When I first caught sight of these Hoka One One (Maori for “Fly Over Earth”) running shoes I thought they were a ridiculous gimmick but I shouldn’t underestimate my attraction to gimmicky items – I’ve worked my way through more than my fair share of weird shoes in 2012.
It was the day after the excruciating Great Trail Challenge and I had struggled my way up the stairs to the cafe of the premier Keswick Outdoor Specialists, George Fisher. Given the state of my quads, I wasn’t in a rush to descend again and so I was a bit of a trapped audience. I flicked a few pages of their in-store brochure and the Hoka One One’s reappeared. I was intrigued to discover they were designed and endorsed by ultra-runners and when I read about their miraculous downhill enhancing properties I was sold. It was the descent that had shredded my quads so I was quite happy for downhill assistance even if it meant I had to wear a pair of teddy boy shoes.
Half an hour later I was walking out of the store with a pair of trail running Mafate’s on my feet.
I’ve barely taken them off since.
The first thing I noticed is that they were an amazing recovery shoe, I bounced on air and very quickly got over my shattered legs feeling. I picked up short recovery runs the very next day which is unknown for me post half marathon distance runs.
I know they look big and bulky and some may say ugly but by golly these are comfortable shoes. They are amazingly light and when they are on you don’t notice the bulk.
Ultra runners recommend them because the maximised cushioning absorbs an awful lot of the impact felt when descending. They should ideally free the non-pro runner to descend with wild abandon.
I took these shoes away with me for our California Road Trip adventure. I intended to run with them but in the end I lived in them. On arrival we were faced the hills of San Francisco and I’m happy to report the Hoka’s encouraged me to challenge the family in block to block sprints. I might not have won but the shoes definitely gave me wings.
I had plenty of trail running opportunities in California and the Mafate’s continued to inspire me to push harder and harder on the descents. I’d like to say they were no slouch on the uphills either but I’m afraid I never get above a slow plod when the slope turns against me. Needless to say it was me holding the shoes back and not the other way around.
I have completely bought into the Hoka One One shoe design. I feel as though they’ve almost freed me from the inevitable aches and pains of an overweight runner. I don’t quite Fly on Air but I no longer feel like I’m pummelling my legs into solid concrete and that is quite a joy.
I have had some gripes with the Hoka One One Mafate 2. They are mightily expensive (£120 ish) and only 40 days after purchase I feel the need to replace them because the soles have worn down and I’ve started to rock over onto the sides of my feet.
In defence of the shoe, I have to admit that I’ve practically lived in them for all of those 40 days. While they’ve ferried me across 80k of trail runs, in that time they’ve also cushioned my way across maybe 150k of concrete sidewalks on our tour of California. They are sold as a trail shoe and I’ve used them as that and an all day, everyday, kind of a shoe.
They haven’t faired well with that level of abuse. You can hear the sole sticking as you wander across the pavement, especially hot pavements and while this probably aids grip on the trail, it leaves it’s mark on the road.
Hoka themselves have been great when I spoke to them about the problem and George Fisher have demonstrated excellent customer service. I’m hoping to get them replaced so that I can secrete them away for pure trail running and in the meantime I have ordered a pair of the Hoka Bondi B for road and treadmill runs. I’ll review those when I’ve clocked up a few miles.
Interestingly Marshall Ulrich has adopted Hoka One One’s too and he has reported increased shoe longevity despite also being an over-pronator. I’m not sure which style he runs in though but it’s probably not the trail model.
For the record, Hoka have confirmed that in terms of durability on Tarmac:
The Mafate tread is the softest, Stinson Evo Trail would be next, then the Bondi & Stinson Tarmac are the hardest.
I’ve seen a lot of comments from runners who get quite cross about these shoes which appear to go against the current trend for minimalism but I see these as a bit of a revelation. They can offer impact reduction for the larger runner but they’ve also been adopted by many high profile, long distance runners who presumably also appreciate the impact reduction over the long haul.
Here’s a video of Karl Meltzer completing a 2064 mile run after working his way through 7 pairs of Hoka One Ones, which is about 470k per shoe – not bad!