Monday, November 28, 2011

Gear Review: Mizuno Wave Rider 15

15th Anniversary Edition Mizuno Wave Rider 15

When I was still running college cross-country and track, it seemed like the two most popular shoes on the team were the Nike Pegasus and Mizuno Wave Rider. To this day, the Rider is, without a doubt, one of the most popular go-to trainers among many of my serious runner friends. Last year, when I was looking for a trainer, several of my friends told me to go Rider. Unfortunately, the Rider that was available at the time was the Rider 14, the red-headed stepchild of the Rider family that strayed from everything everyone liked about the 13 and earlier. I tried it on, and immediately knew I couldn't wear that shoe...especially since the arch support seemed to dig into the front of my calcaneus (WTF???). Thankfully, Mizuno promised to return the Rider 15 to its roots, and I was again curious to try this shoe. When my friend Seth asked me if I wanted to test the Rider 15, I jumped at the opportunity.

I was actually smart enough this time to take pictures before I got the shoe dirty and gross! So you get clean shoe pictures. How awesome is that?

Mizuno Wave Rider 15. You can see the grey Wave plate extending partway into the forefoot.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15 is Mizuno's neutral trainer. It weighs in at 11.1oz for a men's size 9, and has a 29mm heel and 17mm forefoot for a 12mm heel-toe differential. The Rider is described on Running Warehouse as such:
The Rider 15 is a moderate feature, moderate neutral shoe designed for daily training and high mileage. It is built with a semi-curved shape.
  • Mizuno Wave consists of an elastic, thermal plastic wave running from the heel to the midfoot, creating an incredibly springy and well-cushioned ride.
  • VS-1 cushioning material in the heel provides additional shock absorption.
  • Smooth Ride is a gender specific network of grooves that minimizes the rapid acceleration and deceleration of the foot to create a smooth heel to toe ride.
  • Extended Wave Plate in the midfoot is an extension of the Mizuno Wave for increased torsional rigidity between the heel and forefoot.
  • AP+ is Mizuno's top of the line full-length copolymer midsole for a lighter, more resilient ride.
  • Mizuno Intercool ventilation system in the midsole inhibits humidity buildup to keep feet cool and dry.
  • Gender Engineering utilizes gender-specific attributes such as a wider base in men’s shoes and additional flex grooves in women’s shoes.
  • AIRmesh covers the entire upper and provides breathability to keep the foot cool.
  • OrthoLite Sockliner is anti-microbial and moisture wicking for a healthy foot environment.
  • Dynamotion Fit creates optimal fit with stretch material in the forefoot and a collar construction that prevents the heel collar from buckling under load.
  • Strobel Last with the upper stitched to full length fabric for a comfortable underfoot feel.
  • X10 located in the heel and forefoot is made of durable carbon rubber for enhanced traction.
  • Flex Controllers placed in high flex areas on the outsole act as miniature wave plates for increased flexibility and reduced weight.
The first thing that I noticed upon putting on the shoe is that the fit is much improved from the unwearable (for me) Wave Rider 14. It's built off of a semi-curved last (also sometimes referred to as a universal last), as most neutral trainers are, and has a slightly upward sprung toe (though not nearly to the extent of some shoes I've worn in the past). The toe spring is pretty unnoticeable once the shoe is on.

Universally curved last of the Mizuno Wave Rider 15. You can also see part of the Wave plate and the yellow Smooth Ride grooves in this picture.

One thing I want to point out since I just posted the picture of the sole is something that one of my friends (a diehard Rider fan) refers to as the "Mizuno Rock." Because of that channel in the middle of the heel, you can sometimes pick up a pretty nice sized rock in there. I haven't run into this problem personally, so it must happen much more infrequently than it does with say, the Nike Free, but I've definitely been on runs with her where she had to fish the Mizuno Rock out of her shoe.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15 is definitely a very responsive shoe, with firm cushioning and a fast transition. Don't get me wrong, the cushioning is definitely there, and it's not like we're talking about a super firm racing flat, but compared to many trainers I've worn, it has a firmer midsole. The AP+ midsole cushioning is also super responsive, and it has no problems with feeling "dead." I've also found that the Rider's ride feels better with a midfoot strike than a heelstrike. It just feels like a faster transition upon midfoot strike than I get with some of my other shoes, but the transition isn't quite as seamless with a heelstrike. I'm not sure if this is because of the way the Wave plate works or what...just something I picked up concerning the shoe's heel-toe transition (or entire foot-toe, in the case of the midfoot strike).

Forefoot flexibility of the Mizuno Wave Rider 15

Lateral flexibility of the Mizuno Wave Rider 15

These pictures I took make it look like the Rider is a pretty flexible shoe. However, I've found that that's not quite the case when running. Mizuno describes the Wave plate as being like a piece of corrugated cardboard, that is very flexible in one direction and not very flexible in the other. True to form, it doesn't have very much lateral flexibility, especially in the rear of the shoe (all of the lateral flexibility seems to be in the forefoot), and while, due to its design, it should have a lot of forefoot flexibility, it doesn't seem to have forefoot flexibility in the right place for my feet. This may be due to the positioning of the Flex Controllers or the placement of the flex grooves in relation to the joints of my foot. It's not that the Rider is an inflexible shoe, it's just that it's not flexible enough in the right places for my personal preferences. I have a hunch that the lateral stiffness towards the rear of the shoe and practically all of the lateral flexibility being concentrated in the forefoot might contribute to why I didn't like this shoe for heelstriking, but I'm not 100% sure on that one. The Rider also has a fairly strong heel counter. The Rider is designed for a neutral runner, and most of my friends who use this shoe have very neutral strides, though I think that the inherent support offered by the Wave plate may make it suitable for some mild overpronators also, depending on their personal kinetic chain.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15 has a fairly strong heel counter.

I would expect these shoes to be pretty durable. Mizuno's Wave plate in their midsole has a reputation for durability, since it supposedly doesn't break down as quickly as some other technologies. They took the miles I put on them very well and other than the shoe being dirty and the carbon rubber outsole having some signs of wear, the midsole itself seems to be taking a lickin' and keeping on kickin'. However, I didn't actually get enough miles on these to wear them out, so I can't give a true measure of durability (more on that later).

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15's toebox is definitely on the narrow side, and it was a little narrow at the widest point of my foot. I definitely had to keep the lacing loose towards the toe. It was nothing that a little playing with the laces didn't fix, but if your foot is wide, you may want to order a wide width, or possibly even size half a size up if you don't mind a little bit of extra length. However, I have not heard any guys complain about this, so the narrow toebox may be unique to the women's version.

The upper itself is very nice, and hugs the foot well once you adjust the laces to fit your foot. It's comfortable with or without socks, though to be fair, I don't think I know anyone who wears their trainers sockless. It's also a very breathable shoe, so you shouldn't have any problems with your feet overheating. It's also a really attractive shoe is that matters to you at all. Mizuno also released a 15th Anniversary Edition in bright red for men and fuschia for women if you're a fan of brightly colored running shoes.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15 has a narrow toebox. Here it is in comparison to the Brooks Ghost. Ignore how the heel of the Ghost is all stretched out...they didn't look like that 500 miles ago. Just compare the toeboxes. Should have taken it next to the Ghost 4, which is all new and pretty, but now the Rider is not new and pretty.

I really wanted to like this shoe for so many reasons. Seriously, Mizuno fans are like a cult...that's how much they love their shoes. The Wave Rider is like Blade Runner. It has a ton of fans, and all those fans absolutely love this movie, and if you haven't seen it, you feel like you're missing out! Anyway, at some point during college, I finally saw Blade Runner, and...I didn't like it. I wanted to like it though, so I watched it again. And again. And finally, after watching that unicorn prance across the screen way too many times,  I decided that Blade Runner just wasn't my kind of movie. Well, I gave the Rider a bunch of chances to win my love, hoping they'd break in so they'd be flexible in the right places for my foot. And they did break in, but just not as much as I was hoping, and unfortunately, like Blade Runner, the Rider 15 is just not for me. Honestly, I think the Wave Precision (which I tried on in a store and was thiiis close to buying) would be more to my liking. For me, the Rider is a super comfortable shoe for walking around in, but I think I may have to retire them from my running rotation and make them my walking around and cross-training shoe. That does not, however, mean that you won't like them (that's why I feel that it's important to describe the shoe's characteristics, rather than just being like "this shoe sucks!" or "this shoe rocks!"), so it's worth reading my entire description of the shoe, and seeing whether or not that description describes a shoe that meets your personal needs. And I can definitely see why other people would like's just that not every shoe works for every person (particularly when apparently my foot joints are in the wrong place for this particular shoe). In general, I'm thinking I'd recommend this shoe to the neutral runner (and possibly even the mild overpronator) who runs primarily with a midfoot or forefoot strike and prefers a responsive but less flexible shoe, and who's looking for a go-to high-mileage workhorse trainer for putting in the miles.

Wake up! Time to Run!

So the question remains: is the Wave Rider 15 a return to the Wave Rider 13? Honestly, I'm not sure, since I didn't wear the 13. However, from what I understand, the 13 was similar to the Brooks Ghost 2, in that it was straddling that line between performance trainer and general neutral workhorse. Like more recent iterations of the Ghost, recent iterations of the Rider are a traditional neutral trainer. I have heard from many Rider 13 fans that the Precision is a great alternative, and very similar to the Rider 13. I would advise fans of the Rider 13 to try on two shoes, the Wave Rider 15 and the Wave Precision (Mizuno's neutral performance trainer), and then to choose the shoe that better suits their needs.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 15 retails for $114.99 and can be located on the Mizuno website, as well as at running stores that carry Mizuno products. It runs fairly true to size, though the toebox is pretty narrow, so if your foot is on the wide side, you may want to consider ordering a wide width or going half a size up.

Full disclosure: I received these shoes free of charge as part of a test program Mizuno was doing with the Rider 15. I am not a Mizuno wear tester, nor do I have any affiliation with Mizuno, though I am grateful for their generosity in providing me a test pair. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Mizuno, Seth, or anyone else.


  1. haha, the Mizuno Rock!! Was that Jenny? I think Coach Rob said it too. It was more like the Mizuno pine cone for me! So annoying in the winter, when snow would build up on top of that. I LOVED the Wave Rider, and I still miss it a little bit every time I lace up my New Balances (my club is sponsored by them) or Nike Pegasus (worn for pacing workouts, I have to wear them). Great review, Becki!! Mizuno should pay you to write these, blog unbias be damned!

  2. Haha it was definitely more than on person on the team! I think the first time I heard it was when you were using it, and I was asking what you were doing when you just randomly stopped and were smacking your shoe against a pole or something. And I know I heard it since then with a few other people. Aimee loves them too, maybe I heard it from her. What New Balances are you wearing now?

  3. Ohhh, what NB's am I NOT wearing?! hah...mostly the 880's for "normal," everyday runs, the 890's for tempos and longer track intervals, and the 1400's for road races, and the 507's for XC races! I also own 2 pairs of heftier trainers that I sometimes alternate in (or just do errands in).

  4. Hm, well if I have to lose my Carrie Bradshaw of running shoes title, at least it's to a SATC fan. ;)

  5. Will Stick to Mizuno wave rider 13. I know Mizuno rocks but I love my 13 style. :)

  6. Buy them while you can find them! They're getting harder and harder to find.

  7. Im not a runner but I do morning jog. Becki, thanks for that tip. I will find one of them and buy it instantly. Really good shoes.

    P.S. Love your banner.

    How To Build Muscle Fast at Home Enthusiast

  8. Great shoes. I found one on ebay but it’s a used one. This one is very expensive yet it’s worth it.
    Get Information Here to solve your financial report problems

  9. I have myself one of the pair of Wave Rider 15 Limited Edition -- the red ones -- in the first photo and I really love them. They're way more structured that I am used to -- I have gone the road of unstructured, ultra-light, shoes but I really love these. And they make me run harder because I feel like I have the sort of support I need since I am a pretty big guy. Plus, I feel like I have to live up to them, they're so much better at running than I am.

  10. Glad you like them, Chris! And motivation coming from your shoes? I like that...I think I'm going to tell myself I need to live up to my shoes next time I'm struggling during a workout! :)

  11. I'm a chronic shin splinter. Is this shoe good for me?

  12. Maverick, it really depends on what the cause of your shin splints is. That's a pretty tough thing to diagnose online. Where are your shinsplints? Muscle in the front of your leg? Muscle/tendon on the inside? Alone the bone? What shoes are you wearing now? Did you change anything in your training recently (volume, intensity, etc)? Ever had a gait analysis done?

  13. Agh! I've been using Mizuno Wave Rider for over 10 years. I loved them. It was the only shoe I could wear - most brands make my toes go numb. I just got the Wave Rider 15 (I think my last pair was 12 or 13). I went for a 6 mile run - when I reached a location 3 miles from home I started to get awful blisters on my right pinky toe and right heel. The new heel cushion digs into my tendons. And the toebox is much smaller. I hate them! And I had to run 3 miles back with blisters. Now I'm out $105. The biggest reason I loved Mizuno is they never changed the shoe much from year to year. Now they've gone and drastically changed it. It's gonna take me all summer to find something that doesn't destroy my feet. Is Mizuno Wave Precision really the closest thing? Does anyone have suggestions on shoes that are similar to the old Mizuno Wave Rider (anything prior to 14)? Thanks if you do!! What a sad day for my feet.

  14. Celine, I have not worn any of the older Riders, so I couldn't tell you whether or not there is something closer to the old Rider than the Precision. However, I do have a Precision review here: and I much prefer the Precision to the Rider 15. I've also heard rumors that the Rider 16 is going to be closer to the old versions (it will definitely be lighter, at the very least), but I can't confirm for certain.

  15. Also, the toebox of the Precision is definitely wider than the Rider's...the Rider's toebox is weirdly narrow, IMO. I have them laced using parallel lacing to get them to fit at all. The Precision's upper in general is much nicer.

  16. actually mizuno has wider version of wave rider (called wave rider SW), so the toebox room is not the problem at all. if you have wider feet, then go for SW.

    1. Can you tell me if the wider version is a lot wider or just a little? (men's version), the rider i want should be a little wider in the toe box but not a whole lot...

    2. That I don't know, as I'm not familiar with the men's version and don't work for Mizuno. I'd recommend getting in touch with this guy:

  17. I wear Asics Nimbus for my daily workout.
    I am thinking of getting something new and especially Mizuno wave rider 16 - I am a neutral runner (50km/week)with time less than 5min/km. What is your opinion? thank you in advance for your reply,

    1. The Rider will definitely be much firmer than the Nimbus. If you're looking to go Mizuno, you may feel more at home in the Enigma. As always, try them on before you buy if you can. Hope that helps!

  18. Hi Becki,
    I'm a big fan of the Wave Rider series. The latest pair I've worn is the Rider 15 Anniversary Ed.
    In my recent visits to Mizuno and specialty shops, I've become particularly drawn to running flats. I'm not convinced yet whether to go with Musha / Ronin / Universe in preparation for this year's running events.
    I'm glad I found another comprehensive online resource through your blog. Thanks for making your blog available for runners like me.
    - Ann

  19. Thanks for stopping by, Ann! I do have reviews of the Ronin and Universe on my blog (very different shoes, btw), but have not worn the Ronin. What kind of races are you doing? That would be a pretty big influence on which shoes to go with, in my opinion.

  20. Hi I'm transitioning from wearing vibrams for about 2
    1.5 yrs I wear them in for every activity gym weights running walking etc. I have nuetral foot medium to high arch. Looking for a good shoe I tried on the 16 in store but really like the colors of the 15's better and was going to order them offline discounted! Do u think the 15's will work for me? I only tried on the 16 in my size. They felt very responsive which I LOVED!

  21. If you like the way the 16 felt, the 15 should work too...the upper was changed such that the 16 is lighter, but the midsole remains the same, so the overall feel of the shoe should be similar. It does seem like quite a change from Vibrams though...I assume you've already ruled out the EVO Cursoris or EVO Levitas? It may be a less drastic change, unless you're really looking to get away from that type of shoe.

  22. Mizuno still insists on putting those pointy wave plates that dig into the bottom of your feet. I hope they correct this in the new WR 17's.

    1. I've never had the Wave Plate dig into my feet, but if that's an issue for you, unfortunately, I don't think that it'll change on the WR 17.


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