Hoka One One: Marketing Hype Or (Another) Running Shoe Revolution?

When evaluating new running shoe styles, the old adages “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” or “buyer beware” are good rules of thumb. Having said that and considering the class action lawsuits settled by Skechers for Shape-Ups and Vibram for FiveFingers, it is more important than ever for podiatrists to be aware of new footwear trends.

The latest trend is maximalist cushioning. Around since late 2010, Hoka One One (named after a New Zealand Maori phrase meaning "to fly") is the new “it” shoe that podiatrists need to know about. Originally developed by a group of eccentric French designers and ultra runners, this shoe has an engineered midsole volume, which is up to 2.5 times the volume of a standard running shoe. Decker Outdoor Corporation acquired the original company in 2012. Decker Outdoor Corporation is a publicly traded company that owns the brands Ugg, Teva, Sanuk, Ahnu and Tsubo.

Hoka One One has been a big player with ultra runners and, similar to Five Fingers, has started to develop a cult following. In fact, at the Speedgoat 50K last year, 27 percent of the finishers wore Hoka One One shoes. No other brand had more than a 7 percent share of the runners in the race.

Fortunately, I am not seeing the injuries with Hoka One One that I saw with FiveFingers. However, similar to FiveFingers, maximalist cushioning isn’t going to benefit every runner’s foot type or heel strike. Also, not every model is designed for the same foot or supports the foot the same way. My favorite Hoka One One model is the Bondi as it hourglasses the least in the waist of the shoe. If the fit is correct (width, depth, etc.), I have prescribed Hoka One One for runners experiencing sesamoiditis and hallux limitus/rigidus as the shoe may be beneficial for those conditions.

For a related Forum column, see “When Shoe Companies Make Misleading Health Claims About Their Products” at http://tinyurl.com/qcobge3 .

Hoka One One: Marketing Hype Or (Another) Running Shoe Revolution?


Craig Paynesays: July 30, 2014 at 8:34 am

This year in the USA, the Hokas are expected to sell >$35 million. The entire minimalist category at the run specialty level is only worth ~$30 million. Hokas are expected to sell >$105 million in 2015. Outside the run specialty level, the entire minimalist category is worth ~$100 million ..... this means that Hokas are now out selling the entire minimalist category. Runners have voted with their feet.

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Jenny Sanderssays: July 31, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Great follow up information. Thanks Craig!

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Sandrasays: July 30, 2014 at 10:14 am

Hi Jenny, thank you for the article! Which HOKA model would you recommend for sesamoiditis?
Also, could you comment on the Vionic flip flops in cases of sesamoiditis?

Thanks, Sandra

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Jenny Sanderssays: July 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm

My favorite Hoka in terms of support (pronation control) is the Bondi Model. However, if excessive pronation is not a concern, I would try on several models and go with the one that feels best in terms of sesamoid cushioning.

As for the Vionic flip-flops, I am a fan of the brand. My favorite models are adjustable and include Harbor and Sport Recovery. I also like the brands Chaco’s and Fit-Flops for sesamoiditis as they have an inflexible forefoot and good medial arch support.

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Kevin A. Kirby DPMsays: July 31, 2014 at 11:31 am

Good blog, Jenny. I have been wearing Hokas now for about three years and they have become a very popular shoe for ultramarathoners and their incredible cushioning especially seems to be appreciated during downhill portions of races. I first discussed Hokas in another national podiatric blog about three years ago. http://www.podiatrym.com/search3.cfm?id=46740

As opposed to the "minimalist shoes," which I felt were nothing more than a rehash of the decades old racing flat shoe construction techniques, I believe the Hokas represent a truly new and significant shoe design concept that will, over time, prove to be very helpful for many runners and walkers.

Cheers,

Kevin

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Eric Fullersays: July 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Good blog. The cushioning is not the only thing in the Hoka's design that can help our patients. There is a significant anterior rocker bottom. Anterior rockers have been shown to decrease forefoot pressures. They make a lot of sense for people with hallux rigidus as the shoe will decrease the need for hallux dorsiflexion. It is nice to see an OTC shoe that has this rocker effect.

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