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Just like Vibrams did a few years ago, Hoka’s are dividing opinion within the running world. There are the die hard fans, (including the man who ran up to me on the street to talk about how much he loved his Hokas) or those that think that a more minimalist shoe is best for runners. And these shoes look anything but minimalist.
Pronounced ‘Oh-nee’, this is a brand developed in 2010 by two Frenchmen who previously worked at Salomon, searching for a modern trail shoe to play in on the Alps mountain paths. The wide sole is based on powder skis and mountain bike tyres.
The sole is THICK, but don’t be fooled, they are super lightweight which is designed for comfort, stability and cushioning. The sole tips up at the ends, this meta-rocker geometry is supposed to encourage your natural running gait, giving you a smooth roll to lift off your toes designed to help prevent lower limb injuries. There’s added stability within the shoes as your foot sits within the midsole which the brand calls ‘the bucket seat’.
Although the sole is large, the heel to toe drop isn’t huge, only 4mm, which provides a minimal shoe but a massive cushion, different to a lot of cushioned/supportive shoes that have a larger drop.
Workout clothes from a range at Zalando.
I thought I would hate Hokas, and was ready to write a review saying they were too big, but I didn’t. I really, really liked them. They were so light and bouncy! And it seems I’m not the only one. When researching the sciency bits of this post, I tried to find some negative reviews and struggled to find anything but 4 and 5 star reviews of Hoka One One. Jonathan Beverly, the shoe editor for Runners World US was even quoted as saying when running in HOKAS you’re running with the same posture as you would if you were barefoot but with all cushioning.
I particularly loved them on the trails, I couldn’t feel the little stones I was running over, and didn’t feel unstable over some of the bumpy paths – that said, I don’t know how these particular style – Clifton 3 – would fare over more technical trails.
I took my Hokas to New Zealand and loved running in them…until I didn’t.
6 miles in to a 12 mile run along the Great Taste trail near Nelson, I realised that I had blisters in between my toes. Exactly at the point when we could turn around and head home, or push on to the end – either way I had to cover another 6 miles. (Sorry if you’re one of those people that hates feet and you now can’t unsee the above photo)
I thought it might have been sand in my socks from pre-run beach yoga but sadly it was because the shoes were too small. It was very sad – I love them but had to leave them in New Zealand with one of my cousins. It was even sadder that I then had to wear flip flops hiking in the Abel Tasman national park because my blisters were so bad and my feet were so painful!
Since that first Hoka experience, I’ve tested out a number of the shoes in the Hoka range (in 1/2 size up!); some I love (Arahi and Carbon X 3) and some that just don’t work for me (Clifton). I wore the Carbon X3 in my most recent marathon – a hilly road race in Big Sur, and am testing out the Rocket currently after receiving great feedback from fellow runners.
I run on a variety of trails and roads at home and love the idea of extra cushioning for my long runs, whilst still having the speed options from Hoka for track and treadmill workouts. I actually included the Hoka Clifton and Arahi in this guide to best shoes for easy runs and beginners.
What are your thoughts on Hokas? Have you ever tried them? Would you??