A review and comparison of Hoka One One running shoes – Fellrnr

A review and comparison of Hoka One One running shoes – Fellrnr

The Hoka shoes started the ‘maximum cushioning, minimum drop’ style of shoe with their thick, softly cushioned soles. They reduce the pounding on the soles of your feet, but they are not without their downsides. The Hoka Clifton is one of the most impressive shoes I’ve come across recently, with remarkable levels of cushioning at a light weight. I’ve included some recommendations to help you evaluate if Hokas are right for you.

1 Introduction

Hoka One One, pronounced “Hoka O-nay O-nay”, means “now it is time to fly” in Maori. These shoes have midsoles that are much thicker and softer than traditional shoes. The soles are also wider to prevent the higher soles making the shoes unstable, like stilts. However, the sole is not as thick as it appears from the outside, as you can see from the image below. The foam in the midsole comes up the sides of the shoe much higher.
<gallery widths=300px heights=300px class=”center”>
File:HokaHalfs.JPG|The Hoka Bondi cut in half, showing the outside and inside views. You can see that the midsole foam is a lot higher on the outside than the inside.
File:ShoeHalfs.JPG|This image compares the Hokas with other shoes.
File:HokaRocker.jpg|Here the outline of the foam midsole has been highlighted in red. This helps reveal how the Hoka midsole narrows at the front and back to create a ‘rocker’ effect, making it easier for your foot to roll.
File:HokaOlympusSlice.JPG|A comparison between the Altra Olympus and Bondi. You can see the difference in the way the midsole tapers towards the front of the shoe.
</gallary>

2 The Hoka Advantages

3 The Hoka Problems

4 Hoka Blisters

An image of a runner with the distinctive Hoka blister pattern I saw at the 2013 Umstead 100.

I’ve seen a distinctive pattern of blisters associated with the Hokas, where the blister forms part way along the toes, normally between the big toe and the next toe along, and sometimes between the little toe and its neighbor. I saw a disproportionate number of Hoka wearing runners with this blister pattern at the Umstead 100. This can be avoided by cutting open the toe box, but far too few people do this.

5 Recommendations

My recommendation depends on what type of runner you are.

Click for a larger image.

The numbers in the decision chart above correspond to the notes below:

I’d suggest getting your shoes from somewhere with free shipping both ways, like http://zappos.com, who also have one of the best selections of Hoka shoes I’ve found. http://www.roadrunnersports.com has the advantage of letting you run in shoes and still return them for an exchange, but the return shipping is not free.

6 Hoka or Altra?

A comparison between the Altra Olympus and Hokas.

While Hoka was the first company to produce the Maximalist style of shoe, but Altra has started to produce comparable shoes. The Altra key selling points are zero drop (no high heel) and a shape that matches the human foot. Initially the Altra shoes were minimalist, with thin, firm midsoles, but they have introduced some thicker, softly cushioned shoes such as the Altra Olympus. At the same time, Hoka has moved to thinner, firmer shoes such as the Rapi Nui, Conquest or huaka. I’ve run in both Hoka and Altra shoes, even swapping between them during 100 miles races. As you can see from the picture of the dissected shoes above, the shoes are quite similar, but the Hoka has a much more abrupt taper of the midsole at the front of the shoe. By comparison the Altra tapers more gradually from further back. I find the Altra a better Maximalist shoe than the Hoka range, but things may change as each manufacturer evolves (or devolves) their product range.

A tongue-in-cheek look at the different shapes of the Hoka and Altra shoes.

7 The Meta-Rocker

Because of their thickness, Hoka shoes have to have more of a taper towards the front of the shoe. They call this the ‘meta-rocker’ and place it in various different parts of the shoe depending on model. A late meta-rocker has a more abrupt taper under the toes, and early meta-rocker has a more gradual taper starting just behind the ball of the foot, and the balanced meta-rocker is in between. However, even the early meta-rocker has a far more abrupt and late taper than some of the Altra shoes.

The Hoka Stinson above, which has a late meta-rocker with the Hoka Clifton that has an early meta-rocker. If you look at the front of the midsoles, you can see the blue foam of the Stinson tapers rapidly and more extremely.

8 The Hoka Range

Hoka have started to use a new type of foam called RMAT that lasts much longer than traditional EVA foam, but it’s heavier and much firmer. The result is a shoe that looks like the usual Hoka, but is far too firm. You can find shoes weighting the same that are vastly softer, or shoes that are similar in cushioning that are vastly lighter. I avoid any Hoka that uses RMAT in the midsole, but RMAT can also be used in the outsole, where it can provide remarkable grip on pretty much any surface. (Some of the Hoka range are only available through specialty running stores, while others are targeted at large chains like sporting goods stores or department stores.)

9 The Best Hokas

Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don’t get “reviewer specials” that are better than the retail versions.

  • Buy Hoka Clifton 2 at Zappos
  • Buy Hoka Clifton 2 at Road Runner Sports
  • Buy Hoka Clifton 2 at Kelly’s Running Warehouse
  • Buy Hoka Clifton 2 at Charlotte Ultra Running Company


Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don’t get “reviewer specials” that are better than the retail versions.

  • Buy Hoka One One Mafate Speed at Zappos
  • Buy Hoka One One Mafate Speed at Road Runner Sports
  • Buy Hoka One One Mafate Speed at Kelly’s Running Warehouse
  • Buy Hoka One One Mafate Speed at Charlotte Ultra Running Company


Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don’t get “reviewer specials” that are better than the retail versions.

  • Buy Hoka One One Bondi 4 at Zappos
  • Buy Hoka One One Bondi 4 at Road Runner Sports
  • Buy Hoka One One Bondi 4 at Kelly’s Running Warehouse
  • Buy Hoka One One Bondi 4 at Charlotte Ultra Running Company


10 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

If you’re looking for “the best of the best” running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you’re looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that’s closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It’s a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It’s also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I’d recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It’s remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 was my top pick, but the latest version (LT 4) falls short of it’s predecessor. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills, but all have their weak spots. Probably the best option at the moment is the Altra Vanish-R, which offers great cushioning for just over 5oz/150g.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It’s light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it’s really expensive, it’s really hard to find, and there’s a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the ‘trail’ moniker. It’s not a fast shoe by any means, but it’s comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. For trail running, I’ve become a fan of Altra, and I think their best shoe is the the Altra Timp, though the Altra Lone Peak is really close.
  • Honorable Mention: It’s not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I’ve worn mine to weddings with a suit and they’ve not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn’t breathe well.

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