Last year we took our first crack at reviewing a Mizuno running shoe with the Wave Sayonara and it was impressive. With that as my first experience with the brand, I was quite excited to see what would be coming next. Mizuno’s introduction of their lighter and springier U4ic foam opened the door for cutting weight while keeping shoes really responsive and quick. Next up is the Wave Hitogami and its Kabuki inspired elements (more on that in the upper section).
While I’ll comparisons between the Hitogami and the Sayonara to a minimum but there are several elements that make it clear that there’s a lot of similar DNA between these two shoes.
The outsole of the Hitogami is sectionalized X10 rubber. While the sections appear to be design elements, what they really are is well placed flex grooves where the foot needs to be able to flex and move. Something very interesting about these flex grooves is that they do not extend fully to the outer edges of the shoe with the exception of right in the arch and just in front of the metatarsal heads. In the Wave Sayonara, the almost identically placed grooves ALL extend fully to the edges. I’m curious as to why the decision was made to only go part way with the Hitogami. While I don’t think that they lose much flexibility because of this, I can certainly see there being a bit less.
The very symmetrical pattern on the rubber, combined with a very full foot contact with the ground allows the foot a lot of full front-to-back ground feel. This, along with a nicely rounded heel, gives the hitogami a very smooth transition from the rear of the shoe to the forefoot, if you’re someone who heel-strikes (which I am not, though I always do one or two striders just to see how things perform).
Mizuno’s new(ish) go-to midsole foam is their lighter and springier U4ic. In the Hitogami, the stack is quite minimal and this serves to really put that foam into action quickly. They’re light and you can definitely feel the great allowance of foot function but we’ll get more into that in the RIDE section below. Also in the midsole is Mizuno’s trademark Wave technology. The Wave plate in the Hitogami extends just into the arch area of the shoe. As someone who, again, doesn’t heel strike, I rarely able to take full advantage of this placement of the tech. That said, when I did FORCE myself to take some heel striking striders, the Wave certainly does its job in cushioning the shock of impact.
Geometrically, I really like the way the midsole is built. It has a really low, almost not there, toe-spring. This keeps the muscles in the front of the foot able to properly engage and do what they’re meant to do and also increases full foot ground feel. Now for the drop: something that I’ve seen a LOT of people say about this shoe is that it doesn’t feel like the drop is as high as it is. It’s advertised (and confirmed by several independent measurements) drop is 9mm. Now, I like to run in shoes that have a 6mm and under drop and I’m quite sensitive to that much of the time. However, in the Hitogami, I could swear I was running in a shoe that was about 4mm. I think that the full foot feel and the low toe-spring go a long way in letting the foot be very relaxed in this shoe.
With about 60 miles in this shoe I’ve not truly been able to get a grasp on the lifespan of the midsole. This area of the shoes is always something I’m curious about because EVA foam tends to break down rather quickly. In this case, I’m curious to see how the U4ic holds up over say, 120 miles. I guess I’ve got some more running to do!
The upper of the Hitogami is definitely something that I really like about this shoe. It’s lightweight mesh is fairly minimal with quite artistic heat bonded supporting elements. It has a nice, supple toe bumper which is with such low toe-spring and so many clumsy people out there (…raises hand…). In fact, aside from the toe bumper and the logo stitched to the back of the heel counter there is no stitching at all on the upper.
Internally, the upper is almost totally seamless with the exception of the tongue attachment and a vertical seam on the medial midfoot, both of which are well covered with soft, non-irritating material. The laces are a really cool looking checkerboard look but they could be FAR shorter and there’s something about their material that makes them want to come untied. I think a sausage-link setup in the same lace would go a long way to making them a bit more solid. The heel counter in the shoe is quite rigid, which certainly adds some weight, but it has a very nice solid internal feel and keeps the heel well in contact with the shoe.
My absolute favorite part of the upper is its Kabuki-inspired artwork (though I do think that in this colorway, the yellow of the U4ic should probably be changed or toned down). Not much I can say about this so just check out the images!
Sizing is spot on in the Hitogami. As I mentioned above, the heel counter is nice and sold and gives a very secure feel. Through the midfoot, there is room to adjust (and with über-long laces there’s a LOT of room) should you need to. The toe box is nice though it is a bit trimmed down from the Sayonara. While it does provide more vertical room, it’s just a hair cut off of the lateral side.
Of the Mizuno shoes I’ve run in, this is my favorite. The thinner stack height is great for ground feel and since it’s built more like a racing flat, you feel much quicker and more nimble. The wave plate is definitely there and puts a lot of cushion in the heel but since my gait doesn’t really reside in my heel, I don’t take very much advantage of it. The ride is very good, stable and has made even my slow butt feel quick. This shoe should be around for a while and if it had a Wave plate with stiffer action that ran full foot, I’d be curious to see how that would tune the ride.
Did I mention this thing is light? My size 11’s come in at 8.4 ounces. Truth be told, the Wave plate and some of the additional stiffness in the heel counter certainly contribute to some extra ounces that might be able to be removed.
The price of the Mizuno Wave Hitogami is excellent. Even from Mizuno itself you can pick it up for $99.99. This puts this shoe well below many of it’s compatriots and I’m interested to see if it brings other prices down or if Mizuno will wind up raising the price on the Hitogami to where the rest of the market sits.
This shoe is something that I would expect to be seen on the feet of lots of marathoners this year both in training and in racing. I also think that, since people often train in one shoe and race in another, this would be a great partner with the Wave Sayonara. In any event, I like the low-profile, low feeling direction that Mizuno is moving toward. Now let’s see if they can make a shoe like this with under 4mm of drop!
Here’s what a couple of our friends are saying about the Hitogami:
Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).