Erich Wegscheider

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First Impression of Hoka Shoes

Hoka One One shoes are not sold in Bali. Fortunately, and unfortunately, my girlfriend had to fly to the states for a few days, meaning she could grab me a pair. Now that I think about it, her flying there and back kind of equates to arguably the most expensive postage charge for a pair of shoes.

The pressure was on to choose wisely and with a little influence from Coach Muddy, I went with the Hoka One One Stinson Trail. Admittedly, it’s a shoe that was completely foreign to me. I’d seen them at ultras, but as a speed oriented triathlete, they weren’t really on my radar. However, the roads and trails of Bali are punishing and after a few runs here, I was wholeheartedly ready to give them a try.

First Impression

Hoka shoes are big! Granted, I wear a size 12 when trail running. Given their size, they’re actually surprisingly lightweight. I put them on immediately and jogged around the villa. Maybe it was due to just coming off a rest week, because damn, I felt like I had some serious “pop” in my legs.

Hoka One One shoes are unlike anything I have ever run in before. Every step was forgiving and every step seemed to propel me forward. There’s a 6mm drop on the Stinson Trail and that, coupled with their Meta-Rocker design, really do propel you forward. It’s awesome.

Stability

Given it’s height, I definitely had concerns about its stability. After a week of running on every surface imaginable, I have no qualms. From cambered trails of sand, mud, tarmac, grass, or rocks, I never felt unstable. If anything, I felt more confident. I was accustomed to running in true lightweight shoes – I felt every little pebble the sole touched. Heck, even when wearing a trail specific shoe with a protective plate in the sole, if I struck a protruding object, the deflection off the stiff plate would throw off my stride.

In the case of Hokas and their 26- to 32mm of cushioning, I can barrel over anything without pause.

Unexpectedly, I also did an agility test with the Stinson Trail. Being that dogs rule the rural roads of Bali, I often have encounters requiring some athleticism. Suffice to say, you can get away with quick lateral motions in Hoka shoes.

Uphill and Downhill

Overall, the Stinson Trail performs better than any other trail shoe (or road shoe) I’ve worn prior. The shoe particularly shines in downhill running – it’s so forgiving! You know that harsh feeling of fatigue you get when bombing downhill? You don’t get that in Hokas. It’s pretty nice to come home from a 90′  run and not feel like you’ve done a 90′ run.

As for ascending, remember that Meta-Rocker thingy I mentioned and how it helps propel you forward? Well, it does that very thing uphill too. Of course, that feature is especially nifty on flats as well. It’s like cruise control for shoes.

The Little Things

If you’re familiar with Hoka One One, you’re probably aware that they’re not exactly cheap. Let me say this: it’s money well spent, because it’s a shoe that’s well designed. It always comes down to the details and I’m particularly fond of their lace management feature. In the past, I’ve always cut laces or intertwined loose ends underneath others, but Hoka added elastic straps to hold down loose ends. I don’t know about you, but I find flopping laces maddening – problem solved.

The shoes also dissipate heat well. With a daily average temperature north of 30º C (86º F) and humidity galore, I’ve experience tarmac temperatures sufficient to fry eggs. However, the shoe breathes well and I have yet to experience any hot spots (I wear Injinji socks, which are hands down the best performance socks). Lastly, Hoka shoes strike the perfect balance between too much and too little cushioning.

Overall

As far as I know, Hoka One One is the first brand to change the status quo of running shoes and it’s only a matter of time before others follow suit. Remember the Minimalist revolution? Well, I reckon the Maximalist movement is just beginning. I’ve already noticed one company introducing a more plush running shoe.

Being that I’ve only been in Hoka shoes a week, I’m planning to post a more long-term, in-depth review in the near future. For the record, I am immensely impressed with Hoka One One shoes upon first impression. In fact, when I’m back in the states, I intend to grab their Conquest road shoe too.

2 Comments
  • Suzanne Butler on May 20, 2014

    I tried the Hoka Conquest and really wanted to give them a fair shot, but I had two problems, #1: I didn’t feel that they laced tightly enough to be secured to my feet. #2: My ankles/calves suffered from lack of support and perhaps the additional weight. (Although, they are really not much heavier than my regular runners.) I felt like I was wearing blocks on my feet. I could have switched out the laces to more traditional laces and given them another shot. It’s also possible that my feet are just too adjusted to wearing Asics 2000 for the past 10 years. On a good note, they were VERY forgiving downhill. They are also pretty cool looking.

  • Erich on May 20, 2014

    I had to pull rather tightly on the standard quick-laces too, so I switched to the standard laces after a few runs. Doing so did help make the shoe feel more secure on my foot.

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