Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saucony Hattori | In-depth Review

I came to the minimalist running scene prior to, what seems to me at least, the 2012 boom (in options, at least).  Prior to 2012, there were quite a few options available to minimalist runners; however, I feel as if there are more options in 2012 than there were in 2011.  Prior to reading the now-classic Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, I had a strong desire to junk my New Balance 993 dead-weights for something lighter and more minimal. 
If you’re interested in my transition to minimalist running, check out my blog post here. 

Shoe Specs
After reading a number of shoe reviews on Pete Larson’s blog, Runblogger, I decided that the Saucony Hattori would be a great first-time minimalist shoe.  With a 0-mm heel-to-toe differential (or drop, zero-drop, etc.), a weight of only 4.4 ounces for a men's size 9 (per Running Warehouse), moderate cushioning (stack height of 15mm), and a relatively wide forefoot, this shoe is definitely nothing like the aforementioned New Balance 993.  Given that this shoe doesn’t have laces, it can be a slight hassle to put one’s foot in the shoe.  The foot pods, pictured below, are well-positioned for a natural forefoot strike, and they definitely help to prevent wear.  

As for the forefoot, it’s a bit wider than most shoes, and the uppers on the Hattori really allow the toes to spread!!  The upper, while extremely light, is very flexible.  I’d say this has a wider forefoot, for sure.  Furthermore, the Velcro on the Hattori is relatively strong, but I did encounter some problems over the winter, which I mention below.  Also, the Velcro doesn’t allow for much customizing in terms of fit around the top of the foot. 

I like to adjust my laces depending on the run, and sometimes the foot can feel a bit insecure with the Velcro, especially when doing sub-7 minute miles on a treadmill. 

First Run
Putting on the Hattori for the first time and going for a run felt like I was running barefoot, which retrospectively is somewhat humorous as it doesn’t feel remotely like barefoot running.  With that being stated, going for my first run in a light weight, zero drop shoe had an instant impact on my form.  I had been reading about running form from Pete Larson, Patton Gleason, David Lieberman, and a few others, so I had any idea, even if only very theoretical, of what proper running for should look like.  My first run in the Hattori was only 2 miles, and I felt like I was flying through the air.  Although my calves were quite sore after my first run, I fell in love with this incredible shoe. 

Socks vs Sockless – Breathability
I should probably mention that my first few runs in the Hattori were sockless, which I normally never do.  I’m a sock guy.  There… I said it.  However, I went sockless the first few runs because it can be a hassle sliding one’s foot into the shoe and not having the socks ride up the ankle.  I attribute this to the lack of laces and the relatively snug fit around the top of the foot.  During each of those sockless runs, I developed some hotspots on my big toe and eventually punctured a hole in the left foot, which is visible in the picture.  Thankfully, after transitioning back to socks, the hole didn’t get too much bigger over the next 2.5 months of running exclusively in the Hattori.  Finally, I think the shoe isn’t too breathable.  My feet get quite sweaty while wearing this shoe, but they dry really quickly!  In my opinion, however, this isn’t a deal breaker; however, for others, it might be. 

Winter / Rain Running Traction
As I mentioned at the beginning, I ran in the Hattori from around the beginning of December 2011 to mid-February 2012.  I found the shoe nearly impossible to run in if there was either snow or ice on the ground.  In fact, it’s down-right dangerous to run in this shoe in winter conditions.  Thankfully, New Mexico doesn’t get too much snow, so there was only a few days that I was not able to run in the Hattori due to inclement weather.  Interestingly, running in the rain is no problem with this shoe.  I find the traction to be OK for rainy weather and, as I mentioned above, the shoe dries out fairly quickly. 

Road vs Trail
This is a road shoe, and it wasn’t designed for the trail.  As expected, it performs well on the road.  Not much to say about that.  With that being stated, I did go for a few runs on jeep roads and, if it is dry and not super muddy, I found that the Hattori works well on a dry jeep trail that doesn’t have lots of small rocks that can get stuck in the sole.

I ran in the Hattori for 2.5 months, and put about 200 miles on them.  As you can tell from the picture, the shoes held up remarkably well, especially for a wet New Mexico winter.  In fact, I think they almost look like they came out of the box!  The tread on the sole doesn’t even look like it’s that worn, and the pods really hold up well.  Concerning the Velcro, after 2.5 months of use, the Velcro near the Achilles wasn’t attaching anymore, and this may be due to the number of wet runs I did over that time period.  Actually, the reason I upgraded to another shoe was due to the Velcro not allowing me to feel as secure.  If it wasn’t for that, I might still be running in the Hattori.

Overall, the Saucony Hattori is a great minimalist shoe for those wanting a more natural ride without sacrificing cushioning.  While it does seem to cause my feet to sweat and not useable for a wintry run, I think this shoe is perfect for every other condition.  My one recommendation is to make a laced version of this shoe as I’m not a huge fan of Velcro as it seemed to only last about 200 miles for me while the rest of the shoe could keep going for a couple hundred more miles.

Do I recommend it?
Absolutely.  Like Jason at Barefoot Running University, shoes should really be viewed as tools.  Everyone should have a pair of Hattoris in their closests, if only for the speed work and foot strengthening.  Great shoe.  Well done, Saucony. 

Update – Saucony Hattori LC
As of July 2012, Saucony has released a laced version of the Hattori (the Hattori LC)!  Unfortunately, I can’t afford to get this shoe at the moment to try it and compared it to the original Hattori, but from what I’ve heard, the laced version gives a more customizable fit over the top of the foot.

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