Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hoka Rapa Nui review

Hoka One One shoes have worked well for my ultra trail running. Initially I used to be a little sceptic of the oversized concept, but now I'm a big fan. Even some hardcore minimalist peeps seem to prefer Hokas for their longer races at least. We ultrarunners tend to put our money where our feet are.

April is like Christmas to me. That's when the latest Hoka collection usually becomes available in Europe. Last year I got Stinson Evo, my favorite ultra trail shoe. Now I wanted to test Rapa Nui, the little brother. I felt like Forrest Gump, who's momma famously said: "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

The most obvious difference is the lower price: Rapa Nui costs 'only' 135€, while Stinson Evo tops at 170€. The shipment from France cost me 22€, so these shoes are not cheap. Are they worth it? As far as durability is concerned the answer is most probably yes, based on my Hoka 1000-mile wear test.

Rapa Nui shares five features in common with Stinson Evo:
  • Synthetic upper made of PU/polyester mesh/TPU.
  • Outsole with 4mm 'Hoka Grip' lugs.
  • OrthoLite 2mm 'Time To Fly' -insoles.
  • 'Quick Fit' speed lacing system.
  • The heel strap and overall construction is similar.

The main five differences introduced by Rapa Nui are (compared to Stinson Evo):
  • Midsole 1.5x oversized HiR EVA (2.2x HiP EVA).
  • Cushioning thickness 21-26 mm (26-32 mm).
  • Heel to toe drop 5 mm (6 mm).
  • 10% reduced weight (my US10.5 Rapa Nui is 315g, my US10.5 Stinson Evo is 350g.)
  • Rapa Nui lacks the 4 mm molded EVA footbed (that Stinson Evo has). 

Ok, that sounds fine in theory, but how about actual running? I tested Rapa Nui on various surfaces:
  • Dirt path/road (quite smooth and hard): excellent, lighter and faster feeling than Stinson Evo. 
  • Soft (mud, snow, sand) single trail: good grip, feels better than Stinson Evo.
  • Ice (very slippery conditions): ok if you slow down, poles would help (about the same as Stinson Evo).
  • Alpine trail (hilly and rocky): easier climbing uphill, not as super-comfy as Stinson Evo in downhill.  
  • Asphalt/tarmac: obviously not meant for road races, but short passages are perfectly ok (Stinson Evo would be better on roads because it has more cushioning). 
  • Wet (rain, puddles, streams): no major problems (about the same as Stinson Evo).

In cold/cool weather all Hokas are good with thick running socks. I haven't tested Rapa Nui in hot weather yet, but I guess it would be about the same as Stinson Evo. In summer all you can do is wear thinner socks and hope for the best. If blisters or other issues appear during ultras, changing dry socks might be a great idea.

Rapa Nui felt surprisingly stable. Certainly more stable than Stinson Evo. This is probably simply because your feet are closer to the ground. Hokas don't have any specific stability technology yet, but I've heard they are developing something new to be released in 2014. Apparently some over-pronators have requested it. I don't need it though, I'm good with current design as the sole is pretty wide and I generally tend to dislike all anti-stability shoes anyway.

The outsole design is different from my 2012 Stinson Evo. I think this new outsole would be better in gnarly conditions like those experienced in UTMB 2012. Butt-sliding down muddy slopes in pitch dark has never exactly been been my forte, so I welcome this improvement with open arms. Bravo Hoka!

With the new thinner midsole, Rapa Nui is recommended from short to mid distances, whereas Stinson Evo is designed from mid to ultra long distances. Having said that, we should keep in mind that Rapa Nui still sports 1.5 times midsole volume compared to your average trail running shoe. So I plan to use Rapa Nui in my next race: 80km du Mont Blanc. After that experience we will know more.

One thing I should mention is the mild smell that you may notice when you open the shoe box for the first time. Like with many other shoes manufactured in China, this may be caused by the formaldehyde-containing glue or some other toxic stuff they liberally use. If you suspect that you might have any problem with that, you may be interested in this information about shoe allergies.

I think it's fair to say that the Hoka toe box is pretty large, but amazingly some runners have commented online that it's still not wide or high enough for them. I'm afraid this is bad news for their toes: the new Rapa Nui toe box feels a bit tighter than that of Stinson Evo. I hope it won't harm anything, but I can feel the upper being closer to my toes than I would like. Naturally this is a very personal thing as every foot is different. The only piece of advice I can give is that if you are wondering which shoe size would fit you better, I'd err on the side of too big rather than too small.

Like Forrest Gump said: "Mama says they was magic shoes. They could take me anywhere." And that's all I have to say about that!

Except if you are wondering what Rapa Nui means. I think it has something to do with Easter Island. Who knows, these shoes might be great in a race there.

[Edit: My final verdict.]


Hans Pors said...

Hi, what fantastic looking shoes. Running the Stinson evo tarmacs right now, but I am switching my running to more trailrunning. Since I need neww ones I seriously am considering these ones. It 's simply the best option if you like low drop decent cushioning shoes. I am very interested in your experiences with them.

Trail Plodder said...

Thanks for your interest Hans. I'll post more about Rapa Nui in July. I forgot to mention Hoka has another new model called Kailua Comp, which is basically the same as Rapa Nui, except it has a smoother road racing outsole and standard lacing. It should be ok for easier trails like Swiss Alpine marathon and so on.

Will said...

Love the post! I've never heard of this model now I need to out and try them. Sounds like they could be exactly what I'm looking for. After groveling in mud at last years UTMB in my stetsons, these might be the perfect shoe. Are you still on for UTMB 100 mile? I'm got my first 100k in 3 weeks!

Trail Plodder said...

Thanks Will! Yes Rapa Nui might be the right shoe for you, but I read they'll be available in US only in August. Good luck for your races anyway. I'm on UTMB 2014, maybe you should aim for that one too?

Neal Marcus said...

Did you find the Rapa shorter in length than the Tarmac (or merely narrower)? I wear the Tarmac in 12.5US and EVO in 13US (yes they seem to fit me differently.) Want to order from Europe but concerned about length (not width as I have a slightly narrower foot). Your thoughts?

Trail Plodder said...

Rapa Nui is slightly narrower from heel to toe, but not any shorter than Stinson B Evo. So if you have a narrower foot then go ahead and order Rapa in the same size that fits you with Stinson.

The way I see it, Rapa Nui is the 50-mile shoe and Stinson Evo the 100-mile shoe. In 4 days I'll be running with Rapa Nui in Mont Blanc 80km. Let's hope I won't be falling!

Neal Marcus said...

Wow. That is quite a distance.

Many thanks on your thoughts. Now, it is only an issue which size to choose -- my EVO or Tarmac size :-). Never understood why they fit me differently. Hoka indicated they are the same but one retailer said some people do find they fit differently.

Trail Plodder said...

I believe all Hokas of the same size are the same length, because that's how they determine the size at the factory.

When I tried it in Chamonix last fall, it seemed just the same as my Evo, and also the Hoka expert there confirmed this to be true. He told me to wait for the new model this spring, which is the Rapa Nui. He said don't bother getting the tarmac, because it's essentially the same shoe that you are wearing (Evo).

Anyway if in doubt, I'd choose the larger size. There's nothing worse than a shoe that's too small, but if it's a bit too big it's only an advantage in longer distances.

Hans Pors said...

Small update on my behalf: bought the Rapa Nui's in may (in beautifull grey/whit/red )
What a fantastic shoe, I love the grip which is truely outstanding. Lots of free time running trails in them as well as Hm trails, doing my longest ever distance 37k in oktober in them.
My Stinson's have worn out a bit in themeantime ( 1100 k approx.), will seriously consider the Kailua's for the road.

Trail Plodder said...

Thanks Hans. Yes Rapa Nui has a pretty good grip. Just ran 17K in them today without any issues. In the longer ultras I've noticed that the socks you choose to wear can make a big difference as well in terms of blisters etc.

Bicolano Penguin said...

Thanks for this shoe review. I am a Hoka fan. For me, Hokas are the best for ultra running distance. Got already the Mafate, the Bondi B and the Stinson Tarmac. Next is the Rapa Nui. Problem is there are no Hoka stores here in the Philippines, even in the whole of Southeast Asia. But if there is a will, there is a way. hahahaha...

Trail Plodder said...

Thanks Bicolano Penguin! It's true Hokas are not widely available. I cannot find them in Finland either. But most people buy their gear online internationally anyway.

Josh Sprague said...

Thanks for the great review. Any update after more testing throughout the year? Trying to figure out Stinson or Rapa Nui's today!

Trail Plodder said...

Thanks Josh! Stinson Evo is still my favorite ultra shoe, although I do use Rapa Nui for shorter distances. No updates, except I'd seriously consider the new 2014 model Conquest.