Saucony Hattori Review

The Saucony Hattori takes the cake as the lightest shoe I’ve ever run in. Weighing in at 4.4 oz or 124 grams it is ridiculously light, almost half the weight of Adidas Marathon racing shoe the Adios. Of course this barely there type of shoe is not about a lot of cushioning, your foot is shielded rather than fully protected from the rigors of ground contact. It is also zero drop from heel to toe making this a completely flat shoe that is very popular with minimalist runners.

While I’d probably be considered a minimalist runner compared to the general running population (although this is rapidly changing) the Hattori has been a bit of a challenge for me to get used to. I’ve not been running in anything lighter or lower profile that the Adidas Pro and Rocket racing flats, which compared to the Hattori now feel quite cushioned and have some noticeable support under the heel.

About the reviewer: Brian Martin. Consider how this review relates to your running?
When I first tried on the sample provide by the Saucony Distributor in Melbourne I though this will be great, I can run in this. Perhaps over buoyed by my confidence in having built up to running 20k in the Nike Free 3.0 I set about taking the Hattori on a modest 8km run that I complete regularly in Melbourne.

About a 15 minute jog to the park then, 12 minutes around the granite sand loop and back again. To be honest I was struggling by the time I got to the park, the combination of running on concrete footpaths and the lack of heel support had my occasionally troublesome shin playing up. So I cut my losses, skipped the lap of the park, did some strength work and shuffled home.

Not the greatest start but no damage done beyond a niggle in the shin for an hour. After this I gave more respect to the process and tried be smarter and plan my evolution down to this lighter shoe.

So I drove to the park, jogged a lap in Hattori away from the concrete, and then did some barefoot jogging on grass, then jumped back into the Hattori for a bit more jogging on the granite sand. This mix has been far more successful and I’ve built up to be able to run to the park (on concrete) do 10 minutes jogging barefoot on grass, then jog back again in the Hattori.

The conclusion, as I hinted ar in one of my recent articles was that if you’re keen on getting down to zero drop shoes (and not everyone needs to or should) that mixing it up with some actual barefoot jogging is a good idea. You need to get the feel for it, and losing the shoes for a bit seems to help maintain a better pattern for zero drop running when you put your shoes back on.

I’ve yet to run a lot of miles in this shoe, so I asked experienced minimalist runner and freelance writer for a French running magazine named Jogging International and runners.fr website Frederic Brossard to give me his impressions of the Hattori. Having run a marathon in them he’s probably best qualified to offer an opinion on how well these shoes perform over longer distances and as part of a structured training program. Here is some of Fred’s thinking about the Hattori:

Fred Brossard on the Saucony Hattori

I have been wearing and reviewing minimalist shoes for nearly two and a half years and I must confess that the Hattori is, so far, the best minimalist road shoe I’ve ever worn.

First thing you have to know about the Hattori is that either it perfectly fits your foot or it totally doesn’t, being too narrow or on the contrary too wide and the velcro strap won’t solve the problem. I was fortunate to fall in the first category and immediately found the Hattori felt like my favourite … slippers :-).

After 600 kilometers, which includes a few short distance races (6 and 10 km) where I beat my P.R. and a 3:10 marathon, here’s what I can say about these shoes:

The outsole is rather stiff for a minimalist zero-drop shoe, far more so than the New Balance MR00 for example, but there are two “bending zones”, one under the base of the toes and one under the middle of the foot to ensure the necessary flexibility for a nice midfoot strike.

There are also three protective inserts: two under the big toe and first metatarsal and one, quite surprisingly, under the heel (I didn’t understand why).

These inserts are supposed to “guide” your stride by creating some sort of a live rail that you just have to follow. Those accustomed to running barefoot may be a bit disappointed by the lack of “physical” contact / feeling between ground and feet.

The insole is made of foam which I find too soft, especially under the midfoot. This prevented me from wearing them barefoot since it allows the foot to glide back and forth causing heating and blisters. After a first 10 km run and a few blisters, I decided to put my socks on. On the flip side the softness of the insole does contribute to the general comfort of the shoe.

The mesh upper is stretchable and wraps your foot like some sort of a second skin, without being too tight. It’s not as breathable as it should be however, and after long runs in warm weather, your feet may sweat quite a lot.

This being said, running with the Hattori is as easy as a,b,c … I had a non-minimalist runner friend try them and she immediatly found natural midfoot strike and a nearly perfect posture.

As I previously stated, people looking for feeling and feedback from the ground may be a bit disappointed. However, I’m an experienced minimalist runner with a mid-foot strike that I “mechanically” built so this lack of feeling didn’t annoy me.

The Hattori helped me break several of my short distance P.R.s thanks, in part, to the firmness of its sole under the toes and metatarsals and the grip under the big toe. The inserts help to provide a stable base for the foot and big toe during the push-off phase which then allows a good energy transfer.

I also recently broke my marathon P.R. wearing the Hattori (from 3:13 to 3:10) but I’m not sure it’s really tailored for such a distance. As Brian stated in a previous article about Pete Larson’s Marathon Foot Strike Study, when fatigue arises around the 33rd kilometer, you’re left without any support and cushion from the sole and continuing to mid-foot strike becomes difficult through a combination of hip extensor and/or plantaflexor fatigue, I had to walk several times to try to reduce growing pain. This effect is increased by the softness of the insole which gets seriously annoying at that time of the race.

I have continued road running in my Hattori (using New Balance MT10 when trail running) and still enjoy doing speed work and intervals in these shoes, however I’m not sure I will run my next marathon in Hattori.

The thing I take out of Fred’s excellent appraisal of the Hattori that it’s not a shoe for someone to transition aggressively towards who is not already used to maintaining a forefoot or mid-foot striking pattern and especially those with little experience running in very minimal shoes. On the whole you’d want to be moving very well and be relatively light on your feet to any sort of meaningful volume of running in this shoe. As Fred has also found from experience, the Hattori is not the most appropriate shoe for marathon running.

Walking and gym in the Hattori

The Hattori would also make a great walking, gym or cross fit shoe. As an example, when Mark and I coach technique, we often recommend clients get some minimal shoes for walking, we also suggest playing around with activating the glutes and hamstrings a bit more when just waking about. This is almost impossible to do in shoes with a built up heel and cushion while walking, so take the support away and you can walk with a muscle activation pattern that is quite similar to what your might use to practice proper running form.

These shoes would also be excellent to wear in the gym because they are so stable and low to the ground – just don’t drop anything heavy on your foot!

Conclusion

The Hattori isn’t the shoe that you should choose if you’re in the early stages of a transition away from more supportive running footwear, however experienced minimalist runners or runners with good technique may find them an interesting shoe to try for some of their training.

I’ve also heard of some runners wearing the Hattori as a road racing flat, given its lightness and some level of stiffness in the sole I can see how this might work. A lace up version of the shoe coming soon might encourage more runners to give this a try.

Finally, because the Hattori fits so snugly, some runners may find they need to go up half a size.

Written by and Fred Brossard*

*Fred is currently writing a book about barefoot and minimalist running.

Disclosure: Shoe sample provided by Saucony

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