IMG_3430I thought I knew what to expect when unboxing and putting on a pair of Mizuno running shoes – the familiar firmness in the heel coupled with a structured upper fit – and a light, firm fit and feel.

The Wave Rider 19 threw a curveball at me when I put my foot into what felt like a pair of bedroom slippers! Mizuno has retooled the strobel board in the Wave Rider with an additional 2mm of EVA foam. Now, I know what you’re thinking:

  1. What the heck is a strobel board?
  2. What the heck is EVA foam?
  3. Two measly millimeters? How can you even notice that?

First you have to understand what EVA is.

EVA is, to keep it simple, the foam rubber that makes up the midsole – the part of the shoe that is in contact with the bottom of your foot – of pretty much every running shoe. It is light, flexible, and highly shock-absorbent. It also compresses over time, which is why your running shoes start to feel flat and need to be replaced after too many miles.

strobelA strobel board, then, is a thin sheet of that EVA foam that holds the upper to the midsole. Without a strobel board, the upper – the meshy part of the shoe that looks cool and wraps the top of your foot – would just float above the midsole.

The strobel board is glued on the midsole and then the upper is stitched to it. Voila! A running shoe is born.

IMG_3411So, back to the Wave Rider 19. Mizuno has made the strobel board 2mm thicker than previous models – giving the shoe an amazingly plush step-in feel. While 2mm doesn’t sound like much, when we’re talking running shoes, it is pretty significant. The last version of the shoe put you 22mm off the ground. So that extra 2mm in the strobel board accounts for 10% of the total stack height of the shoe.

So now I’ve got the shoes on my feet and am walking around remarking how plush they feel. But how will they perform on the run?

That extra softness did not translate into a sloppy feel on the run by any means. Running in the Rider 19 brought me back to what I expected from a Mizuno shoe – light, firm, and responsive, with a smooth heel-to-toe transition and a nice feel for the surface underneath me. Actually, I didn’t even really think about the shoe at all during the run, which is what we all want, right? One less thing to think about.

riderinspirecardsThis is a great shoe, but it’s not for everyone. If your foot is on the wider side, or your arch is on the lower side, you probably will not find this shoe quite as comfortable as I did. This is built for a true neutral – an individual with a narrow to medium foot and relatively high arch.

And if you’re looking for tons of cushioning and a super soft feel, you might be better served with something like Adidas Boost or Asics Gel cushioning. Soft and squishy is not Mizuno‘s thing. Their target with the Wave Rider is a runner who likes feeling control over the surface beneath them and is looking for something a little less conspicuous on foot.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 19 is available men’s size 8-13 and women’s size 6-12 in all Marathon Sports locations.