mizuno wave rider 26 cover
RoadShoe Reviews

Mizuno Wave Rider 26 Review: Don’t Know ‘Bout You, But We’re Feelin’ 26

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 10.0 oz. (283 g.) for a US M9 / 8.6 oz. (243 g.) for a US W8
  • Understated style, but it matches the overall Wave Rider vibe
  • Long live the Wave Plate… or replace it with something made of carbon fiber
  • Available now for $140

LINDSAY: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from a 2022 full of Mizuno reviews, the brand has range. If there was one shoe that didn’t quite stick the landing, there’s probably another ready to take its place (that’s a message to myself as much as anyone else).

Enter Mizuno Wave Rider 26. It’s a true classic daily trainer, according to the marketing department. It has a thoroughly average design, and I mean that in the best way possible. The Wave Rider 26 isn’t a “looker” of a shoe like, for example, the On Cloudsurfer. Instead, it follows the Wave Rider 25 closely, and the colorways are straightforward to match any palette. Coming in at $140, this is an affordable option for what I’ll call a basic trainer.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

MICHAEL: A tried and true member of the Mizuno lineup, the Wave Rider returns as the brand’s legacy stability option. Similar to other long-standing shoes like the Brooks Ghost, Asics Gel-Kayano, and the beloved Nike Pegasus, not much has changed for the Wave Rider. The classic issue of running shoes like this is always finding that delicate balance between not changing too much about the shoe to upset diehard fans and introducing enough bits of brand-new technology to keep the shoe exciting.

Of course, I’m trying to say that the most successful and brilliant legacy shoes are those that closely resemble Taylor Swift’s career throughout their many, many iterations. Let’s see if the 26th iteration of the Wave Rider measures up. Also, I’m listening to Midnights while writing this, so be prepared for lots of references.

RUBY: Mizuno isn’t typically part of my shoe rotation, and I’d never given the brand a fair shot, so I was more than ready to try the Wave Rider 26. I won’t lie, I was slightly underwhelmed when I opened the box. The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 looked like any other daily trainer of the past decade, with no fanfare or added flare (or even a carbon plate). They say not to judge a book by its cover, so I laced up my shoes and headed out the door. Four miles later, I was reminded why that saying exists.

Weighing in at 8.6 oz. for a US W8 (10.0 oz. for a US M9), the Wave Rider 26 undercuts competitors like the Brooks Glycerin 20 and Asics Gel Nimbus 24. The Wave Rider 26 fits true to size, with a premium feeling upper that locks the foot down well.

mizuno wave rider 26 laces

The Good

LINDSAY: When I first put the shoe on, I was pretty happy with how soft and plush it felt. The recycled mesh upper is extremely comfortable and secure. There is also ample padding around the ankle and in the tongue, so if, for some reason, you run without socks (Adrienne), I don’t think there’d be any chafing here.

Mizuno’s Wave Plate runs from the midfoot to the heel and noticeably increases stability on landing, giving the shoe a smooth ride. I wouldn’t say there’s a “rocker” feel, but there’s a nice transition from heel to toe. There is also good arch support that I mostly noticed when walking instead of running.

The rubber outsole gives this shoe excellent traction in various conditions and sets these guys up for what appears to be many miles of durability. With the thick fall leaves around us, I was grateful for the lack of slippage.

MICHAEL: Like any great T Swizzle album, let’s go through this top to bottom.

My first few runs were like the song Lavender Haze in that it took me a while to get used to the style. The upper is extremely loose out of the box and needs some adjusting to get the right fit, but I got there eventually. I also enjoyed the durable feeling of the recycled material, which remains stretchy and forgiving. It should be noted that the Wave Rider is undoubtedly narrower than, say, a Brooks Ghost, though I didn’t find any issues with it.

The tongue is gusseted and has a great amount of padding, and I loved the thin, stretchy ribbon laces. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the upper is the stout heel counter with great hold. I had absolutely no slippage, and the strength of the counter works in conjunction with the Wave Plate to provide a hint of stability in what is otherwise a neutral shoe.

Perhaps the most interesting characteristic of the shoe is the Wave Plate, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. It works in conjunction with the revamped Enerzy foam to provide stability in the heel, and if it hadn’t been for the slight pop of the foam, the plate might have likely felt blocky. Also, while I’m sure Mizuno has been tempted to extend its classic Wave Plate into the forefoot for this version of the Wave Rider, I applaud them for sticking to their formula and leaving the plate out of the forefoot. This gives the shoe a very nice, flexible toe-off and doesn’t try to turn this reliable daily trainer into anything that it’s not.

Lastly, the shoe’s weight is great, and it felt on the lighter end of some recent daily trainers I’ve tried. I think the foam helps with this.

Lastly, the Mizuno Wave Rider 26 sports a great outsole, one that sort of resembles that of the Pegasus with slightly larger lugs. This increases the versatility of the Wave Rider and allows it to perform just as well on gravel roads and buffed trails as it does on the roads.

RUBY: The Wave Rider 26 doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Mizuno has retained its classic thermoplastic Wave Plate squashed between layers of Enerzy foam — right where it should be. The one-two punch makes for a surprisingly responsive ride, even at slower paces.

Where other brands have compromised quality for sustainability, Mizuno has nailed them both with their eco-friendly jacquard mesh upper that locks the foot down securely with a premium feel. If you’re conscious about the environment but not wanting to sacrifice performance, consider the Mizuno Wave Rider 26.

Shop Mizuno Wave Rider – Men Shop Mizuno Wave Rider – Women

mizuno wave rider 26 outsole

The Bad

LINDSAY: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 is not for the faint of knees. It sits on the firmer side thanks to the Mizuno Enerzy foam, making it feel a bit like a stability shoe, like the Asics Gel Kayano. Unfortunately for the Wave Rider 26, that foot-to-road contact is noticeable.

I also had some issues with discomfort around my big toe. At first, I thought it might just be a little on the narrow side at the forefoot, but I’ve read some other reviews that highlight this as a common mishap. Possibly a result of the rubber casing at the toe? While I think this shoe fits true to size, I may have gone up a half size or so if I planned on wearing the shoe often.

MICHAEL: It’s me, hi, I’m the problem it’s: lack of stack underfoot. It’s honestly a bit of a shame; Mizuno’s new Enerzy foam is light and lively, and the slight pop in the shoe keeps it from feeling too blocky. However, I don’t think this shoe can truly compete in its category (up against the Brooks Ghost and Nike Pegasus) without a competitive amount of cushion. Mizuno already has the right midsole formula, and I hope they can execute it better on next year’s model.

Working in tandem with the lack of stack is the aggressive 12mm drop in the shoe, which also limits its customer base. Unless you’re dealing with an Achilles injury or are an aggressive heel striker, I find this drop to be a bit excessive. In the case of the Wave Rider 26, it leaves the shoe with too-little forefoot cushioning to make it one that I could recommend for basically every runner.

For the crowd that enjoys a more traditional, high-drop shoe, this could be a great daily trainer pick and one I’d recommend, but for the rest of us, T-Swizzle says it best: “putting someone first only works when you’re in their top five.”

While the shoe came to life during the run, the initial step in of the fit doesn’t sing comfort. The heel is blocky due to the wave plate, and the high drop of the shoe makes walking feel awkward. While this feature may result in the shoe acquiring fewer in-store sales or winning over new Mizuno fans, it shouldn’t deter long-time Wave Rider fans.

Also, the colorway I received is pretty mid. After looking at Mizuno’s site, there are some other nice colorways, so check out all of Mizuno’s offerings before purchasing.

RUBY: If you like a soft and pillowy feel beneath your feet, like the Hoka Clifton or Asics Novablast 3, the Wave Rider 26 is probably not the shoe for you. The midsole mix of the Wave Plate running from the heel to midfoot, coupled with the dense Mizuno Enerzy foam, makes for a firm ride with a good ground contact feel.

Also, be wary of the significant 12mm heel drop. For runners who land fore- or mid-foot first, this high heel drop may make for an unstable ride and put pressure on your knees and hips. Conversely, if you’re a heel striker or someone prone to calf or Achilles issues, the 12mm drop may be exactly what you need.

Shop Mizuno Wave Rider – Men Shop Mizuno Wave Rider – Women

mizuno wave rider 26 wave plate

Mizuno Wave Rider 26 Conclusion

LINDSAY: The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 dabbles in a few areas but doesn’t necessarily shine in any one category. In my mind, this is more of a stability shoe, and if I had to pick a stability shoe to train in, I would lean more toward the Asics Gel Kayano or even the Saucony Tempus. Both have a little more bounce to them with a softer landing.

Compared to the Mizuno Wave Neo Collection, the Wave Rider 26 is more likely to make an appearance on my feet in the future. I will probably wear them more as everyday or work sneakers, not as a running shoe.

It wouldn’t be a Mizuno review if I didn’t slow clap for their sustainability effort. The upper and Wave Plate are completely recycled, and you wouldn’t even know it. So, if you’re looking for an affordable, eco-friendly, daily training stability shoe (see what I did there?), this is your guy.

MICHAEL: After working out a few of the shoe’s kinks, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this shoe. While the lack of stack will keep it out of my all-time favorite list of daily trainers, the Wave Plate is a real, noticeable feature that, in my opinion, positively adds to the experience. The shoe’s durability is great, and its simple stability and cushion cement it in Mizuno’s lineup as a reliable workhorse of a shoe. Mizuno has been waiting for people to notice them for quite some time, and while I don’t know if many will look at the new Wave Rider and desire to try them out, I imagine the Mizuno faithful will be pleased with this update.

RUBY: When it comes to value for money and price per mile, I rank the Mizuno Wave Rider 26 highly. Retailing at $140 with a durable carbon rubber outsole designed to go the distance, this shoe has a lot of miles in it.

Personally, I enjoy a softer ride underfoot, something with a bit more squidge and less ground contact feel. However, I’m certainly not about to retire the Waver Rider 26 and plan to keep it in my shoe rotation for those faster, easy runs. With good arch support and a stable ride, I’d compare this shoe to a firmer Brooks Launch or New Balance Fresh Foam 860v11.

Having tested this shoe on various terrains — road, trail, and grass — the Mizuno Wave Rider 26 proved super versatile. If you’re looking for a shoe with multiple uses, capable of performing well at different paces and on different terrains, it’s worth considering.

You can pick up the Mizuno Wave Rider 26 for $140 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Mizuno Wave Rider – Men Shop Mizuno Wave Rider – Women

2 Comments

  1. A little confused with the T-Swizz references. If anything. she’s changed her music style a lot throughout her career vs. these decades-old shoe lines. (For the record: I prefer her older country-pop, despite not liking country.)

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