Saturday, October 08, 2022

Mizuno Wave Rider 26 Multi Tester Review

Article by Dominique and Sam Winebaum

Mizuno Wave Rider 26 ($140)


Sam: At 26, the Wave Rider is for sure a classic and long running daily trainer, It competes with trainers such as the Brooks Ghost 14, ASICS Cumulus, Saucony Ride 13, New Balance 880, and Nike Pegasus. 

A traditional 12mm drop shoe with a flexible toe off, over the last 2 editions it has evolved considerably with new energetic Enerzy Foam in place of firm EVA, more stack, lighter weights and far more comfortable uppers. Gone in the 25 (RTR Review) was the rigid, firm,  overbearing ride and upper fit of the 24. 

For the 26 Mizuno refines the progress made in the prior edition yet further: 

  • 2mm more stack height front and back of Enerzy Foam to come in at a max cushion grade 38.5mm heel / 26.5mm forefoot stack height with no real gain in weight

  • a redesigned, more streamlined Wave plate that is placed further forward with that 2mm additional foam above than before for a more propulsive effect and less overt stability feel than even the 25 had.

  • a new outsole design up front with more continuous coverage to deliver more snap while keeping the shoe flexible 

  • a softer, thinner more pliable jacquard mesh upper

  • strong emphasis on sustainability 


Jacquard mesh upper is extremely comfortable and secure and breathable: Dominique/Sam

Wave plate and Enerzy Foam are stable, cushioned and propulsive: Dominique/Sam

Energetic feel increases as pace picks up  Sam

Very deeply cushioned heel with good transitions forward due to decoupling groove Sam

High level of craftsmanship: Dominique/Sam 

Durable and reasonably priced: Dominique

Sustainable platform, upper made with recycled materials:Dominique 

Ideal all around durable trainer for the high school or college athlete, or anyone else:Sam


Pronounced drop at 12mm, big ramp and thinner firmer feeling forefoot than 26mm front stack would point to: Dominique/Sam

Not an ideal slow run shoe due to firmer forefoot Sam

Barely enough room for front of toes, a bit short: Dominique


Official: Weight: men's 10 oz  / 284g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  9.81 oz  /  278g US8.5 (v25 9.77 oz  / 277g (US 9))

Stack Height: 38.5 mm heel / 26.5 mm forefoot 12mm drop

Available now. $140

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Dominique: The Wave Rider at #26 is obviously a very popular Mizuno model though I had not run in them until now.  I will admit that the 12mm drop is a bit steep for me as I have lately gravitated towards shoes that have a middle of the road drop of 6-10mm.  

Back in 2021, I tested the Wave Sky 5 (RTR Review), a cushioned and responsive trainer with an 8 mm drop, and it was all smooth running. With the Wave Rider 26 I have encountered a few hurdles, namely the drop feeling too high and the fit being a bit tight.  This said, I wear a pair of thin socks and the fit is OK, however a bit snug.   Because I am currently testing/running in 3 different pairs of running shoes, I am struggling a bit with the high drop, switching from one pair of shoes to another with lower drops.  I feel it would not be such an issue if I were just to run in the Wave Rider 26 and I enjoyed the propulsive ride right off the bat. 

The Jacquard air mesh upper has a seamless feel providing an extremely comfortable and also secure fit.  In order to maximize support in the upper, there is a PU print strategically placed on both sides of the midfoot as an underlay extending down part way from the laces along with a well padded gusset tongue.  Breathability is good.  

An internal high heel counter works well in keeping the heel securely in place though the fit for me is already snug to begin with.  

Foot entry is a bit challenging given the gusset tongue and high heel counter. This said I appreciate a secure foothold and we have it here for sure.  

Notably, Mizuno has a strong sustainability platform as exemplified in the “ECO materials,” aka recycled, used to make the upper, which includes the mesh, shoelaces, tongue, lining, heel cap, vamp, and eyelet backing reinforcement. The nylon Wave plate is also bio based and produced with 26% less CO2 emissions than oil based plates. 

Sam: Classy and conservative with simple lines and dark blue tones with the while outsole and straw yellow thin Wave plate and matching tongue strip as well as the wave like pattern to the midsole side walls providing the only highlights. You could wear these to a fancy event!

On try on, and as Dominique experienced as well, the high rigid heel counter and its total lockdown is noticed.   

Then we have the very secure but not over snug midfoot hold and decently high but somewhat pointy toe box and fairly firm vertical toe bumper. 

Mizuno clearly decided that such a soft and pliable Jacquard mesh needed the support elements provided by the heel counter, midfoot underlays and gusset tongue and that toe bumper to “work”. 

And they are right as we often see such soft mesh uppers with nothing really to hold them up, thinking of the latest New Balance 880 v13 and Brooks Glycerin 20. Step in comfort doesn’t always translate to run performance and here while that set in comfort is not “slipper like” as the aforementioned are.  Once on the actual run, and I found no need to lace them tightly which got rid of any over snugness/pressure from the heel counter, it comes together brilliantly. As Dominique says, there is a seamless feel and it turns out no rough edges from that big heel counter or the front of the shoe as I felt just standing around. I will agree the toe box is a bit pointy and they may run a ¼ size US short but this is a true to size fit for narrower to medium feet with wides available. 


Dominique: The WR 26 has the same Enerzy foam as the WR 25, however, it is 2 mm thicker front and back and therefore the shoe is more cushioned. This gets us to a stack height of 26:5 - 38,5 mm. So we have increased cushioning as well as energy return given the extra thickness of the Enerzy Foam.  The Wave plate in the midfoot is key in dispersing the impact and improving stability.  The feel is a bit firm despite the thick cushioning while being distinctly propulsive as well as protective and stable.  

Sam: We have a massive near max “legal” 38.5 mm rear cushion here with a still decent 26.5mm forefoot stack. The 12mm drop is for sure noticed.

The rear cushion is dual density with as in the WR25 a firmer to pressing lower layer Enerzy foam heel wedge below the plate that is likely, as in the 25 injection molded for durability while the main top layer of Enerzy is softer to pressing and compression molded. Enerzy foam has 17% more cushion softness and 15% more rebound than Mizuno’s old U4ic EVA foams and this is clearly felt and appreciated.

In the mix is the same deep rear crash pad groove as well as deep central decoupling channel, both very effective transitioning the shoe from landings to toe offs,

We also now have a relocated slimmer bio based Wave plate. 

Mizuno has moved the Wave plate forward (above) and with less prominent “support” wings on the medial side and slimmed it down (WR25 below)

Shown above from the medial side is the WR25 plate which extended further back and was more asymmetrical with far more pronounced medial “wings”. And below, the comparison of the plates on the lateral sides.

The bottom line on the new Wave plate: less obtrusive as a support element especially medially in what is after all a neutral trainer, smoother flowing from landings and more propulsive from the midfoot. The plate now combines a tiny touch of stability with some new propulsion off the midfoot to the flexible forefoot.  

The giant rear stack, groove and plate deliver very stable extremely well cushioned firmer  landings, as before, but with the plate less noticed in the mix as it has 2mm more foam above it than the 25 did and a new less extensive geometry. 

Even at 26.5mm, the forefoot,  I think because of the 12mm drop and plate geometry driving you down and forward and the extensive rubber feels a bit thin and firmer but unlike say a Pegasus 39 more evenly and deeply cushioned. 

There is a distinct sensation of being moved forward and down to toe off here which at slower paces is not as pleasant as faster when the bounce of the Enerzy upfront increases and the flexibility really comes into play. Because of the relative firmness and thin feel of the forefoot, the WR 26 is not my first choice for recovery easy runs although it handles their flow very well. Pick up the pace a bit to daily training paces and the platform comes alive with the foot always well held by the upper.


Sam: The front rubber pattern’s design eliminates the cross sole segmentation of the WR25 as shown below.

Yet, the shoe remains plenty flexible with now as described by Mizuno a snappier toe off.  I agree! This new arrangement does firm up the front rubber feel while also giving it a more consistent stable feeling toe off platform with yes some snap. The foam above and the 2mm more of it provides some new and noticed bounce in the mix.

There is plenty of rubber here and thick rubber (adding to weight)  in all the correct places so durability should be excellent.

Dominique: The X10 rubber outsole has been redesigned in the forefront to create a snappier toe off experience. It has excellent grip and traction with a durable platform.  

Ride, Conclusions, and Recommendations

Dominique: The ride is both pleasant and energetic, once I got into the shoe’s groove.  Much in the design of the WR26 is conducive to creating a propulsive ride, namely the high drop, the Enerzy foam and Wave plate, along with the outsole design.  I would characterize it as a rewarding ride especially for runners who like a high drop. 

I have been impressed with the overall design of the WR26 and I get why it has been such a popular shoe. It is reasonably priced at $140 for a shoe with that level of craftsmanship. 

The Jacquard air mesh - and Eco friendly - upper  is a definite favorite of mine even though the fit is a bit tight.  To that effect, sizing up half a size would allow for a bit more room around my toes. The Wave Rider is also available in wide sizing. 

I would characterize the WR26 as a traditional type of running shoe that has been defined by its longevity and popularity.  This edition is marked with several improvements, notably new Jacquard air mesh, a more cushioned midsole (+ 2mm), new Wave plate and a snappier outsole design.  It is a perfect neutral daily trainer for runners who like a high drop shoe.  By all means, I felt my running benefited from the propulsive design that is so characteristic of the WR 26.  

Dominique Score: 9.1 /10


Sam: The WR 26 has a classic traditional daily trainer, modernized. The high drop is noticed as is the nice flexibility, both key components of such shoe designs. No rigid rocker here.

The modernized part is the relatively light weight for a shoe that is now, at least at the heel, max cushion at 38.5mm, the outstanding upper, and foams and plate that have plenty of energy return but don’t over prescribe or support/ control as prior Wave Riders and even the much improved WR25 did for me.  

I would not call it an idealrecovery or long slow or fast run shoes where I would prefer somewhat less drop and a softer forefoot feel. It rides best for the middle miles of training and can for sure do “workouts” and tempo to moderate distances, for me up to 10 miles or so. There are other more propulsive and easier on the legs cushioned options for long easy runs such as Mizuno Neo Ultra (RTR Review) or Wave Sky (RTR Review), version 6 we will be reviewing shortly.

In its more traditional daily trainer category of higher drop and flexible forefoot after stable well cushioned heel landings it leads the way with a more all of piece smoother ride (and cushioned forefoot)  than latest big edition number shoes such the Pegasus 39 (RTR Review) . It is not as “soft” as the latest 880 v12 (RTR Review)  from New Balance but it has a far more secure upper and more stability. And don’t get me going on the 12mm drop Ghost 14 (RTR Review) which I found pleasant but overly soft and overly mellow comparatively and without nearly the performance oriented fitting upper of the Wave Rider. 

Moving to Saucony, the Ride 15 (RTR Review) has a few millimeters less heel stack with its 8mm drop but has softer foam. Not quite as well shod with rubber or as snappy, it weighs considerably less at 8.7 oz. The Saucony Tempus (RTR Review) pulls off some non prescriptive stability with a foam frame around a PEBA core and a weight an ounce lighter than the WR26 on about the same overall stack height (adding front and back) but with lower drop at 8mm, with again as with the Ride 15  not quite the outsole depth and coverage which helps drop its weight. 

What would I change? Clearly I would move 2-3 mm of the lively Enerzy foam cushion from the heel to the front to try to get rid of the still somewhat firm and thin feeling forefoot of the shoe, in particular at slower paces. Enerzy Foam really starts to shine up front at faster paces with more forces applied with lively bounce but I believe is a bit hidden at slower paces by the outsole up front. More of it might help!

A 9mm or 10mm drop here would still be fine and more cushion feel upfront would make the Wave Rider more long run and slower runs friendly for me increasing its value even more. While the thick extensive outsole should make the WR26 last a long, long time it more than likely also adds to weight.  While the weight of 10 oz / 283g US9 is fine here for what you get in substance, and is almost a full ounce less than the WR24,  I would like to see the next Wave Rider get closer to 9 oz / 255g. 

If you run moderate distances at decently fast paces or want a tiny touch of stability and solid solid rear hold in a neutral trainer without overdoing it or having it get in your way, if your prefer somewhat firmer but extremely well cushioned rides with front flex and a snappy toe off, or lean towards higher drop shoes the Wave Rider 26 is a top choice. 

It makes an excellent single shoe in the quiver for those preferences and I think a great choice for the high school or college athlete. Its high quality durable construction, versatility, relatively reasonable $140 pricing and 10 oz weight make it a great value. A very solid and effective update.

Sam’s Score: 9.29 /10

Ride: 9 Fit: 9.6 Value: 9.7 Style: 9

😊😊😊 1/2

The Wave Rider is available now including at our partners below. Thanks for reading and shopping here!

Tester Profiles

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, hiking and trekking, and gardening. 

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun receives a commission on purchases at the stores below.
Your purchases help support RoadTrailRun. Thanks!
Wave Rider 26 available now!
USA  Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns
Wave Rider 26 available now!
EUROPE  Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Europe only: use RTR code RTR5ALL for 5% off all products, even sale products 

Wave Rider 26 available now!

Wave Rider 26 available now!
Men's and Women's SHOP HERE

Wave Rider 26 available now!
Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Wave Rider 26 available now!
Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Wave Rider 26 available now!
Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun

No comments: