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Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 20

the buildup
mizunowaverider20
I’ve been running in Mizuno shoes for years. Their Wave Evo line became my favorite shoes, and remains that to this day. The only problem with them is that Mizuno dropped the line, so once my last pair wears out, that’ll be it. I’ve tried a few other Mizunos, and generally liked them, but they have never really fit my running style, which is forefoot striking aka toe running, which requires a really flexible, softer shoe than most traditional shoes. And outside of the Wave Evo line, most Mizunos are pretty traditional.

A couple of years ago, I got a pair of Wave Rider 18s to test. You can see the video of my review here, but in short, I found them too structured (that is, not flexible enough), with far too firm of a sole for the kind of flex I need for running on my toes. They’d be a better choice for a mid-foot or heel striker, and are better for distance than short runs.

img_5034I was given the opportunity to review the new Wave Rider 20, and after seeing pre-release photos of it, I was very curious. Right off the bat, you can see that it’s a less structured shoe than the 18, with more flexible, pliant materials throughout the upper. When I went to bend them, they were similarly stiff to the 18s, so I was pretty skeptical of how they’d run. According to Mizuno, the Wave Rider 20 maintains Mizuno’s classic fit while also featuring a breakthrough in cloud wave technology that provides an overall softer, smoother ride.

So with that background, I’d just add that Mizuno provided me these shoes to write a sponsored review. While this may be a sponsored post, I’m sharing my own views freely.

my impressions
As I mentioned above, the shoe is clearly more comfortable and compliant than the 18 (I never tried the 19, but these look different than the 19, too). Most of the shoe is a mesh material, while there’s vinyl providing more structure along some of the side and around the laces, with a closed throat at the bottom of the laces (meaning the shoe can only get so wide no matter how much you loosen the laces). That concerned me when I saw it, but as soon as I slipped the shoe on, I really had no problem with width. And with my toe striking, my feet are definitely wider up front than people who live their lives in narrow-toed shoes and run on their heels.  The interior is also really comfortable, being nicely padded without being overdone. I found no seams or hot spots inside, which is nice (and something I am fearful of with closed throat shoes).

img_5036I have to make one comment on something that may seem silly. The laces are awesome. I get so annoyed when a single bow results in laces coming undone every mile or so, which seems to be how things just are with laces these days. I don’t know why, but most shoes come with fairly stiff laces that just don’t like to stay tied. The Wave Rider 20s have these really soft, supple, compliant laces. I can’t see them coming undone at all. I know, I know, who cares, right? Well, I care. Having had to stop twice when running the Chicago Marathon to retie laces I had even double knotted, maybe I’m more sensitive to this, but little things matter.

OK, so on to what matters. Let me focus on what I felt when mid-foot and heel striking, which I tested. The shoe is really nice. It’s stiff, but the whole idea behind the Wave technology – including the new Cloud Wave version Mizuno has introduced with the Wave Rider 20 for an overall softer smoother ride. The Wave is meant to transfer energy from the strike through the rest of the shoe, providing for better snap in lift off. It’s like how tendons work – load energy into the wave plate (which is plastic), and it will snap, helping to propel you forward. You don’t notice anything awkward or uncomfortable, but you do notice that the shoes have a really good ‘pop’ to them. Mizuno talks a lot about “Riding” in their marketing materials (obviously, given the name), but the idea behind it is genuine – the shoe should be facilitating ‘riding’ through your run rather than pounding through it. You strike, and the energy rides the wave plate to help you move forward. Flow rather than effort.

img_5035And the cushioning, featuring Mizuno’s U4ic foam (“euphoric,” get it?), is really nice. It’s dense, but has a nice cushioning or absorption to it. Because it’s dense, you don’t feel a squish or like the your energy is being lost, but the cushioning feel keeps it from feeling hard. That’s impressive since there’s a huge amount of carbon rubber across the bottom of this shoe – literally covering every strike surface (as you can see in the photos). That’s great for durability, but does generally increase weight and make for a harsher ride. Mizuno has done a really nice job of balancing all of that out in the Wave Ride 20s, and they just feel good from a cushion standpoint. In terms of distance, I’d say they’re fine for a 5K, but are really better for something like a half marathon or longer. 10K could work, too. I just like a more compliant shoe, and would err on the side of less weight and cushion for a shorter race since you don’t really need it in the shorter distance, and will benefit from reduced weight.

As for weight, the Wave Rider 20s aren’t heavy, but they’re also not lightweights. I’d say – like most competitive shoes these days – they’re lighter than you’d expect, but I think equivalent Sauconys would be lighter. Still, they’re not heavy, and I didn’t notice their weight when running.

img_5037As for fit, I wear 10s, but generally wear 9.5s in Mizuno (men’s US size) across Evo Levitas, Evo Cursoris, Evo Ferus, Sayonara, Hitogama, Universe and Rider (I told you I’ve run in a lot of Mizunos). These 9.5 fits me really well. I wore the same size in the 18s, and had a similarly good fit, so I’d say Mizuno has stayed consistent in their sizing.

Lastly, the style is pretty nice. They’re not crazy, but look good. I got these light gray color, while there’s also an awesome orange color (I was hoping for that when I opened the box). There’s also a blue that looks kinda purply online, but maybe not in person. The gray ones don’t look great online, but do in person, so the blue could be good. The orange is really nice, though…if you like to be loud with your shoes (which I do).

Retail pricing is $119, which is pretty common for this type of shoe. It’s not a bargain-priced shoe, but it’s certainly not a rip off and actually much cheaper than several competing shoes.

img_5039my depressions
So you may have noticed I haven’t commented on what the shoe is like for a forefoot striker or toe runner. That’s because the section above is on the positives. So you can guess where this is going (and how you know this is an unbiased review despite it being sponsored). The Wave Rider 20 is really not for a toe runner. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t run in them, because I did. It just means it wasn’t ideal. The best runs are the ones where the shoes disappear – I always feel that with the Wave Evo Cursoris and Levitas (especially the second gen versions). I rarely have felt it with other shoes, and I was conscious of every single foot strike in the Rider 20s. This is for two reasons – one is that the sole is firm, which means I’m expending a lot of energy getting it to bend to my will to run on my forefoot. The second is that the wave plate ends around the ball of the foot, and create a sense of there being a raised surface there. I felt like I was running with half a ball mounted on the bottom of my shoe (not quite that bad, but that sort of idea). Again, it was doable, but you can imagine that doesn’t make for a really zen-like running experience.

I did alter my strike a little into more of a mid-foot strike, and that helped, but that’s not how I run, and I don’t believe in changing how I run to accommodate a shoe. I believe in finding a shoe that’s made for my running style. I also tested heel striking at this point, and, again, it was doable, and I could see how this shoe would be a good fit for someone who strikes that way, but again, it’s just not me.

Special Pre-Release Packaging. Very slick (and shiny)
Special Pre-Release Packaging. Very slick (and shiny)

to buy or not to buy
Well, the first thing you need to do to answer the age old question of whether you should buy these is how you run. If you toe strike, I’d suggest looking for something else (look, that’s the toe striker’s curse – most shoes aren’t really made for toe striking, it seems – either they’re too built for heel striking with a big drop and stiff sole, or they’re too narrow for our toe box needs that have been beaten into being wider than many shoes). I could actually see myself considering running in these more, which I couldn’t say of the 18s, but I should probably just move on to something more fit to my style.

If you are a heel striker or mid-foot striker, then I’d say these should seriously be contenders. They have a great blend of design decisions from the mesh upper, good level of upper structure without being over-done, great foam cushion trade offs for higher mileage runs, and a really excellent power transfer technology with the Cloud Wave.

Mizuno says, “After nearly two decades of refinement, our latest Wave Rider is guaranteed to exceed all expectations.” Honestly, if you fit the second group listed above, I’d say that this is a pretty accurate statement. I actually didn’t have high expectations because overall I wasn’t a fan of the 18th, so they actually did exceed my expectations.

If you’re interested in learning more or picking up a pair, you can get them direct from Mizuno at this link. Finding a shoe that fits your needs and movement style is so crucial. In fact, doing so is a key input when you are trying to enlighten.your.body.

 

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, and a certified personal trainer. bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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