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Mizuno Wave Rider 26: Tradition!
By Matthew Klein, David Salas, and Andrea Myers

The Mizuno Wave Rider has provided a long lineage in the daily training market. The Wave Rider 26 continues upon this lineage with some updates in the outsole and midsole design. The ride is a little less flexible and a little more snappy in the forefoot while still providing the Mizuno Enerzy cushioning. The high-drop daily trainer is still going and gives some positive resemblance of some models of old. 

Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 10 oz, 283 g (men's size 9), 8.6 oz, 244 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: Not Provided
Drop: 12mm
Classification: High Drop Neutral Daily Trainer


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is a high-heel drop, daily training shoe. Mizuno's traditional snug heel and slightly wider forefoot sit up top with a secure and durable upper. The midsole is stiffer and thicker than previous versions, adding more cushioning and weight. This makes the Rider 26 a true daily training shoe with more forefoot cushioning and stiffness than before while maintaining the higher drop feel it has had for generations.

David: The Mizuno Wave Rider is a neutral daily training shoe that provides a very "traditional" ride. The shoe does maintain a high drop from heel to toe like many older training shoes. With that said the transition is still well maintained when loaded and the decrease in flex grooves actually feels like it smoothens the forefoot out and makes it a little more poppy up front as well. 

The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is a high drop, neutral daily trainer that reminds me of the daily trainers I used in high school and college 20+ years ago. Its more traditional geometry and ride is balanced out with a modern engineered mesh upper and a moderately responsive ride thanks to its Enerzy midsole and Wave plate. Runners who prefer a higher drop daily trainer may find a lot to love in the Wave Rider 26.

SIMILAR SHOES: ASICS Cumulus 24, Brooks Ghost 14


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 fits me true to size in my normal US Men's size 10. The width is normal to slightly wider, especially in the forefoot. The Jacquard mesh up top is secure throughout the length of the shoe. It has some mild stretch to it and conforms to the foot well. The forefoot has a little extra room without being sloppy. I can splay my toes a little but still feel secure. The midfoot is normal in width. The tongue is moderate in thickness and is gusseted. It is quite secure and I have not had any slippage issues. The laces are decent but I have had some foot sliding while running. I did have to lace-lock the heel, which fixed the sliding issue immediately. The heel fits normal to slightly snug. There is a large, forward-extending heel counter. It is extremely well-padded and I had no issues with my heel bones. Those that are sensitive should approach with caution as the padding may wear down with additional mileage. All's that to say,  the fit is normal width with a comfortable upper that does require a little extra lockdown. 

David: This is the best fitting Mizuno Wave Rider for me in a while. The mesh model of the 26 reminds me a lot of the 23, my favorite fitting Mizuno. The mesh is comfortable throughout, though still streamlined well enough to feel light on foot. The light reinforcement throughout is done quite well with the really light overlays on the upper. The fit is spot on for my foot. The heel is normal width, midfoot normal to slightly narrow, forefoot normal to slightly wide. The length is dialed in as well for me. The shoe hugs the foot well and locks down without heel slippage. The tongue is padded moderately and protects the foot well. There is a heel counter that provides pretty good structure to the region and is not overly padded to where it feels like a big plush amount of material. The design is pretty streamlined overall. Overall, this is one of my favorite uppers of the year so far. 

Andrea: The Wave Rider 26 fits true to size in my usual women's 9.5, with a full thumb's width from the front of my big toe to the front of the shoe. I found the width to be normal in the rearfoot and midfoot and slightly wide in the forefoot. The engineered mesh upper provides just enough stretch to fit comfortably while still promoting adequate lockdown. The toe box is lower in volume and I was aware of tightness on the dorsum of my toes while walking and running. There is a rigid heel counter that wraps around the medial and lateral aspect of the heel, extending all the way to the midfoot. The heel collar has thinner, but dense padding that further contributes to rearfoot lockdown. I did not experience any heel discomfort or slippage and liked the design of the rearfoot. The lightly padded tongue is partially gusseted and stays securely in place. The flat laces have mild stretch and further contribute to the secure fit of the upper. 


Matt: While previous Wave Riders have been on the lighter side of daily trainers, Version 26 takes a firm stand as a true daily training shoe. Additionally cushioning and stiffness has been added to the forefoot, reversing from version 25's highly flexible one. There does feel like there is extra stack height underfoot now (we do not have exact measurements) and while this provides protection from the ground, it is on the firm side initially. The firmer feel and higher heel drop make the rearfoot clunky during the initial miles in this shoe. Additionally, the increase in weight to 10 oz (men's size 9) also makes this shoe feel a bit heavy on foot. Once the full-length Enerzy midsole begins to break in, many of these feelings start to even out. This took about 20 miles for me and while the 12mm heel drop is still noticeable, the foam becomes more bouncy and less firm. It remains on the firmer side, but those who love the rider series will need to be a little patient with this shoe. The stiffness in the forefoot does remain, as does the stiffer ride in the heel and midfoot from the wave plate. Despite the break-in, the Rider 26 is definitely a daily trainer. This shoe is best for easier miles and longer efforts. The cushioning and protection do great for those kind of efforts, but the Rider 26 struggles with uptempo efforts and anything faster. Fortunately, there are plenty of other shoes in Mizuno's line for faster running, making the Wave Rider 26 a solid daily trainer for those wanting a higher heel drop. 

David: The Mizuno Wave Rider has always been a daily training shoe built for chugging daily miles. This does not change in the Wave Rider 26. The shoe feels very smooth on transitions from heel to toe. Yes the drop is higher than most other shoes, and this is felt to some degree. I actually like it as I push from my calves quite a bit when running faster, so shifting back a tiny bit and having that higher drop feels nice on my calves on the easy days. The 26 no longer has flex grooves throughout the forefoot, but rather a more continuous mini pod like outsole that is still interconnected throughout. It still gives you some flexibility when loaded, though not nearly as much as the 25.

For me, this gave a surprising amount of snappiness to the shoe and I was able to actually turn this shoe over a little bit. In a lot of ways it goes back to what I loved about the Wave Rider 23 with a little more modern package. The plate does seem to sit a little bit lower and have almost a C curve gradually climbing up the early midfoot and tapering down into the early forefoot. I think this makes the heel feel a little more forgiving as well as some of the other models. The ride is still on the firmer side as most Wave Riders have been, though this does seem to smoothen out the heel pretty well. There is still plenty of cushioning on the Wave Rider as a daily trainer though. The transition can still feel a tiny bit slappy, but I am happy with the overall design. I think refining the plate a tad and giving it a little less of a climb through that midfoot might do the trick for me to give the icing on the cake. Otherwise, I am really happy with this is a workhorse trainer. 

Andrea: While I was very pleased with the overall fit of the shoe, the ride of the Wave Rider 26 is not for me. I found the 12mm drop too much for my preferred midfoot landing pattern and I felt like I was running in a high heeled shoe. The chunky heel felt like it was in the way at initial contact and landing on the lateral midfoot felt firm and sluggish. There is a guidance line in the lateral midfoot and forefoot that could have provided some resistance to me transitioning from the lateral midfoot to the 1st MTP for push off. The high drop combined with the lower volume toe box resulted in my 1st and 2nd toes feeling like they were being pinched by the upper at push off. The forefoot is quite flexible and this may have contributed to the sluggish transition and toe discomfort I experienced. 

I was impressed by the relatively lighter weight of the shoe, considering the high stack in the heel and extensive rubber outsole. It feels decently light on foot for easy miles, but the geometry of the shoe and my toe discomfort definitely prevented me from picking up the pace. Traction is good in this shoe due to its near full-coverage rubber outsole, and I would expect greater than average durability due to this feature.


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Rider series has long been one that gets the Stable Neutral label from us and this one continues that tradition. Although the Wave Rider 26 is a neutral shoe, there are several methods of guidance that are added. There are now sidewalls on the medial and lateral side of the heel, which combined with forward-reaching heel counter provide guidance at the rear. The wave plate extends the full width of the shoe and feels like it travels farther forward than previous models. This adds a higher level of stiffness, especially side to side, which helps keep the foot on the platform. The shoe is rockered, although the forefoot rocker is far more significant than the heel rocker. Combined with some mild lateral sole flare in the forefoot, it is easy to stay on track through the length in this shoe. Those with higher stability needs should consider the Horizon 6 (REVIEW) or Inspire 18 (REVIEW). Those with only mild guidance or stability needs will likely do fine in the Rider 26.

David: The Mizuno Wave Rider has always been a pretty stable shoe for being in the neutral category. This continues with the 26th version. The full contact outsole gives good traction throughout and gives a tiny bit more rigidity to the platform itself throughout. The usage of sole flaring in the heel and forefoot were executed pretty well without being overbearing. I do think I would have liked a tiny bit more on the lateral aspect of the forefoot to make me feel a little more centered, but not a huge knock off there. The upper locks down really well and provides good security. Not surprising but this shoe delivers pretty well in the stability category again.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is a neutral shoe with some mild stability features. The wider forefoot and mild sole flare in the rearfoot and forefoot may help to center the foot from initial contact to push off. The central cutout in the rearfoot that exposes the Wave plate and the lateral guidance line that extends all the way to the forefoot may also provide some guidance throughout stance phase. The mesh upper and secure rearfoot contribute to secure foot lockdown. While the shoe didn't work for my mechanics, this will be a great option for runners looking for a more traditional neutral daily trainer.


Heel Drop This, Heel Drop That

We have discussed frequently on this website and our podcast how one heel-toe drop is not best for everyone. Some people do extremely well in zero or low-drop shoes while others do better in more traditional 10-12mm drop shoes. There are a variety of reasons that people do better at different levels, which is why the fact we have such a large variety of heel-toe drops on the market right now is so great. A lower heel height will place more emphasis on work from the calf muscles and will require greater amounts of ankle motion (dorsiflexion especially) through the gait cycle. A higher heel height will place more emphasis on work from the quadriceps and gluteal muscles, requiring less ankle dorsiflexion and more knee/hip motion. We suggest that unless you have some injury risk factors, you consider a variety of heel drops in your running shoe line. This can act as a form of cross-training, working different parts and systems.

For those that want to maximize their abilities, understanding if you have some sort of muscular dominance (hip vs knee vs ankle strategy), can help factor into figuring out which heel height may work better or worse for you. Comfort also plays a large influence, as does whether the listed static heel drop is accurate (dynamic compression of midsoles can dramatically change the true height, which will actually vary depending on how you land and what part of the gait cycle you are in).

For that reason, we encourage people not to freak out regarding the listed heel drop but use it as a guide to either add some variety to your shoe rotation or find footwear that optimizes your unique movement strategy. 


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is heading in a direction that I understand, but is different than what the series used to be. The increase in weight is understandable with new foams and what feels like a higher stack height. This series used to be the lightest among the daily trainer categories and now is one of the heavier ones. I would like to see Mizuno take this shoe back to those roots while continuing to maintain the lessons on cushioning and stack height that the industry is forcing all companies to learn. The Rebellion has definitely taken the place as the lighter daily trainer/workout shoe, but the Rider series still has potential as the versatile training shoe. My suggestions would be to bring back some of the softness from version 25, maintain the stack height and increase the heel bevel a little more. This will ease the bumpiness of the higher heel while the lower density will reduce weight and potentially add responsiveness (if done correctly). 

David: I really enjoyed my experience with the Mizuno Wave Rider 26. The things I'd probably focus on would be refining the midfoot experience a little bit. The shoe still feels a tad slappy coming off of the higher heel into the higher part of the plate. I think decreasing that arc a tiny bit might do it for me. I also felt a tiny bit of a rolling motion in the forefoot laterally and think a little sole flare on the lateral side could help. Otherwise, this is a top-shelf daily trainer for me. 

Andrea: The Wave Rider 26 did not work for me as a midfoot striker, mostly due to its 12mm drop. However, I have been able to run in shoes with 12mm drop in the past (even the 13mm Asics Nimbus Lite 3), and there are a couple of features of the Wave Rider 26 that I think made the drop incompatible with my mechanics. The stiff heel and flexible forefoot may work well for heel strikers, but I found that the heel got in the way and the forefoot too flexible for midfoot landings. Stiffening up the forefoot while maintaining the forefoot rocker may improve transitions for those who land further forward. I would also recommend increasing the volume in the toe box to improve overall comfort. 


Matt: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is a daily training shoe for those who want a comfortable upper with a little extra forefoot room and a higher heel drop. The full-length Enerzy midsole is stiff at first, but breaks in to provide slightly firmer cushioning with a larger stack height. The upper is a great mesh that will fit those with normal to slightly wider feet. Thus, those who want a stiffer riding, daily training shoe for easy miles and daily runs with a (rare) higher heel drop will enjoy the Mizuno Wave Rider 26. Be aware the heel is a bit clunky at first, so be patient as the shoe breaks in. 

David: The Mizuno Wave Rider is a daily training shoe for someone that enjoys the traditional feel of a high drop trainer. Normally I'm thinking the older Wave Rider, Pegasus, Cumulus, Ghost type training shoes in that category. The shoe has a little bit of rigidity up front and has a surprising amount of responsiveness when pushed. The foam provides good cushion throughout, though still maintains a ride more on the firmer end of things. This is a shoe that gives you a predictable ride mile after mile. 

Andrea: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is for runners looking for a high drop daily trainer with a traditional ride, but with the benefits of modern running shoe technology. The lighter weight Enerzy foam and the Wave plate contribute to a relatively lighter weight daily trainer that should have excellent durability. While this shoe is not for me, I think that many runners will appreciate the excellent fit and traditional ride of the Wave Rider 26.


Fit: B+/A- (Comfortable upper with normal width fit and a little extra room in the forefoot. Foot sliding did require me to lace lock shoe for security)
B (Traditional weight daily trainer for easy and longer miles. Stiffer ride and clunky heel that took several miles to break in). 
Stability: A- [Stable Neutral] (Sidewalls, wide plate and heel counter all provide a solid amount of guidance for a neutral shoe).
DPT/Footwear Science: B/B- (Points for maintaining guidance, but the increase in weight and increase in clunkiness in the heel needs to be fixed. This could be modulated by a heel bevel and reducing the density of the foam just enough to help it break in a little faster).
Personal: B (A staple in my shoe lineup in case of a grump Achilles, but the heavier and clunkier ride makes me reach more for version 25. It is improving as the shoe breaks in, but feels more trainer-like than previous)
Overall: B

Fit: (A solid upper that is one of my favorites this year, only thing is maybe streamlining the overlays a tad but honestly really good)
Performance: A- 
(A smooth and predictable transition for such a high drop, I do think the midfoot plate configuration could be slightly altered to make it just a tad less slappy. Otherwise really solid and can pick up the pace a little too.)
Stability: A- (Really well done throughout from upper security to outsole traction and geometry. I felt a little rocking in the forefoot laterally and maybe flaring it slightly might do the trick.)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Nothing overly revolutionary, but glad to see them locking the upper down again and playing with some new plate designs.)
Personal: A (A shoe that feels great to rest my calves a little after hard workouts or long runs, one of my favorite trainers this year)
Overall: A- (A really well-executed daily trainer to crush the bulk of your mileage. Good stability throughout with surprising responsiveness. Can be a tad slappy through the midfoot.)

Fit: A- (excellent rearfoot security, fits true to size, but too low volume in toe box for me)
Performance: C+/B- 
(Shoe is not comfortable for midfoot landings due to high drop, stiff heel, and flexible forefoot. May work well for heel strikers, which >90% of runners are.)
Stability: B (neutral) (mild sole flare, wider forefoot and guidance lines may help center the foot during stance phase)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (nice use of lighter weight foam in a traditional daily trainer. Wave plate feels like it stabilizes rearfoot much more than forefoot)
Personal: C- (Does not work with my mechanics, toe discomfort due to low volume toe box)
Overall: B- (While it didn't work for me, it is a well done high drop daily trainer and may work very well for heel strikers with neutral mechanics)


Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Mizuno USA for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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