You could call me a fad follower, though while I have tried just about everything, it’s usually at the tail of the trend (read shoes on sale). And there have been quite a few trends in the past years from protective shoes with “ballistic rock plates” to the truely minimalist shoe. Some people even opt out of shoes. This time, though, I’m trying the early adopter approach.
While I am not exactly the first to wear or write about the Hokas, I think another voice out there may be worth something. For the record, I bought my size 8.5 (although now I think a half size up would have worked) Hokas full price--$170, ouch--and I don’t have any relationship with the manufacturer or any retailer.
This week I ran 50 + miles in the Hokas on a variety of terrain ranging from the Grandeur Peak Fun Run loop, the first loop of the BST Marathon, to a run from Neff’s Canyon to Day’s Fork to Snowbird.
The shoes look pretty silly. My 8 year-old son suggested the “citrus” color, which makes these shoes, which give me an extra 2 inches in height, even more ridiculous. Bob Thompson, who met me for a run up Grandeur just laughed, but politely added that he was laughing with me not at me. The shoes really do climb well. There is considerable extra surface area and a great grip, and despite the bulky appearance the weight is only 320 grams (11 oz). I felt like Spiderman running up and down the steep rock surfaces. The extra surface area and added height do tend to make the shoe roll a little. Anyone who tells you that you can’t roll your ankle in these shoes just hasn’t yet. That said, they are stable when running straight forward. Dancing in and out of rocks with lateral movements are not the strongest point of the Hokas.
The marketing line is “Time to Fly”. Frankly, I think it should be “Time to Bounce”. The strong point is that you bounce along on some really springy cushion. Cruising over rocks is easier than any other shoe I have worn. Instead of the tiptoeing that is necessary in a NB MT100, these shoes encourage a straight line over rocks. This morning I ran the first loop of the BST in 1 hour 48 minutes on legs that had been punished yesterday on a 6 hour 25 minute run with Christian. All I could think about as I was “flying” downhill was that these shoes were silly fun. Really steep technical downhills aren’t much better than any other shoes, but runnable downhills are a blast. The Hoka website touts that the compression, shock absorption, and low ramp angle “allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, as runners can now engage their gluteus and lower back as opposed to isolating their quads, relaxing the body and making running downhill fun and comfortable.” I don’t need any more confidence running downhill, but my quads do feel great after some good long runs, and my ass is sore so they may be correct. I am not sure how this would would work for a “lazy ass” runner.
Because the foot sits higher the angle created on a canted trail seemed more acute. This caused my left lateral malleolus (ankle) to rub on the collar of the shoe. By the end of my run with Christian yesterday I really wanted a trail that angled in the other direction. This could certainly be an issue in a 100 mile race like Wasatch where there are long stretches that slant in one direction.
These shoes are billed as a “great value” because they supposedly last twice as long as a typical pair of shoes. Mr. Meltzer says he got over 600 miles out of his first pair. After 50 punishing miles in the Wasatch Mountains, there is some wear along the puffy EVA foam. Time will tell if they are indeed durable and I will keep track of the relative value in terms of longevity. For now, I am quite happy with these silly, bouncy, citrus colored shoes, that make me two inches taller, and allow for ass-engaging downhill running. The bottom line is that while you may be laughed at, these shoes are fun.