Product Review: HOKA ONE ONE

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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