If nothing else, you have to give Saucony credit for persistence.
They were one of the first major shoe manufacturers to actively court the minimalist movement; unfortunately, they also came across as somewhat disingenuous in their aggressive marketing of the 18mm-at-the-heel Kinvara as a minimalist shoe, which got them off on the wrong foot, so to speak, with a lot of minimalist fans. When I eventually reviewed the Kinvara, I concluded that it was a pretty decent shoe for its light weight and more natural biomechanics, and it ultimately became a fairly popular transitional shoe.
Saucony kept progressing with the minimalist model, releasing an updated Kinvara 2 this spring – basically the original Kinvara with some modifications to the upper material – as well as the Hattori, which is a true zero-drop, super lightweight road shoe that can legitimately claim to be a true minimalist offering. It’s sort of odd, then, that the hype surrounding the Hattori has been relatively subdued; in my opinion, the structure and design innovations on the Hattori are far more significant than those on the Kinvara. Back when Saucony was heavily promoting the Kinvara, my expectation was that the shoe would turn out to be something more like the Hattori – but better late than never, I guess.
Honestly, I haven’t really fallen in love with the Hattori because it’s primarily a road shoe, and also because of a couple of issues I’ll detail soon. However, with vital specs of 13mm heel height, zero drop to forefoot, and 4.4oz per shoe, there’s no question that Saucony is trending in the right direction here, and the shoe is certainly worth a closer look. So let’s get to the review.
|Very thin mesh fabric upper|
Uppers of the Hattori are composed of a very thin stretch mesh fabric, with a toe-box shape that the website describes as a “mitten-like” fit (apparently the word “glove” has been a bit overused recently). The idea was to have a sock-like (or possibly neoprene-like) fit, but I found the overall dimensions to be uncomfortably restrictive, especially on the lateral aspect where my pinky toe presses into the 4th toe. This has as much to do with the shape of the last as with the cut of the upper, but the end result was that I didn’t have any toe splay upon foot strike, which is a bad mark in my book. If you have narrow feet, it may not be a problem.
|Power rings sold separately|
While we’re at it, one small tangent about the uppers: if you happened to be as startled as I was about the Green Lantern hue of my test pair, I should point out that the Hattori comes in five different colors. Just so you know.
|Upper fastener strap|
Echoing Vibram’s Komodo Sport, the Hattori doesn’t have any fastening system for the upper aside from two strategically placed straps: one across the top of the midfoot, and one behind the heel. Unfortunately, just like the Komodo, I found the straps to be largely ineffective; while the top strap provides a bit of extra tension, the heel strap doesn’t help improve either the fit of the heelcup or the stability of the heel on top of the insole. My tendency is to roll to the inside part of my heel after midfoot strike, and with the Hattori, I ended up off the side of the insole like I do in my moccasins, rather than remain in place like I do with my Merrell Trail Gloves.
|EVA (green) and rubber (gray) outsole|
On the underside of the shoe, Saucony decided to go with nearly 100% EVA construction; there’s no reinforced rubber aside from the gray areas you see above. Considering that this is intended as a minimalist shoe, the placement of the rubber seems a bit odd – at the very least, the reinforcement at the forefoot area should be significantly larger.
|Excellent heel to toe flexibility|
The advantages of using straight EVA without rubber reinforcement are that it decreases weight and improves overall flexibility; indeed, the Hattori is completely flexible from heel to toe. The disadvantages are that it has poor traction, gives an overly cushioned ground feel, and wears down quickly. The Hattori is intended strictly as a road or track shoe, but I’ve worn it on several runs on fire roads to test its grip in the gravel and dirt. Simply put, there isn’t much there – and the thickness of the midsole is too much for me to enhance traction by gripping with my toes like I do in Vibrams or Soft Stars.
|Rear heel straps|
Since I do 95% of my running on the dirt, the lack of traction is obviously a significant downside for my everyday use. Conversely, I suspect that high-mileage road runners would wear the EVA down relatively quickly, although I probably won’t be the best judge of long-term durability because I won’t log enough road miles in the near future to find out. (As of this review, I only have about 50 total miles on my pair – approximately 40 on dirt and 10 on roads). If anyone out there has high road miles and can weigh in on this in the comments below, I’ll update this post accordingly.
I suppose the final verdict for recommending the Hattori depends on your intended use. If you’re a dedicated road or track runner looking for a barely-there shoe to do some speed work or to blaze a PR in your next 5K or 10K, the Hattori could make a nice addition to your shoe lineup. If you’re looking for a durable everyday trainer or a general all-purpose road and trail shoe, there are certainly more suitable minimalist models out there. However, I hope that Saucony keeps innovating and trying new ideas - particularly a trail-friendly true minimalist model – and that the Hattori ends up being the next stage in a progression toward more impressive things to come.
Saucony’s Hattori retails for $70 from Amazon.com and other online vendors.
*Product provided by Saucony. Affiliate sales support Running and Rambling.
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you'd like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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