Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shoe Review: Mizuno Hitogami

I think I have mentioned more than once that for a while one of my favorite mid-distance road shoes was the Mizuno Wave Musha. Yes, they were ugly as sin, but they were nice and light while still offering just the right amount of support, and responsive enough for racing 5Ks/10Ks while still providing enough cushioning that you didn't end up with bruised feet after. We had four beautiful years together; then Mizuno cruelly pulled the plug last year, and to add insult to injury, I lost my last pair when the bag they were in was stolen from Kezar Stadium last November.

Mizuno also announced at the same time that they were discontinuing the Wave Ronin, a shoe that I never ran in personally but based on the description it reminds me a lot of the Brooks Launch (neutral, relatively traditional in its design, but lighter & more stripped down than most traditional trainers) & that the Hitogami would replace both since there is "no reason for shoes that were so very similar to fight each other for wall space." The Mizuno lightweight family, then, now goes (from heavier to lighter) Hitogami, Ekiden, Universe.

While I've been mostly happy with my Kinvaras as an all-around work-horse shoe, there are a few things I don't love about them, and if I could find a shoe that works better, I'd switch. So I pre-ordered the Hitogami from Road Runner Sports, a Bay Area running store that will let you try shoes out & return them within sixty days, no questions ask, if they don't work out for you.

Some basic info about the shoe:

Right out of the box, the Hitogamis struck me as light (duh), rather on the narrow side, and with the slimmer midsole I'd liked about the Musha. The midsole uses a new foam called U4ic, which replaces the AP+ they've used in the past, and is supposedly 30% lighter.

Running Warehouse lists a stack height of 23mm in the heel & 14mm in the forefoot for a total heel drop of 9mm, which is almost identical to the Musha (22mm/13mm). (For comparison, the Kinvara 4 measures 22mm/18mm, ie, lower stack height and lower heel drop, which you wouldn't necessarily think just by looking.)

Left: Mizuno Wave Hitogami, 23 heel/14 ball/9 drop.
Right: Saucony Kinvara 4, 22 heel/18 ball/4 drop. Deceptive, huh?

As you can see, the Musha 3 (right, men's size 6.5; they didn't come in women's sizes) outweighed the Hitogami (left, women's size 8) by a full ounce:

U4ic at work? Either way, bullet point one on the "Hitogami ≠ Musha" list.


In addition to the U4ic in the midsole, an almost entirely mesh upper probably also contributes to the shoe's light weight. The construction of the tongue, heel counter, laces, etc. is fairly traditional. Mizuno doesn't state on their site what type of last they used, but it looks just the slightest bit curved vs. totally straight, which you can kind of see here and in the top-down photos. The bottom of the soles is blown rubber (yellow) with a good amount of hard carbon rubber (dark blue), which should make it fairly durable & long-lived.

If you peer through the little hollow in the heel, you can see the trademark Mizuno "Wave" plate inside. (I am convinced that making sure you can see the "Wave" is the sole purpose of that hole. The Ekiden has it too, and the only other purpose I can see for it is getting rocks stuck up in there.)

Sizing & Comfort

Generally speaking, the Hitogami was a comfortable shoe to wear--no pinching, rubbing or chafing anywhere, and the mesh upper means that everything touching your foot is soft. The size eight fit me perfectly length-wise. (For comparison, I wear a 7.5 in Sauconys & Altras, an 8 in Newtons, New Balance, & every Mizuno I've ever tried, & can comfortably do a 7.5 or 8 in Brooks; Running Warehouse suggests sizing down and Road Runner Sports suggests sizing up, so my own comparative experiences with different brands size-wise is the best I can offer there.)

My suspicions re: the narrowness of the footbed were confirmed as soon as I slipped them on, though. To get them to fit comfortably, I had to loosen the laces almost as far as they would go, and even then, the toe box is still pretty claustrophobic and I felt like the outsides of my feet were spilling over the side of the footbed. (While I don't have particularly narrow feet, I wouldn't say I have particularly wide feet either, and this isn't something that typically happens to me with 'B' width shoes.)

I think the fact that I had to loosen the laces so much is why
they look sort of wide & chunky in this picture. Or maybe it's just me.

This is point two re: Hitogami ≠ Musha. The spilling-over-the-footbed feeling even just walking around was particularly worrisome, given that I've been doing anything & everything I can to avoid over-supinating.

On the other hand, something I did like about the Hitogamis was the foot bed, which offers just a little extra cushioning as compared to the Musha (cushioning being the main reason I was never comfortable running more than 12-13 miles in that shoe). It wasn't the squishy, pillowy feeling that I hate in many traditional shoes; just a tiny little extra bit of "Ahhhh" when your foot hits the ground. So based on that, I could see running longer distances in the Hitogami than the Musha. Point three re: Hitogami ≠ Musha.


It really is too bad about the narrow footbed & toe box, because otherwise, the ride in the Hitogamis has been pretty comfortable. I like the level of cushioning, and in spite of having a fairly significant midsole, the shoe remains pretty flexible in every direction.

On the other hand, that probably means that you want to avoid this shoe if you like a little more stability. I wouldn't call it minimalist by any stretch, but it is absolutely, definitely, 100% neutral. (Point four re: Hitogami ≠ Musha.)

I also did enjoy the relative responsiveness of the shoe. No, it it's not as snappy off the ground as the Musha was (point five), but it's not squishy either, & the flexibility of the sole actually provides reasonably good ground feel. If I were going to keep it, I would probably use it mainly for short-to-medium length runs and racing half-marathons and maybe marathons, depending on how my feet felt on long runs.

The narrowness, though, really is a problem for me. I feel like the outside of my foot is spilling over the footbed, which in practice seems to translate into more likelihood of ugly supination (which probably played a role in causing my stress fracture). While I'm sad that that's the case, it was gratifying to hear my physical therapist mention it after watching me run on the treadmill, particularly from the back.

Some width comparisons:

Hitogami vs. Newton Gravity

Hitogami vs. Altra One

Hitogami vs. Brooks Launch

Hitogami vs. Kinvara 4

Bottom Line

Unfortunately I don't think the Hitogami is for me, nor is it (in my opinion) a great replacement for the Musha. BUT, that's not to say that it's not a good neutral shoe in general. There are several things I like about it, and if it weren't so narrow, I would probably hang on to it for short-to-medium runs, & I could even see them working for longer distances for runners with good mechanics & an efficient stride.

I am hoping to get a review up on the Ekiden in the next couple of weeks; I feel like writing a quality review will require doing some fast running in them, though, so it will probably depend on whether not I'm up to that between now & then.


  1. much narrower than the Kinvara! What a bummer...for someone with not-narrow feet anyway.

  2. Thanks for the review! Though you already know how I feel about the Hitogami. And the Kinvaras do really weird things to my feet. Currently on the lookout for a cushioned but responsive marathon-training second pair to complement the Hitogamis.

  3. I'm crying a little. WHY did they take my Musha away?! No good sub yet!

  4. That's considerably narrower. If they're supposed to be replacing certain shoes, surely they should be made on a similar sized last. but that would be too logical and shoe companies never shoe much logic.