Shoe of the Week: Mizuno Wave Rider 20

A legacy shoe that's had its ups and downs, but wear-testers say this might be the best edition yet.

Let’s start from the top: the Wave Rider 20 is a great everyday training shoe for a wide range of runners and types of running. Never mind for the moment that it’s a legacy shoe—Mizuno’s longest continually updated model—that has spanned two decades of running. It’s a versatile shoe that is light and cushioned enough, as well as soft and protective enough, for long runs, responsive enough for faster workouts (like tempo runs and longer intervals) and, for some, is agile enough to be the race-day choice for a half marathon or marathon. The new three-part mesh upper and plush interior create a comfortable, secure fit for a wide range of foot sizes, while the flexibility traits offer a touch of energetic pop. If this was the only shoe in your quiver, it would definitely serve you well in all regards.

But because it is a legacy shoe with a long history, there’s a bit more to consider when talking about the 20th edition. First, like the long-tail legacy shoes from other brands—Nike Pegasus and ASICS Gel-Kayano, for example—the Wave Rider has gone through plenty of ups and downs. Most of the editions through the years have been pretty darn good and on the leading edge of shoe design—even if looking at some of the models or running in them would make you scratch your head now. A few, though, were notably off the mark, and Mizuno is the first to admit that. That’s not meant to be a cheap shot, just a fact of how shoe design has ebbed and flowed over the past 20 years.

That said, what Mizuno tried to do with No. 20 was to get this shoe back into the sweet spot of the running population where it thrived for so long. The two big things they wanted to ensure was that it had a softer feeling underfoot and that it still retained a sense of liveliness to it. To make a long story short, they succeeded by 1. using a new midsole foam in the heel crash pad (called U4icX), 2. creating a convex geometry with a new Wave plate, and 3. developing a more snappy sensation at toe off. The Wave Rider 20 retains the 12mm heel-toe drop that has been a hallmark of the shoe, but it somehow doesn’t feel as abrupt given the softer feeling in the heel and lateral portions of the shoe. The sometimes unrelenting firmness of some previous models of the Wave Rider is gone, so it isn’t quite as snappy as previous models … but it hasn’t become a marshmallowly plodder either. The new version also has a slightly wider footprint and a more accommodating fit.

Is this Wave Rider model the best ever? Maybe. It kind of depends on whether you have history with this shoe and what your expectations are. After the first week of testing—which included a variety of runs from 3 to 15 miles—our wear-testers liked it a lot.

This is the shoe for you if … You’re looking for a comfortable, do-everything high-mileage shoe that’s not bogged down with extra stuff you don’t need or an exorbitant price tag.

Price: $120
Weights: 9.6 oz. (men’s size 9), 8.3 oz. (women’s size 7)
Heel-Toe Offset: 12mm; 31mm (heel), 19mm (forefoot)

RELATED: Shoe of the Week—Brooks Ghost 9