I have several friends who are ultra runners. This means they run more than 26.2 miles for races. Some of them run 100 milers. On single track trail. At altitude. Then they go and run another 100 miler the next weekend. If you think somebody is crazy for running a marathon, then these folks make most reality show stars look like retiree’s playing chess in the park. One thing nearly all of them have in common is their shoes.
Almost all of them are wearing Hoka One One shoes (aka Hokas). Hokas are the opposite of a minimalist shoe. They have super thick soles and are super cushiony. They are designed to reduce fatigue over long distances and/or rough terrain. I believe they were originally designed as a trail running shoe in 2010, but they have road versions now. Actually, they have a bunch of versions now.
Some of the stories I have heard about the Hoka One One shoes is that they allow the ultra runner folks to get in a workout within a day of running a grueling race. I talked with Charlie Engle (he ran across the Sahara Desert, actually, it was over 4000 miles from the Atlantic to Suez Canal in 2007) who said that he was offered a large sum of money to wear a different pair of shoes and he refused. He said something like, “I would wear just about any product if they were willing to sponsor me, but I will pay for my Hokas.” Lucky for him, he doesn’t need to because Hoka is one of his sponsors.
Anyway, I wanted to try these shoes out. But I was leary. The Hokas retail for about $150 or so, and since I am on a tight budget and leary of trying new shoes it is a bit of a risk to spend that kind of money. My normal shoes are Aesics Gel Cumulus (it used to be 12, and now it is 15). I love these shoes, especially the 15s. The 12s would give me blisters on the inside of my foot, but I was able to deal with that. The Aesics Gel Cumulus 15s don’t give me blisters, they are lighter than before, and are a great shoe. I have ran a marathon in them with the only bister being between my toes. However, as I am entering the world of ultra running, I wanted to see if Hokas would save me some pain in my legs.
My issues is that I have wide feet, very few shoes come in wide, thus making my shoe selection limited. I bought a different brand of shoe (non-Aesics) that felt great in the store, and felt great after a 5k. Once I hit 5 or 6 miles, things got worse. They had more of a negative drop (the difference in thickness between the toe and the heel) then my Aesics and it killed my calves. However, I found out they were great for trail. I figured it was the changing terrain, more drastic slopes, and more frequent walk breaks that keep my calves from having issues.
Since my budget is tight, I have been stretching the distances on my shoes. I have my new pair, which have about 200-250 miles on them that I wear for runs over 10 miles. I have an old pair, which have well over 400 miles on them. I needed new shoes, or I needed to learn how to run barefoot.
For Christmas, one of the companies that I did contract work for gave me an REI gift card for $100 as an end of the year bonus. So I went to see if REI had my Aesics Gel Culmulus 15s. They didn’t, but they did have the Hoka One One Bondi B road running shoes on clearance for about 40% off. One of the nice things about REI is that they have a liberal return policy. As long as the shoes aren’t destroyed, I can return them at any time. So, I took a chance and ordered a pair in my size. I tried to get the cyan blue to match the Dashing Dad color scheme, but I could only get gray with yellow highlights. I like yellow, so almost as good.
As the Dashing Wife says, I now have a pair of “cult shoes” and have become member of the Hoka cult.
After they arrived, I had to make sure they were going to fit. So, I wore the around the house one evening. I felt so tall in them, as they are almost an inch thicker that my old shoes. No problems walking around the house. Next step, going for a run.
I decided I wanted to ease into running with them, so I used the treadmill to keep my pace steady and judge how they felt at different speeds. Also, the treadmill won’t wear the tread down as much as the asphalt, and it will keep them cleaner if I decide to return them. I ran 3.5 miles on the treadmill, at an average pace of 8:30 min/mile. I started around 10 min/mile and worked up to about 7:30 min/mile. I did some incline, but not much.
Overall, the shoes did fine. Not great, but fine. There wasn’t any weird pinching, or odd rubbing during the run. I felt some friction at the balls of my feet at the higher speeds, but nothing too bad. But on the flip side, I didn’t have any other issues. My plan is to try another treadmill run, maybe 5 miles, and then take these babies on the road.
Stay tuned for results of future runs.