Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hoka OneOne Run Shoes - Wear tested

Over the past 6 months there has been only one brand of shoe that I have would even consider running in, be it road or trail, and that is the HOKA ONE ONE, a paradigm shift in running shoe technology which lays the foundation for minimalist 4mm heel-to-toe drop mechanics combined with a 2.5x over sized EVA outsole, giving the wearer the best of two worlds and a downhill running experience second to none.

The history of the brand is an interesting one, two gravity sport enthusiasts, Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud, using their background from developing shoes and apparel at Salomon, came up with a unique concept of reducing fatigue and impact, while still maintaining a good pace, all the time allowing you to go further than ever, in more comfort. The name of the shoe apparently means 'To fly over the Earth' or as some other references mention 'Time to fly' roughly translated from ancient Maori language and is pronounced HOKA OH-NAY OH-NAY, and not the number '1' as the spelling suggests.

Ok, so on to the shoes themselves... I currently run in 3 different models, each of which serving a specific purpose, starting off with the 'MAFATE' we have a thoroughbred trail shoe, designed to take on the gnarliest of trails mainly due to it's aggressive tread pattern and higher degree of (softer)cushioning when compared to the other models, the shoe fits small at half a size to what you'd normally wear, so if you're an 11 it would be wise to size up to an 11.5, at the moment this shoe is used infrequently following the introduction of the new STINSON B EVO earlier this year.

Hoka OneOne Mafate

The image above shows over sized cushioning employed on the Hoka range, what's also interesting to note is the width of the sole throughout the length of the shoe, which aids in providing stability in the absence of medial postings and other stability devices, and since a natural mid-foot strike is promoted due to the low ramp angle, stability is further increased just by getting the running mechanics right.
Un-boxing my first pair of HOKA's

46km run through the Ice and Mud of Belgium's Foret de Soignes
This was only my second run in the shoe!

Most of my running has been on the road for the majority of the time that I've been wearing Hoka's, and this is mainly due to the 90km Comrades Marathon in June, so a shoe was needed to cross the divide and be used as a base training and racing shoe, this saw me purchase the 'COMBO XT' (European name) or STINSON B (American name), which was sold as Hoka's first mult-purpose, multi-terrain shoe. The Combo XT marries the road usability of the BONDI B road shoe with a rugged, high quality upper that can handle any terrain. So far this has been my 'go to' shoe and has covered around 1000km with minimal signs of wear so far, doing everything from tough 50 mile trails to the Comrades and various other 50km+ road ultras and marathons in-between.... This is a shoe which could quite possibly reach 2500km of use before needing replacement and it's next big test will be the Golden Reef Road 100 miler on August 31st

The Hoka Combo XT multi-terrain, all purpose run shoe

Zero 'collapse' after 1000km 
Slight wear on the tread, with most of the tread decals still visible
Most of the wear is in the mid to forefoot region in the center of the sole

Next in the line-up, and latest purchase is the STINSON B EVO trail shoe, which, as the word EVO would suggest, is a complete re-vamp of design and quality by the brand, sticky rubber lugs with an ultra lightweight upper combine to form a winner in my opinion. Speed lacing has been employed, and with slightly less EVA and a firmer cushioning platform, the shoe feels more stable, and faster than anything Hoka has made before!

The Stinson B EVO, a well thought out shoe

So far I have run in the region of 400km in this shoe, mostly on trail with a road 21k and 32k thrown in to test performance, the stickier rubber definitely hampers progress on the road compared to the Combo XT, but after a little getting used to, it's hardly noticeable...

On trails however, this is an absolute bulldozer and doesn't negotiate with trail hazards, it bludgeons them in the face! quite simply the best shoe I have ever run in. 

The EVO has been slimmed down from the 'clown shoe' appearance of the MAFATE and provides a tighter performance orientated fit, claimed to be true to size, I still feel a half size up is non-negotiable.

The Hoka brand is still very much unknown in South Africa, with many people still casting staring eyes my way at start lines, the look goes against what all the magazines preach to us about barefoot and minimalist running, but under the surface this is a natural shoe with the same minimalist principals of the sleekest out there... designed to ensure you can run, and run, and run... all day, all night.


  1. Interesting review, Clint. I must admit the Hoka range of shoes intrigues me. While the design seems to fly in the face of the current minimalist trend in running show design, 'barefoot' style running, focuses on good form and nowhere does it says anything about shoes having to be uncomfortable. You have definitely given me food for thought, hmmm.

    1. David, if you're serious about performance over looks and can get past the almost $200 price tag, then these are shoes that will rejuvenate your running for you, since you're States Side you might have the luxury of trying a pair on at your local running shop? I had to buy online with faith, relying on others' views and feedback, so so glad I took the plunge

  2. Hi Clint

    Thank you for the review. Do you know if it's possible to Hokas in SA?


  3. Hi Daniel,

    There are no stockists in SA, only option is to buy a pair online

    Check out and