The Saucony Hattori is a very minimalist running shoe released in mid-May 2011 (Available for purchase now — see, for example, Road Runner Sports)
expected to be available from Saucony on May 15th. Other retailers may have them as soon as May 1st. Saucony sent us a pre-release pair of the Hattoris to test, so I did a 4 mile run in the them, then spent a full day knocking around in them.
See more pics, my observations and impressions about the fit of the shoes, ground feel, etc., and a preview video after the jump!
First off, I want to say that these shoes are super comfortable for walking and are a great lightweight summer alternative to flip flops. They are easy to slip on and go. I actually enjoyed wearing them around more than running in them. When I saw the red, black, white and fluorescent green version on the internet, I didn't like the color combo. As it turns out, I really like the look of them in person, and hey, if you don't dig these colors, there are plenty of other choices.
Fit and Feel
I can't help but look at the Hattori and think "water shoe". I've owned a few pairs of water shoes in the past for tromping around beaches, but never really ran in them. The way the Hattori upper material lays over the top my foot definitely gives them a familiar water shoe feel. However, this fabric is very thin and isn't restricting; it stretches easily with the movement of my feet and toes. Also, they are amazingly lightweight! At 4.4 ounces the Hattori doesn't really feel like a shoe at all; there just isn't much there. Anyway, they have a very different fit sensation compared to traditional running shoes or even Vibram Five Fingers.
The Hattori has a layer of felt-like material that surrounds the back of the shoe and is also used for the straps; it is very thin and light. The straps do a good job of customizing the fit around my heel and top of my foot without being intrusive. While my foot was fairly secure during my run, the shoes lack of structure makes it prone to some slight foot slippage and sloppiness which may cause some hotspots to develop. Finally, the thin foam insole/lining is soft and comfortable with no arch support.
The Hattori has a relatively thin(about 10mm), but firm, sole. Most running shoes have an EVA foam midsole covered by a rubberized outsole. The Hattori sole is mostly solid EVA that is notched to provide extra flexibility. This exposed EVA is what makes them unique and likely decreases the weight substantially. The soles are lableled EVA+. I presume it is an EVA specially engineered to be used as an outsole. It will be interesting to see how they wear over time. The Vibram Five Finger Jaya and NB Minimus Life are other shoes with an EVA midsole/outsole.
Saucony has chosen to add a protective rubberized layer over some parts of the sole. The heel, big toe and area just under the big toe have this extra layer. Some have questioned the positioning of these rubber bits and I haven't really figured it out either. Why reinforce the heel in a shoe mostly used by minimalist runners who forefoot strike? Why not reinforce the forefoot area where they do strike?
Drop and Ground Feel
The Hattoris are touted as being zero drop and they certainly feel that way. Forefoot or midfoot striking is a breeze in these shoes.
For me, the ground feel leaves a little to be desired when running. At 10mm of mostly EVA, the sole is thick enough to lose some ground feel and it doesn't have the barefoot feel you get with some other minimalist shoes. It also doesn't have the cushioned bouncy feel of a traditional running shoe that has an EVA midsole and rubberized outsole. Instead, the firm EVA+ material has a bit of a dull and hollow ground feel.
Overall, the lightness, flexibility and unrestricted fit of the zero drop Saucony Hattori make it a unique addition to the minimalist running shoe market. While the ground feel is a bit dull when running, I can see these shoes being a great choice for racing on flat surfaces or for Summer outdoor wear. They are really comfortable for walking around. I spoke with Justin about the NB Minimus Life's EVA midsole/outsole and he says the walking experience is fantastic on those too. They are not too cushy and don't give so much feedback that it's distracting.
If you're looking to pick up a pair, they are available online from Road Runner Sports for about $80.
Here is a preview video I did before I had a chance to run in the Hattoris: