When I first saw these shoes I laughed and thought the shop assistant was having me on and that these were really for old people with foot and knee issues. I was injured, had numerous heel and foot injuries including calcaneal heel spurs, bursitis and more unpronouncable terms and was desperate for a solution, so I listened.
My feet had been injured on a trail run at Manly Dam running over hard rock with little cushioning for a long distance and this was around 18 months prior. Having found my Mizuno's too harsh for repetitive stress and the Saucony Triumph 10's a lot better but still not allowing me to run more than 5km without severe pain, I was considering retiring from running and knew that would mean weigh gain, so I was prepared to try new options.
Anyway, desperate to get running again, I listened to the sales assistant explain that long distance runners used them to minimise repetitive stress and that they were built for light enough to run longer distances and race in. Needless to say I purchased them. My wife was in stitches when she saw them and said she would not be seen running with me if I wore them.
I bought the Hokka Stinson ATR (Trail shoe) first and have run around 400km in them to date and then the Stinson lite for tarmac and have run around 60km in them. I might add my wife now owns and runs in a pair as well and loves them. Little did she know.
What are they like to run in
Great. Cushioned. No pain. The only thing I will say and this may just be my feet is that they are not great walking shoes. In fact the area on the top inside of the shoe actually chafes my inner ankle badly when walking, but no such issue at all when running. Also no pain from my various injuries and they appear to be much better, slight pain in the morning and that is it. The longest distance I have run in them to date has been 14km and am working back to a 21km soon. Usually distances run are eithr 6km or 10km. So my tip, if you are looking for a walking shoe then this is not it, or test it well before buying.
Do I feel like an idiot running in them?
I used to, but now I dont give a shit. Comfort has taken the upper hand. Ran my first race in them 2 weeks ago. No one even gave them a second look.
Has my running improved?
Well if you consider that I can now actually run, then yes. Anecdotally my times have remained pretty constant, so I have not had any noticeable change in speed, up or down. When I first tried the Mizuno Elixr's I had moved from the Asic Kayano Gel, and dropped 30s a kilometer odd in pace immediately.
These are the weights of the Swinson ATR, Swinson Lite and ofcourse the Mizuno Elixr (Pre cursor to the Sayonara) running shoes. As you can see the Hoka trail shoe or ATR was 357g, the Hoka road shoe was 366g and the mizuno, bless them was only 276g. So the road shoe picked up an additional 2,5% and the Mizuno was down a wopping 24,5%. Interesting that the road shoe weighed more than the trail shoe, I expected the otehr way around.
What have I not enjoyed?
- The tread. On the road shoe, the tread squeaks in certain conditions. This for me has inclued paving and certain tarmac. Not continuously but enough to notice. Also in wet conditions they are slippery, on a smooth surface, even road the tead becomes slippery, potentially the tread compound is too hard me thinks, not sure, but they need to look at this on future upgrades.
- The tread. On the ATR or trail side of things, the tread has worn very quickly, in my view anyway. I admit this is a trail shoe that has run on paving and roads a lot but it has worn quicker than any other shoe I have owned. So my advice is maybe don't buy the trail shoe if you are not planning to do the majority of your running offroad. But then get ready to squeak and slip!
- There seems to be an issue on the road shoe tongue, so to speak. It doens'nt fit well at the front of the shoe, slips sideways at the top and thus pulls skew. It is not uncomfortable and does not affect my running, but just seems odd to look at and like a small design flaw that should have been dealt with. See pic below, you can see the slight crease on the right, second from the bottom lace eye. This is much worse when on the foot.
- I won't mention the looks here as I am passed that, but initially you can be a little self conscious. As more and more people wear these, this will no doubt become less of a factor
- To keep weight down the shoe walls are pretty much mesh. Great for summer, not so great for cold winter mornings I suspect. Still have to go through winter in them.
- I don't think I will ever be able to run in another shoe with less cushioning again!
- The price, they are $240 odd, dont seem to be available anywhere online or off for less. Athletes Foot have them, Rebel have some of them and then your local running store seems to have all of them. All the prices are the same. Expensive!
What are the good things:
- I can run again
- They are bloody comfortable, no matter what anyone says
Would I recommend them
Yes, absolutley! Would they be my first choice if I were starting out with zero injury? Maybe not I would always recommend going the minimalist route to start, But that's just me and as they say in the classics, "don't knock em till you've tried em".
If you have ongoing injuries like myself and need a cushioned shoe, absolutely yes, give these a try and ofcourse always consult your medical professional as this is not medical advice. But once you run in Hokas they say its impossible to go back and I can feel that, if I try run in my Mizunos it is like running on coals. But I am running and that is the main thing. They are light and have not changed my gait.
If you already enjoy a more minimalist shoe style and running, stick with it. Don't wear these until you have to!
Steve writes articles and resource pages for Health4you.com.au. He lives on the Northern beaches and is an avid tester of new fitness gadgets, shoes and accessories as well as being a keen runner, cyclist and swimmer. Note we said keen, not necessarily good. Steve also has an ongoing interest in weight management, given he is also a beer enthusiast.