Hoka One One – marketing hype or running shoe revolution?

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Ever since Hoka One One was launched a few years ago it has divided runners opinions – depending on who you speak to its either a revolutionary shoe or a fad that will disappear with time.

Since they were launched right at the height of the minimalist shoe trend they stood out amongst the zero drop minimal cushioning alternatives and if you weren’t singing Hokas praises then you were probably firmly in the side against them.

Hoka lovers claim the shoe allows them to fly downhill and run further without muscle soreness.

The detractors claim the massive cushion will decrease the proprioreceptive feedback your feet give your brain, making you a less efficient runner. They will increase ground contact time which will slow you down and the height of the shoe would increase instability making them a poor choice for trails.

Fast forward a few years later and the biggest trend in running shoes for 2014 is for light weight maximally cushioned shoes – very similar to the Hokas.

So why the swing towards maximalist cushioned shoes?

Are Hokas actually onto something?

Rather than giving you another shoe review I wanted to look at the Hokas from a more scientific viewpoint and see if there is any evidence or good reasoning for the claims for and against Hokas.

Before I go any further I’ll let you know I am a fan of Hokas, I’ve worn the Bondi B’s , Stinson Evo and have recently been testing the Stinson Evo Tarmac. I was initially very sceptical of Hokas but decided I needed to try them before criticising them and I haven’t run in anything since. The Hokas in the photos (Stinson Evo Tarmac) have done over 1000ks in them, approx 60% of that on road, 40% on trails. The discussion below applies to both the Bondi B’s and Stinson Evo (which I prefer) and may not apply to other models.

1. Hokas reduce leg fatigue
I have noticed the same as many Hoka wearers – my quads just dont get as sore as they used to no matter how hard I trash them.

This actually makes sense when you understand a bit about what happens when we run on different surfaces.

The brain moderates the tension of the leg muscles so that no matter what surface you are running on the impact loading rates for the legs are more or less constant. The brain does this by increasing the stiffness of your legs before landing on soft surfaces and decreasing the stiffness when landing on hard surfaces.

Think how much your knees bend when jumping and landing on concrete vs a trampoline.

When landing on a hard surface the greater range of movement of the knee means the leg muscles have to work eccentrically to control that range. Landing on a softer surface means the muscles work more isometrically to stiffen the leg before landing.

What does this have to do with sore quads and Hokas?

Eccentric muscular action of does far more damage to the muscles than isometric muscular action.

Compare running downhill to running uphill – far more damage is done to the legs running downhill due to the eccentric load on the muscles.

Hokas reduce the eccentric load on the quads.

Now I know of no specific study done on Hokas to confirm this but a study on “Increasing Running Step Rate Reduces Patellofemoral Joint Forces*” showed that showed that the more knee flexion during the stance phase of running the greater patellofemoral force. So if you reduce knee flexion during stance phase you reduce the loading force on the knee.

So whilst that doesnt exactly prove what I am arguing it shows that if knee flexion is reduced loading on the knee is reduced we know that running on softer surfaces reduces knee flexion.

2. Hokas reduce feel for the road or trail and therefore reduce running efficiency 
WIth a 30mm slab of foam under your foot you are definitely not going to feel the road as much as wearing less cushioned shoes. The question is does that matter?

The minimalist argument against Hokas is that the feet give a wide range of information to the brain about what is going on when we run and from this the brain can select the optimum muscle recruitment pattern to perform the task at hand – in this case running. On the road the task at hand is pretty simple as every step is the same but on the trail every step is different. So do Hokas reduce the information going from foot to brain and if so does that reduce performance?

There has been no research looking at the difference in running economy between running in a minimalist shoe or Hokas whilst running on trail (the technology doesnt exist for this to happen at the moment) so these are my thoughts.

The proprioreceptors in the foot sense a wide range of information including the rate of change of joint angle, muscle length and muscle tension. When running in heavily cushioned shoes like Hokas the proprioreceptors will still sense movement. If your foot hits a rock and starts to roll, then the proprioreceptors will still sense the change in muscle tension, length and joint angle and can still act on that information.

Ok you wont be able to feel every rock or tree root underneath your foot but is that such a bad thing?

The brain also anticipates what is going to happen based on previous experience. So for example if  the running surface changes from bitumen to sand the brain will anticipate what it needs to do before your foot even hits the ground.

Any reduction in proprioreception information from the feet by wearing heavily cushioned shoes may not impact running efficiency much at all.

3. Hokas are unstable on trails

20130822-153301.jpgRunning on technical trails requires good foot placement and a stable shoe that wont tip you over upon hitting the smallest rock. The higher the heel is relative to the forefoot (heel drop) the more unstable you are when you walk or run. A low drop heel is always better from a stability point of view for running on trails. Hokas have 4-5mm drop so is on the low end of spectrum compared to a traditional running shoe of 10-13mm.

What many people think is that running in Hokas is like running on stilts and whilst I admit it does take 1 or 2 runs to get used to the extra 10-15mm under your feet it is a very easy adaptation.

Stability is also dependant on the width of the shoe – the higher the shoe the wider it needs to be to compensate for the height. Hokas have increased the width of the bottom of the shoe to compensate for the extra height . I havent noticed any decrease in stability running in Hokas compared to a normal shoe.

My only reservation with the wide shoe is occasionally a narrow shoe would be more suitable for some sections of trails. This is a small trade off for me as the wider base is better suited to other sections.

4. Hokas are a heavy shoe
Despite the size of the shoe Hokas are a mid weight shoe. The are light for their size but not light compared to a more minimal shoe.

Studies have shown that the energy cost in wearing a heavier shoe (compared to barefoot) can be offset by the affect of cushioning. For example Tung et al reported that

” it appears that the positive effects of shoe cushioning counteracted the negative effects of added mass, resulting in a metabolic cost for shod running approximately equal to that of unshod running.” **

However the authors also said that there was considerable individual variation.

Does the greater cushioning of a hoka compensate for the heavier weight compared to a light weight minimal shoe? We dont know.

For me the longer I run the more cushioning I prefer so I’ll accept a slightly heavier shoe ( compared to a very minimalist shoe) when running ultras.

5. The extra cushioning reduces the elastic recoil available to your tendons
20130822-153415.jpgOne argument against maximally cushioned shoes is that it is harder to take advantage of the elastic energy available to the tendons and ligaments of the foot and ankle upon landing. This energy can be used to propel the body forward and reduce the overall energy cost in running.

For this energy to be absorbed the tendons and ligaments must be under tension which cant happen until the muscles attached to those tendons are under tension.

There is only a short time frame available for this energy to be absorbed and then returned to the leg. Spend too long on the ground and the energy will dissipate away.

The argument against maximally cushioned shoes is that the time taken to compress the shoe upon landing means a reduction in time to utilise the elastic energy.

But when you land on a soft surface the muscles are stiffer, already tense.

So in a normal shoe, there is less time needed to compress the shoe but more time needed for the muscles to stiffen (due to the greater range of movement) and in the Hokas there is more time needed to compress the shoe but the the muscles have a greater degree of stiffness so can transfer the energy to the tendons quicker.

The question is does this transfer happen quick enough in Hokas? We dont know but given that many runners make very minimal use of this elastic recoil anyway it may not matter either way. But for faster runners over shorter distances this may be an issue.

At what distance does the increased time needed to compress the shoe outweigh the benefits of increased muscular stiffness?

This will depend on the runner and I would guess it would be around 5-10k for the average runner and up to half marathon to marathon for elite runners. Any longer than that and I believe there would be no loss of running efficiency. (I’ll happily change my mind if I read any evidence suggesting otherwise)

Hoka also have a rockered profile in place to try and direct the flow of energy forward. Think of jumping on a trampoline – you just go up and down – obviously not effective for running. The rocker system helps roll the foot forward onto the midfoot to transfer energy in a forwards direction.

6. You can run faster downhill with Hokas
I think this may depend on your downhill running technique. If you are an overstriding heel striker then that extra cushioning is going to be extremely forgiving on downhills. The rockered profile may transfer you onto your mid foot quicker to allow you to get off the ground again more rapidly than if wearing normal shoes. If you are a mid/fore foot downhill runner then it may not make much of a difference. But it depends on the slope.

On some slopes it may be faster to over stride and let the legs go rather than have a more controlled, higher cadence. This is where you can notice a difference, the Hokas allow you to let go of the legs without fear of the damage that every footfall is doing to your quads for later on in the race.

7. They are slower uphill
Hoka detractors claim they are slower running uphill. The Stinson Evo and Bondi B’s have very little flex in the toe which on steep hills may be a problem for some. It would depend on your big toe and ankle flexibility and speed. For steep hills if you prefer to really run on your toes you may find the lack of flexibility in the forefoot a problem but for the majority of runners and particularly ultrarunners who walk or slowly run uphill this is likely to be of no consequence.

But its probably not the shoe to run a vertical kilometre in!

8. Hoka are the opposite of a minimalist shoe

I disagree with this statement but it depends on how you define a minimalist shoe. If having a low heel drop and no arch or pronation support is to be considered a minimal shoe then the Hoka is a minimal shoe.

If you define it as being a shoe that is extremely flexible and can move with your foot then they definitely aren’t.

9. They allow you to get away with poor running technique
Does the big cushion encourage or allow your form to go sloppy without you noticing it?

To a certain extent I think this is true – you can crash your heel into the ground and the cushioning will absorb the shock. So if you are looking for a shoe that will allow you to feel when your form suffers then Hokas may not be a good choice.

But the 4-5mm heel drop and rockered profile encourage a faster transition from landing to push off so may improve technique. This helps offset the lack of feel.

If you are a massive overstrider then any shoe with cushioning will help soften your ride unless you are going very minimal.

Improving your running technique is not a simple as just switching to a more barefoot type shoe. I have seen plenty of barefoot runners with poor form. Conscious awareness of technique is necessary.



  • Reduction of fatigue in the quads due to less knee flexion
  • The extra cushioning certainly protects your feet from the hammering they may take in a long run or race.
  • They are extremely durable – my shoes have done over 1000km and still feel fine with no marked signs of wear.
  • It is easier to run faster downhill and with less stress on the legs.
  • Great for running long distances
  • Encourages more effective transition from landing to push off through the use of the rocker


  • For faster runners who already make good use of elastic recoil in their lower leg tendons Hokas may not be as effective over shorter distances where you may be able take more advantage of this.
  • Some runners will find the larger shoe both in height and width reduces their ability to run technical trail. I dont find this on anything except very rocky sections where having more narrow feet would help place your foot between the rocks.
  • They may be less effective running fast uphill depending on the slope and speed
  • No pronation control (although that may or may not be a good thing depending on the foot)
  • May allow you to get away with prominent heel striking


I am not affiliated with Hoka in any way – I paid for all three pairs of my Hokas although the most recent pair ( Stinson Evo Tarmac) I purchased at a discounted price and was asked if I would write a review of them.


*Increasing Running Step Rate Reduces Patellofemoral Joint Forces
LenhartR, Thelen D, Wille C, Chumanov E, Heiderscheit B
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 2 August 2013

**A Test of the Metabolic Cost of Cushioning Hypothesis during Unshod and Shod Running
Tung, Kryztopher D.; Franz, Jason R.; Kram, Rodger
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 25 July 2013

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Showing 66 comments
  • Spud

    Great review/article Andy. I have been running in the Stinson Evos for a couple of years now and have run a few milers in them as you know. I agree with most of what you say, but the spring/elastic effect of the achilles and other lower leg tendons, I am unsure about. I mix my running with minimalist Inov-8 and New Balance shoes and call it placebo or maybe it is indeed physics, but I feel more ‘spritley’ in the lower profile shoes and can ‘dance’ along singletrack and rocky terrain more confidently. That said they still have a place in my training and racing and certainly are a great shoe for long distance training runs. My only reservation is the collapse of the medial sole after a few hundred kms due to my right foot pronation. I also feel that whatever amount of pronation one may have (and we know pronation is not a bad thing) can be exaggerated due to the amount of cushioning. What are your views on that? Cheers Spud

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for the comments Spud

      You will feel more springy in lower profile shoes but that springyness may come at a cost – ie calf and achilles will have to cope with more load through them. It also depends on your calf flexibility – if a 4-5mm drop is at the end of your range then a lower profile shoe isnt going to make a difference as you cant go any lower anyway but if you have a greater range of movement then with a zero drop shoe you may be able to load more elastically.

      Re the pronation and collapse of the medial sole – Personally I havent found the cushioing wear down any quicker on any part of my shoe even after 1000k. I do wear an orthotic which may be part of the reason for that.

      I dont feel the cushioning will exagerated the pronation any more than landing on a hard surface. If anything I think landing on a softer surface may reduce the pronation depending on which part of the foot hits the ground first – ie if you land on the outside of foot first then the outside of the shoe will start being compressed before the foot pronates in. If you land already pronated then that may set you up for even more pronation and lead to medial sole compression.

      Would be a very individual thing and dependant on which part of the foot hits the ground first and the position of the foot during midstance.

  • Mark Mc Fadzen

    I have recently just changed over to the hoka’s and in my opinion they are the best shoes I have ever run in , I have done a couple of ultras , tri’s , marathons with no problems . They are very forgiving , I think they are absolutely fantastic and can’t recommend them enough !!!

  • James

    Great post Andy. I am skeptical about them mainly because I don’t think it’s a good idea to be that far off the ground when running.

    They do seem to have defied expectations though and the majority seem to love them. Interestingly it took 30 years to discover that regular supported shoes were damaging to people, we might have to wait 30 years to see what the score with these are?

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks James – I didint want to like them for the same reason with you but thought I should try them and havent changed since.

      If i was only doing shorter distances I’d look for a lighter shoe – I have a very light ground contact and land mid/forefoot so the heel cushioning doesnt help me at all but for ultras everyones stride reverts more towards the heel as we fatigue so the extra cushioning and fraction extra weight ( compared to a real lightweight shoe) are worth the comfort after running 70+ miles.

      The are the same as the minamlist shoes in that they have low drop an no arch support or pronation control the difference off course is the cushioning.

      There will never be an ideal shoe as everyones feet and running style is different – hopefully in 30 years time we’ll have a better idea of how to choose the right shoe for the right person – at the moment the best advice I can give is if its comfortable then go for it. All this pronation control etc is scientifically unsound. Barefoot is good for some but not for all ( despite what some of the more ardent barefooters will try and have you believe)



  • flanker

    Good blog Andy, and nice to see someone stepping back from what is generally a very emotive debate and trying to look at it from an objective position. As someone who regularly runs long ultras in inov-8 x-talons and has instinctively rejected the idea of Hokas (mainly in terms of stability and foot placement on technical ground, but also partly due to not wanting to wear clown shoes!) I’m almost tempted to give them a go. The generally good feedback from my peers can’t all be wrong, can it?

    What worries me however is that I have a history of turning my ankle over, especially when I used to wear more cushioned shoes. Since moving to minimal shoes the instances of this have been greatly reduced. Do you think Hokas are likely to make this more of an issue again? I’d assume the stability of the wider base would offset the lack of feel/placement and reduce the risk to a degree, but conversely the damage from doing so would be worse as the being further raised from the ground would increase the torque on the ankle if it did go over?

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for your comments Darren – regarding ankle stability I dont think the Hoksa are any less stable due to the wider base but if you do go over then yes once you are past the point of no return you have further to fall due to the height.

      I dont think there is any less lack of feel – the proprioreceptors in your lateral ankle will sense movement whether you have barefoot, hokas or high heels on.

  • Kirk

    Great read Andy. As a Hoka wearer myself I’d always wondered what your thoughts were on them given you’re not just some plodder like me 🙂

    I tend to find that people often have an opinion about them without having ever tried them so it’s certainly interesting to read your analysis of the pros & cons. I’ve heard a number of people cite lack of ground feel as a reason not to try them and I’ve never really understood that point, especially when running long distances or trails. I’d rather my feet get the most comfortable ride possible 😉

    For me, i just find they make me enjoy running more because I can run more frequently and longer without feeling trashed. The only thing I’m conscious of – and was one of your points – is about running form. I’ve suffered from ITBS and I think this is mainly due to my running form/technique (not the shoes fault – I’ve just never given it any attention) and the fact I’ve been able to pour a lot of k’s into my legs without feeling fatigued. So I’ve been working more on my running technique (as well as using your great dynamic exercises) and will hopefully end up with the perfect combination of good technique and amazingly comfortable shoes. Time will tell!



  • Donna D

    I came to your site via Form Before Footwear. I started wearing Hokas in May 2013 and I have to say, I am convinced. I have chronic knee issues and was advised that I might have to stop running if I could not get things under control. The Hokas are proving to be a part of my “control” arsenal.

    I think for runners with osteoarthritis / knee degeneration the Hokas offers up hope of continued enjoyment – indeed pain free enjoyment – in running.

    Here’s some links about my Hoka experiences:

  • Steve H

    I was literally about to give up road and trail running due to a persistent calf strain injury. I had a good spell on Go-runs by Sketchers that taught me to run on my forefoot. But even after this any distance over 15k resulted in severe pain and a weeks layoff. After some extensive research and some sound Twitter contacts I found and purchased the Stinson Evo Tarmac. I have since ran a sub 40min 10k and a sub 1hr 30min half marathon. I run my first marathon in two weeks at the New Forrest. I’ve not heard a peep from my previous disabling injury. I would pay £1000 for a pair of these amazing shoes that have given me the opportunity to run and love long distance running.

  • Peter Andersson

    I’ve become bipartisan – I now love BOTH my Vibram FiveFingers and my Hoka Bondi B (which means I now get the benefit of having BOTH minimalists and maximalist proselytes tell me I’m an idiot). My VFFs has mainly become a winter shoe for long slow uphill runs on the treadmill, targeting the calfes. My Hokas has become my first choice warm-up and/or prehab summer shoes, but I also use them for long runs where time out is more important than speed. I also have other shoes for track, trail, snow and ice – I’m not a one shoe guy, which is probably my main point here because I think that maybe the increased diversity in the shoe market will increasingly make more of us look at different shoes the way we look at different machines in a gym; there are no all purpose machines there and there are no all purpose shoes any more. Constant rotation also seems to have helped with some wear and tear issues, I’ve doubled my weekly milage over the last year and a half but on average I feel less sore everywhere from my feet up to my lower back.

    • Matt

      That’s the best post so far … Keep a combination of shoes .. Don’t try fool muscle tendon / memory etc make it activate the brain .. Swap shoes keep the body and mind moving

  • Matt

    Great review. I’ve been running in Hokas for about a year now and they have not quite stuck with me. Your review helped me crystallize why. The majority of running is done in areas that you noted as cons for Hokas. I trail run in Colorado on very technical trails. Most of my runs are before work and are short. I also climb a lot of hills, and one thing I noticed immediately is that I felt slower and was using more energy going up hill. I’ve never been fast going down, so while I agree you can hammer the downhills in Hokas – you can only do this on a mostly smooth trail. Again, not where I’m running most of the time. On more technical terrain, I’d prefer something with less rise (better stability) and a smaller footprint for ease of placement. I will probably keep the Hokas in my quiver for longer runs, but I think I’m going back to Sportiva for my everyday running.

  • Adam St.Pierre

    Great review, touching on some pertinent studies. As a running biomechanist, I have to agree that not one shoe will work for everyone, but more and more people are finding and loving Hokas.

    The low drop encourages a more moderate heel strike or midfoot strike, but is forgiving for a heavy heel strike, as might occur in the late stages of an ultra. The stiff rockered bottom is great for people with bunions, halux rigidus, or other painful conditions of the forefoot/toes as it takes stress away from those areas.

    I’ve seen moderate overpronators that pronate appropriately in new Hokas, but excessively as the medial insole material degrades with miles of running, so Hokas may need to be replaced more regularly than other types of shoes with more “standard” amounts of cushioning.

    I was somewhat surprised by the prevalance of Hokas at the Leadville 100 this year. I would estimate 50% of the field wearing them. Also, in speaking to a member of the race’s medical staff following the race he joked that to examine a sprained ankle at the race, he first had to remove a pair of Hokas!

    I have run in Hokas but do most of my running in Altras. I like the way they feel climbing and love them on non-technical trails, gravel roads, and paved surfaces. I find that on rocky technical trails (which constitute approximately 85% of my total running) I roll my ankles excessively so Hokas are not the everyday shoe for me but they are an interesting option for many runners.

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Adam

      Thanks for your comments – interesting you say about Hokas needing to be replaced more regularly than standard types of shoes for moderate overpronators. I wear an orthotic and have found the opposite – easily clocking up over 1000k with no signs of degradation of the medial sole compared to more traditional shoes (also in an orthotic). Of course the orthotic would make a big difference. For those without an orthotic – I think it would depend on where the foot landed – if you landed in a pronated position I can imagine that would cause the medial insole to degrade quicker but if you land on the lateral aspect and then excessively pronate I think the medial insole would take longer to degrade as the initial impact would be lateral and then medial rather than all medial.

      Pronation is another extremely complex topic as I am sure you know. Hokas like any minimalist shoe offers no support so my recommendation is if you are currently wearing shoes with some kind of pronation control and that is working for you then it may take a while to adapt to a shoe with no support.

      I quite like the Altras but the zero drop is a fraction to much for me.

      Interesting to see Altra bringing out a maximal cushioned shoe next year

      Re Sprained ankle – I cant see why Hokas are any more likely to sprain an ankle than any other shoe except that once you have gone over on it – you then have further to fall. Personally I have found them more stable on some surfaces and less on others.



  • Brett

    Hmmmmmmmm, questions.
    #2 – They reduce running efficiency? Says who – where is the data? You actually say you have none, but are only speculating. OK fair enough, sounds logical, but science doesn’t always equal the most logical estimation.
    #3 – Unstable on trails? Says who – again, no data. Speculation. I could speculate the opposite – with a highly cushioned shoes, you are more stable stepping on rocks, as the cushion will literally eat it and absorb into it. I live at the beach and only train on roads. But I ran a 100 mile rocky trail run in May (my first attempt at a 100 mile trail run – Massanutten) – didn’t roll an ankle or anything a single time. My explanation isn’t science either, its anecdotal evidence, but I again I could argue the opposite.
    #4 – They are heavy? compared to what? Compared to a minimalist shoe? HA! Then minimalist shoes are heavy too, compared to going barefoot. 🙂 I dunno, but a 10.5 oz shoe for trails seems reasonable to me.
    #5 – Loss of energy contained in tendons? I’ve seen scientific studies that show running barefoot on a padded treadmill (ie zero drop cushion) provides the least amount of stress on the body. So you’re certainly saving energy that way. Enough to offset? Who knows. Need a study to confirm, otherwise its just speculation.
    #9 – They will allow you to get away with poor form – also known as ‘avoiding injury’ unlike other shoes. Some people might think of this as a positive…call me crazy.

    I avoided Hokas for a long time. $160 for a pair of shoes? I am a neutral 170 pound runner and wore neutral cushioned shoes (Nikes, etc.) forever. Never could go much past 300 miles. The least mileage I’ve ever put on a pair of Hokas is 700. Makes them a lot cheaper than other shoes I’ve worn.

    Shoes are very personal, if they’re not for you, don’t force it. But it never hurts to try a pair on from some place where they have a 30 day hand back guarantee.

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for your comments Brett but I’m not sure I understand where you are coming from – I agree with all the points you raised

  • Art Ives

    Thanks for the comprehensive overview and accessible analysis which both confirms and elaborates on some of my own findings. I am personally grateful to the Hoka having run in all three models over the course of two years when the shoes were both instrumental in my developing the sensitivity needed to improve my own form and efficiency and, more importantly, the healing of what had become chronic, limiting calf and achilles injuries during my early attempts to resume high mileage training beginning in 2011 (at age 56). While I have recently moved on to lower profile, wide, hybrid shoes with soles comprised of fluid foams and light EVA’s, similar those found in the Hoka, I still keep a pair of Bondi Speed and Stinson Evos around to demonstrate their uniquely effective design features and performance for my clients, several of whom are running healthfully and strongly in the shoes at the time of this writing.

  • James

    Hi good article.

    I did buy some if the first ones that came out. I Live in chamonix and Nicolas (the guy who started hoka) lives in the neighboring town of les contamines and I think we got some of the earlier models in our shops. Anyway, I found that I went over on my ankles quite often compared to “normal” trail shoes, especially when traversing a slope, and in the mud they were like skates! Needless to say I stopped using them. The new ones do look better though.

    • Andy DuBois

      I agree that in the mud they arent great (I havent tried the latest trail versions yet though). Stability wise I havent found a difference but I do agree with you that they arent great for traversing slopes.

      No shoes is good at everything so you need to prioritise what the most important aspects you need in a shoe.

  • Dave

    Flank said he had a history of rolling his ankle in traditional shoes. I was the same when heel striking. Could be the reason. The minimal shoes encourage forefoot/midget landing.

    • Andy DuBois

      Heel striking wont necessarily results in increased risk of rolling ankles but a lower heel drop will definitely help more than a fore/midfoot strike

  • Scott

    Great article Andy.

    I bought a pair of Hokas and thought they were great. Smooth, light, fast and the legs always felt fresh after a run.

    Then after a couple of weeks I started getting ITB issues and my tib post flared up. My tib post has been an issue for years that is easily sorted with a small amount of support in a shoe. I had never had any issues with my ITBs before the Hokas, and back to my ‘normal’ shoes I’ve had been no problem since.

    Even though I enjoyed running in them, they didn’t suit my gait. I feel the Hokas let your feet roll sideways in a way that bare feet or firmer shoes don’t.

    Like any shoe… they will work for some and not others.

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for the comments Scott. Totally agree one shoe doesnt suit all. As I mentioned with the artilce the Hokas ( like all minimalist shoes) provide no arch support – so if you need that then they wont suit you – as you found out.

      I get away with that by using an orthotic in the shoe

  • Marc

    I currently using Altra Superior and Saucony Kinvara 2. I’m considering Hoka One as my next fleet of shoes. Is there any wrong from transitioning from zero drop to cushion shoes again? Thanks for any comments.

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Marc

      The only problem with transitioning back is getting used to the increased drop. I’ve run in a pair of “normal” shoes a couple of times since wearing Hokas and the 12mm drop feels like I am running in high heels! – the change from zero to the 4-5mm of the Hokas isnt as much though so you should be fine.

      The Hokas are very different to the Altra and if you are used to the Altra I would keep using them for short distances but for long distances the Hokas are fantastic

  • Justin Scholz

    Well written Andy – good balanced arguments each way. For me, the max cushioned Hoka’s (Stinson Evo Tarmac and Evo Trail) are perfect for long ultra races. Anecdotal, but no doubt in my n=1 brain they allow you to go much farther pre-soreness. In training I try to reduce usage though to ensure that the muscular systems take some controlled pounding which leads to increased strength. In simple terms – my view is if you want to run further than you do now, regardless of your current “long” run distance – then a pair of Hoka’s is probably going to help!

  • Ultramouse

    After MDS and Caboolture 48 I was totally trashed, physically and mentally. I felt that age was finally catching up on me as the pain in my knees and pelvic area was taking all the enjoyment out of my attempts to start running again. I purchased a pair of Stinson Evo and took them for a run. The next day I found my knee pain and pelvic pain gone; not just diminished but gone. This was too unlikely to be true, but then I discovered your report on Hokas and it all made sense. I’m still a little sceptical about my miraculous recovery but I have now bought myself a pair of Tarmacs. I think they could be just the thing to entice me back onto the track for another 24 hour.(I would like to know what Noakes thinks of them. I generally find him to be quite negative.)

    • Andy DuBois

      Good to hear the Hokas have made a big difference. Not everyones experience is like that but for some they can make a massive difference. Hope they are still feeling good

  • Paula

    Hi Andy,
    Loved the review…
    Been considering these for a while. I also wear orthotics in my running shoes and in most shoes I have to remove the shoe liner to fit the ortho in. Is this the case with the Hokas? I have a half length orthotic, and unfortunately it means that by removing the lovely comfy liner, it feels hard under my forefoot and I also miss out on that lovely “new cushioned shoe” feeling if you know what I mean. I wear sports orthotics which are really hard plastic, but they work for me.

    • Andy DuBois

      I wear half orthotics at the moment also and you dont have to remove the shoe liner to fit them in – there is no pronation control in the shoe , so orthotics work well with them

  • Lauren Ingelbach

    After many months of struggling with unspecified heel pain in my left foot, which I believe is due mostly to poor running form due to trying to take pressure off my right forefoot (I have osteoarthritis in my right big toe) , I bought a pair of Hoka Bondi S. Only 2 weeks on and I am delighted with them. I am currently training for a tough (hilly) half marathon and all pressure and pain on my right toe is gone. When I start running, my heel hurts slightly for a couple minutes and then it vanishes. After a run my heel, legs and feet feel fresh and no pain. More to the point, when I get up the next morning my heel is no worse than before, actually I would swear my heel feels better after a run and deteriorates the longer after a run I am…..
    But even better, every single run since I bought the shoes have been a PB. I now look forward to all my runs and roll on half marathon!

  • Lauren Ingelbach

    By the way in relation to Marc s comment above, I went straight from nike s lunar eclipse which I think have a 12mm heel to toe drop to the hoka’s without any problems…so far.

  • Jodie

    Thank you for all your info! I am currently dealing with inflamed, swollen heel muscles and sprained ligaments and lots of nonspecific swelling and inflammation in my left foot. Last I had posterior tibial tendonitis in my right foot. Needless to say, I have foot issues. I do pronate a lot, especially in my right foot, my ankle turns in while standing still. I used to heel strike while wearing heavy motion control shoes. I felt there had to be a better way and tried the brooks cadence for more minimal but with still having pronation control. I liked them but I don’t think there was enough cushion for me because I devolved pain in my bunion. I also tried Newtons which I liked as well but that was around the time I devolved the tendonitis and was afraid to keep using them. I even put a superfeet insert to help but I was already in pain at that point. I was looking into Hoka’s for their cushioning aspect but still afraid of my pronation issues. After my injury heals I am going to get orthotics. I just hate super heavy motion control shoes!

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Jodie – thanks for your comment. Re pronation problems – some feet need extra support of an orthotic – sometimes the shoe can do the job but some people need more help. I wear orthotics and have found they work well with the Hokas.

      The advantage of orthotics is you can get a more neutral lightweight shoe rather than a heavy motion control shoe

      Hope the orthotics do the job for you


  • Mark Jay

    Yea I had to buy my hoka’s too, on to my 3rd pair. I only started running full on a few years ago – aimed to do a 100k’er at 40, which I did. Never liked barefoot running and luckily met a hoka rep at a meet. He had one pair with him for himself but thankfully were the same size as me! I was surprised at the weight, but when I tried them on, I said “order me a pair!” And haven’t looked atany other shoes, although like you say, there are more out there now and I’d really like to try the new balance fresh foam and altra olympia. Great write up, well done.

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for the comments Mark – weight wise they are getting lighter and lighter = the new Cliftons and Huaka’s are just over 200g !

  • Joshua Steimle

    I just suffered a serious ankle injury while trail running in Hokas. I put about 500 miles on another pair of shoes and as soon as I switched to Hokas I started rolling my ankles, but figured I just wasn’t being careful. But after today I’m convinced it’s the shoes that made the difference. Although as had been stated, it’s likely not the shoes but a combination of something about my ankle and the shoes. I did injure the same ankle a lot skateboarding when I was younger, so perhaps it’s weak. It’s a bummer because I really like the shoes and was excited to be using them. But with 4-5 close calls and now this vs. no issues with my previous shoes it looks like I’ll have to switch back to something minimalist.

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for the comments Joshua – your pre-existing ankle problem probably contributed to it – and no shoe is perfect what you gain in cushioning you may lose in stability – its a matter of finding a shoe that works best for you and it sounds like you need something with less of a base

  • Ryan Sherby

    I’m faced with a dilemma now. I have put around 60 miles on my Stinson ATRs. I almost brought them back to Fleet Feet upon twisting my ankles several times on the first 5 runs around 15-20 miles total. Albeit it was minor twisting as I have never sprained an ankle in my life. This still occurs occasionally although not nearly as much. I do make it through some runs, buff trail, without this occurrence. I transitioned to this shoe from Brooks Pure Grits. I got too excited and ramped up in my Pure Grits with a subsequent calf strain, which then created some achilles pain, mainly real low on the back of the heal. So a took a month off bought the Hoka and slowly started running again. I am back up to 25 mile weeks. I am really concerned that once I get back on the rocky ridge trails here in WNC that these shoes will give me problems. I still get the occasional calf heal ache but am militant about rolling before and after, every morning, and stretching after runs mitigating the issue. So I have a few big questions that I would to get feedback on. Do I try a higher heal drop, perhaps alleviating occasional heal/Achilles/calf pain? And do I get back closer to the ground, less rolling? I love the fit and cushioning but am concerned about technical terrain. I come from a climbing back ground so pride myself on foot placement. I just don’t know what to do and would appreciate any guidance. I also use super feet insoles. Thanks for the analysis in the review. -ryan

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Ryan
      No easy answer but some things to consider
      Higher heel drop means less stable on the trails – I think 2-6mm is about the best fit between low drop and stability and good calf support
      It also depends on what races you do – the longer the race the less you want to feel every bump, rock and deviation in the trail – thats where Hokas are so good
      It seems as if stability is your biggest concern and if you are talking shorter races then the extra cushioning of the Hokas probably doesnt outweigh any perceived instability issues – the longer you go the more the Hokas benefits are relevant. One thing to try is a lower stack Hoka – for example the Rapa Nui and Mafate is almost 10mm lower than the Stinsons and has a 4-5mm drop and both are ideally suited to technical trails

      There are of course other shoes you can try but I would look for around a 4 mm drop to alleviate any chance of the calf/achilles problems returning

  • Christian

    Hi Andy

    Many thanks for a well-written and what seems like a very fair and logical blog and review of Hoka’s. I’ve only been running for the last 3 years having come to running later in life – so I’m no authority. The struggle with online research is there are always two schools of thought on everything. I love running and am continually increasing my distance and want to continue to do so all the way to an ultra marathon. And although for the last year have suffered no injuries whatsoever my knees do still feel it – so any product that could help me reduce this I’m interested in. I do both ‘road’ and ‘off-road’ running. Would you suggest the ‘Stinson Tarmac’ and ‘Stinson Trail’ for me? Thanks again.

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Christian

      It depends on what kind of trails – if its well graded fire trails or similar then the Tarmac would be fine – if its more technical then go the Stinson Trail or the lighter weight Rapa Nui or Mafate Speed

  • Mark

    I bought some Stinsons for Marathon Training after a glute injury and for my legs and glutes felt great. However I blistered between the big and first toe, quickly followed by black toe on both feet. I informed the running shop in Perth Australia for any guidelines, nothing to solve the problem. I was advised to buy half size bigger than usual, had the tri elastic laces and tensioned as the run shop advised. I ran the marathon in a pair of Sauconys Kinvara and sold the Hokas but I would like to revisit any similar cushioned shoe for long training runs, minus the blistering and toe problems. Any suggestions?

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Mark – shoes are a very individual thing and lots of factors go into why a shoe may suit one person and not another. If you liek the maximalist feel of the Hokas then I would look at trying a different model – I know for me some of the shoes it get blisters on the side of my big toe and others I dont.
      Blistering between big and 1st toe could be for a number of reasons – and without seeing the exact location its had to give you any specific advice .

      Have a size bigger would only help if your foot has hammering the end of the shoe – often thats not the case at all , the foot can slide in the shoe or roll more in the shoe and that can cause blisters
      I dont give specific shoe advice as every foot is different but the best advice I can give you is go for the shoe that feels the most comfortable – unfortunately sometimes what feels comfortable in the store doesnt feel so comfortable 100k’s of running later so it can be an expensive trial and error process.

      So unfortunately there are no easy answers , if you have a good running shop who know their shoes really well you should be able to tell them whats worked and what hasnt worked and get some suggestions on what to try next .

      Don’t write of the Hokas based on one shoe though – the different models are quite different

  • chad

    I googled “muscle stabilization hoka” and found this article. I really enjoyed it. I run rocky trails almost exclusively in Luna Sandals. Compared to sandals Hokas are much tippier (most shoes are). Of course the body is very capable of cushioning itself, but I am curious to see if Hokas will help me feel fresher after 10 or so miles. So, I’ve ordered Huakas…..

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Chad – As you mentioned any shoe wil feel a little tippier than luna sandals but the longer you run for the more you appreciate some cushioning underneath . Hope you like the Huaka’s

  • Erin

    I have fairly serious osteoarthritis caused by a patella malalignment in both knees that was corrected when I was 24. I am now 36. I have since had 3 knee surgeries to smooth cartilage degradation and tears, and have a hole in the cartilage in my right knee. All of this resulted from the patella issue, but once the cartilage degradation sets in, it can’t really be stopped.
    Suffice it to say, I had to stop distance running at 24 because of acute pain. From 24 to 35, I couldn’t really do more than a 5k without experiencing knee pain. Enter Hokas and chi running, and I am now doing marathons. Literally. Because of the additional depth in the sole, it would be almost impossible to have a pure heel strike wearing Hokas, but the design of the Hoka is perfect for individuals with a midfoot strike. The combined cushioning of the Hokas and a midfoot strike simply takes the impact of running off your knees. It’s amazing. I cannot, cannot say enough about these shoes. Without them, distance running would not be possible for me. They are a godsend.

    • Andy DuBois

      Glad to hear they have been a real help for you Erin.

  • james ward

    Hi and a very nice review. I put dipped my toe into the Hoka pool a week ago. I bought Hoka Claytons and was so excited as I had heard a lot about Hokas. I went for a real steady 10K and at first could not believe what I was feeling. Light, fast and absolutely lovely to run on. 6K and I noticed a rubbing in the arch so after the 10K I looked as it hurt and there it was a blister. Straight online to read specific user reviews and it seems a widespread problem with this model. I followed suggestions and changed the insoles and it seemed to ease up a little but it was still there on my next short 10K. So off I went on a 25K loop thinking I had cracked it. No blister on the arch but after around 15K my smaller toes in the same right foot started hurting along with the outside edge of the ball off my foot. My toes were going numb and I was in immense pain with a really numb feeling in my toes as if it had cut off some circulation or something. Weirdly my left foot felt fantastic! I limped home on the back of my run. After 2 days rest I tried them on again to try wearing around the house and I can now feel that my left foot fits fantastic and is a dream but the right foot is really tight on top of the foot especially around the outside edge base of the little toe. And again its only the right foot as the other one is great. I have to add I normally wear Asics Nimbus which I really get on with but i have never had this sort of ordeal in any other running shoe I have had and I am 52 so I have had a few over the years.

    • Andy DuBois

      HI James – sounds like you have 2 different sized feet – very common. I run with the Claytons for road runs and love them , I have fairly broad feet but they fit well , however when I first had them they made the arches of my feet cramp up , problem was solved by loosening the laces a little and since then have been perfect

      The problem with shoes is they are such an individual thing and with different foot sizes finding a shoe that suits both can be a challenge

      If you are a road runner you can try the Cliftons to see if they fit any better

  • Mark

    All I know is I ran a half marathon in Hoka Bondi’s and then two weeks later ran a half marathon in my Saucony Triumph’s and noticed a difference in the way I felt afterwards. After the half in the Triumph’s it took a couple days for my legs to recover. In the Bondi’s I was ready to run again the next day. The way my body felt was enough proof for me. Thanks for the great article!

  • Muhit Rahman

    This has been enormously helpful. I am looking to run the Revel Charleston marathon which has over a one mile drop in elevation from start to finish and the Hoka One One shoes seem just right. I have two questions, though. First, of all the different Hoka models, how does one choose?!!! Second, I have read that the toebox on Hokas is incredibly small (I have a somewhat wide foot). Any thoughts? Much obliged.

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for your comments Muhit. As far as which one to chose depends on what surface you are training on and the type of runner you are – e.g. lightweight fast efficient runner then can choose the more lightweight shoes, heavier less efficient runner probably benefit more with the heavier more cushioned shoes ( although not always ) . The trail range has a variety of treads – e.g. the Mafate and Speed goats have a gripper tread than the challengers and Instincts
      As far as width goes – the Challenger 2 and particularly the speed goat were on the narrower side but the newest versions are wider.
      I certainly wouldnt say the toe box is incredibly small – certainly no smaller than any other major brands with the exception of the ALtras
      When it comes down to it you need to try a few on and see what feels best

  • Muhit Rahman

    Thank you so much, Andy! I should have added that the Revel Charleston, like the rest of the Revel Series in the US, is run entirely on a paved road. And as far as me, I am a lightweight inefficient runner 🙂 60 years old, with creaking joints and back to running for four years after a 37 year hiatus. I should add that I have managed to run 15 marathons since I started again, 4 years back! Thank you for your advice. PS – I was thinking of the Bondi 4 (on sale) or Bondi 5 but also, alternatively, the Tracer. Best regards.

  • Mary

    What a find! Thank you for such an informative and science-based (where possible) blog. I’ve been toying with trying Hokas having been very opposed to them, and opting for Inov-8s whenever I could get hold of them. 3 years of no-running later, and 15 months after haglunds / insertional achilles surgery, I am finally in a position to start running again, all of 7km at a time. I have been wearing a variety of running shoes during my slow build-up over the winter, most pretty worn out by all my gym work in the intervening 3 years, and have never been brave enough to try Hokas. This weekend I am going to go and buy a pair! The good thing is that I won’t be tempted to wear them at the gym, since I do still think they’re rather embarrassing to be seen in.

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for your comments Mary – how are you finding the Hokas?

  • Leslie

    I have plantar fasciitis and a heel spur. Also, my Doctor said I had osteoarthritis between last 3 toes on both feet. He recommended Hoka Bondi or Brooks Ghost. I bought the Hoka Bondi I experienced few problems first few days of working 3 12 hour shifts on my feet. Continued to wear them and got excruciating pain on top part and back part of my legs and my calf on both legs, hip, And heels worse I went back to where I bought them and they said to try the arahi. Still experienced the same pain my legs from knees up hurt so bad that 4 ibuprofen at one time does not ease the pain.. Any suggestions I’ve never experienced anything like this before.

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Leslie
      There could be any number of reasons why you experienced what you did. Hokas are usually about a 4mm heel drop and if that’s significantly lower than what you are used to then that may not be helping you at all. Plantar Fascitis is a very frustrating injury and what works for one can have the opposite effect on another. Spending long hours on your feet is usually not great for PF sufferers and finding a shoe that your feet feel better in is key to resolving it.
      If your pain is at that level I strongly suggest seeking more medical advice on what to do. I hope you can find something to resolve your problems.

  • Anne-Marie

    A very informative read. I was recommended to invest in a pair of Hoka’s by a specialist foot doctor to help with a heel problem. The thing is Everything I’m reading is about running long distances. Ideally (if I get back running and stay injury free) my target would be 5ks to 10 miles. I was pretty competitive at these distances but I’m wondering with all of the comments about the Hoka affecting speed over shorter distances would they impact greatly over these distances?

    • Andy DuBois

      Hi Anne-Marie
      Hoka have a big representation with ultra runners but they also make great shoes for shorter distances – lightweight responsive shoes perfect for fast road races. But even if they didn’t I’d rather run in a shoe that helps me stay injury free than run in a shoe that was lighter but increased risk of injury. (Not that I am saying a lighter shoe increases injury risk – its very person specific )

  • Ken

    Hokas are not for everyone. I’ve had 3 pairs of them. They were okay for slower running albeit felt a bit unstable. Running 7:30 pace or faster, I began to experience frequent leg injuries, which kept occurring almost weekly. I thought maybe I had gotten too old but suspected the cushioning wears down quickly. So, I switched back to a Nike air cushion shoe and viola, no more injuries, and I train at a 7 minute or faster pace. Also they are less costly.

    • Andy DuBois

      No shoe is for everyone – the human foot differs enormously in its function from person to person ( as does the kinetic chain higher up ) so always a case of finding a shoe that works for you

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] Hokas: Marketing hype or running shoe revolution?  Scotty loves his (as do many), I think they’re ridiculous.  Balance makes the world go round. […]

  • […] 20130822-153339.jpg Ever since Hoka One One was launched a few years ago it has divided runners opinions – depending on who you speak to its either a revolutionary shoe or a fad that will disappear with time.  […]

  • […] For Australian runners, the Bondi B/ Bondi Low/ Bondi Speed/ Bondi 2/ Bondi 3 in all its incarnations has been the shoe that grabbed so much attention when Hoka first came to Australia back in 2011, the shoe that most users of Hoka OneOne running gear will have at least one pair of, and that probably offers the clearest first experience to new wearers of what Hoka OneOne means. […]

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