Earlier last year I was given the opportunity to try out some Hoka trainers. Unfortunately, coinciding with the training peak for my first marathon wasn’t great timing to try something new.
I gave the Conquest 2 road shoes a shot but they were nothing like I expected them to be. The Challenger trail version were much more comfortable but mara-noia meant I was steering clear of trails.
So when I was approached to try a pair of Hoka Clifton 2 I was reluctant to give them a shot. I did have another idea following a conversation with Jacqui, a fellow Witney Road Runner, who had heard great things about Hokas and was keen to give them a go.
Here’s what Jacqui had to say:
“Having previously come across the Hoka One One shoes online, and read numerous reports about the advantages of the maximum cushioning that they offered, I had been very keen to try them.
However, although I do normally buy running shoes online, as the Hoka’s are reportedly somewhat different from the shoes that I have recently been wearing, I was reluctant to shell out circa £100 on them without trying them first. Unfortunately the nearest stockists I could find were 40 miles away and although I was willing to travel in order to try the shoes, when I called, neither had the style/size I was looking for. My enthusiasm had waned just a little. Therefore, when given the opportunity to try a pair for free in return for writing a review you could say that I literally jumped at the chance.
During my 10 years of running, I have tried numerous brands, styles and even sizes of running shoes. Neutral, support, lightweight, racers, minimalist, barefoot, men’s shoes, ladies shoes – you name them and I’ve probably tried them in an attempt to find a shoe that works for me. I’ve also had numerous gait analyses done and as a result also tried standard insoles as well as custom made orthotics.
All this in the simple hope of stopping or at least reducing the blisters that are just a normal weekly occurrence (under my toes, under my toes nails on the sides of my feet and under the balls of my feet) and stopping the “burn” on the balls of my feet.
I’ve also tried powders to keep my feet dry, gels to keep them lubricated, blister plasters, standard plasters, numerous types of tape as well as many, many types of different socks. I can honestly say that I still haven’t managed to find a shoe that actually enables me to run totally pain and blister free for any length of time.
The problem, or so I have been told, is my somewhat odd running style. Firstly I run on my toes, my heels very rarely touch the ground at all – the heels of my running shoes are still pristine after 6 months whereas the outside of the forefoot is mashed down with the tread being completely worn away on the outside edges. This coupled with the fact that my toes themselves are very long (my 2nd and 3rd toes are longer than my big toe!!) is what causes me to have issues that I do.
So no pressure Hoka!
I’ve seen pictures of the Hokas online so when I took these out of their box, I was not at all put off by their somewhat chunky appearance or the comments from others like “you are not actually going to wear those in public are you?” So let’s just say that I don’t think these are going to win any awards on the sports fashion catwalk.
They do look considerably chunkier than most running shoes and the sole definitely appears much deeper when compared to the more common brands. However, the blue and green design was not too bad and let’s face it, after a few winter miles and puddles who actually cares about what they look like anyway?
Ok, so these are probably at the top end of the scale (circa £100) but still comparable with top of the range shoes in other brands so I would definitely be prepared to pay this for a comfortable shoe.
Somewhat surprisingly, and despite their chunky design, they actually feel very light when you hold them as well as once you have them on your feet. They easily felt the same or even lighter than my current Nike Pegasus. I also expected to feel a little taller in them due to the height of the sole but this again was not the case as your foot actually sits partway down into the sole rather than on top of it.
Fit – Size
When I first took these out of the box my initial concern was with the width. They do look narrow in both the mid-section and in the toe box. However when you first try them on they were not at all uncomfortable and my toes did not feel restricted. They felt light, but at the same time secure and noticeably very springy. I also expected walking with the “meta rocker” to feel strange but other than the added spring they didn’t actually feel odd or different at all. I spent a couple of hours walking around the house in them first before venturing out on the road. Again they felt fine and I liked the very definite bounce beneath my feet.
I chose a steady Sunday 6 miler for their first outing. They felt great, with the exception of maybe a bit of a pinch to both little toes. For the following week I returned to my old shoes not wanting to do too much in the Hokas too soon. However, since then I’ve gradually built up to running in the Hokas 3 times a week and wearing them for my 4 gym classes.
From an overall cushioning point of view I have been really impressed. They still feel springy and my feet feel cushioned, held in place and well supported. I have also noticed a considerable reduction in the amount of calf and general overall leg stiffness the day after a long run or a high impact gym class, since wearing the Hokas. I have also not experienced any of the “burn” on the underneath of my feet that I have often also experienced with other brands.
The main issue I’ve had is with the width of the toe box. At the start of wearing them I got occasional small blisters on the inside of both little toes and the odd ones between my big toe and second toe. My toes were obviously being squeezed together.
I didn’t think too much about these as to me blisters are fairly normal anyway. However, as I have increased both the length of my runs and the frequency, the problem has increased. To such an extent that the bruising and blistering is no longer limited to between the toes or just under and around the nail, the whole toe is now actually black!
I’ve also developed fairly hard and sore callouses on the inside of both of my second toes as well from the repeated blistering. There have been several occasions when I have been forced back into other shoes as it’s just been too painful to wear the Hokas.
Still not easily deterred, and thinking that the “squeeze” might be due to me having the chosen the ladies version of the shoe (I’ve been led to believe that ladies shoes can sometimes come up narrower than the men’s version of the same shoe) I recently went to a stockist to try a men’s version in the same size.
Although I only ran on the treadmill in the shop, unfortunately even after just that short time I could tell that the width of the men’s show would still be an issue.
So unfortunately I came away disappointed and at the moment will not therefore be buying another pair. However, one small glimmer of hope, the shop did tell me that the width issue was a common one with the Hokas and they had heard from the manufacturers that their summer 2016 range would be addressing this.”
It sounds like there might be a glimmer of hope for Jacqui on her search for a comfortable shoe for her troublesome feet.
Have you had any experience with Hokas? Or perhaps you too have troublesome feet and have some advice for Jacqui. Do let me know.