HOKA Super Cushioned Trail Shoes

HOKA super cushioned trail shoes  

Despite all of the buzz surrounding barefoot running at the moment, French footwear company HOKA has decided to go in the opposite direction. Called Hubbles, HOKA's new line of super cushioned trail shoes will debut in May 2010, with the Mafate edition the first to be released. 

HOKA was started by avid trail runners Nicolas Mermoud and Jean Luc Diard. The pair were tired of rigid trail shoes and wanted a shoe design that would help them run more naturally with a feeling of freedom, speed, comfort and performance. 

HOKA super cushiones trail shoes

The Hubbles have a rounded sole shape for a continuous and natural heel to toe transition. The front of the shoe tips up for aid in push off. The underside of the sole is etched much like winter tires-each of the lugs morphs to the terrain, orienting itself for the best possible grip. 

The key innovation in the Hubbles trail shoes is the dynamic cushioning property of the sole. As you run, the super cushioned sole morphs to absorb the uneven ground, leaving no impact on your foot. You feel as though you are running on flat ground. As you run downhill, the heel compresses, putting your foot in a more natural position. As you run uphill, the forefoot compresses to do the same. 

I tried on a pair of Hubbles at Outdoor Retailer. Those of you from Wisconsin will understand this reference- they feel like running on a pair of Cheese Heads. I would agree that you feel more stable running over uneven ground but it takes awhile getting used to being so high off and somewhat disconnected with the ground- much like it takes you awhile to get used to wearing MBT shoes. 

I would love to hear your thoughts- which way do you think the footwear industry should be heading? More minimal or more cushioning? Is it really about the shoe or is it simply about teaching people to run with a front first versus heel first landing for more efficiency?

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  1. This is very interesting to me because I have yet to find a trail running shoe that provides adequate cushion for my heels. Maybe they’ll send me a pair to gear test!

  2. No amount of cushioning is going to save you from a biomechanically inefficient stride. Studies show again and again that the human body will simply adjust the amount of heel impact for the amount of heel cushioning, effectively negating any supposed benefit from wearing these ridiculous-looking moon shoes.

    Your feet contain a quarter of the bones in your body and over 100 muscles. We have evolved to be the most efficient long-distance runners in the natural world. Why eff that up by trying to run on three inches of foam? Better to relearn how to run the way we evolved to run, with the natural shock absorption of a healthy forefoot stride.

  3. Yeah, I’d like to see that healthy forefoot stride running down scree in the Wasatch. This barefoot crap is fine for roadies, but unless you can really go barefoot all the time, technical trail running will require a shield that allows for traction and cushion. Even the precious Tarahumara run with tire treads on their feet (I know; I ran with them 15 years before El Oso published that gd book).

  4. Wow, that is some ‘know-it-all’ talk. I personally am going to give the Wasatch a try in those VFFs…perhaps I’ll DNF, perhaps I’ll change shoes, but at least I haven’t resigned myself to chronic back pain that has miraculously disappeared since I stopped running in conventional trail shoes.

  5. Don’t know it all. But I sure as snot know Wasatch. Have fun getting down Baugh Bearing Hill in VFFs, or even better Alta Dry Fork (in the dark), UNLESS, of course, you’re logging 70 miles a week in them for a year already–then you’ll be fine, and can make your own pile of money writing a book. I know of one person who tried VFFs at Squaw Peak 50, broke his toe at Mile 30, finished in regular shoes in agony. But he probably lacked both the training and proprioreception to protect himself.
    On the other hand, I suspect that very few, if any, will ever finish well a technical 100-miler in VFFs. The reality is, running 100 miles in that terrain really is enabled by technology, in the same way as driving or flying. I can envision an evolutionary need for the need to run up to 50 miles–about what you can cover in the light of day in the tropics. Even Stonewall Jackson’s troops could cover 40 miles a day barefoot. Beyond that, I question whether it can be done, especially in hypertechnical terrain (which I suspect our ancestors avoided in any event–even the Native Americans didn’t spend much time in the high country, at least not running ridges).
    Like I said, if you hit WF100 with a good 2000 trail miles in your VFFs, you might pull it off. But you will need to be a little audacious, very lucky, and willing to adapt.
    I’ll be going for WF100 #14 in my Hokas, as I have been smashing my speed records in them for the last three weeks.

  6. I’ve been wondering about this debate ever since I got my Hokas,,, I’ve been trying to focus on a ball-strike-stride since last year, though I haven’t gone to VFF’s based on what I often feel underfoot when running in road shoes on trails. But, I, like a lot of others, was willing to cough up the PRI$E for them based on the the PR’s and good words about them from friends. I didn’t PR San Juan Solstice, but I got a much better time than I deserved considering the training so far this year. And the downhills were wonderful, even that drop at the end. That was 5 days after buying them (hard to come by right now). So, no break-in issues. And my feet felt very good at the end, much better than in the shoes I’ve run in before. So, considering the price, I have saved them for longer runs (40+).

    Now, the caveat. As I was coming down the canyon to the Homestead (WF100 course), I noticed something dragging underfoot. At that point the shoes had 180 miles (approx.) on them: the sole is coming apart. I still had to go back to Brighton. There were some words…

    I hope everyone else is getting better milage than I have.

  7. Since I have had two hip replacements I was warned never to run/jump again. My injuries had nothing to do with running. Since I miss running more than there are words I have been looking for some way to at least jog. Does anyone know if these shoes will provide my hips with adequate support?

  8. getting over a stress injury in my foot, maybe from the five fingers, maybe not. but been in the hoka for about 1 1/2 months. after a month in the pool and acupuncture, i am back outside without pain. hey the hoka’s look funny, but i am sold on them. i can run again.

  9. vff or funky squishy shoes? well, I have both. I’m not the uber run god who treks 20 miles barefoot or runs barefoot for 20 miles. I do like to hike threw ruff terrain being heavy woods or boulder filled trails. Have u ever clipped your pinky toe on a hidden tree root while running down a trail with a back pack on? To me I like the fact that I have two choices now. I say it depends on the terrain that your on. I do have to admit the hoka looks like something out of a cifi flick, but man! talk about them being super squishy. tried them out at Park City Utah just this last weekend. Have to admit they work as described.

  10. I bought a pair of the Hoka Bondi B road shoes today and ran six miles in them. Bouncy, which is what I like.

    I had a pair of the trail shoes on trial for the last week but they were a little small so I changed them for the next size up this morning. According to the shop, a few other people have said they they needed half a size bigger than normal. I have them on trial for the next week. I do like this try before you buy.

  11. I also got a pair of the Hoka Hubbles at OR. I’m 69 and have been running off and on for 50 years. I’m not a pro at all, but running is the only way I can keep weigh off. I run track, asphalt, concert and trail, the Hoka is the best running shoe I have ever had. With other high dollar shoes, I still always had some pain, with the Hokas, no pain at all on any terrain. As we all know, running is cheep compared to most all other sport activities, so I have never let cost stop me when it comes to running. One injury alone, will cost way more than the extra cost of good shoes.

  12. Hokas absolutely work as advertised. I am no ultra runner, but a two hour, 2500 foot vertical run is fairly typical (Boulder Mtn. Parks). After an hour of descending my legs usually felt stiff, brittle and a bit sore. As soon as I got the Hokas leg soreness from the same descent was gone. I could immediately add an hour to the run because the amount of impact per descending stride is sooooo much lower…My only caveat: because I can run downhill so much faster in them I think I also overdid it too soon, with an old back injury starting to flare. As with all other significant gear changes it is probably important not to go too crazy too soon. In short, there will be many other makers copying the Hoka approach.

    VFFs have their place: shorter, less technical runs. It’s like hard-tail/full suspension.

  13. Thanks for all the comments everyone! So great to see that the HOKAs are actually working for people. I agree that is depends very much on terrain- I still wear my “barefoot” shoes at the beach!

  14. Just bought and ran this afternoon in my new Hoka’s. I have an old injury that I thought was going to keep me from running. Not now. I ran out of energy WIHOUT PAIN. Downhill was a blast! To each his own. I’ll go barefoot when I’m at the beach.

  15. In the past year I’ve upped my overall and and trail running mileage. At the beginning of January I purchased a pair of Hoka Bondi B.’s, and although they felt strange for the first 10 miles or so, I have loved them ever since.

    Like another reader above, I went overboard, running hard up and DOWN steep grades, and my shins paid a price. I took a month off, scaled down the downhill craziness, and have been doing great ever since. I have noticed that these shoes do make me run more naturally, more on the balls of my feet than my former 12mm-drop shoes did, and somehow, my times have even improved.

    I’m sitting on nearly 700 miles on these shoes (I never got more than 500 out of any other brand of shoes), and I absolutely will keeping buying them. I can’t imagine ever being without these.

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