There are plenty of fantastic running shoe testers presenting their insights and test results here at GearInstitute.com. I’m not one of them.
I’m more one of those lifelong enthusiasts who run as much for my body as I do for more mind, focusing on freeing my thoughts instead of keeping time. I’m also one of those people who cause some running shoe retailers to say, “Sometimes I feel like I’m more of a physical therapist than a shoe specialist.”
That’s because heel soreness and lower back issues have definitely diminished the running experience for me of late, leaving me searching for a shoe that does a lot more than just provide a couple layers of foam and outsole between my feet and the pavement.
The sore back is a chronic issue, from a lifetime of skiing, landscaping and being a tall guy with some serious supination in my gait. The heel soreness is primarily the result of last summer’s ill-advised minimalist running shoe experiment.
For a strictly recreational runner like me, getting a pair of top of the line minimalist running shoes was like buying a Ferrari to drive to the super market. And while I certainly enjoyed the uber-lightness and sense of unencumbered freedom, my body was—is—not conditioned to handle the impact.
After a couple months in the pool and on my bike to rest my sore feet, the ‘maximist’ design of Hoka One One’s Bondi B has been my ticket back to running (or jogging) on the trails and paths. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed the most.
The bottom line is that my feet, back and stride need more cushioning—not less. And like fat skis or oversized tennis rackets, the generous design features Hoka is betting its brand on help to make up for what I lack (I realize Hoka is also hot for distance runners right now, but I’m focusing on my own mid-level place in the market). The oversized midsole and outsole construction of the Bondi help support stability, traction and tempo, and even though they look heavy, they aren’t (around 11 oz).
Diving into the fat ski metaphor once again, the Hokas float over rough terrain and pavement, where my minimalist shoes were giving me the bone shock. Hoka claims the foam in their midsoles is 30 percent softer than “traditional” running shoes, and dissipates 80 percent of the impact from each heel strike. It sure feels like it.
I used to think a lot more about traction and foot placement, scrambling up little pitches of gravel, pushing off arroyo sand and quick-stepping mid-sized rocks. With the Bondi Bs, I think about it a lot less. That additional surface area provides give—and grip—by providing a lot more contact.
That’s my take so far this summer. If you have your own Hoka One One—or any minimalist or maximist—shoe story to share, I’d sure like to hear about it.