Mizuno Wave Rider
3.5 out of 5 stars
(pictured here: Men’s model, Mizuno Wave Rider 15, ca. 2012)
For me, the Mizuno Wave Rider is the grandfather of all running shoes. That is not to say that it’s necessarily the best, but rather that it’s a solid, high-quality shoe that served as my bread-and-butter footwear during my early, formative years as a runner. While I rarely wear my Wave Riders today (for reasons I’ll talk about a bit below), I wore them religiously for many years straight, as they provided the necessary support and cushioning that my novice feet required. Many people swear by Asics and Brooks; I always swore by this slightly less popular brand, which fit my moderately-arched, pronation-inclined feet like a glove.
The Mizuno Wave Rider took me through my first forays into longer distances, up until half marathon distance. As I started to increase my mileage and run 10+ miles on a more regular basis, I started to notice a constant, low-grade patellofemoral irritation (read: kneecap soreness) after, and sometimes during, running. It was at this point that I began reading about millimeter offset (a.k.a. “mm drop”) and found that my beloved Wave Riders actually boast a fairly considerable offset–various sources report anywhere from a whopping 12 to 13 mm! As I’ve come to understand the biomechanics of the foot, knee, and ankle better, I’ve realized in retrospect that the built-up heel in the Wave Rider was very subtly pitching me forward, placing undue stress within the patellofemoral compartment. Since switching to zero- or near-zero drop shoes, my knee pain has vanished.
That said, the Wave Riders kept me running strong at longer distances for years. They do an excellent job of supporting medium to high arches and providing stability to the inner ankle of a moderate to heavy pronator. Most people will find that the stock insole that comes with these shoes is enough; only the rare, severe pronator will need to switch out the Mizuno insole for a harder or custom orthotic. However, I do believe that this level of support merely serves as a band-aid; eventually, I think most people who benefit from arch support will benefit even more from simple foot, ankle, and calf strengthening exercises, as this will ultimately provide the greatest support in the long term.
The Mizuno Wave Rider is by all accounts a VERY traditional running shoe. In comparison with the more modern and minimalist shoes I’ve been experimenting with, the Wave Rider sports a stiff, somewhat clunky sole, which requires a considerable amount of time to break in. The upside to this is that the shoe is tough as nails: it is very well-made, and the high-quality upper and lower materials will last much longer than the average running shoe. I have kept a few pairs of my “trashed” Wave Riders because they’re still in such good condition; every now and then I’ll throw them on for a trail run, just to mix it up.
I’ve gone through multiple models of this shoe over the past 5 or 6 years, and I can’t say I’ve noticed a considerable difference between the different versions. There may be subtle differences between the uppers or the lacing, but all have felt comparable to me…so given the high price tag, I can’t say going with an older, less expensive model is to anyone’s detriment.
Pearl iZUMi EM Road H3
3 out of 5 stars
(pictured here: Men’s model, Pearl iZUMi EM Road 3, ca. 2013)
I would have easily given this shoe 4 stars had it not worn down on me so quickly. The Pearl iZUMi EM Road shoes are a great series, unfortunately underscored by the fact that they are made of low-quality, cheap material. In contrast with the more hefty, considerable models of traditional running shoes, the EM Road 3 is comprised of thinner, more breathable uppers and more responsive, lightweight, pliable soles. Aspiring to be a hybrid between a minimal-drop, thinner-soled shoe with more ground feedback and a slightly more cushioned and supportive model, the EM Road 3 strikes a nice balance between minimalism (4.5 mm drop) and road-worthy cushion. If only they didn’t break down so quickly!
As you can probably tell from the photographs, my pair of EM Road 3s already show some significant wear-and-tear after less than 3o miles. I began to feel the very subtle arch support start to flatten about 20 miles in, and the shoe itself has started to stretch out a bit, becoming flimsy. Unfortunately, the treads on the bottom of the shoe are not formidable enough to safely convert it into a trail glove.
If this shoe were made of better material and maintained its shape and shock absorption, I’d think it was pretty close to perfect as far as minimal road shoes go. However, the EM Road 3 is showing its inexpensive price tag embarrassingly well. For the record, I do think Pearl iZUMi is onto something great, if not monumental, with its running shoes (for those of you unfamiliar with the brand, PI is a very prominent cycling company, which has made its foray into creating running and triathlon shoes only recently). I have yet to test any of the company’s other road models, but I know a few people who swear by the E:Motion Road N1 shoe and the Streak. Given that Pearl iZUMi definitely has it right in terms of promoting proper biomechanics, along with the relatively affordable prices of its shoes, I am more than willing to give this company another chance.
Overall a decent shoe, and may work well for those who are very experienced running minimally on pavement, or runners with a slight build.