Hoka One One came into my life about 2-3 years ago when Jeff showed them to us via social media. My face looked like the Nile River with a cascade of tears from laughing so hard. I immediately started calling him Neil Armstrong because they looked like moon boots. Not long after that Kevin began sporting them. The raves and reviews permeated every conversation. I would hear things like:
- I recover so much faster.
- I do not feel the pounding on my legs like I do with my other shoes.
The incessant chanting of positive thoughts was thrust into every conversation we had about these ridiculous looking shoes. Before I knew it Karen purchased a pair after talking to Jeff (I tell you he could convince eskimos that ice was the ideal solution to any problem they had and they would pay for it. See Rocky Raccoon 50.) Then the claims from Karen were too hard to ignore but I fought it. I loved my Brooks Launch, and still do. EMZ began wearing them and she too lauded over how great her legs felt after running with them. KC, of the Ironman Chattanooga Challenge, became the next convert and all the sudden I was faced with a tribe of people I respected telling me that the Hoka One One was the shoe to end all shoes. Not exactly that way but their claims of fast recovery and ability to go longer without issues started to pique my interest.
When Rocky Raccoon 50 training started I did not own a pair but after the first week of 50+ miles after not having run 50+ miles in two months combined led me to the decision to get a pair. I knew that in order to survive the training that RR50 was throwing at me I would need the ability to take as much off of my legs as I possibly could. I had pairs of compression socks already but that wasn’t enough. I was eating properly after every long run but that wasn’t enough. Convinced that this was the right move I ordered the Mafate. Soon thereafter I ordered the Stinson. Let it be known that today I am a Hoka One One convert and here is why.
I purchased the Hoka One One Mafate for the specific reason of using them for Rocky Raccoon 50 on February 8. The Mafate has lugs on them that make them ideal for running trails but I figured I could also use them on the road. The description on the Hoka One One site says:
The ideal shoe for ULTRA marathon runners looking for a lightweight, stable and performance cushion running shoe that can hammer the down hills and make it easier charging the up hills.
I figured I would have zero issues running the roads and since the training for RR50 involves charging uphills and sprinting downhills I couldn’t have found a better shoe than this one correct? Wrong. This shoe is tremendous and I absolutely love it but not for the road. The lugs do as they are intended and grab the road, which is ideal on a trail but not great on concrete. I felt as if I were pulling my legs up just to get the lugs to release. Now, this may have all been in my head but it was enough to throw me off as I was running in them.
I put on a total of 33 miles in the Mafate but after the first run I felt sharp pains in my right foot after about 6 miles. I would keep going and within 0.5-1 mile the pain would go away. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it is about them but when I went back to the Brooks Launch that pain in my foot did not exist. It had to be the shoes and more specifically using a trail shoe on the road. In addition to the lugs I had to get used to the heel-toe drop. The Brooks Launch which I have been using for the past 3 years is a 9.5mm drop while the Hoka One One Mafate 3 is a 4mm drop. While the shoe looks like a boot and has tons of cushioning it is actually a very minimal shoe in terms of the heel-toe drop and this was something I had to adjust to.
While the foot pain was evident after about 5 miles and last for up to a mile what I did notice was that my legs were not fried. I have done 4 runs in the Mafate 3 up to this point with the maximum being 12 miles and all the others being recovery runs after longer days or long weekends and my legs did not feel like I assumed I would from the pounding that they were taking. I was becoming more and more convinced of the magical powers of the Hoka One One. Despite the frustration of the foot issue I was sold on the shoe as a great long run shoe as well as recovery shoe and purchased the Stinson which is more of a road shoe.
I was like Ralphie from A Christmas Story when the Hoka One One Stinson showed up at my doorstep. I could not wait to rip open the box and get them on my feet as fast as I possibly could. I poured over my training plan to try to figure out the best day to wear them and when I figured it out I laid them out like a bride lays out her wedding dress the night before the big day. They may even have sparkled. I was excited and when I put them on for the first time I was greeted with the feeling of pillows on my feet. Could this really be? Could these shoes that looked like cinder blocks actually weight next to nothing? They sure felt like it but let’s go take them for a test ride.
The Hoka One One slogan is Time To Fly and with the first few steps that is exactly how I felt. It was December 19th and I had run 174.45 miles since November 25 and was averaging nearly 54 miles over those 3 weeks. My legs were beginning to get tired and I was starting to get cranky. On this run I managed to bang out 6 miles at an extremely low HR of 140 bpm with not even the thought of my legs feeling tired. The shoes were doing what they were intended to do and that was to provide cushioning to my legs and feet. I felt like I was running on air and felt very fast in comparison to the miles on Monday thru Wednesday of that week. The best part was that I did not experience any form of stabbing sensation in my feet. I was getting more and more convinced that these were going to be my long road and recovery run shoes. I would wear the Hoka One One Mafate 3 on the trails and the Brooks Launch on the treadmill.
The Stinson has heel-toe drop of 6mm which is slightly bigger than the Mafate 3 but much less than the Brooks Launch. Rotating all three shoes through my training would allow me to strengthen my feet and calves from different perspectives and I believe that this is also contributing to my fast recovery. At this point I have run 23 miles in the Stinson with the longest being 12 miles and each run has felt good to great along with no issues the next day in terms of my legs feeling warn out.
Hoka One One Conclusion
The Hoka One One shoe is for real. While they may look like clown shoes they do what they are intended to do and that is to provide cushioning. Heading toward a weekend where I will run 23 miles on the trails in the Mafate 3 and 12 miles on the road in the Stinson I am excited because I know that while my legs will be tired they will not be thrashed as if I were to only wear one type of shoe that has less cushioning.
The combination of the different heel-toe drop and the 23mm of cushioning make the Hoka One One a shoe that is ideal for long runs and recovery runs. Of course, like any other shoe you need to test them to make sure they not only fit you properly but provide the support that you need. The Mafate is neutral shoe that weight 14.7 oz while the Stinson is also a neutral shoe that weighs 11.9 oz. The Brooks Launch weigh 9.3 oz but they feel heavier and that is most likely due to the pounding your feet and legs feel on each foot fall thanks to the ‘lack’ of cushioning in comparison to the Hoka One One line of shoes.
In the end I think I have the right combination of shoes for my running. The difference in weight coupled with the difference in heel-toe drop added to the difference in cushioning between each shoe is allowing me to maximize my recovery while building strength for the ultra run training I am doing. As a matter of fact I think that the Stinson could be in my changing bag when I race Ironman Chattanooga in September of 2014 because of the comfort of the shoe coupled with the cushioning it will afford my legs after 112 miles of biking.