Hoka One One, the brand
In 2010 Hoka One One brand was born in France. Originally referred to as a clown shoe, these over-sized, “maximalist” shoes have quickly gained popularity. Notably, in 2013 1/3 of the 276 runners in the American race the “speedgoat 50km” were sporting these, excessively cushioned, shoes. As trail running is a relatively young sport in Taiwan, there are but a few major players in the trail running shoe market and Hoka One One is not one of them. Initially known as a shoe for long distance ultra-running (mostly trail), Hoka One One has recently started to build its brand image in shorter distance, track events as well.
I was first introduced to the Hoka brand in Hong Kong while overcome with shoe envy during the Sai-Kung 50km. Everywhere I looked I saw people sporting these brightly-colored moon boots. And so it was my single goal the next day to seek out these unique running shoes, and try them on.
At just under 10 oz in both the men’s and women’s models, the Huaka is one of the lightest shoes of the Hoka One One line to date. With a stack height of 25mm and a 2mm drop, this shoe has plenty of cushion. This shoe is not only a game changer in terms of its weight and cushioning, it is also currently the only shoe in the Hoka One One line that is classed as suitable for both trail and road alike.
This is one of Hoka One One’s lowest shoes with a 27mm stack height, and although it is still over-sized, the shoe isn’t enormous. I had read about how the lightweight the cushion was, but trying the shoe on was an experience, it felt very light and responsive on my feet and the cushion provided a little bounce on every take off.
The shoes come laced with Hoka’s “Race Lace System” but also offered traditional laces and an alternative insole inside the box. The upper is lightweight, and breathable. The out sole offers flat diamond shaped treads in the middle of the shoe for road running and the chevron shaped pattern (in black) for rougher trail terrain. My first impression was that the outsole doesn’t appear to have enough grip for grittier trail. The shoe has a narrow fit and toe box. I read reviews saying that this shoe ran small, size-wise but after much consideration I ordered a 7.5 US, my normal running shoe size.
After taking these out for a short 5km jaunt through the forest this past weekend, I realized that sporting an oversized shoe with the Hoka lacing system would take some getting used to. My initial complaint is that because the laces don’t loosen as with traditional laces, they were often too tight, causing some discomfort in the foot. I also found that the socks I normally wore were too thin, causing my foot to move around in the shoe.
However, by my second run all of these issues had been addressed. Finding the appropriate socks and the correct adjustment for the laces had alleviated any tightness I experienced. I also found that with these adjustments, the shoe fit true to size. The outsole is perfect for a mix of trail, road, mossy stones, loose leaves, etc, and these responsive shoes never missed a beat. After nearly 30km and more than 1300m in elevation change, I joyfully sprinted the last few hundred meters of my test run and honestly didn’t want to stop.
My first impression is that I love this shoe, its bright, versatile and lightweight, perfect for tackling the Taiwanese trails. The outsole is well designed for many surfaces and the breathable, seamless, quick-drying upper ensures comfort, rain or shine. The cushion height requires a slightly wider base for stability and this shoe delivers, without sacrificing agility. The narrower toe box could be troublesome for some runners, and might require adjustment through a different lacing system, Overall, this is an excellent shoe for comfort and versatility without sacrificing speed or responsiveness.
2+ Months In
I’m still loving my Huakas. I am over-enthusiastic at times, diving into 2 races in a weekend and I’ve found that these are perfect for that. I won my first local trail race in these, a day after running a half-marathon. I’ve also completed an ultra-trail, coming in 3rd. Compared to my other trail shoes, these tackle slippery rocks and hard packed trail better than any other pair I have in my collection. I’m still enjoying the race-lace system, while my partner has swapped for more traditional laces. I’ve also kept the paper thin insoles my Huaka’s originally came with, while he has experienced slipping and discomfort in the toe box making him try different insoles. Although, often caked in mud these days, my Huakas are still lightweight, versatile, in good condition and highly recommended.
Find out more about the Huaka and other Hoka One One shoes here.