The Mizuno Wave Rider has long been a staple in the “neutral” running shoe category thanks to a design that provides responsive cushioning in a lightweight package. Now on it’s 15th edition, the Mizuno Wave Rider boasts everything you’ve come to know and love plus a little more. For an inside scoop on the inspiration and strategy behind the shoe, we caught up with Rod Foley, Mizuno USA’s Footwear Director.
The Wave Rider has enjoyed a long, successful run through a period in the running footwear industry that has seen many changes. What’s stayed the same with the Rider, and what has evolved?
“Since the Wave Rider II (read 2) debuted, the Rider franchise has stood for lightweight, flexible, breathable and fast. I recently heard someone refer to the franchise as “never being afraid to give people only as much shoe as they need.”. I love that. The WRII came out without the extra weight of additional forefoot cushioning when the trend was finding ways to put as much between one’s foot and the ground as possible. The WRII was different. With the passage of time we have been able to develop materials to still maintain that classic fast, low, sleek feel while still offering a feeling of comfort and protection to the runner. The WR15 will incorporate several new advancements that stem from our SmoothRide philosophy which we believe makes this the best running Wave Rider yet. At the same time, we have really dialed in the fit that some Wave Rider loyalists have been missing in the WR14. This version has the signature Mizuno fit that both secures the foot and “disappears” from the foot at the same time. Can you tell we are excited about bringing this product to runners?”
As preferences in running footwear have changed, the Rider has maintained a strong following few styles enjoy. What do you think it is about the Wave Rider that has created this loyalty among runners?
“I think loyalty begets loyalty. Runners have told us they love the Wave Rider franchise for lots of the reasons mentioned previously. Never being afraid to be less shoe despite the trends in the marketplace. We have heard that loud and clear and have tried to stay very loyal to what the Rider franchise is all about. Runners tell us they appreciate that. At the same token, when we have strayed too far from the essence of the Rider – which there are a fair few people who feel that way about the Wave Rider 14 – we take that very seriously. We have accelerated our normal product development cycles for the WR15 in order to bring a brand new, top to bottom Rider to make sure we do everything we can to continue to earn the loyalty of Rider lovers (and those that are Rider lovers but just don’t know it yet).”
There’s quite a few technical changes from the Wave Rider 14 to the 15; can you explain some of the modifications, and why they were made?
“Our core mission as it relates to our products is – how can we make it run better? How can we make it as much a natural extension of your body as possible. SmoothRide and DynaMotion Fit exists for those very reasons. With the Wave Rider 15, we are incorporating our newest developments within our SmoothRide philiosophy. Runners will notice the addition of a very deep forefoot flex groove covered in 2 spots with our Flex Controllers. This construction allows the shoe to flex very easily during the early stages of toe off, but then moderates the flex as the runners foot stiffens during the latter stages. In a sense it allows the shoe to work like the foot, creating a more natural, efficient ride. At the same time, we have pushed the initial heel contact area forward a bit to allow the foot to engage the ground in a more forward, more natural position. The proof is in the ride.”
Although the Wave Rider is a Neutral shoe, it possess inherent stability. Can you explain this function?
“One of the great things about Wave technology is that it is not limited to serving just one master. Although it is wonderful at absorbing and dispersing shock, it also does a great job of adding support to the shoe as well. The Parallel Wave in the Wave Rider 15 is built primarily for its cushioning properties but by its very nature, adds a nice touch of stability to the shoe making it a versatile choice for lots of runners. The easiest way of explaining – cardboard. Hang with me. If you look at a piece of cardboard you will notice an inner layer of material that is wavy in shape. Try folding the cardboard in the same direction of the wave (in the case of a shoe, from heel to toe) – no problem. Yet try to fold from side to side – not so easy. Voila, inherent stability.”
Mizuno is marking the 15th anniversary of the Wave Rider with some special executions. Can you describe some of them, and what it was like reflecting on the long, successful run this shoe has had?
“Yes, we are going to have some fun celebrating this anniversary. We are going to kick it off with Limited Edition colors that will debut in November. The inspiration for the colors flowed from the traditions of 15th anniversaries around the globe. Almost everywhere we looked, the gifts associated with 15th anniversaries are rubies and crystals. So we used that as our foundation for the LE colors. The LE will also have its own ruby box to set it off. Honestly, it’s a big deal in a lot of ways. It not only represents 15 great years of Wave Riders but also commemorates 15 years of Wave technology, and in some ways 15 years of Mizuno in the US. Although we are over 100 years old in Japan, and have been in the US in some ways since the 80’s, Wave gave us a real unique position in the market and one that lots of runners have come to rely on and love. To think in some ways we are still a teenager (not quite old enough to drive – at least not in the markets where your stores are located) makes us very excited to think about what is next as we get a little older and wiser as a brand.“
As the Wave Rider 15 debuts, the team at Mizuno is already mapping out the 16th edition. Can you describe where you see the Rider evolving to over the next fifteen editions?
“Yes, the 16th version is well under way. Fun stuff there for another day. Of course none of us can see all the advancements that will take place in materials, manufacturing and engineering that will change the face of running shoes as we know them today. I do believe, however, that the Wave Rider 30 will be the manifestation of what Mizuno believes about running shoes – that it is all about improving the running experience by continuing to be vigilant about listening to runners needs, pushing innovation and not being afraid to only give runner’s what they need.”