When I first started running in 2012, little did I know that I was taking the first steps of a pretty unbelievable journey — one that would see me conquer my first marathon, set a world record and (most importantly) foster friendships that I hope never fade. It’s around this time that I purchased one of my first pairs of “serious” running shoes: Mizuno‘s Wave Rider 16 (bright yellow, of course).
In contrast to the New Balance 880v4s that I had done much of my training in, the Wave Riders were perfect for a budding runner stepping up his game. (Complex nailed it when they described them as a “pseudo-racer.”)
Fast forward four years to Mizuno’s double-decade anniversary and the release of the new Wave Rider 20, billed as the company’s softest, smoothest and most responsive edition yet. As one of the first runners in Canada to rock a pair — not counting Mizuno’s testers in Vancouver — I discovered that this iteration retains the familiar Wave Rider performance, but with an entirely new ride.
My introduction took place during a kettlebell session at Energia Athletics. Between several circuits of box jumps, burpees and squats, the model’s cushy new design became quickly apparent. The shoe’s redesigned cloudwave technology (building off of Mizuno’s original supportive waveplate concept) came together with the U4ic midsole for a truly soft landing with noticeable energy return.
Owing to the substantial, supportive design, I walked away with an overall impression of durability — this is a shoe that could easily survive a marathon training cycle and then some — all despite weighing in at 9.6 ounces, or 0.3 ounces lighter than the more minimal-seeming Riders I got my start with. I walked away with a pair of them, plus some Breath Thermo winter gear.
Photo: Patrick Leung/Lululemon TO
The Lululemon Toronto Legacy Relay later that week, featuring a speedy 4 x 3-kilometre format, was the perfect opportunity to put the shoe through its paces on the road. Despite lead-filled legs (kettlebells, remember?) I still managed to put up a fairly competitive pace, and the stabilizing aspects helped focus my effort as I fatigued. The softer ride did come at the expense of the earlier model’s racer qualities, though — specifically, the road feel I’ve come to expect from more speed-oriented kicks — but ultimately this shoe feels built for maximizing efficiency at longer distances.
(Good thing I’m kicking off another marathon cycle this winter.)
With a noticeably soft, smooth ride, the Wave Rider 20 is a deceptively speedy shoe for the amount of support it provides. I’m looking forward to tacking on a few hundred klicks in these with confidence.