Friday, 24 July 2015

shoeporn: Hoka One One - Huaka

In 2010, at a period when the minimalistic movement was at a peak, something entirely different and totally contrarian showed up on the constantly pulsating running bazaar. Frenchman’s Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, both former Salomon employees and gifted runners themselves, created a shoe brand called Hoka One One. As you pronounce “O-nay, O-nay”, these kicks are christened after the Maori language expression meaning "flying over the earth". And exactly that was the phrase Nicolas used to describe this piece of pure “maximalism”. “It’s like flying!“ were the words Mermoud describes his construction. At the time his concept was something that went totally against everything that was seen before. People were not used to this style of shoe. Especially at the time the brand hit the market.

Efficient ride  - minimal weight
 In April 2013 Deckers Outdoor, the mother company for UGG, Teva and other footwear brands bought Hoka One One. Subsequently a lot of cash was invested in the expansion and marketing of this extra softened, widespread, stable and super-light running shoe. Still it feels strange to witness something that huge and chunky. My individual adoration for the minimalistic style to running shoes is not a top-secret. However I was pretty keen to check what it is all about. I already shaped an picture and an opinion in my head. I wanted to proof all my preconceptions. So what is it all about? The Hoka One One Huaka arrived and I had the chance to track a proper check-up.

Hoka Race-Lace System

Full Ground Contact Design
 The Huaka is one of the lightest produces in the current series. Only the Clifton is lighter . I desired to start sensitively and selected this model. My initial dash with the maximal style shouldn’t be to “max”. A “lightweight and fast ride” is what the product descriptions offers. When I unboxed the Huaka I was astonished. Everyone knows the weird feeling. You expect something bulky to be heavy. If you then experience something different it creates a stunning feeling. The RMAT midsole (“Engineered midsole volume which is up to 2.5 X the volume than standard running shoes”) in fact is massive. I have never had such a sole at any shoe. Last time I witnessed something like this must have been back in the raving days. As some of my elder readers will reminisce a footwear-product named “Buffallo” (Click HERE if you up for some reminder!). Well, we won’t go more into that for now.

Strategic Hi-Abrasion Rubber Zones

Ultra-Lightweight No Sew SpeedFrame Construction
 I hurried to understand how they really sense in motion. The lacing system was the first part that absolutely amazed me. Leave aside the simply old-school way of lacing up your running shoes. The Huaka comes with a permanent (and I guess tough to replace…) lacing structure. They named it ‘Race-lace’. The whole construct is a cord based system which depends on a tiny toggle. The usage is pretty fine and easy going. However you’ll receive an “old-school” shoelace with the shoe. The tongue of the shoe feels great as it is very thin and well-shaped. To access the shoe you need a bit of understanding. For me it was hard to get my big feet (US 13) into these kicks. I learnt that you have to press down the very back of the shoe and tuck myself in with a bit of force. Certainly no shoe you want to have for a fast triathlon changeover. With a bit of time for the lacing system it shouldn’t be too tricky to make more space for an easier entering.

2mm Heel to Toe Offset
 Then it’s a go. With a 2mm drop the Huaka feels pleasant straight from the start. As I usually run with low drop shoes it’s a well know feeling. Please be aware that, when not used to such a radical style, this could be different pressure to your muscles and tendons. The soul of the shoe is the massive sole that is composed of a material called RMAT, which is a blend of rubber and EVA. Raised sidewalls in mid and rear-foot part of the shoe support a fast gait cycle. And exactly that could be describes as the feeling that sticks out for me. While having a well softened shoe there is still a accurate feeling of moving reckless and effectual. Notwithstanding the “highness”, the shoe feels safe and proper during diverse speeds. Although I had certain strange encounters on technical trails, the Huaka is a harmless and dependable companion for any kind of road runs. I valued to take ‘em out for long runs on the cemented boulevards. The precision and the stunning reaction made the Huaka a great partner for longer beating on roads. From my knowledge the shoe shaped fewer tenderness and muscle exhaustion while on the street. Still on easy trails the Huaka was a solid partner. Overall the Huaka offers top-notch responsiveness joined with decisiveness in the cushioning you would not really expect from a shoe with such a sole.

Offset: 2mm, Heel: 27mm, Forefoot: 25mm

Great companion for longer road runs.
 Having experienced the Huaka as a lighter model, it would be exciting to see how his ultra-lightweight comrade, the Clifton, feels. It looks like the Huaka is a “pumped up” type of the Clifton. More than that there are a series of very fascinating shoes in the pipeline. While I saw some samples of road and track flats, Hoka One One looks to drive the market and their progress even further. Hoka One One will stay attention-grabbing and definitely will raise eyebrows with their altered approach to running shoe construction.

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