I can’t remember the last time I wore a road shoe for trail running. In fact, I never have. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Due to life circumstances I have to put more time on the pavement than I’d wish. It’s okay. Feet on the ground equals happiness. My body was just not digging all the road running in trail shoes….Off to Fleet Feet.
We’ve interviewed both Dave Mackey and Catra Corbett about how much they love running in Hokas. A lot of my running friends swear by them, so much, it was tough to ignore. Will they live up to the testimonials and the hype? Well, they felt great on my virgin Hoka run around the running store, but how would they measure up after a few weeks on the trail?
Out of the Box
“NICE CLOWN SHOES!” – Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Yes, they look like clown shoes. THEY’RE HUGE! Look at the size of that thing!! These Hokas offer a 6mm heel to toe drop. The soles are very wide, widest I’ve ever encountered. The sole is tall, 32 mm under the heel and 26 mm under the metatarsal. They’re light! 10.5 ounces for a size 9. They’re breathable. The upper is mesh with leather protecting the toe box.
What Lies Beneath
The Stinson’s tread is great for road, but as you can see, it makes for a wild ride on the trail. Running through slick mud is challenging and requires nimble feet and good balance. I did not feel like I was in control of my run in muddy trail conditions. I may be exaggerating a little, but it is like having waterskis attached to your feet. Using caution when planting your foot is a must. I know I’m using a road shoe on trail, so it is unfair to criticize.
You do actually bounce in these shoes. I found myself gliding towards the ends of my longer runs, something I haven’t felt for a long time. Another thing which was unexpected was the rush from running downhill. The very nature of these shoes makes it difficult for me to run with my forefoot, so now I’m landing in my mid-foot and heel to toe on downhills. Its in the heel to toe strike that gives you a rocking sensation and what makes running downhill so much fun. Normally at the bottom of the hill your pace levels off, but not in Hokas, your momentum keeps going…..and going.
The shoe width does present a pro and a con. The con: You have to be more mindful of where you are planting your foot on uneven, technical terrain. Running trail is different experience and takes practice and getting use to. The pro: These are foot sized tanks. You can pretty much run over any thing you want. Bed of loose rocks? No problem. While others are tip-toeing, you are running with wild abandonment.
Leather and Laces
I am not a fan of the quick draw lacing system here. All laces come loose, that is just a fact. But these laces come loose too often for me. My foot does feel loose in the shoe and combine that with a loose lacing system and you got yourself an unconfident runner. Another reason why I do not like the quick draw… What if it breaks? Hoka does provide you with a regular pair of laces for us anti-quick draw luddites. I do appreciate the two black straps to secure the quick draw, but wonder if there is potential to hook these on debris.
Are We There Yet?
Earlier, I sang the praises of running downhill. Running uphill does take more effort for me in these shoes. They’re not heavy shoes. For me, because they are wider shoe it is a larger drag area to get planted and back up again. I hope that makes sense. Uphill runs do feel like they take more effort. Will this effort make me a stronger runner? Will I have calfs of the gods? I doubt it. If it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger. Right?
My Overall Takeaway
Prior to being a Hoka runner, I was in a runner’s rut. Pounding pavement in trail shoes was tearing up my body. It had to stop. I’m running happy again, thanks to Hoka. Despite some drawbacks and challenges, I’m having fun and that’s what it’s all about. I’m not obsessed with setting a PR, or qualifying for anything (other than WS). I just want to run healthy and happy. I’m well on the way. Join me.