Mizuno EVO Cursoris & Levitas Review

The following review was included in Issue 8, Spring 2013 of Barefoot Running Magazine.

Back at the beginning of the year I received an email informing me that I had been selected to join a mixed bunch of experts, elite runners, ultra marathoners, marathoners, fitness runners and running newbies on the Mizuno EVO UK Test Team. The purpose of the team – to test out the new minimalist offering from Japanese company, Mizuno, their first zero drop shoe, designed entirely from scratch and promoted on the their website as being suitable for ‘midfoot running’.

As a self-confessed trainer addict, my delight was compounded with the arrival of not one but two new shoes, the Mizuno EVO Cursoris and the Mizuno EVO Levitas, with 12mm and 8mm of cushioning respectively.

For my first product review, Barefoot Running Magazine have given me the opportunity to share my thoughts on the Mizuno EVO Cursoris.

“Offering a thicker 12mm AP+ cushioned midsole and wider platform, the EVO Cursorsis provides moderate protection and allows for a more natural gait. Exceptionally light and incorporating Mizuno’s renowned Wave technology, Mizuno EVO Cursoris running shoes have been meticulously crafted as a ‘training tool’ for the newer midfoot runner, providing a smoother and more efficient transition from strike to toe off”

Styling

As soon as I received the email about the UK Test Team I was straight on to Google for a quick search to see what I could find in terms of both information and images. As such, I did have an idea of what to expect when the shoes arrived. However, even ‘pre-armed’ with this knowledge, I don’t think I was adequately prepared for the reality of seeing the shoes ‘in the flesh’.

Subtle, they are not – Quite the opposite in fact! Aesthetically, the shoes make a statement. From a purely personal perspective, the vibrant orange Cursoris fares better than the very purple Levitas. Fortunately I love orange and, as such, didn’t find the vibrant orange colour scheme objectionable. However, these shoes are never going to blend in so expect plenty of subtle, and not so subtle, passing glances when you are out running in them!

At the end of the day, however, aesthetics are secondary to the fit and performance of the shoe.

Fit

There’s no disputing that the Cursoris is supremely comfortable. I would go so far as to say it has an almost slipper like fit. They are not ‘the’ most comfortable trainers that I have ever worn but would definitely rank in any comfort top 10.

There are a distinct lack of overlays in the upper of the Cursoris and, as such, the feet move freely, barely constrained by the porous mesh upper. It would be nigh on impossible not to find this comfortable! As someone with wide feet, it’s refreshing to find a shoe with such flexibility in the upper, providing a comfortable instead of overly tight fit.

The Cursoris uses asymmetric lacing for improved fit and flex, and I personally found that this resulted in a nice secure fit. However, I have come across comments on line that suggest others have found it difficult to get the perfect fit, finding that they lace too loose or too tight.

My one and, it has to be said, only real gripe with the shoe, has to do with slight upwards pressure that I feel midfoot when I initially slip on the shoe. However, once running, this slight pressure soon

disappears and, in all likelihood, there’s a good chance that I only notice this because I spend quite so much time in sparsely cushioned zero drop shoes.

I did try running barefoot in the Cursoris but it just didn’t feel right and I was concerned that a toe or toenail would do some damage to the soft mesh upper. As such, I opted to wear a thin sock when running in the shoe.

Finally, in terms of sizing, I found that my usual UK size 8 provided the perfect fit so there was no need to size up or down.

Build Quality

The Cursoris are well constructed, neatly stitched, with no annoying seams that I have experienced. My only ‘concern’ would be the long-term durability of the mesh used in the uppers. However, this kind of concern is fairly typical with a lot of the current lightweight, minimalist offerings.

Performance

The Cursoris is touted for those new to midfoot running and/or looking to run longer distances in a minimalist shoe. With 12mm of cushioning you don’t have to scan ahead quite so diligently as you might with less cushioned shoes and, If you land on a stone, the cushioning should protect you from injury. With 12mm cushioning it’s more forgiving than most minimalist shoes but it’s not a comfortable shoe to heel strike in and, as such, this helps to promote the intended midfoot to forefoot landing style.

The Cursoris is designed with road/pavement running in mind but I have actually taken them ‘off road’, on to my favoured terrain. They coped pretty well with the fairly uneven, often rocky path but there were a couple of ‘ankle turning moments’, highlighting the lack of support in the upper. Fortunately for me, these didn’t come to anything. Given the fairly basic tread on the Cursoris, I doubt very much whether they would cope with, for example, muddy terrain and, as such, I will most likely stick with their intended purpose in future.

Note also that this is not a shoe for speedwork. If this is one of your requirements, consider instead the Levitas, with its additional heel support which provides the increased level of stability required when running at higher speed.

You might also want to consider how you feel about wet feet if the weather is inclement as the porous mesh upper does little to stop the rain and water from puddles. The consolation to this is that what easily goes in just as easily comes out!

Barefoot Simulation

The Cursoris sits flatter than your average trainer so that the toes are engaging the ground, excellent in terms of stability and enabling you to push off in the most optimum way.

Landing midfoot, you want flexibility both from heel to toe and, also, laterally, and the Cursoris provides this flexibility with deep multi-directional flex grooves, allowing for a versatile, natural movement. The flex grooves split up the front sole area into a number of ‘pods’, some of which are covered with a reinforced rubber in perceived high wear areas. The rear of the shoe is relatively smooth, offering little in the way of grip.

In terms of feedback, I would describe the level of feedback as moderate, most likely towards the upper end of what you would consider acceptable for a minimalist shoe.

There is a small Wave plate under the forefoot area which filters some of the impact and returns energy during the propulsion, ‘pushing off’ phase, something that I think can be felt when running. There’s a definite feeling of ‘assistance’ from strike through to push off.

There’s an excellent, very thorough review of the Cursoris and the Levitas by Fred Brossard over at the Runblogger website. Fred captures the essence of the shoes in his review:

“Mizuno’s designers have obviously read and studied the ‘What should a real minimalist shoe feature?’ theories that flourish on the web. In their first minimalist offerings, they very seriously tried to respect 5 key principles of minimalist shoe design: zero-drop, wide toebox, minimal structure, light cushioning, and flexibility under the metatarsals which leads to two quite different shoes: the Levitas is a real racer, and the Cursoris is great for smooth, easy runs.” (runblogger.com)

Price

Retailing at around £75-80, the Cursoris is a reasonably priced shoe for anyone looking to make the transition to ‘midfoot running’. For those who have already transitioned, the Levitas retails for around £80.

Overall Rating

The Cursoris is a good first entry into the minimalist market from Mizuno, ticking all the boxes for a minimalist shoe. The only question would be over the 12mm of cushioning which may prove to be too much for some runners. Consider that the shoe is aimed at those looking to transition and/or those looking for a minimalist trainer capable of distances and, as such, the 12mm can be justified in this respect. For anyone looking for a higher level of connectivity with the ground, there is always the Levitas with 8mm cushioning. Having tested both shoes, that 4mm difference is indeed noticeable when you drop down to the 8mm sole. Retailing at around £75-80, the Cursoris is reasonably priced, just don’t expect not to stand out when wearing them!

Specifications from the Mizuno website:

  • Named after one of the oldest known bipedal creatures, the Eudibamus Cursoris
  • Designed to provide a more stable platform and cushioning for someone transforming to a midfoot strike
  • ZERO RAMP offset between the heel and forefoot provides a natural plane tailored to a midfoot strike
  • WAVE TECHNOLOGY in the forefoot for maximum protection, comfort and a smooth ride
  • Flat-bottomed forefoot design coupled with a wider platform provides stability and assurance from foot strike to toe-off
  • 12mm/12mm heel-forefoot design offers a more protective ride