serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes

posted by Chris Barber

hoka-one-one-trail-running-shoesThe Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes movement may be moving down the trail next.  From minimalist trail running shoes comes the complete opposite, the Hoka One One.  The Hoka One One was invented by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean Luc Diard of France, who had previously worked at Salomon.  From an adventure race in Sicily was born a love for running over mountains and on trails.  Nicolas and Jean wanted a trail running shoe that they could fly downhills even if they were heel striking (opposite of minimalist again).  They came up with the Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes.

The Hoka One One soles are 2.5 times larger than traditional trail running shoes which is what sets them apart from other trail runners.  Hoka claims the foam gives a 30% softer ride and is able to dissipate 80% of the impact of a heel strike.  Even though the shoes look bulky, they are relatively light, 15% lighter than traditional trail running shoes.  There is a 13 cm rockering profile at the toe which provides a spring in your step when running on flat or uphill terrain.  According to Hoka, the low ramps angle also allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, engaging the gluteus and lower back, as opposed to isolating the quads like traditional downhill trail running.  The bottom of the shoe has 50% more surface area so you run straight over rocks and roots without feeling anything or changing your stride.  Like a mountain bike barreling down a hill rolling over every obstacle in its path rather than avoiding them.  The sole is etched with large lugs, also like mountain bike tires, for the best possible grip.  The Hoka One One was invented so trails runners could run fast over any surface and any terrain.

What do you think?  Anyone ever try these?

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  1. Chad R. says:

    Very weird looking, and a definite 180-degree approach from the current wave of minimalism. On the one hand I’d imagine they would make stepping on rocks and roots almost a non-issue due to the cushioning. On the other hand I’d be afraid that feedback from the ground might be lost. If you end up trying some out, let us know how they perform.

    1. Chris Barber says:

      Yeah, definitely no feedback from the ground in these big boys. I’ll see if I can get some, I’m anxious to see how they perform on the trail.

  2. Fitz says:

    A huge sole like that would be a hazard out on the trails. There’d be no “ground-feel” and I’d be tripping over rocks and roots constantly! I think there was a study done awhile back that showed runners who wore motion control shoes got more ankle sprains than runners who wore more minimalist shoes. You just can’t feel the ground and you receive less proprioceptive feedback. I’d never wear these…

  3. Whoa! Those shoes look ridiculous! Crazy to think they would come out with a shoe like that when there is a current huge trend in minimalism and barefoot running going on right now. I’d be interested in trying these shoes out but no way would I purchase them not knowing what they’d feel like out on a trail. I could just see myself flying down a mountain face first because of these shoes!

  4. Chris says:

    At first I had the same concerns as those stated above, but then I saw that several of the top ultrarunners at Hardrock 100 (widely considered to be one of most difficult footraces in the world) are using the Hokas. And Fitz, as to your concern, there’s plenty of technical trail in that race.

    Now I’m interested in hearing more, especially since it’s such a difference from the current minimalist trend.

  5. Lars Nielsen says:

    I had a pair of these Hoka shoes. The trails I run on are full of rock and on slanted slab. After wearing them for 5 runs, the soles mashed down on the insides of the right foot because of the slanted angles I had been running on. Like I was over pronating severely, and I do not even over pronate. I usually wear La Sportiva Crosslites and Adidas Adizero Tempo shoes on the trail, and never had any problems with those 2 shoes. Once the foam mashes down like this… you cant use the shoes to run in… very expensive loss!

    Also with the minimalist approach. This is like the clothing fads… they come and go in cycles. If you study back from the 60′s and 70′s when shoes were thin… and if you had perfect mechanics you made it, and if you did not… oh well… What saved the runners who were getting injured were not the racing flat/minimalist type shoes, but were the shoe that eventually came out helped those who had poor mechanics like over pronating etc. This is why more people have been able to run who are injury prone. So… the barefoot type shoes are good for certain people, but not all. And if you look at all the information given on the stories about barefoot running… you can find information that will fit what you want to think. Even many experts who support barefoot running will tell you that you must have a near perfect to perfect running stride. And since this is the case, the person who has bad knees or over pronates can not use a barefoot shoe. Just common sense.

  6. Renee says:

    Stumbled across this article and had to comment because these shoes have been like a miracle for me. I had ridiculously bad case of plantar fasciitis that would.not.quit. Just wearing a shoe hurt, with the exception of Birkenstocks — and those are kinda hard to run in. :)

    After more than a year of struggling with the PF, I finally had whole blood injections, recovered and started from scratch. I tweeked my running form by attending Merrell Good Form clinics. Pre-PF drama, I ran in the Brooks Cascadia. Post-injection and recovery drama I tried 5-fingers. But even with the most perfect form I could achieve, I could tell I was asking for trouble. The Cascadia wasn’t giving me much more confidence than the 5-fingers.

    I saw the Hoka Mufate in a magazine and thought, wow…perfect…and egg crate for my foot! Price was a bit steep, but at that point another 160 bucks was a drop in the bucket. Very happy I took the chance. The shoe has a feel like no other and they definitely do take some getting used to. I feel like I’m running on monster truck tires. The first time I wore them, I did some stretching and warm up in a field. At one point I looked down because I seriously thought I was standing on an anthill…they felt that squishy.

    I now have about 200 miles on these shoes and will absolutely buy another pair when the time comes. The soles on mine have not mashed down as one reviewer mentioned. There IS a learning curve involved to compensate for the thicker sole over technical terrain, but picking your feet up just makes for stronger hammies, right? :) Just as you would in the beginning with a minimalist shoe, take it easy and slow at first with these. If I have any complaint at all, it’s that the lugs could be more aggressive. A muddy up or downhill is a bit precarious in these.

    So for me, a formerly injury-plagued trail runner, these have been a god-send. Hope this is of help to other injury-plagued types.