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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.
Two experts included the Hoka Clifton 3 in this round up of Best Running Shoes for Beginners
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.
Check out my review of the Hoka One One Carbon X – Hoka’s answer to the to Nike 4%!
What are your thoughts on Hokas? Have you ever tried them? Would you??
I tested them a while back and ended up with a 6.5 (I am normally a size 5). The +1.5 was needed and I didn’t get blisters. I was used to running in Brooks with a nice big toe box and by going up in size I got the room that I needed to stop my toes rubbing.
I now alternate them with my Brooks and love them!
Interesting! I might buy the 7s then, just to be safe!
I love Hokas – I wore the Clifton 1’s all of 2015 through my first marathon. They were amazing. Sadly, the Clifton 2’s were a giant letdown and a bout of plantar fasciitis kept me down in 2016. Now that I feel well enough to run again, 2017 looks to be the year of the Clayton.
Oh no, fingers crossed for an injury free 2017!
Hi Charlie, Happy New Year!
Just wondering if you were you given these shoes to test as part of your job or if you bought them out of choice? If so, would you buy a pair now with your own money? I think that’s a fair way of seeing how much you like them.
I follow a guy on Instagram, prolific runner who is part of the Hoka test team (Ian.Morgan). Great follow if you don’t already! 🙂
Never tried Hoka myself but only ever hear good things about them. Personally, I wouldn’t choose them unless I was in so much pain that I had to try them or move away from Nike. The design doesn’t bother me as a lot of trainers look bizarre nowadays.
Hi David, I was indeed given the first pair however I am about to order and pay for a bigger size with my own money – I really did like them that much! Thanks for the recommendation, will give him a follow.
I care more about my non-running trainers and the ones I wear with my jeans – more worried about comfort and staying injury free in my running shoes!
I love mine. My first pair, the Vanquish 2. So light but so much cushioning for my not so young anymore knees. But I also needed a whole size bigger. That’s why it’s best to get fitted in a shop rather than buying online. Go get fitted for another pair, you won’t regret it 🙂
Great advice, thanks Debbie!!
Wow they look like running on clouds! I’ve heard about these, I moved from Asics to Brooks after a couple of years and now really love my Brooks Glycerin and Ghost shoes, but sometimes do fancy a bit more cushioning again. I’ve also started to get a bit of pain on the soles of my feet sometimes after runs – is this the beginning of PF? I hope not!
Oh I really hope not – worth going to see a physio/chiropodist asap before it gets worse? Do you roll your feet? I use a tennis ball or golf ball which feels amazing after runs.
Hope your blisters are better now. You were such trouper to keep running. Miss you too. Very much. Xxx
they are thank you – still look gross. They swelled up massively on the plane which was really painful!
I’ve tried Hokas before and they are a good training shoe. I found the Clifton 3 not too last as long as I wanted or needed though. It’s funny you say they are anything but minimalist, even with the massive amount of cushioning, they still have that very low heel to drop. Do you usually wear a 6 in running shoes or regular shoes? You should start with a half size bigger in all running from regular so that could be where the blisters came from.
I think it is from too small shoes, you’re right. I wear a 5.5 in normal shoes, however it seems that I need to go up 1 – 1.5 sizes in running shoes!
I LOOOOVE MY HOKAS
I tend to go up a half-size in that brand no matter the style.
Ooh good to know!
I know a bunch of people who have switched to Hokas and never looked back, particularly if they’ve been suffering from stress injuries – but the aesthetics really turn me off! Just can’t get over how squishy and moon-boot like they look…
haha I know – one to wear on the solo runs!
Charlie, are you doing a amrathin this year, did you get Japan? I can’t remember.
Would you consider using the Hokas?
Sadly I’m not running Tokyo anymore – will be running the London Marathon – definitely training in Hokas, although not sure I’ll race in them yet!
I just recently got my first pair of Hokas – the clifton 2’s on a clearance sale, to give them a try. I am enjoying them, though i am lazy with my feet and find myself knicking my toes a little bit in my stride, strangely enough. However, they are quite comfortable to me (and I’m able to wear my usual running shoe size – a 10), even though I feel like they make my feet look huge!!
I tested out a pair of Hokas on a run before. They were comfortable but because I run in much more minimal shoes it felt too cushy for me. I can see the appeal though and would consider them perhaps for longer distance training runs.
They are just too ugly for me!! Which is strange because I am not someone who generally cares about looks in any way at all. I just couldn’t.
Really interesting post!