I just got a new pair of Hoka One One Stinson Trail shoes, and while I have only ran 20 miles on them, they feel great. I did a fast 4 mile run for my first go in them (what’s fast you ask? 4 miles in 29 minutes fast). I then did a 12 miler three days later and a 4 miler two days after that. They feel really good.
Let’s back up a bit. You may remember that not too long ago I reviewed the Hoka One One Bondi Running Shoes, and I really liked them. The problem was that after 30 miles, 10 of it on a treadmill, the soles were thrashed. Not just dirty and slightly scuffed, but starting to come apart from the rest of the shoe, thrashed. This surprised me because of everything I had heard about these shoes. And they a road shoe, so why would tarmac be shredding the soles?
My honest opinion is that it was a faulty shoe. I have talked to many a runner who were quite surprised at what happened. Hoka shoes do not do this. But, I did not go back to the Bondi’s. I talked to several of my ultra running friends (ultra is short for ultra marathon, or more than 26.2 miles) and they were telling me that the Bondi was an entry level shoe. A couple of my friends scored a pair of Hoka One One Conquest shoes before they were on the market to test them and loved them. A buddy of mine ran a Boston Qualifying time in his. Note: I talk about ultra marathons and Hoka One One shoes in the Bondi post linked above.
I figured that I should try these shoes out. I returned the Bondi’s and waited a few weeks before finding a running store in town that carried the Conquests. I actually went in pretending to be a newby runner to see what shoes they put me in. I tried on several pairs of shoes, including my usual Asics Gel Cumulous, before we broached the Hokas. I tried on the Conquest, and they just didn’t feel right. They felt tight in my arches. But I have a wide foot (but it’s stable, which tends to shock the shoe fitters), and while Hokas run wide in the toe box, they middle part (where my foot is wider than average) it isn’t as much. I then tried the Stinsons and they felt much better.
I am not going to say they felt great or awesome, because that walking on marshmallow feeling and being an inch taller than normal takes some getting used to. Also, after running in Asics for the last four years, it takes a bit of getting used to a different shoe. Nonetheless the Stinsons felt pretty good, not Asics good, but still good.
Now, the Stinsons come in two different versions. There is the Trail and there is the Tarmac. I was fully ready to buy the Tarmac because almost all my training and racing is on asphalt. A little dirt trail every once in a while, but not all that often. And I already have a pair of shoes that I use for trail. But the shoe guy recommended against the Tarmac, especially once I let on my true running experience. He said that the Stinson Trail shoe works almost as good on the road as the Tarmac, but Tarmac is horrible on anything not road.
The soles on the Stinson Tarmac shoe are practically flat. There are no little nubby things to dig into dirt if you need to. There are some groves to let water flow out for running in the rain, but the sole was like a pair of Converse or Vans. They would be awesome for asphalt or concrete, but I think you would slip on your ass trying to make a turn on grass with the Tarmacs. Note: this is my opinion, and not my experience or what I have been told.
The Stinson Trail, however, has little nubby traction things all along the bottom of the shoe. I was told they don’t grip well on wet rock (most shoes don’t), but they do really well on trail and the road. The nice thing about the Hoka One One shoes is the giant thick sole absorbs impact, especially from sharp stones.
During my runs, I did a little bit of trail (1.5 miles). It was easy trail, but there were some river cobbles I had to run across. I could feel the rocks, but it was more like I sensed the rocks more than felt them. I knew they were there, I knew how position my foot and adjust how I was running across that spot, but I didn’t feel the impact as much as my normal shoes.
After my 12 mile run (at a sub 8 min pace), which was my longest run in seven weeks, and only five days after a 10.6 mile run, my feet felt pretty good. Sure, they were a little sore, but probably better than my normal shoes after that distance. Also, the treads still look brand new, where the Bondi’s were already showing wear after 20 road miles.
One thing about the Stinsons was that they only came in red/orange or dark blue/blue. I like orange, but I am not a fan of red, especially for shoes. So I went with the dark blue/blue, but I had to order them as the store did not stock this color. The Conquests come in yellow, which I might have gone with them, if the store had them in stock. I like yellow. Note: I probably wouldn’t have, foot comfort is WAY more important then shoe color. I would wear pink shoes with purple fairies on them if they felt awesome on my feet.
I do like the Hoka One One Stinson Trail shoes, but they will probably not become my primary running shoe. I love my Asics, but as I transition into running ultra marathons, I know that I need the extra protection that the Hokas will give me. My plan is to use my Asics for any run less than 10 miles, which will be weekday runs and shorter training runs, and use the Hokas for anything longer. Alternating shoes also helps extend their mileage a little bit as they have bit more time to rebound between runs. I don’t know if I will wear my Hokas for half-marathons yet, it will probably depend on my race goal and how I feel about the Hokas at that time.
I do have a half marathon in less than five weeks, but I also have a marathon and a 50 miler before that. We shall see how the Hokas feel after those runs.
Note: I have run 25 miles on trail, and 50 miles on road, plus another 25 miles in training. So here is my updated review after another 100 miles on these shoes.