I can honestly say I never thought I’d be a Hoka person.
I am completely and utterly embarrassed by ever having that idea now; there’s a huge part of me that’s internally kicking myself for not jumping on the wagon sooner.
Clown shoes, whatever. I’ll gladly trade plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuromas, general “bottom of my feet pain after a 50-miler” any day for soft, cushy pillows like the Rapa Nui 2′s. They’re surprisingly lightweight, at just 10.8 ounces per shoe. For that amount of cushioning (which really translates to “piece of mind” when running an ultra, let’s be honest) I think that’s pretty light. For a comparison, my Pearl Izumi eMotion Trail N1′s are 9.8 ounces and I’d say the Hokas are much cushier for that extra ounce. More bounce to the ounce, y’all.
The lacing system- at first I was definitely WTF’ing these, but they’ve grown on me. I can just use the lace pull-cord thingy and forget about them. That’s a bonus that was unexpected, I thought for sure I’d be putting in the extra “regular” laces in about a week, but not the case.
I’ve said it probably 10 times already, but can you say cushioning? Holy moly, my feet can pound the downhills in these and it’s like each step is softer than the one before. With 26 mm under my heel (and 21 at the forefoot) there’s a lot to land on, and with the rocker-shaped outsole my feet are more or less propelled forward from midfoot to toe-off. If anyone has ever seen me run downhill, it can only be described as “oh man, he’s gonna die; or hopefully he blows his quads up”. Well, the Hokas (for me) add not only the ability to handle the technical, breakneck speeds of said descents but also give me that added piece of mind I mentioned before.
They’ve also just been out in the mud with me and they provided adequate grip; almost too good (I still have yet to find a shoe that “sheds” the mud clods), so they passed the crappy weather test. They drained pretty well and as of 18 hours later they’re completely dry.
So we come to the final factor in determining a shoe’s value; price. Clocking in at $130 it looks pretty steep, but I’m thinking these have a slightly longer life than your average trail shoe; I usually put about 400 miles on a shoe before I deem it “done”. This remains to be seen, but at just over 100 miles they still feel like the day I took them out of the box.
And I can not reiterate enough times that the piece of mind I have in these bad boys is pretty priceless; I’m talking jagged, sharp rocks having no effect on the outsoles whatsoever. I can see these coming in really handy at mile 45 (and beyond) when the legs are a little extra heavy and the brain is getting a little funky and I’m just like “oh, fuck this”; I feel as though I will have the confidence to step on that gnarly-looking serrated barb of protruding shale (that might otherwise shred a normal running shoe as well as my foot inside) and not have to think twice about it.
So there you have it- my first foray into the maximalist running shoe world. This time last year I was dealing with shin splints and the bottom of my feet always hurt. I was pretty much just wearing the New Balance Minimus 10 Trail and its slightly more beefy cousin the MT 110, and while I think those are great shoes for building leg strength and working on running form while on shorter runs, they didn’t help me for the amount of mileage I was looking to do.