Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hoka 1000 mile wear test

My first pair of Hokas: Bondi B. Fragile logo wings, but still flying high!
Hoka One One upset the minimalist running shoe scene in 2011. Co-founded by Nicolas Maermoud, the French guy who finished third in the 2007 UTMB, Hokas got me interested from day one as my goal was (and still is) to run UTMB.

The downside was they cost a fortune: 145-155€ + shipping from France. So I wanted to see if they would last 1000 miles and be a good investment compared to other shoes that cost 30% less, but last 300 miles. Long story short, the answer is yes.

My fav Hokas so far: Stinson EVO. Very comfy and reliable. Zero regrets.
My first Hokas were Bondi B in March 2011. They ended up working pretty well for me after getting used to them.

The main issue was that the size of this this model got mislabeled by a half size. Therefore some of those who mail-ordered this shoe, may have got a slightly small size. Maybe that's why I didn't initially love this model.

Eventually I finished Transgrancanaria 123 km in Bondi Bs, my longest ultra trail race so far. Now they've got 951 miles behind them. I wouldn't race in them anymore, but they still are good training shoes. I ran in deep snow (after an all-night blizzard) with them today, and they were alright in those challenging conditions.

Torn sole of Stinson EVO. The hard yellow rubber was finally broken by Finnish winter.
My favorite model is Stinson Evo, which I purchased in April 2012. I've succesfully finished many trail running races in them: Lidingö Ultra 50K, Trail del Monte Soglio, Trail Verbier St-Bernard, and CCC. I've also done a city marathon (Marathon de Paris) and an ironman-distance triathlon (Challenge Barcelona) with them.

Worn out heel cap of Stinson EVO.
I've now logged 1,002 miles with Stinson Evos, and counting. They are still very comfy and this is clearly the winner of my 1000 mile ultra test ride. However they are pretty well worn out, I've got to admit. The soles and the heels are a bit torn here and there and the speed laces were replaced a long time ago. By the way, Stinson Evos came with a thinner insole and an extra pair of laces in the box - now please tell me how many businesses would do something like that in this age of brainless cost-cutting? I thought so.

Stinson EVO: 1000 miles and counting! The winner of my ultra test ride.
Hokas are obviously not like other running shoes, but their most important advantage may be the unvisible one: they may be the most antifragile shoes on the planet! Just like us ultra trail runners, somehow they seem to get better under stress and in challenging conditions.

Actually Mafate may well be the most durable model of them all. Too bad my Mafates, which I bought in December 2011 for a reduced price,  are also stiffer and heavier than the other models. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Shoes made of steel would last forever, but only Ironman would like them.

At the moment I've logged 675 miles with my Mafates without any major sign of wear or tear, but I'm not using them that much anymore. I'm pretty sure though that they will reach 1000 miles before I throw them away. I had to cut them a little to ease the discomfort on top of my foot. I may well keep on modifying and testing them, just for fun if not for anything else.

Mafate was the first Hoka shoe, and they were still learning and experimenting how to get it right. Nothing wrong with trial & error. A lot of runners must have liked their Mafates, or the company wouldn't have come this far.

Hoka Mafate: most durable but too stiff and uncomfortable.
My hoka story will definitely continue in 2013. I'm looking forward to testing the new Hoka Rapa Nui Comp - a lighter trail running shoe with a 5mm heel drop. More about that later, when I can figure out where to get a pair to try. Keep your Hokas moving!


Will said...

TP....great Hoka post! I just ordered 2 pairs of Bondi Bs and am getting ready for some major miles for this summers 100 milers. I can't wait to lace them up and roll in these guys. The only negatives I have on the hoka line up is the potential to roll the ankle. As I mentioned to you in Chamonix I think I did this in a big way in the Evo's. I've held on to my original stetsons as if they were van gogh originals. They served me well at UTMB and will likely do so at Leadville! keep on running and writing...and stay warm out there in the ice cap!

Trail Plodder said...

Thank you Will. I believe Bondi B's have much improved since the first version that I have. Hope they fit you well.

Whenever people see Hokas, their first reaction is that they're ankle-rollers. I thought so too, but now I believe it's not about the shoes. I'm the type of person who might sprain his ankle on the way to the bathroom in the morning, but my ankles have been safe in Hokas (knock on wood).

In Chamonix mudfest I could hardly descend with my Evos in the darkness. I felt I'd fall down any moment. Then this friendly dude with more Alpine experience showed me how to do it. We ran downthe slope like maniacs, but I didn't slip as long as I copied his every step. Then I saw the lights of our destination, thought I've made it and stopped following him, and in seconds I found my stupid ass sliding down the muddy hill. I believe it's a similar skill that those badass freestyle off-piste skiers have.

Denis said...

I dont think roling a ankle i any mote likely in Hokas than any other shoe. I have done 700mls in mine and yes occasionaly I may roll a ankle but I alays have regardless of what shoes I wear. The fear is that because you are so much higher off the ground incrases the odds but you have to bear in mind that the soles are also much wider (at least in my Stinsons they are) therefore this counteracts the threat