I am more excited to do this review than any other product to date, by leaps and bounds. I am happy to talk to you today about the Hoka One One (pronounced oh-nee oh-nee) Stinson running shoes.
The reason that I am so excited is because they are potentially a big key in keeping me on the road and in the running game longer.
I have mentioned this before, but my deal is this: I have a ticking clock hanging over my head. I have arthritis in my knees, one moreso than the other, and it’s one of those situations where there really is not much that can be done to fix that. So I am doing everything I can to help the cause and reduce the impact on my damn arthritic knees, thus prolonging the time that I can keep running before they give out on me. (which seems to be an eventual inevitability) Hearing the orthopedic specialist tell me this is what finally gave me the push to get really serious about cross training, strengthening my legs and core, and looking into ways to reduce the impact on my knees while continuing to participate in a sport that is notorious for being hard on the knees. When I started really digging and looking at options to address this “impact reduction” task, the Hoka One One running shoes name kept coming up.
With that very specific goal in mind, I am really excited to say that I have been provided a pair of running shoes to try and review for you. The Hoka One One Stinson Evo Tarmac running shoes.
In the running world where things seem to be drifting more and more steadily towards the minimalistic and “less is more” philosophy, these shoes are a slap in the face to that trend. The whole concept is that these are lightweight, but super cushioned shoes. They are all about the cushioning, and take the concept to the next level. Actually, “next level” does not even cover it, 2 or 3 levels is more like it. They are HUGE. To put it in a more specific way, the midsole (which is the foam part of the running shoe that sits between the outsole -rubber on the bottom- and the insole -where your foot actually sits inside the shoe-) is what provides the actual “cushioning”. The midsole on the Hokas is up to 30% softer than regular running shoes; and they use up to 2½ times more of it. The end result is what can be described as an “unconventional” looking shoe. One of the big red flags to having that much cushioning is the fear that you will lose stability, especially when running. The solution they came up with was two fold. First, they utilize what they call “bucket seating”, which basically means your foot sits inside the shoe deep into the midsole, so it wraps your foot with the cushioning and you are sitting in the shoe differently than the outside of it would have you believe, and Second, to create a bigger base to run on. The base of the shoe is giant, and in turn provides stability. It really succeeds in this regard. It also succeeds in making them look a lot like they could be referred to as clown shoes. (which they sometimes are) Just to be clear. You are not going to be wearing these for fashion; you are going to be wearing these for the way they perform and how you feel, both during and after your runs. They look pretty cool considering, but remember you are wearing something that is SO far away from the current trends and norm, odds are these will get attention for being different.
The shoes I received are the Stinson Tarmac. They are grey and blue with the name HOKA ONE ONE written really big across the outside of each of the shoes. I actually really like this look and it helps detract from the enormous foam stack on the bottom of the shoes. It comes with speed laces already in the shoes, with the option to swap them out with standard laces. I like the speed ones, they hold things just right and all you need to do it tug on the cord and you are good to go.
In terms of looks, the main comparison that I get is that shoes vaugely look similar to the old Sketchers Shape-Ups (or “the butt shoes”, as I like to call them). This is only in aesthetics, however. I promise.
If you do any research on these shoes (or even if you leave that to me) a few key design elements keep coming to light.
-Bucket Seating, which I have already touched on, or the way they have your foot seated down into the midsole cushioning and effectively wrapped in the cushioning to provide added stability.
-Enlarged Surface Area, another factor where the bottom of the shoe can be up to 50% larger than your typical running shoe, providing a large and stable base to run on,
-Rocker Profiling, a term I have not touched on yet, but this is the curvature on the bottom of the shoe. Its their way to take that giant base and make it easily “runnable”. The toes and heel are curved up, providing a smooth rocking motion from the time your foot comes down to the when you push off for the next step.
-Minimal Drop. What “drop” refers to in running shoes is the difference in height between the heel and the toes of the shoe. A lot of shoes have a much higher built up heel, since that is where the majority of runners hit first. Makes sense to put the bulk of the cushioning there, right? There is a large school of thought out there that hitting with your heel first, or “heel striking” is where a lot of the impact comes from when running, and by becoming more a “midfoot striker” reduces the stress on your body (and even more specifically, your knees- which is why I am so interested in this) and help distribute the impact throughout your muscles and entire leg/body. This midfoot striking is also commonly referred to as “natural running”. The very small drop in these shoes makes it easy to hit on the middle of your foot as opposed to the heel, thus promoting Natural Running.
Ok, so now to translate all this into what this mumbo Jumbo actually means to me and you.
Plain and simple, these shoes are designed to make it easier on your body to run. It’s a rough sport and if done incorrectly it can really screw you up. The good news is however there are various steps you can take to lessen the impact and eliminate the prospect of damage. There are several reason to want to do this: If you are a bigger person who is trying to lose weight and develop good habits/ protect your body right from the start, If you are a seasoned runner coming back from an injury, or if you are dealing with a special concern or condition (like my damn arthritic knees) to name a few; and then of course if you are an elite athlete who is looking to run ultra marathons (yes, these things do exist. There are slightly insane people who actually run 50 and 100 mile races out there). As per usual, I am leaving the elite athletes to their own devices and address things directly from the perspective of what applies to me, my friends, and my readers.
Let’s not sugar coat it. If you are following this blog, odds are you have recently been, or still are heavier than you want to be and are taking strides to change that. This in itself is awesome. But the fact of the situation is that with the bigger body usually comes less muscle tone, an unperfected form, and big impact on your joints; especially when running. These shoes provide a means to lessen the impact in a big way, and help develop your form to keep it that way going forward. In short, you are going to be more comfortable when you run and not hurt as much after the fact. I am a huge fan of both of these things.
I have a few random thoughts on these shoes based on my initial first impressions. 1) They are big, but not comically big. I don’t think anyone will openly laugh at me for wearing these, although I know for a fact I will get some funny looks and a few “what the hell is that guy wearing?” comments/ whispers. 2) Damn, these things are comfy. They look like they are super cushioned, and they FEEL like they are super cushioned; I can see what they were talking about when they say Maximally (is that really a word?) Cushioned Running Shoes. 3) I can’t wait to take these bad boys out for a run. I wonder how they hold up in terms of durability. 4) They are actually a lot more sporty looking than I expected; I actually REALLY like the look of them, I dig the giant HOKA ONE ONE on the side. I wonder how many people are going to refer to them as “hoka eleven” or “hoka won-won”.
Ok, I just took them out for the first substantial (8 Mile) run:
So here’s my take on them this far:
Walking in them feels fantastic. I didn’t walk a ton, but when I did they felt super cushioned.
Running in them did feel weird for about a mile, getting used to the new shoes & big soles.
A few points I really liked and could see a big difference from my regular shoes (Nike Pegasus).
-While running Uphill/ Downhill you can really feel the cushioning.
-These things were made to go downhill. You just feel the padding compress and you can just go for it. That was awesome.
-Surprisingly, even though there is all that foam, you can still feel the road. I didn’t really notice it till I ran on a part of the path that had some dirt/ small rocks.
-It was also when you start to really feel the road underneath that you also realize how freaking huge these shoes really are. As I have mentioned before though, the really large base is there to help add stability through all the padding. When running on smooth paved trail and roads you don’t have a ton of “road feel”, because there’s not a lot of road to feel, if you know what I mean. Nice and smooth asphalt is firm and flat and thats it.As soon as there was some stuff underfoot that was a little rough and uneven, however, you really picked up on it.
As for any negatives to report on, my toes did hurt a little after the run, and I could feel it in my arches a little bit while running and neither of these have ever happened before. Not sure if it was adjusting to a minimal drop shoe, the fact I am coming off of 2 weeks of no long runs, or the fact I doubled up on socks, compression and regular. I’ll reserve judgment on that for a couple weeks once I have a few more decent long runs down. I have weeks of 9,6,10,&11 all coming up. After the 10 or 11 week I’ll have a good idea of how these bad boys really handle. Other than the toe thing, I also should mention these things are different looking. (at least in the eyes of today’s “more conventional” running shoes”- if you are looking for the sexiest new pair of low profile shoes out there, these are not it. This SHOULD not be a factor, but we all know for some people it is. The departure from the norm in aesthetics at least bears mentioning ) I actually really love their look and the giant HOKA ONE ONE on the side of the shoe, it distracts the eye from the massive stack of foam under your foot. But this is not about fashion, it’s about the fact I ran just shy of 8 1/2 mile and my knees feel like I walked around the block instead. Early impressions: I’m very impressed. Gonna keep wearing them and see how they play out. If they keep going like this I will be a convert.
I’ll loop back around in a few weeks to provide an update and then I’ll give it some time and and continue this review later once I have a considerable amount of miles on the shoes, but like I said: early impressions are pretty damn good. I’ll keep you posted.
Just under a hundred miles in on these shoes now. A mix of 3M, 5M, and varied long runs, all training for my upcoming 10 mile race. So the longest “long run” I have put in up until now is 10 miles. I will squeak up to 11 next week, but then begin to taper and rest myself for the race. I feel like this is more than enough of an adequate sample size to confirm what I already suspected. I love running in these shoes. When doing my initial research on them , you can find countless reviews talking about runners who are able to go out for 10,15,20 mile long runs and not feel any pain afterwards. To be honest, I thought that was artificially inflated hype. While these are not magical shoes that erase ALL pain, I can now attest that after my long runs of 8, 9, and 10 miles I was fully expecting to feel it for a few days after, like I have in the past. I can’t sit here and say that I didn’t feel anything pain or soreness at all, but I can say that it has been greatly, substantially reduced. This is huge for me. I am officially a convert and the Hokas are now my go-to outside running shoe. I can see myself possibly mixing it up for shorter distances and on the treadmill, but for anything longer, this is it for me.
I say “outside” running shoe because I did try these out on the treadmill and had mixed results. The padding did it’s thing, but with the sheer bulk of these shoes I did find myself catching my feet on the belt a lot more than I would like to. So maybe it’s a mental thing, but I’m not going to use these in the gym, they are for the road and trail only. I don’t view this as a bad thing, as the vast majority of my runs are outside anyway, and the lessened use will extend the life of the Hokas for me a little as well.
As for how they have held up over the past few weeks of usage, I feel like I have done a pretty good job of giving these a good look. The vast majority of my running track is a paved asphalt path that runs through a township park. There is about a 1/2 to 3/4 mile loop of it that is a combo of packed dirt and then a true loose rock and gravel “trail”. So while the vast majority of my experience had been the traditional road running, there has been a little taste of off road elements as well. I am so happy to report that the shoes have handled beautifully. The foam shows no signs of dramatic wear or breakdown, the stability of the shoe remains as advertised, the only real signs of wear thus far is on the outsole, and in my opinion is directly attributable to my (poor) running form. Hey, I said that proper form was important, but I didn’t say that I was great at it myself. The wear pattern on the bottom of my shoes is a resounding confirmation that I am still a “heel striker”. (It’s still a work in progress for me. I feel like I do a good job of maintaining form in the beginning, but talk to me on miles 7,8,and 9 of a long run when I am tired and I’m pretty sure that it’s an entirely different story…the tread that has been rubbed completely smooth on the heel of my shoe does not lie…see the final picture attached for visual proof) So overall, the shoes have held up great. The cushioning has been fantastic, the support excellent, the only real signs of major wear in any way is the outsole wearing down.
So to bring it all back and apply things to my specific focus. Who can benefit from these shoes? More specifically, can you, my target reader benefit from these shoes? I believe that answer is yes. I can see a very specific value to the overweight, new runner who is just getting into the sport, for a few reasons. Being new to running and being active in general usually means that your primary focus is on just making it through the workouts, running for however long (or far) the specific workout of the day calls for, and building yourself up slowly. I know that what it was all about for me when I started. When you take that, coupled with the bigger body and not as strong muscles that result from a primarily sedentary lifestyle up until that point, it can all add up to some big impact on your body, and that can lead to soreness and pain. When I first started out, I was sore for months straight. I rested when I had to (as maddening as that was, and still is, actually) but the deal is you are using your body in a way that you have not in a long time, if ever, and you are going to be sore because of it. Again, these are not magic, zero-pain, miracle shoes, but they do absorb a lot of the impact that your legs and knees would otherwise have to so the pain and soreness will be less. I am a big fan of less pain and I suspect you are too. Also, with the minimal drop they can help promote the correct running form as well, and when you are first starting out, I would much rather see you learn the right way to do things right from jumpstreet than see you develop some bad habits and then have to correct them like I am looking at now. Again, I’m talking specifically about your body and impact. Proper form will help reduce impact on your joints and get you running more efficiently. As much of a fan of “less pain” as I am, I am an even bigger fan of getting better results from all the effort I am putting out. These shoes are a tool that can help that happen. You still have to do the work, but like everything else, having the right equipment to help you can make a world of difference.
One thing I have not brought up yet really is pricing. This could be the restrictive part of the shoe for some entry level people. These are a highly specialized shoe, and priced as such. The pair that I am wearing right now, the Stinson Tarmac, retail for $170.00. Yes, that’s a lot of money. And would I have shelled out that kind of money for a pair of running shoes when I first started out? Hell no. I say again: Hell to the No. Truth be told, I was pissed when I first started out that I had to spend close to a hundred bucks for my first pair of “sneakers” to begin with. (But seriously, the moment that you put on an actual pair of running shoes and walk/ run in them, you will feel the difference between them and the standard issue, kicking around/ casual sneakers you are probably wearing now.) In my head, I needed to make sure I was going to like it/ stick to it/ not kill myself first before I made that kind of investment. An investment in something that is destined to wear out and have to be replaced in a year, tops, by the way. Yes there are cheaper shoes out there that will work just fine and get you started. And please know that I am not sentencing you to a lifetime of pain and suffering if you don’t rock the Hokas, but what I am saying is that if you are looking for an excellent pair of shoes to help you develop and keep you out there running longer and with less pain, these are the option you should look at. If they are your first pair of shoes starting out, or if you get your first pair, wear them out and then look to these to upgrade your gear when it comes time to replace that first pair; the Hokas deserve to be part of the conversation.
They definitely are for me, and for all the reasons above, I can’t endorse them strongly enough. Like I said, they are now my go-to shoe and part of my standard gear.
In a world of overblown and overhyped products, Hoka is actually delivering on it’s claims. Pretty Impressive stuff, if you ask me.
…and after approx 100 miles, the only visible signs of wear:
I am approaching this review from my standard viewpoint of what I believe the core interest of this blog really gets at: that is to say I am presenting my review by looking at this product from the perspective of a person who is relatively new to the running world, has some weight to lose and wants go about losing the weight by starting to incorporate a more active lifestyle and want to know how sift through the volumes of available gear/ equipment out there.
One of the great benefits to running a blog like this one is that it puts me in a position from time to time to receive various products to use and review for you. Oftentimes, these items are provided to me free of charge. This is the only type of compensation I have ever received, and my acceptance of these items in no way constitutes any obligation to provide an unwarranted positive review. My opinions on the products are unfiltered and 100% my own.
**This product was provided to me free of charge, but again, this does not influence my review or views on the product in any way**
Also please note that these are the personal opinions and experiences of one individual (me) on my personal blog, and intended to be taken as such. I personally, and The Running My Ass Off Blog do not accept any liability from the purchase or use of any products reviewed on this blog.
**Sorry, just have to cover my ass here. These are unbiased reviews, intended only to help. I’m not going to try and sell you anything, nor do I want you to take my opinions as the final word on any product. Let me help you figure out what you should check out, and then check the stuff out for yourself to see if you like it.**