Clown shoes. That’s what some people call them. Gimmicks. Fad. Whatever you want to call them, Hoka shoes seem to be here to stay. Karl Meltzer wore them for his entire run on the Pony Express trail. Catra wears them and runs hundreds of miles per month in them. They are making the rounds for sure. When I first heard about them I was too busy being sucked into the barefoot running rush to notice, and I dismissed them off as a fad. Then I got injured. I partially blame my toe problems to running in minimal footwear. I did all things right by easing into them very gradually – first walking around in them a lot them running low miles and ramping up. But something happened to my big toe. My Doctor told me to wear more cushion and get shoes that don’t flex too much in the forefoot. What was I to do now? Enter the Hokas.
I didn’t want to buy them at first, mostly due to the spendy price tag. They are also not readily available (yet) in the United States. So, you have to spend a lot of money on shoes you can’t even try on first. I did a lot of research and couldn’t find one person who bought them and didn’t like them. It was pretty much love at first site for anyone who had them. So I bit the bullet and forked over my hard earned money for the Mafates (trail version).
You can see the box above and the shoes here:
They were immediately comfy when I first put them on. I ordered them in my usual running shoe size and they actually seemed like they had a little too much room up front but I think they’ll be okay. I’d order them true to size (at least the women’s version). My first run was only 1 mile and they did take a little getting used to over that first mile. The mechanics are a bit different than most running shoes, however that is mostly due to the cushiness.
Remember when playgrounds used to have sand? Now they have that squishy surface that is supposed to be safer for kids. I liken these shoes to walking around on that surface. Some say these shoes are like riding a full suspension mountain bike vs. a hardtail (minimal footwear). It may be a matter of preference to some and necessity to other. If running in overly squishy shoes helps you run longer and more often then why not? The same argument has been used for people who were plagued with injury and now run pain free barefoot. The question I have for these shoes – is what effect do they have in the long run? Are they weakening certain parts of your legs and feet? Making others stronger?
My verdict is that they are awesome. I have been running with no toe pain for about 4 runs now (2 miles each run). They work well on pavement and dirt trail and they roll over small rocks like no ones business. In fact, you won’t even notice many of the small rocks even if you go straight over them. The shoes have a wider base which helps with stability and allows you to fly down technical hills with ease. While the shoes seem taller, I don’t feel taller in them. I think it’s because the foot sinks down into the cushy insole. Aside from the wide base for stability and abundant cushioning, these shoes don’t flex much in the forefoot. Strange for a running shoe? Perhaps. But it’s just what the doctor ordered for me (literally). In fact, these shoes seems to promote a more forefoot strike (like in minimal shoes) but instead of flexing off at the toes, it has more of a rolling or rocking effect as you go into your next stride. The result seems to be a pretty smooth and efficient stride overall. Consider me pleasantly surprised!
These shoes may not be for everyone but they are certainly pretty awesome and if you are looking for a change in your running footwear or have problems with your toes or not enough cushioning, then I would definitely give them a try!
Happy Running & Dirty Feet,