Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mizuno Wave Rider 17 Review

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The Wave Rider is Mizuno's flagship model. The Mizuno Wave Rider 17 is most traditional road trainer we at Vagabond Running Blog have reviewed. Even though we generally prefer shoes on the more minimal end of the spectrum we were very excited when Mizuno provided these shoes for us to review. That they have now released the 17th iteration of this shoe spanning 16 years to meet the demand should speak volumes for the kind of lasting success this model has had among runners. I say all of that to reinforce how much there is to enjoy about this shoe despite the fact that our Vagabond Runners experienced some difficulties with it. 

What Jordan Liked

    Looks— Sue me. I like the look of Mizuno shoes. The Runbird logo reminds me of roadrunner, my home state's official state bird. Whenever I see a pair of Mizunos out on a run, I think "There goes a fast lookin' shoe." The Wave Rider 17 has a simple, elegant design. The upper is light and stretchy, not as light as their new racer, the Hitogami, but lighter than I thought it would be for a high-milage trainer. I know some folks don't like white running shoes, and I understand. I gravitate towards louder shoes myself. But what can I say? I like the look of this shoe.
    U4ic EVA— Pronounced "Euphoric", the foam midsole is, in my humble opinion, the best feature this shoe has to offer. The U4ic EVA offers a soft but resilient ride. It is soft enough to carry a heavier runner like me, but has a distinct bounce that makes me feel like I am getting fantastic energy return in my stride. U4ic makes many other EVA midsoles feel like they offer little more than a soft place to sink. It reminds me of Skechers' proprietary Resalyte EVA except with more bounce. 

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    Weight— For a shoe with a whopping 13mm drop (a cliff dive by my standards) boasting 31mm of rubber and plastic between your heel and the ground (those ants look like even smaller ants from that distance) the shoe remains unbelievably light at 8.6oz*. If I may editorialize a bit, I was a bit sad to see that Mizuno did not embrace minimalism with the same fervor that many of their competitors did a couple years ago. They had offerings in the market beginning with the Wave Evo Levitas (no longer available in the U.S.) and the Wave Evo Cursoris, but did not spend much on developing a line of shoes that catered to the minimalist trend. So what does minimalism have to do with what is, by the numbers, a decidedly traditional trainer like the Wave Rider 17? The weight. One of the lasting impacts of minimalism on the shoe market has been the a decrease in the weight of traditional trainers. The original Wave Rider was 12.8 oz. and stayed in the 10 oz -11 oz. neighborhood through its first fifteen iterations. In 2012, at the peak of minimalism, the Wave Rider 16 entered the feather weight division at 9.9oz. It could be argued that the move towards lighter shoes was inevitable irrespective of the minimalist trend because, all else being equal, lighter shoes means greater efficiency. I would agree, but I strongly suspect that the minimalist movement was a catalyst for the advent of remarkably lighter shoes. It sped the process up a bit as demand for light weight shoes peaked. The fruit of that demand was not Mizuno branded toe shoes, but a traditional trainer that competes on the scale with more minimalist offerings from the likes of Brooks, Kinvara, Nike, Newton et. al. I think it is actually a very optimistic sign of the times that the flagship Mizuno trainer is well under 9oz.

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    Fit— There's not much to say with regard to the fit of this shoe except that it is roomy enough for wider feet, but sturdy enough that I do not think that runners with narrow feet would have a problem (Mizuno does offer a 2E width if you find the standard D to be too narrow). As I mentioned above, the upper is nice and stretchy. The grooves in the forefoot offer decent, if limited flexibility. The outsole has plenty of blown rubber. I have no worries about this shoe lasting a few hundred miles.

Jordan's Concerns

    Drop— As I mentioned above, the 13mm drop is pretty steep. The steepest, in fact, that I have ever run in since I started running, and boy I can feel it. Walking around I feel a bit like I'm walking down a steep hill. That particular sensation can probably be explained by the novelty of a high drop trainer. I notice while running however, that I significantly have to adjust my stride in order to accommodate the extra 13mm. My foot strike, like everyone's foot strike, depends a host of external factors, but generally speaking I have a mid-foot to light heel strike. In the Wave Rider 17 I get the smoothest ride when I force myself to sharply heel strike. Between the wave plate and the U4ic midsole I feel like the shoe carries me through that kind of gait cycle as intended. Nevertheless, it's not a good match for my running style. The shoe is quite high off the ground as well. So as much as I love the U4ic EVA, I do wish there were less of it. This shoe has some of the right ingredients to be sure, just not in the proportions that work best for me.
    (Unnecessary?)Technology— We here at Vagabond Running prefer simplicity to complexity in almost all areas of life, running notwithstanding.  The Wave Rider 17 does not fit that mold; firm heel counter, wave plate, and a thick heel strap (they sure were paying a lot of attention to the heel) all seem a little unnecessary to me. I think I would enjoy this shoe more if there were just less of it.

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    Arch Pain— The other concerns are more or less a matter of preference, but the arch pain I experienced in this shoe is the biggest reason it does not work for me. Perhaps as a result of the drop, wave plate, or some combination of the two I notice that about a mile in to my runs in the Waver Rider, my arches start to get progressively sore. I cut my first run in them a little short because the pain became too uncomfortable. It got better the more I ran in the shoe, but hasn't stopped being an issue. To be honest, I don't really get excited about going for a run in them anymore, and that's a problem. Many people have run in the Wave Rider shoes for many years and do not experience any problems. So at the end of the day this is a mismatch between runner and shoe and not a inherent problem with the shoe itself.


I can not give as hearty of a recommendation for this shoe as I would like to give. I have not had a run in this shoe that did not result in arch pain. The pain immediately subsides when I take the shoe off and walk around a bit. And lest I be accused of disliking this shoe due to a presuppositional opposition to shoe technology, I would like to point out that there have been "high-tech" shoes that have worked for me in the past such as the Brooks PureFlow 2 or the Newton Energy NR. If you are already well acquainted with the Wave Rider line of shoes and find that they work for you, then the Wave Rider 17 is a must have if simply for the U4ic midsole and the decrease weight. If you tend to prefer a little less shoe to a little more, then I think it would be safe to pass this shoe up in favor of another option. Maybe the Mizuno Hitogami will be more your style.

Tech Specs

(From Mizuno and Runnning Warehouse)
    U4ic midsole delivers lightweight, resilient cushioning.
    Dissolving upper fit with new DMF execution and soft, supple mesh materials.
    SmoothRide Engineering for a brilliant run.
    Lateral Forefoot Sculpting for smooth touchdown and transition.
    Blown rubber forefront with deep flex grooves for optimal flexibility and cushioning.
    Weight: 8.6 oz (size 9)
    Stack Height: 31mm (Heel); 18mm (Forefoot)
    Available Widths: D=Medium, 2E=Wide

*It should be noted that there is a discrepancy in the reported weight of the Wave Rider 17 from Mizuno and Running Warehouse respectively. Mizuno Reports 9.2 oz. Running Warehouse reports 8.6 oz. Running Warehouse performs actual scale test before posting a weight so I feel confident in there metrics.

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