Trainer or Saucony Mirage (which is going away soon) might enjoy giving the Catalyst a spin, given the similar ride. Or, if you run in the Adidas Boston, Brooks Launch or Nike Pegasus, the Catalyst could be a firmer, more responsive alternative for faster days.
I find the Catalyst a bit stiff in the heel upon initial step-in and while walking those first few steps, but that stiffness goes away quickly once you start running and is replaced with a comfortable ride and pleasantly smooth, heel-to-toe transition. Mizuno credits the smooth factor for its new “Articulated Rebax Fan Wave” technology in the heel (say what?), but what actually matters is that the shoe approaches the disappears-on–your-foot goodness that we at Rogue look for and love.You also feel a little bit closer to the ground than in the old Elixir thanks to a 3 millimeters (mm) reduction in foam in the heel, resulting in a 10mm heel-toe drop for the Catalyst (vs. the old 13 mm).
The Catalyst is light (9.4 ounces for men and 8.0 ounces for women) for the amount of cushioning that you get, feeling very much like the cushioning of the current Wave Rider, but in a lighter package with more pop. This new incarnation is slightly heavier than the old Elixir by 0.3 ounces. Elixir purists will feel that difference, but the Catalyst should be more accessible for the mainstream runner looking for a lightweight, everyday trainer.
The upper, a hybrid between the traditional, sewn uppers of the old Elixir/Precision and the new ones with welded overlays, fits the foot well and is the right balance between light and breathable. The fit is slightly narrower than what you will find in the Wave Rider and Sayonara, but still comfortably snug and not restrictive on my foot.
Overall, I think old Elixir fans and new converts alike will enjoy the new Catalyst. Kudos to Mizuno for getting this one right.
If you live in Austin, come check out the Catalyst at either Rogue location, downtown or in Cedar Park.
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