High mileage runners and weekend warriors alike have gravitated towards the Mizuno Wave Rider as a lightweight but durable shoe with a smooth ride.  The Wave Rider 13 was widely considered the benchmark of perfection in the Mizuno neutral cushioning line and many runners have high expectations for the Wave Rider 15.  The Wave Rider 14 left many runners disappointed due to poor flexibility and a slightly different fit, and many were hoping for return to the feel of the Wave Rider 13.  Weighing in at 11.1 oz (men’s size 9) and with a heel drop of 12 mm Mizuno seems to be sticking with what has worked in the past.

For those runners unfamiliar with Mizuno’s running shoes it can be quite easy to become a convert.  Mizuno lovers speak of great fitting shoes with a smooth natural feeling transition through the gait cycle.

Mizuno Wave Rider 15 First Impressions

The 15th edition of the popular Wave Rider features an improved fit with a lower heel collar after many runners complained of abrasions on the too high heel collar of the last edition.  The first thing I noticed about the fit of the Wave Rider 15 is that it runs true to size and the fit feels excellent.  An ample toe box is supported by a snug fit throughout the mid foot and heel, and the overlays throughout the upper of the shoe give a nice locked down feel.  The cushioning feels firm, consistent with Mizuno’s wave technology, and initially the Wave Rider 15 felt a bit stiff and inflexible.  I needed to put the shoe through the paces to truly assess performance.

Mizuno Wave Rider 15 Upper

The Wave Rider 15 upper features a breathable mesh and lightweight construction. The lacing system is straightforward with standard oval laces and the tongue is adequately cushioned. What I liked most about the interior of the shoe was the fairly thin and minimalist feeling and open mesh.  The upper is pliable and there aren’t any overlays which feel extraneous.  Mizuno uses a durable micro-mesh  to reinforce areas on the lateral side of the upper where runners often wear holes, like the pinky toe area.

The fit is pure Mizuno with a snug heel and forefoot giving way to a roomier toe box.  The length is true to size and I was impressed with how locked down my foot feels on down-hills and even trails in the Wave Rider 15.  This is a shoe which most runners will be able to wear right out of the box without having to spend an annoying break-in period. Overall, the Wave Rider 15 has a durable but lightweight upper with a fantastic fit.

Mizuno Wave Rider 15 Midsole

The Wave Rider 15 features Wave Technology which provides a very smooth transition from heel to toe.  The Wave Rider 15 also features an extended wave plate through the mid foot and almost up to the metatarsals of the foot.  While this improves the ride of the shoe it does add some rigidity in the mid foot.  The toe box of the shoe past where the wave plate ends is flexible which gives a nice toe-off for mid foot and forefoot strikers.

The Wave Rider 15′s cushioning feels soft on top with the firmer wave plates on the bottom creating a pleasantly firm yet responsive cushioning.   Mizuno uses its AP+ EVA foam on top of the wave plates and the AP+ feels has maintained its feel and seems to perform well in temperature variations from 20 F to 75 F.  The wave plate in the heel is reinforced with more cushioning courtesy of Mizuno’s VS-1 material.

Mizuno also uses Smooth Ride technology which is a gender specific series of grooves that minimize acceleration and deceleration of the foot to even out the ride.  Honestly, I didn’t notice this feature in any way but as stated earlier the Wave Rider 15 is a smooth ride.

Mizuno Wave Rider 15 Outsole

The Wave Rider outsole features a large cutout in the heel of the shoe, presumably to save weight, and durably  carbon rubber lines the entire outsole of the shoe.  The wave plate is exposed in the mid foot area of the shoe which did get fairly beat up after 20-30 miles of dirt/gravel running.  Nothing too avant garde in the lug pattern of the Wave Rider 15 and I’m happy to report that the sole does not pick up rocks while running.

Mizuno Wave Rider 15 Performance and Overall Impressions

Mizuno advertises the new Wave Rider as an amalgam of all of the positive aspects of past Wave Riders molded into one shoe.  While they manage to hit the mark in fit, cushioning, and support they missed in the flexibility department for me.  Lovers of the Wave Rider 13 will be disappointed with this shoe.  Instead of feeling like a built up responsive racing flat (like the 13) the Wave Rider 15 feels and functions more like a lightweight stability trainer.  This lack of flexibility throughout the heel and forefoot was especially noticed on trails where the shoe had difficulty negotiating cambered surfaces and rocks, and I even rolled my ankle twice.  To be fair, this shoe is not a trail shoe but it really did give me an indication of the rigidity of this shoe.

Now, for those who aren’t looking for Mizuno to remake a previous model, the Wave Rider 15 is a fantastic shoe.  This is a great all-in-one shoe for those looking to run long, do tempo work, and have a race day shoe in one package.  Many runners will like the stiffer mid-foot as it does seem to propel the wearer forward when feet are tired.  With a near perfect fit, lightweight and lower profile feel, and great cushioning the Wave Rider 15 is definitely worth a try on!

Please comment with your own suggestions regarding the Mizuno Wave Rider 15. We are always open to differing opinions!

We thank the nice people at Mizuno for sending us this shoe for testing. This did not influence our review of the shoes, written after running 60 miles in it.