HOKA: A runner’s guide

Published 11th January 2021 by mymo

We’ve done shoe reviews on Nike, ASICS and New Balance and now it’s HOKA’s turn. 

HOKA One One translates as ‘fly over the Earth’ and a quick search of their shoes, athletes and ambassadors will bring up the regular hashtag #TimeToFly.

Since their inception in 2009, HOKA have been leaders in ultra and trail running, and in the last five years have made an impact on road running too. HOKA athletes range from ultra marathon champions, to track communities, to middle distance runners, everything in between and all over the world. Cardiff AC athlete Jenny Nesbitt, a GB international and Commonwealth Games finalist, is just one British runner you will see in HOKA shoes and apparel, and we spoke to her for this piece.

Jenny Nesbitt: photo credit Matthew Lofthouse

The brand is one you can’t and shouldn’t ignore when you start looking for your next pair of running shoes.

Clifton 

Clifton is now into version 7. This popular neutral shoe is a favourite with road runners largely due to reportedly great fit and superb cushioning to see them through many miles. Clifton is perhaps the most recognised of HOKA shoes, and most recently the Clifton Edge has been added to the collection with a stand-out extended heel said to make landing even softer (if that is possible?!) 

Jenny Nesbitt comments:

“The Clifton 7 is my go to mileage shoe. Having gone through every edition of the Clifton model since the Clifton 3, I can safely say these shoes will not let you down. I feel it provides the right amount of cushion, but still allows me to ‘feel the ground’. I tend to wear two pairs of these on rotation for nearly all my everyday mileage, retiring them somewhere around 500 miles.”

Rocket X

It was only a matter of time before HOKA got on the carbon plate promise to runners with a lightweight carbon race shoe. Rocket X now on its second version is super light and fast, and HOKA athletes have been sharing fast racing and workout posts wearing them in recent months. Rocket X is HOKA’s stand out race shoe, although Rincon have given this title a run for its money. Jenny Nesbitt has worn the Rocket X for everything from 5K racing, to reps on the road, track sessions, to pacing at the Elite London Marathon in 2020. 

Jenny is a huge fan of Rocket X, saying:

“Hands down HOKAs best racing flat! What I particularly like about the Rocket X is the closeness it has to a traditional racing flat. The carbon plate gives a really responsive and efficient return off the ground, with the rocker in Carbon X 2 being slightly less aggressive compared to the Carbon X. Another element of the shoe I really like is its traction with the ground, meaning it really is able to offer its best in all weather conditions.”

Arahi

“This is potentially HOKAs best stability shoe”, comments Jenny. “The responsive cushioning within this shoe again helps you feel closer to the ground, giving you an efficient response off the floor.” Arahi definitely looks the part and you can’t easily see the difference between these and the neutral shoes on offer from Hoka. Now in the 4th edition, Ahari is a best seller and another HOKA that has improved with each edition. 

Bondi

Bondi is by far the most cushioned HOKA shoe designed for the road and for any distance. Now in version 7, Bondi has improved in many areas including fit, and is a really popular choice with runners needing a softer landing. Feedback shows that they’ve made some great improvements to this one. 

Jenny comments:

“This is HOKAs most cushioned shoe, and one I wear for real recovery runs or warm ups/warm downs. It is particularly great for when my calves are feeling a little delicate after a hard session, and with its new heel cuff, really secures your foot, something I thought the previous model lacked.”

Challenger 

Challenger is a popular trail shoe from HOKA that offers easy transition if runners have to use sections of path or road in their trail adventures. It comes in GORE-TEX version which offers further waterproofing in the outer sole. Unlike Speedgoat, Challenger doesn’t contain the Vibram sole so it has reportedly less grip than its counterpart. The smooth feel and low drop again means this is a shoe that shouldn’t feel markedly different to wearing a HOKA road shoe, as well as having a similar price. 

Speedgoat 

Named after legendary Ultra athlete Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, the Speedgoat is perhaps the most well-known of HOKA’s off road shoes. Speedgoat are a lightweight and low drop shoe that are said to feel like road shoes while offering superb grip on the trails. Version 4 features a wider forefoot and great breathability, while the eye catching colour ways will stand out at a start line. The stand out feature though of Speedgoat is the Vibram sole said to provide outstanding grip in wet conditions.

If the man who has won the most 100 mile trail races on Earth is happy to put his name to them, they must be a pretty good shoe.

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