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The 23rd Wave Rider Feels Snappy And Looks Sharp

Mizuno’s fan-favorite neutral shoe keeps its fast midsole unchanged and amps up the aesthetics.

Shoe, Footwear, Sneakers, Running shoe, White, Walking shoe, Outdoor shoe, Yellow, Cross training shoe, Tennis shoe,
Lakota Gambill

The RW Takeaway: The do-it-all Wave Rider 23 has a slightly narrow fit, soft heel cushioning, and a very responsive ride that will appeal to runners who want one shoe for long runs, speedwork, tune-up races, easy days, and cross training.

  • Stylish upper is less bulky and uses more breathable mesh
  • Midsole feels stiff and snappy, yet amply cushioned from heel to toe
  • Durable outsole stays grippy on wet roads, but is a little noisy

    Price: $120
    9.6 oz (M), 8.3 oz (W)

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    Before I was even old enough to get my learner’s permit, my mom took me shopping for a new set of wheels. I knew that I wanted something fast; my mom was more focused on a ride that would be reliable for many miles. After a few test drives, we had a winner that didn’t compromise on either of our requirements. It was a shiny, cherry red and silver Japanese model, never used with that brand new smell—the Trail Running Gear.

    As for automobiles, I drive a Chevy Cruz.

    Jokes aside, I’d like to think I know my way around the Wave Rider. Since then, I’ve run in every model from the 13 to the 23 and I’ve definitely had my favorites along the way. (According to my running log, I put about 4,700 miles on the Rider 18s alone—not all on a single pair, of course.) I’ll admit that the 23rd model is a different shoe than that 2014 model I loved most, but it still has a smooth and snappy ride that is unmistakably Mizuno, and in my opinion, it’s the best-looking Wave Rider yet.

    Wave Rider 23
    $76.30 (36% off)

    • Plush sockliner with secure fit
    • IT Band Syndrome

    • Slightly narrow toe box

    Soft, Yet Responsive

    In terms of ride, the 23 feels nearly identical to the Rider 22—that’s because Mizuno hasn’t changed much in the midsole. The shoe still uses a stiff plastic Wave plate, sandwiched between two types of foam (a softer layer under the heel and a firmer piece that sits closer to the foot). This combination is what made the Rider feel snappy before snappy was cool, but with each iteration of the shoe, it has also gradually gotten softer and more cushioned, especially in the heel. The result is that the shoe has gained some weight, but also becomes a little more versatile. That speedy feeling is still there for uptempo efforts, but you get extra comfort on long runs.

    My experience with every Wave Rider is that it’s a shoe that feels better the more you use it. Initially, I’ll always notice the rigidity of the Wave plate when I’m breaking in the shoe, but after a few miles that sensation gives way to a rolling ride that encourages a quick turnover—even more noticeable when you’re moving at a clip. At a steep 12mm offset, the shoe’s drop plays right into that propulsive feeling on fast days, but for me, that same high heel can also make it tempting to slow down and shuffle on recovery runs. The one issue I had with the fit was an annoying hot spot that formed right under the ball of my foot. Personally, I found it to be just a symptom of the break-in period that went away after a few miles, but several of our testers also had the same issue. The culprit is likely not enough room in the toe box, which is narrower than a Brooks or Hoka, combined with a stiffer sole that doesn’t flex quite as much with the foot. Switching to thin socks, bumping up a half-size (or opting for the wide fit) are some remedies.

    Lakota Gambill

    High-Mileage Rubber

    One thing I consistently love about the Wave Rider is the outsole. The 23 is unchanged from the previous version, with thick carbon rubber in the heel and a lighter, blown rubber in the forefoot. (The only real adjustment in recent versions came in the 21-to-22 update, which added an extra groove for flexibility. Honestly, I didn’t notice much of a difference.) Overall, I found that the outsole delivers all the traction I need in a road shoe, with plenty of grip in the rain and more than enough durability for the occasional trail run. While I don’t recommend it for obvious reasons, a single pair of my Rider 19s withstood 877 outdoor running miles incredibly well, and Mizuno hasn’t altered the materials since then.

    Lakota Gambill

    Super Comfy Shoes You Can Wear Every Day

    Last but not least, I’ll argue with anyone who says the Rider 23 isn’t a seriously good-looking and comfy shoe up top. This version gets a redesigned upper that nixes the bulky heel collar on the 22 (but it’s still just as soft), and polishes up the rest with a sleek, breathable mesh, flat laces with printed eyelets, and few overlays. Our testers agreed that it’s a shoe you won’t mind wearing if you’re on your feet all day, for both its looks and the support it provides.

    Lakota Gambill

    Wear Tester Feedback

    Jeremy W. | Tester since 2019
    Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot
    “The Wave Riders feel really good when I pick up the pace a little bit faster than easy pace, and while they’re firmer in the forefoot, that hasn’t been an issue after the first few runs, and they work for almost any kind of run (long runs, hill sprints, strides). I travel for work a lot and try to run as much as possible during my trips, and if I had to pack a single pair of shoes, these are the ones I would pull out of my closet right now. Also, I feel like a can’t say this enough—I love the upper!”

    Peter V. | Tester since 2019
    Arch: Flat | Gait: Overpronator | Footstrike: Heel
    “This is a solid neutral shoe that won’t disappoint. The drop feels higher than others I have run in and it’s a little stiffer, but for those who need a little more support and cushioning than a minimalist shoe, it’s a good option. I have seen all sides of the spectrum from tight toe boxes to very wide, and this one is definitely on the tighter side. If you have a narrow foot, this shoe would work well. The only part of the sole that bothered me was the large gap near the heel where I had rocks get stuck.”

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