Saucony Hattori: First Look Review of Saucony’s First Zero Drop Shoe

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UPDATE 7/30/2012: Saucony has released a much-improved, lace-up update to the Saucony Hattori – read my Saucony Hattori LC review here.


One of the coolest parts of the Boston Marathon weekend experience was the Expo – it was a bit overwhelming for a gear junkie like me to be surrounded by the latest offerings from all of the major running gear and shoe brands. Somewhat surprisingly, I bought very little aside from official race gear – the one exception was a shoe that I have been eagerly awaiting: the Saucony Hattori.

The Hattori is an interesting shoe in that it is the first truly zero drop shoe from one of the major running shoe manufacturers (i.e., the sole is completely flat with no differential between the heel and forefoot). Other zero drop options are out there (e.g., the Altra Instinct, Vibram Fivefingers, Merrell Barefoot, Terra Plana Evo/Neo, GoLite Amp/Tara Lite), but Saucony was the first of the big players to make the foray into the flatlands.

After a few wears, I have to say that the Hattori is most definitely a unique shoe. Weighing in at a feather-light 4.5 oz (in my size 10), the only shoe I own that weighs less is the Mizuno Wave Universe. The upper has a sock-like feel to it – it’s made of a stretchy fabric that provides a snug fit over the foot. It almost feels like a water-shoe in that sense – hugs the foot but not in a constricting way since the upper is so minimal. It feels just a bit wider in the forefoot to me than the Kinvara, but the upper is more accommodating. There is no insole, and the sockliner has a squishy kind of feel to it that molds to the foot. Those who don’t like cushion might get annoyed by this, but it doesn’t bother me. The midsole is moderately firm, though not in the league of a Vibram Fivefingers or Merrell Barefoot – according to official specs it measures at 13 mm heel and 13 mm forefoot.

Saucony Hattori Black Red

Saucony Hattori Black Green Medial

The outsole design has raised a few eyebrows due to the location of the rubber reinforcement pods. For a zero drop shoe, many would prefer to see added reinforcement on the lateral forefoot, but the Hattori pods are restricted to the heel and medial forefoot (note, there is a pod missing in the photo below underneath the big toe – mine has one in that spot). The heel protection makes sense as I always do some amount of walking in my running shoes and scuff up the heels, but I’m unsure of the reason for placing the forefoot pods on the inner side. This could cause durability issues for people who tend to generate friction along the lateral forefoot. I tend to wear my forefoot evenly (my Kinvaras are still holding up great), so I don’t think this will be a big problem for me. The midsole is also quite flexible, and I can bend it easily with my foot even while stationary.

Saucony Hattori Upper Sole

So far I have only run in the Hattori 3 times – once for 1.5 miles on the treadmill, a quick mile on the sidewalk, and earlier today I ran a hilly 5.70 mile tempo run in them at 6:49/mile pace (wanted to put them to the test!). The shoes feel really good out on the road, and I found it very easy to maintain good form in them. The sole has some give, but because it is relatively thin, it’s not as soft feeling as the Kinvara – I actually like the feeling of the sole quite a bit. If I had one modification I could make, I would add a mechanism to better secure the upper to the foot. The velcro straps help a bit, but the shoe needs something a bit further forward as well. Because the forefoot isn’t tightly secured, I think it allows my feet to slide around a bit and I developed hotspots on the balls of my feet behind my big toes. My skin will most likely adapt to this, but I’d suggest a velcro strap across the forefoot or a lacing system like the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS might help to better secure the foot in future incarnations. Despite this quibble, I foresee myself putting a lot of miles on these shoes – they really hit a sweet spot for me in being extremely light, very flexible, zero drop, and moderately cushioned.

The Hattori is available for pre-order at Running Warehouse (click ad at bottom of post), though it will not be in stock until late May, with a few of the colorways not being released until June. If the number of people trying them on at the Boston expo was any indication, there looks to be a lot of interest in the Hattori. The color options span from loud and flashy to subdued and conservative, so there should be an option to suit everyone’s preference. It is a bit of an odd looking shoe (my wife is not a fan – she said they look like prison loafers!), but I wear the Fivefingers out in public so I’m used to attracting attention with my footwear.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Jojohn G says:

    I have ran in Kinvaras, which appear to have helped my running style, no significant injury and quick recovery from hard sessions and races. I am thinking about the Hattori, but am at the heavier side of the running scale at 13st 8 (190lbs), would you recommend

    • Pete Larson says:

      Honest answer is I don’t know how a heavier runner would respond in them.
      Gut tells me it should be no problem if you have good form, and they do have
      more cushion than something like a Vibram. I weigh 170, so by no means a
      featherweight, and I have yet to find a shoe I can’t handle.

      Pete

      • Jojohn G says:

        Thanks Pete, likely to give them a go when they arrive on the shelves, for the moment like the look of the Kinvara 2 to take me through to October time, as previous Kinvaras have been a good investment.

      • I’m a heavy runner here (195 lbs.). I trained and ran a half marathon in these shoes… no socks. I love these shoes!

  2. Jason Fitzgerald says:

    The white/grey/red option is gorgeous – I’ll have to look into buying a pair. Thanks for the review Pete. It looks like there’s some type of strap on the heel – is that for decoration/style or is there a velcro strap there as well?

    • Pete Larson says:

      There is velcro on the heel. My problem with the velcro straps is that they
      don’t cinch down very much – it’s not like the straps on my vibrams which
      are loop-like.

  3. Tjabo Andersson says:

    What about size, would you recomend going for a bit bigger in size?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I did not go larger in size, and glad I didn’t as I think it would increase
      my issue with the somewhat sloppy forefoot fit (too much movement since
      there is little to hold the sole to the foot). This may improve with time,
      we shall see.

      Pete

  4. Ian Andrews says:

    Do they fit true to size?

  5. The women’s colors, as usual, make me want to bang my head on the keyboard… what is WRONG with those people?!

  6. searayman says:

    How was the sizing, was it true to size? I am looking to order these and am a 10.5 and want to know what size I should order?

  7. Does the Hattori feel more cushioned on the road than the Merrell Trail Glove does on the road. I love the Trail Glove, but only on the trail. I ran 3 miles on black top today and they didn’t feel as good as they do on the trail.

  8. Whotrustedus says:

    I just got a pair from RW.   The uppers don’t seem very durable.   For those who have had theirs for a while, how are the uppers  holding up?

    (I think I agree with Pete’s wife.  They do look like prison loafers!)

    • I’ve had mine for awhile. I have run on crushed gravel and black top with runs up to 14 miles. They seem to be holding up fine. The fit is the problem if you don’t wear socks. I don’t generally wear socks and on the long runs the shoe would feel sloppy  and caused a few blisters. I love the cushioning. I have the Merrel Trail Glove and I love the way it fits but it is a little firm for my liking. If they get the Hattori to fit more like the Merrel or NB Minimus Trail it would be perfect. Overall I really like running in the Hattori and fine it easy to run on my forefoot.

  9. DanielNY says:

    nice review. i just got a free pair from the jack rabbit running expo in nyc this past weekend. i went for a 4 mile run in them and really enjoyed the experience, but got a huge blister on my big toe on my left foot. there is a piece of plastic on the sole that only bothers me on the left shoe, not the right. ill have to either tape up my toe or find something squishy to put over the area. other than that i really love them (especially since i got them for free).

  10. FREDERIC BROSSARD says:

    I should get mine as soon as they will be available in France (probably beginning of June). I’m a little bit surprised by what you wrote in regards to the Kinvara. How exactly would you compare both soles ? I’ve just completed a marathon with my Kinvara so I think I may know “how they work” LOL and before running in my future Hattori, I would like to know what I can expect from them.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Hattori is both closer to the ground and a bit firmer than the Kinvara, so
      it’s a different feel. I think you will like the Hattori.

  11. I have been running in Hattoris for over three months now and love them.  I run both trail and road, and they provide enough protection from both yet still allow good road feel (though if you land right on a pebble on a hard surface, it will hurt).  I’m surprised that anyone has a problem with sloppiness in fit.  I have fairly skinny feet, yet I need toe splay room.  My Hattoris are snug on the uppers, but I have all the room I need for my toes.  Have people tried sizing down?  Also, both the uppers and soles are showing an acceptable amount of wear.  I did 18 miles in them today, and they are looking and feeling great.  My only complaint about them is that they do get sweaty inside–though not when I’m running.  I can’t wear them around town, but for whatever reason, they aren’t hot and sweaty to run in.  Maybe the micro-holes allow wind in when your feet are moving fast.  Anyway, these shoes are fantastic in my book.

  12. Hi,

    I’m about to buy the Hattori LC (ie with laces) online.
    I find it simply looks nicer.
    I size US 10 in Kinvara 2 and Peregrine (a very little bit narrower in the forefoot than Kinvara, but still OK). Is Hattori in the same size range ?
    Thanks in advance,

  13. Hey Pete, any more miles/thoughts on these? Thanks 

    • Pete Larson says:

      Not yet – trying to polish off a few reviews that have been long in the
      works first.

      •  Got it.  Just on a personal note, this is the best running blog on the internet.  The wealth of information on your site is amazing and it really was the impetus for me to really persue running/less shoe aggressively, and it has been nothing but a joy.  I even got on Daily Mile because I saw it on here and that has been amazing!  All that is really just to say thanks.  Its clear that  a lot of time and effort goes into this site and i just wanted to be one of the many that recognizes you for it. 

  14. I have a pair shipping out tomorrow (black/green). Can’t wait.

    Both Pete and Britt said they felt the front end of the shoe to be a bit unstable. I’m sure it will differ for every runner and is dependent on the shape of their feet. Here’s a thought: If the shoe feels a bit sloppy in the front but is otherwise comfortable, would it not be possible to secure it to the foot with a rubber band? It obviously would not look great, but it seems like it would do the trick. It could fit in the curved groove between the rows of lugs on the sole and would not come in contact with the ground. If mine feel sloppy, I’ll give it a try and report back.

    Roadrunner said to order 1/2 size up, but I read what Pete wrote and ordered my regular Saucony size of 12.

    Aaron

    • Pete Larson says:

      In my opinion, ordering a half size up would encourage more slop in the
      forefoot, and I would not advocate doing so. The movement isn’t bad, just
      that it allowed a hot spot to develop that I think my skin will adapt to.

      Pete

  15. Aussierunner says:

    Have run in these twice, straight out of the box 15 miles and then a week later on trails in Mont Royal (Montreal) doing around 3 hours, felt like i had nothing on my feet which was great. Not sure about the durability but was surprised by how good they felt on some of the gnarlier single trail.
    Usually trail race (100 milers and shorter) in Nike Frees and i can see me using these for those races as they are so light.
    Funny how everyone worries about colour, personally i’d like to think i’m moving too fast for anyone to notice that, and strangely for me it’s usually the strangest coloured shoes my feet work best in ???

  16. I really wanted to buy a pair of these at the expo too! But alas I will wait until late May and get the Black ones with the green sole I have my eye set on!

  17. Great review!  I ran for the first time in my Hattoris yesterday and noticed some of the same things you did.  I ran 2 of my 7 miles on the treadmill in the Hattoris and finished the run with my Kinvaras.  I feel that the 1/2 size up in the Hattoris was needed for toe clearance (just like the Kinvaras and type A4s) but did notices some minor extra movement medially/laterally in the forefoot.  Just like the type A4s I found that they are comfortable to run in without socks and the sole of the Hattoris does have a great soft feel to it.  Even though I’ve run hundreds of miles in the Kinvaras the zero drop of the Hattoris was enough to cause some calf soreness.  Those who are new to minimalist running might want to break these in slowly.  I can’t wait to hit the road in these!

  18. Eric Villanueva says:

    Thanks for your review! I got a pair and am working them into my rotation of BF, Runamocs, & Feelmax Osmas. These are the most cushioned out of all the shoes I’ve got, but I figured that might actually help with my feet dealing with longer distances. You’re right about the forefoot slop. I really want to like them, but I’m dealing with breaking them in a bit since the right one is giving me blisters on the inside of the foot in front of the arch where the top material creases.  I hope once I get past them I’ll be more inclined to put some decent mileage in them. I’ve only been able to keep them on for part of my runs so far before tearing them off and finishing barefoot. I have found them to be on the warm side, but that is probably due more with the extremely hot summer we’re having in Atlanta. That should work to their advantage once the fall & winter comes.

    • I have had my Hattoris for a few weeks now, and really like them, but experienced the same blisters on my arch that you encountered, except I got the blisters on both feet.  I really don’t want to wear socks with these, but might be forced to do just that for a while. 

  19. Craig F says:

    I was looking for a lightweight, zero drop shoe to replace my VFF’s for road running. The Vibram’s are great on the trial but they are too thin for hard pavement : I always felt beat up afterward. As a replacement, the Hattori’s are great : just enough extra padding to take the sting away, but still wide,light and flexible enough to keep that ‘bare foot’ feel (sort of).

    My only problem with them, is that my feet get really hot. It’s not the weather, I’m running at sunset, 65F max. They just don’t breathe very well, it seems. I haven’t tried socks yet, maybe they will help?  I was going to do a half marathon in them, but now I am having second thoughts.

  20. How’s the sizing, aka do they run “small” or “large” based on your typical size selection? Keep up the great work on the website.

  21. I had a pair for about two weeks but had to send them back due to the forefoot sloppiness. I unconsciously clenched my toes to keep them in place, which led to a lot of foot soreness. Other than that, I thought they were pretty great.

    That was the second time I tried a shoe other than the Bikilas and went back to them. They just really work for me.

    I also just got a pair of Trail Gloves. I’m still getting used to them. On any surface besides pavement, they are awesome. Hopefully, after a couple hundred miles, they will feel good on pavement too.

    Happy fathers day, Pete. From one busy running dad to another. I’m hoping to get out for a good 7 miler with one or more of the kiddos in the BOB today.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks Aaron, got my father’s day run in as well! I find the Hattori
      works a bit better with socks on, but I’d prefer not to have to wear
      them in the shoe. Hoping they fix this in future editions.

      Pete

      • My father’s day run was good too, once we finally got out.  I took our 4-year-old son, so there were lots of stops (bathroom, park, picking flowers, etc.).

        I tried the Hattoris with socks a couple of times, but I preferred them without.  They were super comfortable, until I started running. 

        I wonder if the Hattori would benefit from some rubber or elastic-like strapping like on the new ZEM shoes.  Just a hint of structure over the forefoot.

        The next version should be interesting, provided they take notes and make some minor changes.  I would give them another shot.

        Aaron

  22. Only 1 run so far in mine. Went sock-less. 3 miles. Shoes felt good but developed blisters on the inside (medial) edge of the ball of both feet. Right foot (my larger foot) worse than left. There is a ridge of the sole material that wraps up around the toe box and the edge pod it overlies this part of my foot. I think that is the culprit. I’m trying tobdecide between running with socks (which I’d rather not given the heat here in Florida) vs. shoe surgery to make this bit ov EVA a littler more flexible.

    • Eric Villanueva says:

      I’ve had the same issue on my right foot as well. I’m hoping it will eventually work itself out.

  23. Now that the Hattori’s been out for over a year how’s the durability? Is the lack of rubber on the lateral forefoot an issue? Is this a good shoe for everyday training or better as a race day shoe?

  24. Davethecanuck says:

    Well, look who’s in Runner’s World this month! Nice to see an article on form for a change. I keep thinking I should just cancel my subscription, and then something like this pops up to keep my interest.

  25. FoCoRunner says:

    Pete, I noticed a few reviews in which runners were questioning the placement of the wear-resistant pads on the sole. This isn’t exactly the placement I would want as a midfoot/forefoot runner if my goal were to reduce wear, but if my goal were to enhance propioception for a neutral runner, a little extra firmness under the first metatarsal seems reasonable. Doesn’t seem clear in materials from Saucony what the thinking was on the placement of these pads, however.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’m not sure what the reasoning was – I find that my shoes have much less wear since working on my gait, so it’s probably pretty individual.

      • FoCoRunner says:

        Everything is individual. It’s biology afterall. Variance is high, and proportional to the mean.  Yeehaw!  :)

  26. I run high school cross country and the most popular racing flat for roads by far is the Saucony Hattori.

  27. kevin cullen says:

     should u buy a half size big if ur gunna wear em with socks? or do u not wear em with socks?

  28. do you wear socks in them, or do you go sockless? also how do they perform on trails?

  29. Wow this looks like a great shoe. I purchased a pair of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila and I love them, but I am looking for another minimalist shoe that does not have the toe holes. Just a quick question too, is it bad for you in a general sense to run in minimalist shoes every day?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Depends on the person – some do, some just use them a few times per week. Best to ease in slowly, then figure out the right mix for yourself.

      • Lucas Anastassiou says:

        Hello Pete.

        I am a 14 year old male from Australia, I have a crazy obsession with running shoes, want to be a shoe designer when I am and adult and I have been crazily researching these shoes but I am worried about the fitting. I am a 4E width fitting. I went into shoe fitr on runningwarehouse and compared it with my asics gt 2160 size 10. in the results, size 10.5 was perfect and it said the size 11 would be loose in the upper. The problem was, it only measured in the standard D width fitting so I am considering getting the size 11.
        Would this work?

        Thanks for your help,

        Lucas

        • Pete Larson says:

          This is a tricky shoe to fit. Because it lacks laces, you probably don’t want to go too big, so that suggest to me 10.5 may be the way to go. The upper is very thin and stretchy so may accommodate a wide foot, but hard to say for sure. I will say that I’m not crazy about the foreooft design in this version, and would suggest to most to wait for the lace-up v2 that is coming soon.
          Sent from my iPad

          • LMAShoeGuy says:

            I’ve heard/seen that there are lace up versions coming out. hopefully that will make it easier and, we are only allowed lace ups at school. I am so bummed for having a wide foot because, if I didn’t, I would go for one of the merrells’ as the outsole is more durable because it is a vibram outsole and the aesthetics are better.

            I made a terrible mistake posting my first comment because it included my last name! It will be LMAShoeGuy from now on. Also too, have you heard about zems? they look pretty cool.

  30. Natalie says:

    How has the sole held up?  Are you wearing them with or without socks? 

  31. These look like good shoes, but I am looking for a 0 drop shoe with similar forefoot cushioning as the kinvarna… would these fit that description, or does anyone know of another shoe that might.

    • You need to look at the Altra Instinct.  Altra is a relatively new shoe company that only makes zero-drop shoes.  Check them out!

  32. Neudesigns says:

    Ha! Prison slippers.

  33. I have run 2 longer runs in them in the past 8 days, a 10 miler and a 13 miler yesterday. I love running in them. Although I feel the sloppiness around the heel when I put them on, I don’t notice it when I start running. My main concern will be the durability.

  34. searayman says:

    How would you compare these to the New Balance minimus trail for minimal running?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Much lighter, a bit softer underfoot, totally different upper. Hattori
      is also zero drop, whereas the NB is 4mm lift in heel. Both great
      shoes, but quite different.

      • Juan Roman Magdaraog says:

        I tried these on along with the NB Minimus MT10 (Trail). Could immediately notice the heel drop difference and the light weight. Felt a little squishier and I wasn’t too into the looks – I tried on the subdued white/grey/red, even. I was pretty set on getting the Minimus but these might fit the bill for a lot of folks. Good to have choices!

  35. briderdt says:

    I make this comment having never even seen these shoes first hand: Why does Saucony think that lugs in the forefoot and a solid rearfoot is a good idea? Aside from the last shape of the Kinvara, one of my main gripes with that shoe is that, functionally, the drop is significantly greater than the 4mm they advertise (which is actually about 6 due to the insole). Weighting the foot is going to cause greater compression of the forefoot due to there being less material.

    But then again, if I get a chance to try them on, and the last shape (being wider than the Kinvara) works on my foot, I would probably buy them…

    • Totally agree. It’s worth paying more attention to the real drop which almost always includes the insole vs advertised and usually smaller fiction drop. Plus the sole construction factor. Due to the forefoot lugs/solid rearfoot sole, over time what you get from Kinvara (or any similar design) is the drop of 6 mm plus the sink drop of wear and tear effect.

  36. Bill Sodeman says:

    That forefoot pod might work for me. Depends on how soft that white sole material is.

  37. Lindsay Gossack says:

    Besides color, is there any difference between the mens’ and womens’ versions? ….. Because the mens’ colors are way cooler…..

  38. I just received a pair from RW. I havn’t’  run in them yet for they are a Father’s Day gift. I did try them on. I think they will be great but I do feel the looseness or slop you talk about. I have a skinny foot so I’m sure that doesn’t help. Pete have you gotten use to the fit yet?
    Thanks, J.Mack

  39. Hey Peter! Nice review, I thought the ground feel was a little dull and agree they aren’t quite as secure/stable as I would like. But, they sure are light and comfortable and the zero drop is great. Here is the review I did:

    link to birthdayshoes.com

  40. “So far I have only run in the Hattori 3 times”
    …I see this a lot. Isn’t the past tense of ‘run’ ‘ran’? Anyway, perhaps I don’t get it. Either way, it’s not as bad as 99% Americans writing ‘then’ when they mean ‘than’! It drives me mad, especially as it seems to be spreading! :o

    • mmckenzie says:

      Ugh.

    • “I have run” is not the past tense (or the imperfect), it is the present perfect. link to en.wikipedia.org

      It’s correct to say “I ran yesterday” and “I have run 3 times”, but not “I have ran 3 times”. Same thing as “I ate pizza on Monday”, but “I have eaten pizza 3 times this week”. You wouldn’t say “I have ate pizza”.

  41. Jamieofthenorth says:

    I was going to ask you if you’d be reviewing these shoes soon, and low and behold… Thanks for the preview. I might have to pick up a pair!

  42. RicksRunning says:

    Just ordered a pair here in the UK based on your review!
    Been working my way down to more minimal shoes for the last 2 years and these babies look like just the shoes I’ve been longing for, An extension of my own feet, but allowing some cushioning against the harsh unnatural surface of the road.
    Cheers

  43. Pete how does it compare to the Altra Instinct?

  44. Hey Pete:  I finally got my Hattoris (Hattori?) and did a 5-miler in them yesterday.  I really liked them, but today my plantar fascia in both feet are pretty sore.  I think it has to do with switching to them from the Bikilas, because I usually don’t change shoes very often.  I noticed that I land a little differently in the Hattoris versus the Bikilas.  I’m going to take them out for another spin today.

    Anyway, I think the Hattoris are great (so far).  They feel like the Bikilas, just with way less upper material and a tad more cushion.  I actually liked them more at a higher pace.  They felt more fluid the faster I went.  I think they will be great for longer runs where a little extra padding is needed to keep things comfortable.  I can’t understand why Runner’s World described this as a “cool down” shoe.  Whatever.  If one is used to a zero drop and has decent form, I imagine this shoe can be used for just about any kind of road running.  I certainly wouldn’t use it for gnarly trails.

    I agree with you about the heel strap.  It is only slightly functional.  Luckily for me, I didn’t have to cinch it down much to keep the heel in place.  For future models, something more substantial like on the VFF Sprint might be a good idea.

    I typically wear 12s in Sauconys, and the 12 in the Hattoris fit me just fine, both with and without socks.  The toe box is nice and roomy.  They appear to be as wide as my Bikilas in the mid-foot.

    Have you noticed your toes “catching” the upper material slightly?  It happened to me a few times.  It wasn’t bad.  I just noticed it.  My toes are closer to the front of the Hattoris than I would typically like, but they never hit the front.

    Thanks again for all the great reviews.

    Aaron

    • Pete Larson says:

      Haven’t had that issue with my toes, but need to put some more miles
      on them. Too many reviews in the works!

  45. Do they still make these for men? I was given a pair and loved them for the last year but think they are finally beat. I’ve been searching for another pair for the last couple weeks and I only see women’s hattori’s or a men’s in a size 8. I wear an 11.

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