I have a shoe rotation that includes minimalist, performance, racing flats, and traditional trainers. Of these, I put the bulk of my mileage on traditional trainers – I use them on all of those long, slow, boring runs that nobody really cares to hear about. I typically put in around 80 miles a week, with only about 20-30 of those being quality. This leaves about 50 miles per week for me to log on cushioned trainers. That means I get an average of about 2 months out of a pair of trainers, so I’m always looking for a new favorite to keep me company on those runs when I’m half asleep and daydreaming about breakfast. That’s how I came upon the new Mizuno Wave Rider 17 (these were provided for review, free-of-charge, by Runningshoes.com).
I have had a pair of the Wave Rider 16s for a while, but only logged a handful of miles in them as I was spending more time in other shoes that I found more interesting. The 16s seemed heavy and underwhelming, so I was only slightly excited about trying these new 17s. What I did not realize was how dramatic of a change Mizuno had made in this update. Let’s compare the two models on a few key metrics:
Wave Rider 16
Weight – 10 oz
Stack Height – 28mm heel, 16mm forefoot
Heel-to-toe drop – 12 mm
Wave Rider 17
Weight – 8.6 oz
Stack Height – 31mm heel, 18mm forefoot
Heel-to-toe drop – 13 mm
You’re reading that correctly, Mizuno dropped the weight considerably in the Rider 17. Out of the box, I immediately noticed the 1.4 ounces of weight that Mizuno managed to shave off of these shoes. This was apparently made possible by Mizuno’s new U4ic midsole material (something they are incorporating in several of their new models), which Mizuno claims is lighter and just as cushioned as their previous midsole compounds.
Based on the specs, the new midsole does add a very slightly steeper offset, and makes for a somewhat taller shoe all around, so don’t expect to feel more ground contact. Although the heel-to-toe drop is one of the largest of all my shoes, I did not feel that it caused me to break form throughout my easy runs. More than likely (I have not had my stride analyzed), I have a slight heel strike when I’m running slow and easy, so it’s useful to have a heavier duty rubber outsole on the heel. Like most traditional trainers, these shoes do not have much torsional flexibility in the midfoot (I cannot twist them by hand).
One concern I had with this shoe was how stiff the forefoot felt with its rubber outsole. This left the balls of my feet feeling beat up after the first couple of runs. Thankfully, I stuck it out and found that the more I wore the shoes, the more flexible the forefoot became. I asked a Mizuno rep about this, and they agreed that there seems to be a “sweet spot” of about 50 miles when the shoes break-in. The Wave Rider 17s now give my toes the ability to bend backwards as they like. I’m happy to report that I have had no pain in my feet in over a week while running in these shoes almost exclusively.
The upper of the Wave Rider 17 is a soft mesh construction that is very breathable and very comfortable. I felt that there was plenty of room in the forefoot for my toes to move freely.
Much lighter than most traditional trainers
Very soft, breathable mesh upper
Shoe becomes increasingly flexible with continued wear
Large heel-to-toe offset could cause issues for those sensitive to a high-drop shoe
More shoe than some runners prefer
Long break-in period to achieve desired flexibility (took ~70 miles until they started becoming comfortable for me)
Overall, I’m very happy with the Wave Rider 17. I believe that Mizuno has done a great job in maintaining the aspects that people have come to love about this classic shoe (cushioning, solid construction, comfortable fit), while making a tremendous update with the new midsole. Many shoe enthusiasts describe the perfect running shoe as one that disappears on your foot while running. While the Wave Rider 17 is still a traditional, cushioned trainer, it is a certainly a good step toward this. These are now on my short list for favorite traditional trainers.