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Meet Hoka One One

Most of the big running shoe companies have been in the game for several decades (Nike, Asics, Saucony), but now there’s a newer player in town who is gaining serious momentum: Hoka One One. If you take a closer look at your Runner’s World and Competitor magazines and you’ll see that many of the athletes pictured are donning Hoka maximum cushioning running shoes. It’s hard to believe that Hoka launched in the United States in 2010! In five short years Hoka has made its way onto the feet of Rob Lea, the 2012 Rev3 Olympic and 2012 70.3 triathlon world champion, Karl Meltzer, the 5x winner of the Hardrock 100 miler and Leo Manzano the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 1500 m.

With solid roots in the ultramarathon and trail scene, Hoka has expanded its focus over the past two years to include road runners and triathlon athletes. I’ve been working in run specialty for nearly two years and I’m telling you now that Hoka One One is on to something big! Hoka is the fastest growing shoe brand on the market and currently ranks eighth in the run specialty channel. But why? What makes Hoka One One so special?


 A little history

Around 2006 ultramarathon champion Nico Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard (previously Salomon employees) came together with a vision of a trail running shoe that would allow them to attack downhill trails with precision, speed and safety. In collaboration with Christophe Aubonnet and Sebastian Mazars, together the runners crafted a shockingly light shoe with an oversized midsole: the Hoka Mafate. Thus, Hoka One One was born. Early Hokas consisted of never before seen oversized high cushion trail specific shoes (Mafate, Stinson Trail), allowing the brand to corner the ultramarathon and trail running market.

But what about the mainstream road runner? Would Hoka be able to compete with big brands like Nike, Asics and Brooks calling the shots? The answer is a resounding YES and I’ll tell you why.

I work in my local running store and over the past two years I have witnessed something I’d say is nothing short of amazing: I’ve seen many runners returning from injury voice their desperation to find something that works paired with a hesitation to try a new brand evolve into belief, loyalty and I’ll say it- love. Customers simply love Hoka!! So much so that they keep coming back and are telling their friends. With each passing day more and more customers come to our store who are interested in seeing what all the buzz is about and then new believers, like myself are born.

*I recently purchased a pair of the Hoka Cliftons and am quickly falling in love! I typically rotate between the Brooks Ravennas and Adrenalines, but am starting to integrate the Clifton’s into the mix. The Clifton is incredibly light and soft making for a perfect recovery shoe (for me). I am also a huge fan of the Stinson Lite’s as they have “a little more shoe” to it, feel very sturdy and yet are incredibly soft on the go. There is a high probability they will be my next shoe purchase.*

Quick facts about Hoka

  1. Hokas have 2.5X the amount of cushioning than a standard road shoe making them incredibly soft.
  2. Minimal: All styles have low heel to toe offsets ranging from 4-6 mm, much lower than that of a standard running shoe.
  3. They don’t currently come in wide options, but many styles tend to run fairly wide.
  4. Many Hokas have increased ground contact (very wide at base) and a straight last to promote a stable ride
  5. Higher stack height – since the Hoka brand traditionally has an oversized midsole you will be higher off of the ground, allowing you to glide freely ;).
  6. Your foot sits “in” the shoe, not “on” the shoe. Unlike most running shoes where your foot rests on top of the midsole, Hoka has crafted their shoes so that your foot is subtly surrounded by the midsole. Sitting “in” the shoe allows the runner to feel secure and stable with each stride.
  7. You need to try them on! All Hoka styles feel incredibly different from each other. If you are interested in trying the brand I suggest heading into your local running store to try 2-3 different styles on in person to discover your perfect fit.

Who buys Hokas?

  1. Ultramarathoners / trail runners looking for a soft, cushioned shoe to attack downhills
  2. Triathletes either looking for a soft recovery shoe to train in (Bondi 4, Stinson Lite) or a light racer with quick lace system (try Huaka or Clifton)
  3. Minimalist runners who want more cushion! All Hokas range between a 4-6 mm heel to toe offset. If you are looking for a more minimal shoe, but want more cushioning- TRY HOKA!
  4. Runners (young, old and everything in-between):
    1. Looking for an everyday trainer and/or a second shoe to rotate into their training: TRY HOKA
    2. Returning from injury: I see a lot of customers who tell me, “I’ve had a double hip/knee/etc replacement surgery. I need something equally supportive and gentle on  my body.” – If this is you, TRY HOKA.
    3. Looking for something new/different: At the store I often hear customers say, “I’ve tried everything on this wall and nothing has worked. Nothing feels good!” – If this is you, TRY HOKA.

Shoe

My thoughts when trying on…

Heel to toe offset

Weight (men/women)

Type

If you like the __  Try this

Conquest

Firm & responsive; relatively narrow

4 mm

M: 11 oz

 W: 9.6 oz

Guidance

Brooks Adrenaline, Saucony Guide

Clifton

Light, speedy, running on clouds, wide at the base so feels stable

5 mm

M: 7.7 oz

W: 6.6 oz

Neutral

Saucony Kinvara, NB Boracay, NB Zante, Nike Free, Brooks Glycerin/Ghost/pure series

Bondi 3

High cushion, yet firm ride! High stack height, wider, runs ½ size long

4 mm

M: 10.8 oz

W: 8.8 oz

Neutral but the increased ground contact is stabilizing

Brooks Adrenaline, NB 860, Asics GT2000 or Kayano

Stinson Lite

So incredibly soft, wider, my favorite! Crowd pleaser! Best seller in store!

6 mm

M: 11 oz

W: 9.2 oz

Neutral

Brooks Gylcerin, Nike Vomero, Asics Nimbus

Constant

Firm, stable, surprisingly light.

4 mm

M: 10.7 oz

W: 9.3 oz

Guidance

Brooks Adrenaline/Ravenna, NB 870, Asics Kayano, Nike Structure



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