A quick glance at Hoka One One running shoes tells you immediately that this shoe company isn't afraid to break from tradition.
Founded by a pair veteran long-distance runners, it didn't take long for the pair's radical "maximum cushioning" design to begin drawing adherents after the first models were released in 2010. Over the past five years the company has taken both trail and road running communities by storm, a result of the shoes' reputation for superior shock absorption.
The explosive popularity of Hoka One One running shoes can be traced to the extra-thick midsoles found throughout the company's line. This lightweight cushioning material provides superior shock absorption and reduces leg fatigue, without making the shoes excessively heavy. New models feature a range of midsole thicknesses and construction for a range of running styles and uses.
Though the shoes boast a thicker-than-normal midsole, Hoka One One shoes feature a low heel-to-toe drop, which supports a runner's natural form. A third feature found in all styles is Active Foot Frame midsole geometry. This means the shoes are engineered so that the foot sits deeply inside, instead of on top of the midsole. The result is improved stability and a more secure fit for a wide range of foot shapes.
But what do they feel like? I tried the Hoka One One Stinson ATR earlier this year and was immediately impressed with its plush feel. The extra height was virtually unnoticeable by my third run, and my 40+ year-old knees welcomed the cushioning on pavement. Once I resume training for long-distance trail races, Hoka One One will definitely be my shoe brand of choice.
From left, Hoka One One Stinson ATR trail running shoes for men, Hoka One One Conquest 2 running shoes for women and Hoka One One Huaka Running Shoes for men.
Another Sierra Trading Post employee — an elite off-road triathlete — recently made the switch. After years of experimenting with different styles of trail-running shoes, including minimalist and traditional footwear, he plans to stay with the maximum cushioning of Hoka One One for good.
"I've been really happy with their performance, particularly on smooth singletrack," he said. "Despite the height, I've found my running form is virtually unchanged and I'm recovering from races more quickly."
A few years ago a runner lacing up Hoka One One shoes may have garnered some funny looks. But the company's design has now become ubiquitous in the running world, leading other brands to begin introducing their own maximum cushioning models. Hokas have drawn adherents ranging from elite trail ultrarunners to Boston Marathon qualifiers and recreational runners with a history of knee injuries.
Hoka One One sponsors the Speedgoat 50K trail race in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, considered the toughest 50K event in the country. Hoka One One athlete Sage Canaday has set multiple course records at the Speedgoat in the Hoka One One Huaka.
At the world-famous and incredibly grueling 100-mile Western States Endurance run this summer, five top-10 finishers, including the women's winner were wearing Hoka One One shoes. In addition, the company is making inroads with track athletes as well, with Nicole Tully winning the 5000 meter event at the USATF Outdoor Championships in June while wearing Hokas.
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By Michael Pearlman
August 20, 2015
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