Detailed Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 20 (Waverider)

My TRAINING SHOE choice for 2017.

My RACING SHOE choice for 2017 (anything over 10k)

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

For a runner or a triathlete you will no doubt want a pair of shoes that fit and that are designed for your running style and your intended race distance or training type. You will be in contact with your shoes for tens of thousands of high impact steps. Running shoes are probably the single most important purchase you will make for your sport and they are not cheap as you need to repeatedly buy them as they wear out.

If you are a mid- to high-arched runner and you want some light, flexible and fairly rear-cushioned shoes then you’ve come to the right place. The Wave Riders suit a wide range of runners.

I’ll start off with a chat about my general usage of the shoes in respect to different aspects of the shoe before moving on into more technical detail – or you can skip to the summary 😉

Here’s a quick graphical overview of the shoe – I love this!

mizuno-waverider-20-via-the5krunnerI have LOTS of pairs of Wave Riders. Here are the last 6 models; the Wave Rider 20, 19 (Amsterdam Special Edition with Runscribe PRO !!), 18, 17, 16 and 15 – left-to-right, in that order. The 3 oldest ones are DEFINATELY retired. This review will cover both the differences and changes in Wave Rider models as well as some more delicious tidbits of running shoe tech from, what is, one of the best running shoes – in my opinion.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

As you can see, below, the front of the sole of the 20 has changed, this part of the shoe seems to often have a two-year life. The pattern is perhaps more akin to a car tyre tread. You can see that the pattern is mostly consistent throughout the entire front part of the sole – unlike all the previous models. When scraping your feet on a bristly mat after a run to get the mud I noted that my foot was definitely ‘moved outwards’ by the pattern, perhaps the opposite happens when running?

You can also see from the soles that they exhibit only minimal amounts of wear – and my footstrike is forefoot-to-midfoot. I’ve done a LOT of mileage in some of them. They are definitely hard wearing and we can only speculate as to how hard-wearing the different and new iteration Wave Rider 20 will be. Despite the soles on the top 3 shoes looking little used these shoes are, in fact, are WELL past their run-by date, so the tread HAS REALLY lasted beyond the athletic life of the shoe.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

15, 16, 17 top. 90, 19, 18 bottom.

Even if you forefoot strike then your heel should also touch the ground but with much less impact than if you heel strike. If there is a ‘ramp’ in the shoe ie the heel is higher than the forefoot then the amount of drop and your running style will both impact together on how much your heel touches the ground. You’ll see from the rear of these soles that they have NOT taken much of a  pounding at all. The ramp in the Wave Rider 20 is 12mm.

If, however, you heel strike then the situation is different. Clearly significant forces will be put through the heel of the shoe. I can’t really comment on that from my experience other than to say that these shoes are designed for ‘neutral’ runners who do not pronate ie you ankle does not roll inwards when you heel strike. I *CAN* run with a heel strike for a little while and then I DO pronate. If I ran that way normally I would either not buy these shoes or use some form of custom orthotic insert.

I get the occasional large piece of gravel stuck in the heel and click as I run down the my driveway. Grrr.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

In terms of side-on aesthetics the 20 is the same overall shape (it’s a shoe!) but notably different in the construction details. As the image below shows, there is a different mesh and different stitching.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

Looking at the side but to the rear again the mesh and logo are different but also the sharper cutaway for the ankle is lower with the 20 – a good 10mm lower on the outside of the shoe and less so on the inside of the ankle. You can also see there are clear differences in the construction details of the layers in the sole. Even the logo is different 😉

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

The leathery toe cover is broadly similar in recent versions but the mesh clearly is not. There are apparently many fewer holes above the toes of the 20, with only the 16 having fewer. In terms of keeping the water out it will make no difference whatsoever in real running terms. But on a hot day how will the breathability be? It’s winter now so I will have to wait and see, although I’ve never had a problem with overheating feet in any of the Mizunos.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

15, 16, 17 on top. 20, 19, 18 on the bottom.

Turning to the rear we see more obvious differences in the upper of the shoes. Indeed each year there are quite significant changes to the rear despite broad similarities in the rear sole construction/layers. The prior year’s 18 (white/green) always LOOKED weaker in the basic mesh construction at the rear. As with many shoes, the reality was that underneath the mesh (and effectively invisible) was the strength and support needed. The new leather-like logo on the 20 is smaller than last year – yet it is wider and when combined with new lateral stitching this might give a little more solidity to the construction of the rear. Or not 🙂

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

Turning again to the toes, below. Since taking the photos I’ve covered not far off 45 cold-to-mild and sometimes wet miles. The breathability seems fine in some of the faster runs and my socks were as wet as they always are when it rains.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

Here’s another close-up of the toe areas. With all the previous models, the soles do not detach from the toes of Mizuno running shoes even after significant, extended usage beyond the normal lifetime of the shoe for running – 4/5 years of running in some cases. They clearly partner with Superglue Inc.! and the fact that all my shoes are in one piece is a testament to the overall quality of a durable shoe.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

From the cursory visual overview you have seen so far, there is clearly progression in most aspects of the appearance – ie other than the tread pattern and basic morphology of the shoe. But let’s take a closer look still, will any of this translate into a different & better running experience? On the image below you can see the white MIDSOLE section.

I had a good poke at that. It felt softer to the touch than the 19. That would imply a softer, spongier ride perhaps? Some other reviewers said as much. However it was NOT what I found. Running with forefoot striking I would say, if anything, it felt LESS spongy. Changing to a heel strike, I DID find it felt more cushioned but I don’t normally run that way so it was difficult to make a definitive comparison. Mizuno claim the 20 has 9% softer cushioning compared to the 19.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

Clickable

 

Inside the shoe, underneath the cushioned insole, you will find the U4ic X strobelboard base. It looks identical to last years. Let’s assume it is, even the holes look the same.

 

 

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

mizuno-wave-rider-20-component-x10The X10 components of the sole are used in the highest impact areas for heel strikers. You can see them on the black parts of the sole (click the images to the right/left). These supply longer wear characteristic and, apparently, better traction. Whilst the X10 piece is little changed from last year it HAS moved slightly, favouring a heel striker.

 

 

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoe

mizuno-wave-rider-20-sr-touch-componentThe SRtouch WAS a shock absorbing mid-sole material in the heel of the 19; the REARMOST black layer in the image to the right of the green Wave Rider 19s.This is no longer present in the 20. There is now a 2-layer heel construction compared to last year’s 3-layer heel construction.

 

mizuno-wave-rider-20-u4ic-componentMizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoeThe U4IC midsole compound is retained from recent years. Essentially this offered a significantly lower-weight, technical solution for this part of the shoe without any loss in performance/comfort when compared to earlier models.

 

 

mizuno-wave-rider-20-smoothrideMizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoeThe SmoothRide (SR) component of the sole is different from last year (last year it was the Pebax Rnew + SR Touch). This is a thin, flexible but fairly sturdy zig-zaggy bit that supports the U4IC (x) midsole. The zig-zag shape IS different from last year’s model and may or may not offer different performance characteristics.  Like the Pebax Rnew this component extends through to the rear of the shoe, stopping about 2cm from the rear. HOWEVER unlike last year the last 2cm does not have the SR Touch component immediately behind it. From heel-strike to toe-off, this component of the shoe is supposed to minimise the rapid accelerations/decelerations that occur in that phase of the running gait – giving a smoother ride. Hence the name! This part of the sole is in all the Wave Riders I have, it certainly has changed, but it is integral to the performance and comfort of the ride.

mizuno-wave-rider-20-intercool-component

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoeInterCool technology refers to how Mizuno ventilate the heat and humidity throughout the entire shoe. There are apparently various ‘ventilation channels’. I can’t really tell where they are or if they are different to before. I didn’t notice any better/worse performance for dispersion of heat/humidity (in autumn/winter). As said earlier, the mesh certainly is different.

 

What is the WAVE?

In essence, it is the term for the performance element of the entire soles construction. Namely covering how impact is absorbed and then how some of that impact energy is released as the foot progresses through ground contact. It also encompasses ‘technologies’ that correct lateral motion. VERY MANY running shoes have NOTHING AT ALL LIKE THIS IN THEIR SOLES…just a simple bit of foam with a hard bit stuck underneath to increase wear and grip.

 

Weight, Ramp/Drop & Footprint

The Wave Rider 19s were officially 272g and the 20s officially slightly heavier at 290g(m)/245g(f) with my pair coming in at just over 305g (size: EUR44, UK9.5, US10.5). Onto that I can normally add lightweight custom orthotics and elastic laces. Clearly smaller sizes will be lighter. Women’s models are typically quoted as up to 30-40g lighter, presumably this is due to a smaller average size rather than a lighter construction.

The ramp is unchanged at 12mm (31mm heel less 19mm forefoot; aka heel-toe offset)

I’ve read that the 20s have a wider footprint. This is patently NOT TRUE. The width of the sole at the front and rear is near-exactly the same as the 19s. The entire footprint looks identical to me from 19 to 20 (possibly the forefoot sole extends slight more rearwards – that’s irrelevant).

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoeSizes

You can get the sizes shown below; end-of-season sale pairs will typically be in garish colours or sizes at the extremes of this range:

  • Men: UK 6-15, US 7-16
  • Women: UK 3-10, US 4-11

Sizing, Fit and Usage

Neutral foot strike, cushioning ride for a performance runner. Probably longer lasting than many similar shoes. Best used on firmer surfaces like trails, treadmills and roads. Fine for your long run. It’s probably a bit lighter and a bit faster and a bit more longer lasting than many of the alternatives.

Fair-to-good cushioning for heel strikers.

Apparently the 20s will come in a wider and in a narrower fit as well as the standard fit. Possibly also with Junior sizes although I haven’t seen any of these advertised myself yet. I would imagine availability of these, more unusual, ‘fits’ will be limited and may come in 2017.

Longevity

This will depend on your weight and running form. You should easily get more than 500 miles out of a pair. The gear tracking on some of my earlier models shows mileages in excess of 700 miles with no failure of the construction – although there is compression in the midsole foam before this mileage is reached .

On the 17s I had an issue around failure of the breathable mesh on the inside of the big toe joint on each foot. But only on the 17s and they could still be used despite the failure.

Rotation

It’s good to rotate between shoe models/brands from one run to the next. It keeps your feet thinking and doesn’t cost any more in the medium-term as rotated shoes need replacing less often!

Personally I’d go for a rotation with the Wave Inspire (heavier) and the Ghost.

Mizuno Wave Rider 20 Review waverider 21 19 18 running shoeMy Runs

The Wave Riders always fit me really well. They are comfortable and suit my running style – these are the main 2 factors for my personal choice. Secondarily, the relatively low weight clinches the deal.

The FIT of the 18s did feel different to me compared to the 17s.

For me, the FIT of the 20 is nearly identical to the 19. The two differences I can feel are a slightly looser heel and a slightly firmer sole at the front of the shoe.

They ARE relatively light and, as such, remain as quick as previous years’ models. Well, as quick as your legs! I have absolutely no problems with them when ‘off-road’; whilst I don’t regularly run up Ben Nevis they are fine on uneven ground, with the usual caveats. It’s wet and slippery now in the UK and there are no problems with that. When it snows I will stay in front of the fire.

So. Should you go out and buy some? If you haven’t bought a pair of running shoes for a year you’ve probably seen the best of days in your current shoes. It’s time to relegate them to ‘social’ usage. If you liked previous Wave Rider then I would say just go and choose the prettiest colour and get your credit card out. Just buy the same size as last time, assuming it fitted OK.

Improvements

Other than aesthetic improvements from time-to-time, the only improvement I would like to see would be a more responsive forefoot.

HOWEVER in order to achieve that, support and cushioning might have to be compromised and THAT for me would not be good.

So broadly the shoe is ‘in the right place’ with the necessary compromises that have been made.

Prices

Summary:

If these get me through my Ironman training in one piece then I’ll be happy. If they help deliver a PB in a HM or two I will be delighted. I EXPECT the Wave Riders to do both when combined with some training.

If you need a fairly neutral, fairly cushioned, fairly light, long-lasting training shoe and also an occasional racing shoe; then these will do nicely. This is even true over a 10k race, where less-supportive racing flats may be less appropriate than this type of shoe for some of us. Like the last two years, these remain my ‘training’ shoe of choice for 2016 and my Half Marathon ‘racing’ shoe of choice.

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2 thoughts on “Detailed Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 20 (Waverider)

  1. 12mm can’t be too many of those about these days? I always used 8mm Saucony triumph, ride and Jazz. However once I broke 25 miles a week I was constantly crocked. 4mm fixed that for me. Saucony Kinvaras and new balance bocorays work for me. As you elude each to their own.

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