Charlotte Grainger

HOKA One One Review: The Maximalist Running Shoe

“Radical change often comes about in trying to solve a simple problem. Our original goal was to improve endurance race times by designing a shoe to go downhill faster. In doing so, we inadvertently reinvented the running shoe.”  - HOKA

Hailing from the French Alps, co-founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud set out with one mission: radical change. The sports-loving duo were both heavily involved in trail running - a high endurance activity that involves running up steep hills - or, indeed, mountains - and back down them again. Needless to say, it’s a challenging sport. It can also be extremely dangerous, especially if you don’t have the right gear to support you. 

The pair initially had the idea to make shoes for themselves; to design trail running shoes that ticked every box. They were the right people for the job since they knew the sport inside and out. With that in mind, they set about creating a lightwear shoe that offered the most flexibility. That combination meant that a runner's motion could be continuous.

hoka one one shoes

INSPIRED BY SURFING, SKIING, CYCLING AND MORE

“Our design ethos owes as much to surfing, skiing and cycling as running, and the patented elements we incorporated into the original shoe - aka the Hoka One One ® difference - influences every shoe we build.”

One of the main things that sets HOKA One One aside from similar brands is its inspiration. When Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud were coming up with the concept for these unique running shoes, they drew inspiration from a variety of sports, including cycling, skiing, and surfing. All of the above have sport-specific gear that has been designed to suit the discipline. The co-founders saw that there was a gap in the market when it came to running shoes, and they were more than confident they could fill it. 

Despite starting out as a trail running shoe, these trainers are ideal for a wide variety of running disciplines. Thanks to the high levels of durability and quality, you can be sure that the shoes offer the support, flexibility and comfort that you need. As the co-founders simply put it, “it turns out that redesigning a shoe that helps an athlete tackle 100 miles in challenging conditions can help all runners perform.”

hoka one one

WHAT MAKES HOKA ONE ONE SHOES UNIQUE?

Looking to treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes? You may be wondering what it is that makes the HOKA One One range unique. Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud worked on just two prototypes before committing to a final trail running shoe design. The traits are aptly positioned to make running up steep terrain easier than ever. 

First of all, each of these running shoes has a high level of cushioning, which supports the feet and provides a level of comfort. The team decided to use lightweight materials and included a lighter sole than you would typically see on running shoes. Let’s face it, when you’re looking at a gruelling run, the last thing you need is something weighing you down. 

The final piece of the equation is a rocker in the midsole. This addition means that switching from side-to-side and battling even the most difficult of terrain is more than possible. The underlying concept is to make your run feel as effortless as possible. 

Since the product launched, the founders have constantly been tinkering with the grip-, chipping away at it until it’s perfected. That detailing means that runners can maintain momentum stride to stride and move swiftly without fear. According to HOKA, this makes for a “sensation that feels more like flying” than it does running.

hoka one one shoes

HOKA ONE ONE TRAINER FEATURES

Before you take the plunge and invest in a pair of HOKA One One shoes, you might want to know what features you can expect. Design is everything here. The co-founders have poured their efforts into creating a shoe that enhances every aspect of running. 

  • Cushioned Midsole

Expect a lot of cushioning. Boasting extreme levels of shock absorption, comfort and support, the ultra-light midsoles make all the difference. The soles offer varying degrees of thickness that are ideal for both trail runners and everyday urban runners alike. 

  • Meta-Rocker

Positioned in the midsole, the meta-rocker is a real geometric feat. The concept is that this complements the natural gait cycle allowing you to propel forward in a smooth motion. As a bonus, this feature is said to reduce the height difference between the heel and toe.

  • Active Foot Frame

Also known as the ‘bucket seat’, the active foot frame works like a race car. That means that it embeds the foot securely with as much support as you need. The heel is cradled by the shape of the shoe, meaning that your feet are safe and protected at all times. 

  • PROFLY™ Intelligent Cushioning

As if that weren’t enough, the midsole is split into two parts. That means that it delivers a quick responsive toe-off and a cushioned landing to boot. The makers say that this combination provides a soft and snappy movement, supercharging your next run. 

  • J-FRAME™ Stability with Freedom

Overpronation happens when your foot moves inward as you run. It’s a common problem that many of us face. Luckily, HOKA One One has a feature to combat that issue. The J-Frame™ offers support with firmer foam on the medial site - where the foot tends to roll.

  • Carbon Fibre Plate 

The carbon fibre plate sits within the midsole of select models such as the Carbon X. This feature of HOKA One One shoes is designed to help you move from gait cycle to cycle without any friction or resistance. The plate curls under your toes, which means that you get a smoother transition and run.

  • HUBBLE HEEL®

While we’re on the topic of smooth transitions, it would be a mistake not to mention the HUBBLE HEEL®. The design limits the impact as you run, which means that you get an easy heel-to-toe transition as you move. The heel extends out at the back to support you.

WHICH HOKA SHOE IS BEST FOR YOU?

Hoka’s ever-expanding range offers a shoe for all your running needs: from race-ready trainers to the workhorse shoe perfect for everyday miles. Let’s take a look at some of the signature styles and outline its unique features.

hoka one one clifton 8

Clifton 8 

If you're getting serious about your mileage, the Clifton 8 offers a smooth, stable and fast ride. The Clifton 8 is the latest iteration of this winning formula of cushion and responsiveness. It’s made to help you reach new horizons with a more responsive midsole than its predecessor, high-abrasion rubber and breathable engineered mesh upper.

Despite the bouncy stack of 33.7mm of foam and 5mm drop, it is surprisingly lightweight. At 215g, the Clifton 8 weighs in well below the 252g of another run cult favourite for the everyday training shoe: the Nike Pegasus 28. 

What it is:

  • Comfortable treat for the feet
  • Great workhorse shoe for everyday training runs and distance
  • Allrounder
  • Impressive durability
  • Neutral ride
  • Great value

What it isn’t:

  • Raceday shoe

hoka one one bondi 7

Bondi 7

Supreme cushioning makes the Bondi 7 ideal for road runs. It has a number of plush details; including a padded collar, ultra-soft memory foam, full EVA midsole and Meta-Rocker technology for a smooth ride.

It is truly a maximalist shoe: a dream for those seeking a plush ride, and the nightmare of a barefoot runner. Unlike the Clifton 8 – the other mileage MVP in the Hoka fleet – the outsole of the Bondi 7 does not feature any rubber exterior, meaning its ultra-cushioned ride comes at the expense of durability. It is specifically made for long runs and recovery runs, making it less of a training day shoe and more of a spa day.

What it is:

  • Highly cushioned
  • Comfortable and stable
  • Great for heel strikers
  • Recovery and distance cruiser

What it isn’t:

  • Lightweight (252g)
  • A durable training shoe

hoka one one mach 4

Mach 4

Engineered with PROFLY™ technology, the Mach 4 is lively, light and responsive. With an energetic underfoot feel and multiple foams for a soft landing, these Hoka running trainers make for an unmissable everyday running shoe.

The Mach 4 has the softness underfoot that Hoka has become known for, with enough stiffness in the build that it can handle the pace being pushed. It’s nimble, and remarkably lightweight (192g), making it an ideal choice for faster days.

What it is:

  • Stable and sturdy
  • Lightweight
  • Speedy
  • Comfortable 

What it isn’t:

  • Long distance training shoe

hoka one one arahi 6

Arahi 6

Get maximum cushioning with minimal weight in the Arahi trainers. Breathable, resilient and intuitive, this design alleviates pressure on the Achilles for extreme comfort on the longest runs.

The Arahi 6 is Hoka’s hybrid of a distance and speed trainer. It is soft, responsive, but firm enough to be capable of faster runs. It's a versatile model which one could rightly compare to the Clifton 8. Where the Clifton is Hoka’s neutral, allround shoe, the Arahi responds with a stability option.

What it is:

  • Lightweight (216g)
  • Stability shoe
  • Distance and medium speed shoe

What it isn’t:

  • Super cushioned

hoka one one kawana

Kawana

The newest model in the Hoka One One lineup is the Kawana. The Kawana fits somewhere in between the Clifton 8 and Bondi 7. It’s designed to be a comfortable, springy, and versatile allrounder that can crossover as a gym training model.

Built for your run and life beyond, the KAWANA has an all-new modified crash pad for softer transitions, signature HOKA cushioning and a responsive SwallowTail heel. All of this allows you to seamlessly transition from run to workout.

What it is:

  • Reasonably lightweight (237g)
  • Versatile running and gym training shoe
  • Comfortable with semi-firm midsole
  • Midrange shoe

What it isn’t:

  • Stability shoe
  • As plush as other Hoka models

hoka one one shoes

ARE HOKA ONE ONE SHOES TRUE TO SIZE?

Ready to get your hands on some HOKA One One shoes? You’re going to need to get the size right. Reviews suggest that most runners should opt for half a size up when buying from this brand. However, your needs may vary and it’s always worth doing your research.

The HOKA One One website has a handy guide about sizing information. It doesn’t end there. There’s also a wealth of information about how to measure your own feet and how to convert sizes from around the world. Put simply, you should have no problem here.

ARE HOKA ONE ONE PRODUCTS ECO-FRIENDLY?

HOKA One One scores three out of five on Good on You and is dubbed ‘not good enough’. The sustainability-rating site states that while the company uses some eco-friendly and recycled materials, there is no evidence that this minimises waste. When it comes to water wastage, there is also no evidence that the company has strategies or initiatives in place to lower its impact. Additionally, there is no evidence that the company is taking measures to combat deforestation. Put simply, there’s a lot of room for improvement here. 

hoka one one shoes

DOES HOKA PROTECT ANIMALS?

The short answer is yes - or, at least, the company is moving in the right direction here. The HOKA One One brand has an official animal welfare policy, which aligns with the Five Freedoms. Good on You rated the company as ‘it’s a start’ when it comes to protecting the rights of animals. The company does not use angora, fur or exotic animal skin in any of its products. What’s more, they trace some of their animal products from the first stage of production. The brand uses wool from non-mulesed sheep and some leather too.

THE TAKEAWAY! 

There’s never been a better time to upgrade your running gear. Whether you’re running down by the Thames or up and down mountains, the HOKA One One shoes have you covered. Why not take a look at the full collection here and see which ones suit you?