Friday, 17 January 2014

Send in the clowns - Hoka reviewed.

The first time I saw a pair of Hokas I laughed. LOL, ROFL, LFMAO.  All that. Mirth, followed by snorts of derision. I mean who the hell would wear those? Clown shoes; a fad, nothing more.

Hoka Mafate straight out the box

Over time though the smile was gradually wiped from my face as more and more people got Hoka'd up and reports from the shining stars of the running world repeatedly gave the thumbs up.

As with all things, what seems ridiculous quickly becomes the norm.

Couple these glowing reports with an increasing awareness that my feet were bloody sore at the end of twenty plus miles and I started thinking maybe, just maybe, I should stick my feet in a pair and see what came of it. So I tried, but I did not buy. The problem is, Hoka's weren't designed for the Brits. Everyone in the UK that owns a pair seems to be pretty clear on one thing. Hoka's don't do mud. Sure they felt comfy, sure they are lighter than you think they'll be (though they aren't in any real sense of the word "light" - just so we have that straight), but take them on a jaunt through the brown stuff and see how long before you end up on your arse. I mean, you only have to turn them over and look to see there's going to be a problem here.

Not Mud claws are they?
Back to the drawing board then. Or not. As luck would have it I got an email from Keith Godden at the Ultra Marathon Running Store to say I had won a pair of Hoka's! I'd entered a competition in their newsletter "Ultra Tales" a while back, as you do, never thinking I'd actually win. Shocking stuff, but it seemed that it was my destiny to try the Hoka's for real. So not long after, I received a pair of Hoka Mafate and have joined, for now at least, the legion of clowns heading out on the trail.

I must admit that, after getting used to the idea, I have decided I quite like the look of the Hoka's. I mean they are bonkers, but in a kind of mid-seventies glam-rock kind of way. Putting them on, especially paired with gaiters and calf guards I felt like I could be running's answer to Ziggy Stardust.

Kiss trying out some early prototype Hoka's

Feeling like a rock god, looking like a pillock. Suki's expression says it all

When you get your hands on a pair of Hoka's there is no doubt that what you have here is a well made product. They feel sturdy, a Bentley to the racing flat's Lotus Seven. The quick lace system is neat and effective and the sole looks bomb-proof.


So on to the running. Well they certainly are quite bouncy, but not as much as you'd think, especially if you don't heel strike. Oh and they don't make you heel strike either. I found they suited my mid foot shuffle quite nicely thanks. The time you will really notice the extra cushioning is ploughing downhill where you really can let rip and let the shoes soak up the impact.

Stones and roots digging into your feet will be a thing of the past and, despite their extra footprint they - to me at least - feel quite nimble on more technical terrain. In fact I found that most surfaces were handled well by the Hoka's, although I did struggle a little on some very narrow, high sided sections of the coast path. And at the end of a long run (the furthest I've taken them so far is twenty two miles) my feet do feel less achy.

Hokas enter at your peril!
So all's good then. Great. Except, of course, mud. Oh dear. On gritty, rocky paths I fly along all carefree and bouncy, but hit a stretch of mud and I look like a duck trying to ice skate.  Its a shame, it really is. I do honestly feel that if Hoka stuck some great big lugs on the bottom of their shoes they'd sell like hot cakes. That said, when things dry out I'd wear them. On a flat, grassy course or on well made paths, I'd wear them. I'd almost go as far as to say the trade off between traction and comfort in any circumstance is enough to keep them on. Almost.

So if you like having specialist shoes for certain conditions or can handle a few slips in favour of fresh feet at the end of the day then these may be for you. But as an all round go anywhere UK trail shoe these aren't going to be my first choice I don't think. Shame. If you're listening Hoka reps, BIG, BIG LUGS.  Nuff said.

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