I always secretly made fun of people wearing Hokas, but in the back of my mind I wanted to see what they were all about and since Phil over at Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle had been raving about the Huaka I decided to give them a shot.
With weight of 9.3 oz for a men's size 9, a 2mm drop and an MSRP of $150 we have the HOKA ONE ONE Huaka.
I don't mean to start this review on the wrong foot, but to me the upper is a mess. It is too constricting around the widest part of my foot (the 5th met head) yet somehow feels sloppy throughout the rest. The tongue is long and made of sharp material which jabs into the top of my foot/ankle when wearing low cut socks and only gets remedied when it slides down the side of my foot during a run, which isn't really comfortable either. There is also a plastic eyelet above my first metatarsal head that protrudes on the inside of the shoe causing irritation which left me with a blister on a few runs. And they have speed laces, which I hate; they are uncomfortable and I trust them about as much as I trust cats.
When I put this shoe on for my first run I almost turned around immediately to take them off. Everyone raved about the wide upper, but I have an average foot (D Width) and felt a very tight and almost painful feeling on both feet. The Huaka comes with 2 insoles, one is very thin and the other is slightly thicker and a little more supportive. So when I got home I tried switching to the thinner insole to alleviate the the pressure, but that caused my foot to sink too low causing pressure and irritation around my ankle bone (don't know the medical term for that bone). So I removed the speed laces and put in the regular laces with the thicker insoles, which was the best out of all of the options/combinations. After about 40 miles, the shoes broke in and felt a bit more comfortable and the constricting feeling went away, but I almost gave up on them before that.
My biggest problem with the upper is that I don't think you should have to choose combinations of insoles and laces to get a decent fit; a good shoe should fit well right out of the box. I really wish I had better things to say about the upper, but keep reading because this shoe does shine in certain areas.
Ah the midsole!!! The ride is phenomenal! They have a stack height of 27mm/25mm for a 2mm offset with Hoka's "Meta Rocker Design". The slight curvature of the midsole, paired with the cushy ride, feels like nothing else I've ever ran in. They make the road feel like trails and the trails feel like pillows. And because of the Meta Rocker design, the transition from foot strike to toe off is flawless.
I was pleasantly surprised with how they performed on technical trails as well. Hoka designs their shoes to let your foot sit low in the platform giving you a stable ride. That, coupled with a wide contact area on the outsole, provides a truly secure feeling on mixed terrain. They also feel like they have tremendous energy return, especially on ascents, which is something I really enjoyed.
The outsole has high abrasion rubber contact points on the heel and forefoot where most runners would get the most wear. As mentioned above, it also has a very wide contact area which provides a stable ride. For the trails they feature super shallow multi directional lugs, but I wouldn't really consider them trail worthy. They're useless in the mud and felt no different than any other road shoe I would trail run in. However, the outsole seems durable and is holding up really well after roughly 100 miles.
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