This post is one in an occasional series reviewing various fitness products. These are not sponsored posts.
Only two times in my two-and-a-half decades of running have I dared to change shoes from my trusty Asics. Once was when I had just started running marathons (gulp, 17 years ago, gulp) when I was talked in to some Nikes (and wound up with plantar fasciatis that took more than eight years– and a pregnancy-induced running break– to get rid of) and once a few years ago when I desperately wanted to love Vibram Five Fingers. Both times I returned to my Asics, switching models as the shoes changed over the years, and I have no real reason to stop loving them. Asics have been good to me.
But I get curious when something new hits the market, and with the current swing of the shoe pendulum away from minimalist shoes over to “maximalist” styles, I’ve been reading a lot about HOKA ONE ONE shoes. Easily identifiable by the super cushioned, high stacked sole, HOKA has become the savior shoes of many over-40 runners I know.
Also, my favorite local running legend, Leo Manzano, is sponsored by HOKA.
Not usually one to be swayed by celebrity endorsements, my respect for Leo and his running made me even more curious about HOKA shoes. When a friend of mine told me about a screaming deal on HOKA Conquest shoes, I decided to try them out.
I got my shoes, and then they sat on my shelf for nearly two months. I was afraid to wear them…but I finally decided I had to give them a try. From the outset, it was a challenge. The slide-lock tie system makes it hard to open the shoe wide to put my foot in; then once I got my foot in the shoe, I immediately felt my right outer foot rubbing on the lip of the shoe. Granted, I have particularly bony feet, so this is likely a particular-to-me fit issue. One of the things I love about Asics is their straight out of the box comfort. It’s like they were meant for my feet. Sorry to say, I did not have that same experience with my HOKA’s.
I decided to take them out for a run anyway, and after just three miles my outer foot felt really bruised. I’m sure my gait was off, though, as I kept skimming the bottom of the shoe on the asphalt. I don’t know whether it was the thick sole of the shoe, the build up of the footbed, or the heavier weight of the shoe. I did enjoy the super-cushiony feel while running in the HOKAs.
Not one to give up easily, I continued to run in the HOKAs. My feet seem to be settling in to the shoe a bit better, and the bruising on the low ankle is lessening. I have learned to pick my feet up higher,which is probably better for my stride anyway. I like the feeling of stability that the large sole provides, and that’s useful to the significant over-pronation in my gait. I haven’t worked up the confidence to try them on a long run (10+ miles) yet, nor did they make the packing list for my annual summer vacation.
Despite my initial disappointment, I can see why the HOKAs would be worth getting used to, particularly for a marathon or ultramarathon distance event. I’m going to continue to wear them as an alternate shoe to my tried-and-true Asics Gel Kayano. We’ll see who gets to the starting line of my fall marathon with me.
I was not asked to write this review. All opinions are my own.