A few months ago I wrote a post in which I described why the Mizuno Sayonara did not work for me. I found that shoe to be overly stiff and firm in the heel, and it just did not work well with my stride. It was shame since the shoe otherwise felt great – roomy toebox, firm, respsonsive forefoot, etc.
My experience with the Sayonara scared me off of wanting to try the Mizuno Hitogami. However, I received enough feedback from fellow shoe geeks that the Hitogami was quite a bit different that I decided to accept a review pair when my buddy Seth over at Mizuno offered one up (disclosure: these shoes were provided free of charge by Mizuno).
Like the Sayonara, the Hitogami is probably best classified as a lightweight trainer/distance racer. Interestingly, in every way that the Sayonara failed for me, the Hitogami succeeds. And just about everything I liked about the Sayonara is present in the Hitogami. It’s like someone stripped all the bad from the Sayonara and made me a shoe much more suited to my stride.
First things first, the Mizuno Hitogami is a cool looking shoe. The pattern on the upper is designed such that when the two shoes are placed next to one another they take on the appearance of a Kabuki mask. Pretty sweet!
Now you most likely won’t see this when the shoes are on your feet (I might have them oriented wrong in the picture above, I don’t know…), but I like unique little details like this. On the negative side, the white upper looks great when new, but mud season here in NH has turned that white to a drab gray – at least it shows that the shoes have been put to good use!
Upper Construction and Fit
The upper of the Hitogami is nice and simple, just what I like in a shoe. It’s a basic mesh design with welded overlays, nothing too fancy. Simple and functional really. I have not run sockless in them yet due to the cold weather up here, but I don’t feel any obvious sources of abrasion when putting them on a bare foot. I have had zero abrasion/chafing/blistering issues in these so far. There is a flexible heel counter (not obtrusive) and minimal arch support.
Like the Sayonara, the Hitogami has a reasonably roomy toebox. I’ve found the shoe to be very comfortable, no toe squeezing, and the upper is not restrictive of toe movement. Fit through the heel and midfoot is snug, providing a good lockdown. In terms of sizing I went with a US 10 and I have a full thumb’s width of space between my big toe and the tip of the shoe. I would not recommend sizing up in these.
Sole Construction and Ride
The sole is where the Hitogami really separates itself from the Sayonara. Whereas the Sayonara felt stiff, firm, and rigid, the Hitogami feels softish and much more flexible. Whereas the Sayonara felt clunky and uncomfortable on the road, every run so far in the Hitogami has been smooth as silk (I’ve put 30 miles on them in the past few weeks, long run of 7+). It’s amazing to me how different my reaction to the two shoes has been – the Hitogami disappears on my feet.
In terms of specs, the Hitogami weighs in at 8oz in men’s size 9, which is almost identical to the Sayonara. Sole stack height is also very similar at 23mm heel, 14mm forefoot. I have not found the 9mm drop to be a problem in the Hitogami, whereas in the Sayonara I think it contributed to my negative reaction. I think this is a perfect case where you need to consider drop in terms of more than just the numbers – I can handle a higher drop shoe if it has a softish heel, and the Hitogami meets this requirement (as do shoes like the adidas Adios Boost and New Balance 1400v2). The Sayonara does not.
Like almost all Mizuno shoes, the Hitogami has a plastic “wave plate” built into the sole. It does not bother me in the Hitogami as it seems to be pretty flexible. There is ample outsole coverage on the bottom, and the rubber should make for good sole durability.
My experience with the Mizuno Hitogami so far has been very positive. I view this as a lightweight training shoe/distance racing shoe. It’s cushioned enough to handle a half-marathon to marathon, but for a 5K I’d want something stiffer and closer to the ground. As such, I’d rank it in the same category as the Saucony Kinvara, adidas Adios Boost, New Balance 1400v2, Brooks PureConnect 3, and maybe the Asics Gel Lyte33 (should have a v3 review in a few weeks). Among these a selling point is that it may have the widest toebox (except maybe compared to the Asics).
The Hitogami is reasonably priced at $100 MSRP (anything $100 or less is on the low end of the cost scale for shoes these days – I’m working on a comprehensive list). All in all, I highly recommended this shoe!
The Mizuno Hitogami is available for purchase at Running Warehouse, Amazon.com, and Zappos. Outside of the US the Hitogami can be purchased at Sportsshoes.com. Purchases made via these links help keep reviews like this flowing – your support is very much appreciated!