By David Lipman
Hi I'm Dave and I'm a reformed meat head. That's right, before I did all my running I spent a lot of years as a serious gym goer. I trained for power-lifting, Olympic weightlifting and even did some strong man-type training. As a result, there are few exercises I've not done in the gym and being the shoe geek/sneaker head I am, I have been obsessed with different footwear for strength training since the mid 2000's. I've trained in any number of shoes and even barefoot in gyms where I needed to wear a hoodie and sweatpants. So, it's no surprise I jumped (or even ran) at the opportunity to review and wear test the new training shoe offering from Mizuno. They kindly obliged by showing me the promo tech videos featuring one of the biggest names in footwear, someone whose book I spent months sourcing in 2010,
Benno Nigg. Much of his research is about neurological inputs to the feet and footwear. This got me super interested. In short, the TC-01 has a goal of stimulating the sensory nerves in the feet to improve performance though more sensory input via its COB technology. By nature, I'm a bit sceptical and didn’t believe the COB technology would really be noticeable (and thus probably wouldn't be effective). To my surprise I could very much feel the texture when I wore the TC-01's. That said, this was specific to the forefoot for me, rather than the whole foot despite the COB being full length.
I would also remark that Mizuno have struck the balance of noticeable but not annoying, perfectly. No doubt a portion of readers are cringing at the thought of the COB technology underfoot, I myself was a little concerned it would annoy me, but have found that the TC-01 easily worn for extended periods without issue. It’s as though the feeling of the texture comes and goes - activity dependent - at least in my experience (which is consistent with my understanding of the neurological system).
The key specs I ALWAYS want from a shoe I'm going to do any training in (running or otherwise) are; weight, stack height and pitch (sometimes called drop or ramp height, which is the difference between height of the shoe at the heel and forefoot). This may seem strange for a non-running shoe, but I assure you it is just as relevant if not more so.
Depending on your ankle range of motion, training goals and training you'll be doing, the pitch of the shoe becomes something well worth considering. More heel height will give you more available range of motion to use at the ankle joint, likewise less heel height makes you more stable and may be more optimal for certain exercises (likewise, it may promote development of more ankle range).
Stack height is very similar in some ways to pitch in that being higher makes you less stable, especially if you're doing any running or change of direction activities. Likewise, it may be advantageous for some exercises and potentially detrimental to others (for example the deadlift). Generally, there's not much that requires more stack height, at least in my opinion, it doesn't offer enough benefits to outweigh risks unless you're trying to gain access to a ride at a theme park or maybe dunk a basketball.
In a similar way, I'm pretty set in my view and difficult to persuade that there's much benefit in a shoe being heavier. A shoe may need to be more durable in say the upper and thus will be heavy for instance but more weight for the sake of weight isn't advantageous. This is similar to my view of soft midsoles in shoes for cross training. If you're cross training, I don't see much benefit in softer midsoles (or much of a midsole at all) in your shoe. There's an argument that if your cross training has significant running in it then this isn't true, though I will stop short of doing more than acknowledging this argument exists. In the gym and for plyometric type activities, firmer midsoles improve force output through improved stability and transfer of force (rather than dissipating force which is what cushioned midsoles are made to do).
A very interesting feature, which I liked in the TC-01 was the deep cuts (I am sure there’s a more technical term that I have not used but is more appropriate) in the out/midsole of the shoe. This allows the foot, mostly forefoot, to move very freely with the shoe. Rather than move around inside the shoe. I think this is helpful in strengthening the foot but more importantly helpful with activities that involve change of direction.
The outsole itself is clearly made with the goal of high friction, rather than high traction. Shoe geek terminology aside, the former is more what you see in shoes for court sports (basketball, volleyball etc.) whereas the latter is more used for football boots and track spikes. This in mind, most running shoes use a mixture of the two, trail running shoes aim for more traction whereas most running shoes attempt to create a large amount of friction (the interaction of 2 flat surfaces). Friction becomes more of an issue when you have 2 very flat surfaces with a liquid on one (think sweat on a basketball court, hence the guys running out drying it with a towel). So the TC-01 is probably not the choice for a wet day of training on polished concrete and doing a tone of running. I will likely be fine on rougher surfaces or on dry days.
The upper of the shoe, fashion aside because in selecting shoes it's 4th in the hierarchy of the 4 F's (fit, feel, function and fashion), is a very comfortable single piece knit. The elastic nature of this helps hug the foot, something I personally love in a shoe. I'm of the belief a more hugging shoe helps proprioception (sensory input to the foot involving your ability to understand where it is in space). The heel of the upper itself is interesting too, it has a flare clearly designed for comfort and not pinching the Achilles.
The shoe has an external heel cup which I must assume is to give some structural integrity to the upper, which is otherwise a single piece knit with elastic properties, and thus not particularly helpful when changing direction activities. I really like the feel of the firmness of the mid/outsole, low stack height and the freedom in the forefoot that the TC-01 offers.
I also really enjoyed the fit and feel of the upper. Time will tell how this performs with more change of direction activities in the long term. I didn't love the forefoot ramp (forefoot rounding up, so it is off the ground when standing and rolls you forward when running). I actually generally love this feature in a running shoe but I don't use the TC-01's for as much running so probably would prefer it out of the shoe, though it's minor and probably only a personal preference not shared (or perhaps even noticed) by other users.
Overall this will be a shoe I do a lot of my gym based training in, particularly my strength work. It will also be the shoe I reach for in cross-training activities like time on the rowing ergometer. It may even be what I use for sessions on the elliptical and stair-master when I do them. I have no doubt I will end up doing quite a bit of my coaching in it too. The TC-01 sits firmly in a new class of shoe designed for those not wanting to use a running shoe at the gym. It is firm enough for serious lifting and mobile enough for agility type of work too. Despite being fashion impaired I have a feeling it will end up getting a lot of wear casually also, particularly given the popularity of competitor shoes for this.
In short: Pitch4mm Stack13mm Weight326g (US M9) What forGym, gym classes, crossfit, plyometrics. What not forLots of outdoor running in the wet. Maybe not significant change of direction such as indoor soccer.
About the reviewer: David Lipman is an avid trailrunner and marathoner who loves strength training. He has previously competed in innumerable sports, including ball sports, track and field and Olympic Weightlifting. He has coached across numerous sports and as a strength and conditioning coach with his athletes competing nationally and internationally. He is a qualified Medical Doctor, Podiatrist and Exercise Physiologist. Instagram @dlipman5