The Hoka running shoe has received plenty of hype over the last few years as more and more runners (especially ultra distance athletes) have been using them extensively in training and racing. I have never been one to jump onto every hype over the last 27 years of racing and running. For those of you who are long term runners you have seen all the various “marketing” changes with shoes: from no cushion, gel cushioning, to Nike “Air”, to the current running barefoot craze and the midfoot strike.
Just for background, I have a very wide foot and a high arch so cushioning not stability is my normal shoe choice. I don’t have a pronation problem and have remained injury free for my entire running career (knock on wood!). The challenge in most cases for me is the width of the shoe. For example, standard Nike shoes are way to narrow and I experience pain on the sides of my feet when I run long distances. I have always been a midfoot strike runner with a tendency to have some heel strike in very long multi day races as the forward lean drifts back.
After competing in a 48-hour running race this past weekend on roads with a small section of gravel, I experienced significant midfoot soreness mainly because of a mistake on my part of grabbing a shoe (larger size) that did not have the best cushioning. My shoe of choice over the last 4 years hasbeen Newton’s as the fit is perfect and plenty of cushioning. The challenge as you may know is that they are quite expensive so I supplement “large size” other brand shoes for the long races to compensate for swollen feet.
Having seen the weird look of the Hoka shoes at various events, it was interesting to see so many athletes using them at the ultrarunning race this weekend. Everyone using them praised all the benefits, such as: no feeling of stones, 80% dampening of the road shock to the foot, they do not feel like your running down a hill with the high amount of cushioning in the back, it’s the best shoe for cushioning on the market, etc.
I decided to give them a try and ordered a pair on Zappos (Free overnight delivery) mainly to test them to see if they might help in future events. My first run consisted of 40 minutes only as my feet are still a mess with significant pain in the midfoot area when walking without shoes. So my test was to see how they felt with feet that were already sore.
The test consisted of roads (hills – up and down) along with some single track (minor rocks, but lots of roots) and then a section on very large gravel rock.
Results: The shoes offer an unbelievable feeling like your running on a mattress (still want to see if some of it was a placebo effect and will test with longer runs). It took a bit of time to get used to the cushioning then the foot settled into the feel of the road, which definitely feels different. There is a dampening of the impact of the road no question. I had very little midfoot pain, which was a bit shocking. When I returned home I changed shoes to my normal running shoe just to compare with some easy running and it was dramatic difference. I am certain that I would ofhad difficulty with the foot pain today by running in my normal shoes until my feet heal properly.
The shoes did not slip on the downhill and just rolled over the rocks, roots and gravel. Surprisingly, I just thought they would be much heavier than they actually are and felt very light without mushy cushioning.
First review is all thumbs up, but plenty more testing to see the best benefits by running long (with non-sore feet to start) on various surfaces that would be similar to future races. Overall, extremely impressed and actually quite shocked how good they felt in the midfoot strike area on this initial run. More reviews to come, stay tuned! If you have any thoughts or personal experiences, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.