This weekend I travelled just up the road to Boulder, Colorado for the first Hoka One One Elite Athlete Summit. For three days I had the pleasure of getting to know some of the greatest ultra marathoners, trail runners, milers, triathletes, brand ambassadors and entrepreneurs who all had one thing in common: a great love of the shoes on our feet. Getting to know all of the faces behind this brand and the athletes they sponsor made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to be involved in such an innovative, cool company that really is rebuilding not only running shoes but how the industry works.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was actually learning about the shoes themselves and what makes them so special.
If you’re not familiar with HOKA shoes, here’s some interesting stuff you should know:
- They are ultra light AND ultra cushioned. They may look a little strange at first because of the tall layer of cushioning. Heck, all of us sponsored runners were once skeptics, but once we tried them on and realized how great they felt we’ve never gone back.
- They have a very minimal drop. You may have heard this term used in minimalist shoes. This means the difference between the distance from ground-to-heel and ground-to-toe is minimal, making it more “flat” like the natural bare foot. HOKA models range from 6mm to as low as a 2mm drop, giving them similar benefits to “minimalist” shoes but offering plenty of cushioning in the front (where the most force is actually applied) so you don’t have to worry about running on rocky trails with a paper-thin sole (who wants that!)
- You can get a TON of mileage outta these babies! Although every runner varies on how they wear down their shoes, everyone I’ve spoken with agreed they’ve gotten significantly more miles out of their HOKA running shoes than other brands. Although HOKA cannot make this claim because every runner is unique, I’ve heard of runners who have gotten anywhere from 300-1000 miles, but of course you have to be smart, and after 6 months its always good to check in with a specialty running store and see what they think.
- They work with many foot types. If you go into any running store you’ll notice most brands are separated into three categories: motion control-for heavy pronators (rolling inward of the foot), stability-to offer some support against pronation, neutral-for those with an even foot-strike. In the HOKA world, these categories aren’t as necessary because the shoes have what they call an “active foot frame” which means that your foot sinks deep into the sole creating walls on the sides. So if you roll outward, inward or straight forward…you’re good!
I could talk and learn about shoes all day, and I have to say it’s super awesome running for a company that uses real research (biomechanics, the laws of physics, new technology) behind their shoes. If I thought this stuff was just a big gimmick I wouldn’t be wearing it. But I’ll spare you my two hour shoe-geek speech and you can do your own research and check out this page on their website for yourself.
After also learning a lot about Ultra Marathons, I’ve discovered I may have a secret desire to do one, someday…
Since Hoka sponsors athletes from 800m to 100-milers it was interesting learning about the other types of runners that we all lump into this one great big category called “distance runners.” I have to say, I was totally intrigued by the ultra marathoner’s stories. Something about running 100 mile races through mountainous trails sounded intriguing albeit slightly terrifying to me. Of course, while I’m still competitive in the 800-5k range I have zero plans of running anything longer than maybe 16 miles, let alone racing! But as I’ve mentioned before, when I’m not on the track doing speed work, I absolutely love the trails and really dislike training on the roads. So maybe some day I’ll give a long trail race a try, not so much for the competitive aspect but more for the scenery, the euphoria and being able to say I’ve done one.
Finally, the coolest part of the trip was getting to look into the future at many of the new shoe prototypes, and running events HOKA has planned.
I can’t talk too much about all of this, since we were told to keep most of this top secret. However, the good news is that I learned how fast HOKA has grown in just the last two years, and so I know many of the exciting new shoes will be out on the market before you know it. On the other hand, when it comes to the “when?” factor, the shoe designers were very clear that they will not reveal new shoes to consumers until they get them right. So, in the meantime, be sure to follow your favorite elite HOKA One One runners, because they’ll be the first to receive new prototypes and next season’s models!