What Do Hoka Shoes Do?
Ten years ago when the creators of the Hoka brand were just starting to engineer the now popular cushioned, platform, running shoe, barefoot running and Nike’s “barefoot shoes” were in vogue. Now Hoka is on trend as the premier “runners shoe” and is popularized by celebrities and anyone looking for an everyday sneaker to walk the dog. In 2010 the barefoot trend was all about minimalism and stepping back from over-correction; today Hoka is on trend for maximalist... the more cushion the better. The original Hoka was designed for downhill trail running and was at first envisioned as an accessory a runner could slip on over a shoe for the downhill portion of the run. Designed by mountain trail runners in the French Alps, Hoka derives its name from a New Zealand Maori term “Hoka One One” which means to fly over the earth. Not surprisingly, the first place one could purchase Hoka in the U.S. was Boulder. The engineering of the Hoka shoe gets it’s performance from the same concept of extra-wide skis for powder, snowshoes, and wider tennis racket frames. A wider surface area “sweet spot” on impact provides for an almost buoyant feeling when walking or running. Applying this to footwear is what makes wearing Hoka feel so light, airy, and springy.
That being said, the foundational engineering of the Hoka shoe is not derived from human ergonomics or orthopedic alignment. The engineering does allow for a competitive edge, but there is little support if wearing the extra-cushioned platforms are actually better for the wearer. The human foot has 26 bones and more nerve endings per square inch than anywhere else in the body. The foot informs the rest of the body through each step creating gait patterns. While the extra cushion allows runners to spring off the ground, all this cushion could potentially be destabilizing for joints and foot dynamics. The Hoka trend was born out of the minimalist running shoe that preceded it. Hoka might add a little spring in your step, but they are not designed for better orthopedic support. The old-school grey New Balance is still the classic choice for structure; but Hoka can add a little pep to your step.