I really enjoyed Mizuno's previous version of the Wave Rider (review here, and video here) however I know a lot of people that thought the cosmetics really let it down, and that in some cases, there was some irritation around the seam at the tongue and the front of the shoe, so I'm really looking for improvements in these areas in the new Wave Rider 18
The first difference you notice is that it looks a lot more toned down than last year’s version. Mizuno really upped their game with visuals last year across their range, and some people thought they went too far. I personally thought the Wave Rider 17 looked great, however I do like the fade from white the black with some subtle green highlighting seen here in the Wave Rider 18. Aside from the visuals, you notice that there is now a one piece upper, and the mesh has been reinforced, which is something people complained about last time. So far, so good
The midsole has kept what made it great last time around. A U4ic midsole makes this shoe impossibly light for what it is, and it uses the same wave as it did last time. However, in the new Wave Rider 18, the heel unit has become a little more decoupled, designed to slow the impact of heel strikers, much like crumple zones in cars work. Bizarrely though, there are fewer flex grooves in the forefoot than on the Wave Rider 17, which I can only imagine is to add more stability (which I didn't feel was an issue in the Wave Rider 17). We'll see how these updates have changed the feel of the shoe.
The upper is always the thing people notice first. This is still the case with the Wave Rider 18, however, delve a little deeper, and you see the real changes. There are much fewer stitches than on the previous version, and with this, the upper is far plusher, and feels more like the premium product that it is. The mesh also feels sturdier, and there are fewer overlays, making it lighter. In recent Mizuno shoes, there has been a tendency for the mesh to split where the foot bends, so this new mesh is reassuring.
The Smooth Ride update seen in the Wave Rider 17 was one of the biggest and best selling points. It made it more stable, and gave a smoother roll of the foot (the clue is in the name). But it was something that I feel they got spot on. So it's good to see they haven't changed it much (aside from extending it to go with the smaller number of flex grooves). I'm hoping for it to be as good as the last time out.
The Mizuno Wave Rider 18 is a great shoe. I've worn it day in day out, with no problems at all. It is light, stable (something lacking in models 16 and below), and the tweaked heel unit makes difference. The ride is generally smooth, so I can safely say the updated Smooth Ride is no accident, it definitely works. However, I am a little confused as to why the extra flex groove in the forefoot has been removed. The Wave Rider 17 was slightly more flexible, and the Wave Rider 18 is not noticeably more stable for it. Those of you who regularly read my reviews will know I like to run a little more forefoot, and this was a little troublesome in these due to the relatively high heel, but the shoe makes up for it by being light enough to still use for faster runs. If you want a transition shoe, go for the Mizuno Wave Sayonara, but if you are a heel striker, this is a fantastic shoe. If you're looking for an improvement on the Wave Rider 17, my advice for you is to ask what was wrong with them. If you want toned down visuals, or a sturdier, yet smoother and softer upper, then go and get a pair of the Wave Rider 18's. If you don't mind any of those points, then the Wave Rider 17 can still be picked up on the cheap. The Wave Rider 18 is a better shoe, however, in the sales, my money would go on the 17, as there isn't a significant enough difference to make the extra money worth it. We give the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 a (maintained) 9 out of 10.