New From HOKA ONE ONE For Spring 2015
Okay, HOKA ONE ONE - there are two 'ones' AND UPPER CASE LETTERS TOO - stuff looks weird with its super-thick EVA sole unit and bright colours, but here's the thing: over the course of three days at this year's OutDoor trade show on the shores of Lake Konstanz, we ran for around three hours in a pair of HOKA ONE ONE Rapa Nui trail shoes and really liked them.
The softer than normal EVA gives colossal amounts of cushion on the hard surfaces we were forced to run on, the wide sole base at the heel in particular and the way the foam conforms to irregularities in the surface mean that they're deceptively stable.
The distinct rocker of the sole helps produce a nice, rounded push-off and, the lightness of the shoe added to all this, means that they don't feel at all sluggish, which you might expect from the chunky looks. And as clincher, we reckon reduced impact made for reduced muscle soreness afterwards.
Sure they look odd, but when did you last watch yourself running and do you really care what anyone else thinks? And all these are reasons why the brand is carving out a serious chunk of the ultra-running shoe market for itself.
Anyway, now we've got that off our chest what's new for both this autumn 2014 and spring 2015?
New RMAT Cushioning Material This Autumn
Hoka currently uses EVA, albeit a softer version than other running shoe brands, but from this autumn it launches its own proprietary cushioning material called RMAT, which is a blend of EVA and rubber. Initially it'll feature on just one new shoe, the latest Matafe Speed - picture over on the right.
The idea is that the new material still gives excellent cushioning, but the rubber portion of the mix should help to increase long-term durability and recognised issue with EVA foam. It's also reckoned to give better grip on wet surfaces. The model's the top-end trail shoe in the range and will be priced at £140 come September.
Stinson ATR For Autumn 2014
Also out this autumn is an updated Stimson ATR - the AT is for all-terrain, not sure about the 'R' - it gets a new, super-breathable mesh upper and with it's serious 32mm of cushioning is designed to work for heavier runners.
Vibram Soles For Spring 2015
The big news for spring next year is a honking great Vibram outsole unit for some of the models in the range complete with serious 6mm lugs designed to work on typical British flag. It features on the updated £110 Rapa Nui which also gets a seamless upper with more breathable mesh, lots of cushioning and a slightly different rocker.
Also new next spring is an entry level HOKA the Challenger. It's all relative of course, the new shoe still sells for a cool £100, but it's as cheap as the brand gets. It's very light, has a less pronounced rocker than other Hoka models and has been designed with deliberately restrained looks to make it more accessible and less aesthetically challenging...
Hiking Shoes And Mids For Autumn
Finally, HOKA's getting into hiking shoes and mids. That's the mid-height version up at the top of the page by the way. The shoe and mid both use the same Vibram sole as the Rapanui and feature a Dupont waterproof membrane upper plus, of course, the distinctive sole technology.
They're aimed at 'fast hikers' and we reckon there'll take a while to get any sort of general acceptance, but if they're as good on harder surfaces as the running shoes and as stable, they should make an interesting choice for anyone who likes their shoes lightweight and cushioned.
The boot version is the Tor Mid and the shoe is the Tor Speed. And yes, you may get some odd looks out on the hill, but you might just have the last laugh at the end of a long day on hard surfaces. prices are £140 and £110 respectively.
The models above are available either in autumn 2015 or spring 2015 - it says which in the text - for the current HOKA ONE ONE range of running shoes see: www.hokaoneone.eu/en/