Hoka One One Review

Hoka Distance summit 2

I love to run. I am a lifetime toe runner whom has had to train my gait to land with a  mid-foot strike.  I suppose it is the result of growing up dancing.  For years I did most of my running in race flats or barefoot as I struggled to find shoes to fit the way my feet liked to move.

When the barefoot and minimalist running shoe movement started, I found myself right at home in a variety of low profile, made for my way of it, style footwear.  I have spent years perfecting my running form. Despite running very efficiently with very good bio-mechanics, I race and train on enough extreme terrain, that my feet and joints overtime have struggled greatly due to impact over the long run, amidst a broad variety of obstacles.

For the last five years I was essentially married to one shoe company of which, for many reasons I enjoyed, yet simultaneously, did not enjoy.  This past winter, my 5 year running shoe contract with them ended. Bittersweet for sure. But, this opened the door for me to experiment with a huge variety of different styles of shoes. And yes I ran with that one…

IMG_1207

In effect an endeavor to find my new perfect shoe began. Initially this turned into an expensive nightmare on many levels. I purchased, or was gifted a large eclectic menagerie of running shoes. I ran in all of them multiple times. Some of them hurt me. Others seemed as though perhaps I could make it work…. The underlying factor was I was doing all I could to finish my healing process from a chronic hip injury simultaneously.

Enter Hoka One One.

Fortunately for me, this also meant that I could finally talk to Hoka One One about their unique running shoes.  Many of my trail running hero friends such as Karl Meltzer and Bryon Powell of IRunFar have told me for years that I needed to try Hokas.

Initially I was mostly annoyed thinking like a bit of a narrow minded elitist brat.  Why would I go from a minimalist or made for a forefoot striker shoe to a huge shoe (relatively thinking) that I couldn’t possibly go fast with?  By the looks, they were too far off the ground, too cushy, and wide and unresponsive looking. My mind told me I couldn’t possibly run in a Hoka.

Over the years, I became more curious, as many of my running friends told me to try Hokas to allow space to heal from a hip injury I was working through.  I didn’t listen. Finally I became desperate enough as I continued hurting through the winter to give them a try.

IMG_0905

IMG_0914

I talked to them this past January. Because I race and train both trail and road, Hoka was generous. Hoka understands that the best shoe for road is not necessarily the same as the best shoe for trail. Thus I received in January both the soon-to-be-released Kailua Tarmac for the road, and the Kailua Trail.  They will be available to YOU July 1st.

Because I was at the OR show, about 10 minutes after I got the new shoes, of course I found the Altra booth where they were holding their industry famous treadmill challenges.

This year I was attending the show helping Manduka. They are my favorite yoga map and prop company.  If anyone knows me, of course it made sense to joyfully plead my way into the the treadmill challenge wearing my yoga clothes I’d just spent the day demonstrating in for Manduka. Besides I even had a pair of spanking new Hokas to try out! They laughed and let me run.

Altra Running Treadmill challenge. The end of one of my days demonstrating I couldn't help myself! I had to try out my new Hoka One-ones as part of the treadmill challenge.  I ran a 5:46 mile with zero warm-up on a simulated Boston Marathon Heartbreak Hill course!

With zero warm-up, I hopped on a treadmill to race a mile of the Boston Marathon “Heartbreak Hill”.  Despite being tired and bonked and anything but in a running mode, I still pulled off a 5:46 mile on a mostly uphill course!  First thing I noticed is they felt wonderful on my feet, I could land easily with a midfoot strike, and they allowed me freedom to fly! Right out of the box, I was in love with Hoka.

Since that day in January, I have learned that Hoka’s, despite being bulky and bigger than anything else to ever grace my foot, are surprisingly agile.  They fit me like a glove, allow me to land perfectly with a mid-foot stride, and the very best of all, is I could finally comfortably increase my mileage.  While running 40-70 miles a week for just a couple of months, my hip pain all but disappeared.

Here are the things I LOVE about the Kailua Tarmac and the Kailua Trail:

  • Fit is true to size. I measure a 7.5 B on a Brannock Device. The Hoka’s 7.5 I swear was made for me.
  • Great lateral stability and perfect rocker to stabilize my supinating feet.
  • Colors are fun. My son told me not to totally wear out my pink and grey Hokas as he wants them when he figures out how to make his feet grow a bit more!
  • The road version is light and responsive despite the big look and cushioning.
  • The trail version is stable and light with a perfect tread for all but slick mud. I am able to propel myself easily up and down a variety of terrain.
  • I like the speed lace system of the Kailua Trail.
  • Hokas are a great conversation piece when I meet fellow runners out during my favorite desert running thrills.
  • My Hokas have led me to podium finishes in 4 of my 5 running races so far this year!

Some things to think about to have a great experience with Hoka:

  • They are not super awesome for speed work on the track. I find it difficult to get up on my toes as I prefer. For the track, stick with a training flat.
  • I am hoping Hoka comes out with a track shoe and a short distance race shoe.
  • As with most of my running shoes, I had to place an orthotic in my shoes for better arch support.
  • Higher cadence is critical. The Hoka models I have are a bit more streamlined than their other models. I literally have to keep my cadence up and focus on great form to avoid miss-stepping and rolling my ankle.  I’ve had a few close calls, but so far I’m good!
  • It would be fantastic if they could come up with a better closure system for the shoes. Tied laces can be frustrating in races. I also sometimes find it difficult to secure my foot enough with the speed lace system on the trail shoe.

March 9 2013 1

Overall, I am thrilled to be running in Hokas. The company is innovative, they listen to their athletes and are capable of creating some seriously amazing running shoes. Plus, my hip is feeling awesome and I am back running faster and stronger day by day. I’m definitely happy I opened my mind and gave Hoka’s a running chance. I am in LOVE!

Take home message. The Hoka Kailua Tarmac and Trail are well worth the investment. They are available July 1, 2013!