Running is hard. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were just a little bit easier? Luckily, HOKA has made it their mission to create running shoes that do just that. While many brands are busy shaving down features to produce the most minimalist shoe on the shelf, HOKA has embraced a maximilatist design philosophy. The result is a line of runners that offers incomparable support, comfort, and shock absorption.
In this article, we take a tour of our favourite HOKA running shoes for men and HOKA running shoes for women. We also tackle some frequently asked questions.
TL;DR: For the best all-around HOKA running shoe, check out the Clifton 7.
What’s So Great About HOKA Running Shoes?
Let’s address the elephant in the room: HOKAs are not for every runner. Some people like a more standard cut, while others prefer minimalist—or even barefoot-style—running shoes. Simply put, you’re not going to feel the ground as much with HOKA’s. That’s the trade-off for the increased cushioning.
“OK, but really,” you might say, “what’s so great about ‘em?”
For starters, HOKA’s are extremely lightweight. This means less resistance with each step. This is thanks to their PROFLY cushioning, renowned for its ultralight construction, springy comfort, and heel protection.
Second, HOKA’s are built with a wider toe box. Runners with wide feet will certainly appreciate this, but even those with narrow feet might enjoy the extra space for their toes to naturally splay on impact.
Lastly, HOKA’s have an exceptionally cushioned midsole, featuring their proprietary Meta Rocker technology. Meta Rocker geometry allows smooth transitions from the moment your heel touches down to your next toe-off—kind of like a rocking chair for your foot. Meta Rockers can be classified as either early-stage or late-stage.
An early-stage Meta Rocker is placed behind the metatarsal heads and encourages a smooth ride and rapid forefoot transitions. The late-stage Meta Rocker is located in front of the metatarsal heads and prioritizes forefoot stability.
The Top HOKA Running Shoes Reviewed
Best All-Around Road Shoes
A reinvented classic, the HOKA Clifton 8 are the latest entry into the Clifton family. The 7s still boast all the features we loved about the older generations, but offer a sleeker design, reinforced eyelets, gusseted tongue, and an open-engineered sandwich mesh upper.
As always, the Clifton 8 boast PROFLY dual-density cushioning. This means softer foam in the heel and firmer foam in the toe, allowing for protected heel impacts and explosive take-offs.
Between their features, versatility, and price-point, the Clifton 8 rank as the best all-around road shoe. Moreover, they’re neither too maxed out nor too scaled down, making them the brand’s most diplomatic representative.
- Less responsive
Best For Trail Running
For a dedicated trail running shoe, check out the HOKA Speedgoat 4. The Speedgoats were named in honor of trail-runner Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer. Meltzer wore these award-winning shoes when he successfully completed an FKT (Fastest-Known Time) of the Appalachian Trail in 2016.
The Speedgoat 4 is a highly technical shoe. It features 3D-printed overlays to increase midfoot support, a breathable mesh upper, lightweight construction, and Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole for ample traction. For all that, they remain surprisingly light at just over 9 oz.
- Only for trails
Most Lightweight Trainers
Hesitating to make the transition from traditional or minimalist running shoes? The HOKA Rincon 2 are a great place to start. Lightweight and sleek, the Rincon 2 still feature HOKA’s renowned early-stage Meta Rocker and full-compression EVA midsole. Plus, for the price, the Rincon are an attractive entry point into the HOKA brand.
While their lightweight construction make the Rincon ideal for speedwork and drills, they’re also suitable for normal running or racing. They weigh an average of 7.5 oz.
- Less frills
Best Race Day Shoes
When it comes to race day, you need a pair of shoes that are lightweight, responsive, and supportive. The HOKA Carbon X 2 check all the boxes.
Yes, the Carbon X 2 feature the same PROFLY midsole and EVA outsole you’d expect from HOKA. But, with the addition of a carbon fiber plate, you get some much needed responsiveness. Additionally, the carbon plate helps propel you forward, a welcome benefit for endurance running.
- Responsive feel
- Ideal for long distances
Best Shoes for Cushioning
The HOKA Bondi 7are maximally maximal (yes—you read that right). While the ample cushioning decreases responsiveness, the Bondi 7 are an excellent choice if you’re on your feet all day or coming back from an injury.
An enhanced Memory Foam collar cradles and supports your ankle, while an internal heel counter secures your foot. Early-stage Meta Rocker guarantees soft landings and smooth take-offs. The standard width can seem a bit narrow for some, but the shoe also comes in a wide version.
- Super minimalist
- Heel stability
- Ankle support
Best Stability Running Shoes
If you love the Clifton line but want something with more stability, consider the HOKA Arahi 5. They feature the same 5mm heel-to-toe drop as the Clifton 7, but with a lower stack height.
Another difference is the outsole; the Arahi 5 have an EVA J-frame outsole, which gives a firmer ride and corrects overpronation. As usual, the early-stage Meta Rocker ensures a smooth stride.
Compared to its predecessors, the Arahi 5 is a huge step up in comfort and fit. The engineered mesh is breathable, while the midfoot is more snug and sleek. An excellent choice for any road runner seeking extra support.
- Less cushiony
What to Look for When Buying Hoka Running Shoes
Outsole & Midsole
What makes HOKA running shoes so recognizable is a mix of their midsoles and their outsoles.
HOKA is renowned for their opulanetly cushioned midsoles. While all of their shoes boast supreme comfort, they come in three varieties. In increasing order of opulence, we’ve got the Responsive Cushion, Balanced Cushion, and Maximum Cushion. Some models also feature a dual-layer midsole with PROFLY cushioning.
Though the oversized outsoles may look strange at first, they serve a valuable function. The wide geometry and extended heel allow for excellent shock absorption and seamless transitions.
Over the years, HOKA has continued to improve their designs. Many of their models now feature 3D engineered mesh, which does double-duty of improving breathability and securing the midfoot.
None of the models that made our list are waterproof. That said, if you’re looking for a waterproof upper, HOKA has partnered with GORETEX to produce an entire line of waterproof shoes.
HOKA running shoes incorporate their Active Foot Frame technology. Similar to a race car bucket seat, this unique heel counter cradles the foot securely above the midsole.
If you fancy the Clifton but want more heel support and cushioning, check out the Clifton Edge (men’s / women’s). The Edge are designed with an extended heel for softer landings and smoother transitions.
On the topic of extended heels, HOKA also offers models like the Tennine that have an even more pronounced HUBBLE heel.
Compared to many of its contemporaries, HOKA running shoes are designed with extra room in the toebox. While this is especially beneficial for runners with wide feet, don’t let this deter those of you narrow-footed folk; the toebox is not excessively wide, just wide enough to let your toes splay naturally on impact. For this reason, HOKA also offers many of their models in size wide.
Before choosing a shoe profile, you should understand your movement pattern or pronation. Pronation refers to the way in which your foot lands. When the pressure is on the inside of the foot, we call this overpronation (often seen in people with flat feet). Conversely, underpronation occurs when most of the pressure is on the outside of the foot.
Stability running shoes (like the HOKA Arahi 5) feature arch support to compensate for overpronation and redirect pressure to the mid and outer foot. In contrast, neutral shoes allow your foot to pronate naturally.
Remember, some overpronation is fine. Strength training exercises can help correct this issue which is preferable to always relying on arch support. If, however, your overpronation frequently leads to injuries, a stability shoe may be right for you.
For the most part, HOKA fit true to size. So, if you typically wear a size 10 in other brands, that’ll translate to a size 10 in HOKA.
Keep in mind that the afternoon is the best time of day to try shoes on. This is when your feet are most swollen.
FAQs for HOKA running shoes
Are Hoka shoes good for bad knees?
For runners with bad knees or those making a slow comeback from an injury, HOKA may be right for you. The tall midsole stack and EVA foam outsole disperse landing shock better than traditional and minimalist shoes..
Do Hoka shoes prevent injury?
Preventing injury has more to do with being aware of your form and your surroundings. Nevertheless, having a well cushioned shoe can help reduce the impact on your knees and joints over time.
How long should Hoka shoes last?
According to HOKA One One’s official website, HOKA running shoes should be replaced every 200 - 250 miles (320 - 400 km). Of course, each case is different. Keep track of the mileage you put on your shoes and monitor their wear and tear.
Whether you’re new to HOKA or a loyal devotee of the maximalist brand, we recommend the new Clifton 8. These shoes are both comfortable and versatile, making them perfect for any style or intensity of road running. Plus, for the price, they’re hard to beat.