Sunday, August 28, 2011

My First Pair of Hokas - The Marshmallow Shoe

They look so weird. Marshmallow shoes - that's what we called them. With their absurdly thick soles and bright neon colors, they look like great big clown shoes. And they seem to go against the current trend of minimalist running. Kind of the antithesis to that movement, really. But, they seem to work for a lot of people. Karl Meltzer is a fan. Catra Corbett is hooked. Lisa Smith-Batchen is a recent convert.

And these things are popping up everywhere. At your next trail ultra, take a look around at people's feet. Odds are, you will spot more than a few marshmallow shoes. Runners who own a pair swear by them and proclaim them to be some sort of magic shoe. "Love my Hokas," they will say. "Makes downhill running so much fun!" "I'm never going back to my old shoes."

With my 50 miler in the Tetons right around the corner, and with no other shoes to wear for it other than road racing flats (can we say "ouch!"), I decided to buy a pair and try them out for myself. See what all the fuss is about.

Turns out, they aren't so bad. They are actually minimalist in some ways. To begin, they are incredibly light, although they appear bulky. The heel-to-toe drop is pretty minimal. Where Hokas stand out, it seems, is in the cushioning. The thick sole makes roots and rocks almost nonexistant. You can glide over the trail. Downhill running becomes a breeze because all the shock is absorbed by the sole, which is made of a very soft EVA.

It's kind of weird at first to wear something so bulky-looking yet so light-feeling. You are high off the ground with them which may turn off purist runners who want to "feel" the earth beneath their feet.

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