Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Hoka One One Review

Hoka One One Stinson Evo Review

After careful consideration I decided to buy the Hoka One One Stinson Evo. These shoes have been gaining increasing levels of attention amongst the Ultra Running Community.
Why was this show gaining so much attention? Perhaps it's down to the success of runners such as Mimi Anderson and Karl Meltzer. The talent of such runners is undeniable and both are huge advocates for the Hoka. If this was not the reason perhaps it is the design of the shoe. They are a stand out from the crowd, although some people have called them clown shoes, I really like the design. Maybe the tag line "Time to Fly" was selling the shoe? After all when running an Ultra who wouldn't want to feel like they were flying?!

The other possibility was that the shoe is just that damn good. I was hoping that this comment would be the real reason. I don't want to be buying a shoe just because someone else wears them or because of a snappy tag line. To be quite honest they can look like a dogs dinner as long as they are comfortable to run in. As a result I was pinning my hopes to the fact the shoe is just "that damn good."

In trying to make my decision it did not get any easier. This is a shoe that is well above the average cost of a pair of running shoes. Generally i pay in the region of £50-£80 depending on whether I can get the end of a line in my size. Cursed with size 12 feet I rarely get an end of line sale. Regardless of the spectrum of costs the Hoka commands a much higher price tag of around £120. In effect I am being asked to pay 33% more for the shoe. So I was left querying if they could be 33% better than my previous shoes. Until this point I was making a transition from my Inov8 319's to the Brooks Pure Grit.

Both the 319 and the Pure Grit are good shoes, but not without their issues. I find the 319 to be very heavy and does not support me in a mid foot strike. The 319 also gives me horrendous blisters. The Pure Grit is a lovely shoes, however I find that after 3 miles my feet are sore and by 10 miles my feet are throbbing. The Pure Grit is also no good, in my opinion, on the road.

I am keen therefore to find a shoe that is;

1. Comfortable
2. Relatively stable
3. Good on road and trail
4. Good over long distances

The research I had conducted
Suggested the Hoka may be a solution to my needs.

I spoke to many people about the shoe. Despite the growing awareness of the show it seems that for every person who loves them there is someone who is relatively apathetic for the shoe. At £120 I cannot afford to be apathetic.

The running community were as ever very helpful in assisting in my decision. As ever Sue and Martin Like of Likeys were particularly helpful and forthcoming with information.

I have looked into the shoe, researched it and looked into it some more. Ideally I wanted to visit Likeys and try them, but I could not find the time to get to Wales and wanted to be able to break a pair of shoes in before the Beacons Ultra in November. Eventually I plumped to give the shoes a try. The main reason being that those who were not fans generally seemed to be indifferent about the shoe whereas those who liked them were verging on Fanboys. I have been told try these shoes and you will never go back. I hoped this would be true and so with baited breath spent another week toying between the Stinson Evo and the Mafate2. Eventually I decided that the Stinson Evo was probably a better overall shoe. With that decision taken I searched for the cheapest deal which I'm pleased to say was on the Likeys website. Pleased because it meant I got the best deal possible and also I have always had outstanding service from Sue, Martin and their team. So I registered my card and paid the £121.49

As ever with Likeys the delivery was prompt. I ordered them one day and received them the next. I was now ready and excited to try the shoes and bring my review of them to anyone who cares to read it.

Before I review let me just provide a brief run down of my running experience and physical health. I believe it is relevant to the review.
I have a history of being very active. My running CV is relatively short. I used to be an active participant in Taekwondo and reached black tag. I started running in 2008 and in completed the Eastbourne and Hastings half marathons in 2hr14 and 2hr7 respectively.

At the end of 2008 I injured my left ankle. In performing a jumping Kick at Taekwodo I landed on the side of my foot and my ankle went one way and my body the other. The consequence being a grade two tear of my ATF Ligament. I have not done Taekwondo since and have carefully nursed my ankle back to running. Last year being my first ever Ultra in November, Beacons Ultra. In Fact last year was the first time I have completed a marathon. Despite training and progressing with strength work my ankle remains a weak point for me and something I'm mindful of when selecting footwear. I am also not a slim runner at 6ft and 14stone (14st11 before starting Likeys 365 challenge) With this in mind I was extra cautious with the Hoka as some people have spoken about rolling their ankle in the shoe.

Initial Impressions

Upon arriving I have to say I was delighted with the shoes. It is clear that they are bigger than most other shoes.

Above is the Hoka and Pure Grit

It is clear that there is a sizeable difference in the shoes. It is fairly easy to see why people identify this as Maximalist Running. There is a plethora of cushioning within the shoe and so it seems inevitable that it would look like a bigger shoe. Some people may not like it and I guess these are the people that see them as clown shoes. I personally love the look. As mentioned before though I'm looking for an effective shoe not a pretty shoe.

The shoe has speed lacing. It's not speed Lacing in the traditional sense. The laces take a little time to get tight, but they look good and appear to have a good locking system to keep them in place. They also don't bounce all over the place like some lacing systems.

The sole is a lot wider than other shoes. It appears to be the view that it gives an increased platform from which force can disperse.

Underside of the Stinson Evo

Again I think the underside of the shoe looks pretty good and presents as if it may have a lot of grip.

My only concern was that the body of the shoe appeared to be quite thin. The shoe looks well built and feels well built. I hope in the long run this will negate my one reservation borne out of the initial impressions.

Body of shoe seems potentially thin

The shoes sole although big still promotes a mid foot strike and encourages a roll on to the forefoot. The heel has a 4mm drop and so still follows the same ethos as many minimalist shoes in this respect.

Overall my initial impressions were good and I was excited to take the shoes out for a test run.
My initial impressions were an 8/10

Experience of the shoes

Before compiling this review I wanted to do a few test runs in the shoes. I have done several 3/4 mile runs and a few of 8+ mile runs. I have run both on the road and the trail. My trail runs have included compact tracks and dense grass and public footpaths.

In wearing the shoes I first noted that it was like putting on a pair of slippers. Very comfy and an excellent fit. I find it difficult to find a shoe that fits well. Normally I feel like I have too much room in the toe box or like the sides of my feet are being pinched. No such issues in these shoes. I generally require somewhere between an 11 and a 12. With the Hoka I have gone for a 12 and it feels like a perfect fit.

My feet feel completely secure in the shoes and there is little to no movement of the foot. With the initial comfort I was pleased by the feeling as I began to run. I can honestly say that I don't feel any loss of connection with the ground and am aware of the surface I am running on.

There is a good level of comfort whilst running. The cushioning ensures that I don't feel like my feet are pounding the streets. The sole also feels like it is actively encouraging my feet to roll onto the forefoot and I feel positively like my feet are driving forward rather than down into the ground.

Initially my runs were on the road and the comfort is good if not amazing, but step off road and the feeling of comfort magnifies ten fold. It becomes like running with slippers across cushions. I had been told they feel like running across clouds. I'm relieved to say they don't feel like this. I was concerned that such a feeling would be achieved by losing energy as the foot sinks into a cushion and thereby more energy being required to run. This is totally not the case and if anything I feel like the energy is being used more efficiently. I also think the shoes are comfy on the road, particularly when compared to other shoes.

The feeling I have when running in these shoes can only be described as like adding suspension to my feet. The feet adapt to the terrain and the cushioning is enough to generate comfort without losing an awareness of my footing.

The shoes are good on road, but excel off road. I have felt able to run faster with less impact and after runs am feeling really good and zero after effect in my legs. If you have not been running in minimalist shows before then you may notice some ache in the calf muscles initially whilst you adjust. I did not have this experience, but as mentioned have been running in Pure Grits.

These shoes are so much fun and for me are getting better the more challenging the terrain. They are particularly good running downhill as they absorb the impact so well. Little things in road running like stepping off kerbs is more comfortable and I have had no issues with my ankle at all.

A lot of people have commented about an increased propensity to roll ones ankles in these shoes. As mentioned my ankle is my weak link and touch wood I have not come close to rolling my ankle. If anything I have found a new confidence with my foot placement. I question if people are perhaps becoming over confident and if this has led to a misplaced foot and a rolling of the ankle. I believe that the shoes give an honest feedback of the ground below and so when the ankle moves it's because the ground is changing. For me if I'm listening to my body then this feedback allows me to manage the terrain and 'fly' over it. Just remember to stride over tree roots and obstacles and you will be fine. No shoe in the world is going to stop you falling if you trap your foot on a tree root. Equally leaping and striding in these shoes is a lot fun.

The further I go in these shoes the more I am in love with them. I have yet to do a 20 plus mile run in them, but as soon as I do I will update my views.

At the moment I am loving my running and loving running in the hoka. It's providing a good foundation for my running and I'm having some real fun with them. They give grip, but not too much. The lugs almost feel slightly sticky lifting of the ground and this seems to give added traction. Like a lot of shoes they are a little awkward on wet slippery mud. The lugs clear mud well ands as such I have avoided the feeling of running with bricks on my feet.

The shoe has a good balance of function and weight. The shoe is surprisingly light. It's a great shoe and i can't wait to run the Beacons Ultra in them.

Overall it's early days but I love the feel of the shoe and am a big fan. Not quite a Fan Boy but definitely getting there. If the durability stands up then I will definitely be investing in another pair when these need replacing.

Happy Running Everyone!

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