The Bondi B is the road shoe made by Hoka One One. Although these are some wild looking shoes they are quite mild compared to other models and color options. This is a far cry from the minimalist shoes I had been wearing most of 2011. Out of the box these shoes look huge but are actually VERY light.
Here is Hoka's Story:
Hoka One One is the brainchild of two gravity sports enthusiasts Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud. Both men have been adventuring for as long as they can remember, and their trail running experiences have taken them across the globe.
Both Jean-Luc and Nicolas are committed to the values of freedom and enjoyment and feel that this is integral to the running experience whether running on the trail or in the city. With this in mind they started to look at the variables that affected the performance of different types of runners.
They quickly came to an important conclusion; fatigue, impact and muscle strain were challenges that runners of all stripes had to deal with every day. So Jean-Luc and Nicolas came up with a brilliant idea, why not design a shoe that would help to alleviate these problems - so that freedom and enjoyment could be guaranteed every time you go running!
From that idea Hoka One One was born. The word Hoka is derived from the ancient Maori language and roughly translates to "now it is time to fly". That's just how it feels to run in a pair of Hoka One One shoes; with each and every step your foot takes flight.
Today runner's from around the world are learning about the benefits of Hoka One One, they have been used by marathon winners. 50 mile, 100 mile and even 2000+ mile ultra-runners as well as runner's just like you or I who want to enjoy running, perform at their peak and feel that important sense of freedom whilst maintaining top physical performance and protecting against shocks, jolts and injuries.
So put your best foot forward, it's time to fly!
So when these shoes first hit the ultra running scene I was very skeptical and even found them humorous. Months pass and I see more and more reputable and far more experienced distance runners swearing by these shoes. I'm speaking of average joe's like myself not the sponsored runners with a vested interest. I mean why would an average ultra runner by a shoe that retails for a whopping $169.00 and run ultra distances in these shoes if they were not very satisfied.
I stayed away for a while hoping it was just a fad but my future race plans made the Hoka's worth a closer look. I'm training for my first 100K, the Fuego y Agua, in Nicaragua. I am needing to increase my weekly mileage quite a bit and I'm prone to injury when doing so. I'm not comfortable running roads and I hit the trails 90% of the time. I hoped to try the Bondi B's to increase my road miles.
I purchased the shoes online as there are no retailers within a few hours drive of my home. At this price I was quite nervous about the fit. I wear a 10 in basically everything I slip my feet into. The Bondi B's are sized strangely and I was advised to go a half size up to a 10.5. I did just that and the fit has been perfect so far.
I know enough already... how did they perform?
I hit the treadmill for two miles to ensure fit and comfort before heading outside. I followed this up with a bit over 4 miles on the road with a good bit of ascent and descent. Initial opinion out of the box was they have zero flexibility. Once on the foot the flexibility seemed a non factor. First mile outside seemed overly cushy and strange and almost felt like I was cheating. The feet seem confused by all the cushioning. I bombed down a paved hill with no shock to the normal areas. This was a definite plus. I did experience an unexplained tingling in my feet almost like a going to sleep feel but this went away on future runs. 6.2 miles total on this first day.
First trail run was taken on my favorite trails at South Mountains. I found they soaked up gravel and smaller sharp rocks like they did not exist. I was careful on the roots as I was leery of turning an ankle. I found a little difficulty in climbing steep mountain trails with these shoes. Keep in mind this is the road version and traction is not designed for this use. They just don't climb like my Montrail Mountain Masochist that usually run in. I was heading down the most technical and steep trail in my area and found these shoes are horrible on trails covered in leaves. That is leaves on steep descents. Feet slipped out from under me and I came crashing down the hill. Finished with 6.32 miles with just under 2000' of vertical gain.
My first true road test. Remember I hate running the roads. I heading into town at night and ran 10.55 miles at an 8:34 pace. I never really pushed it to hard but this was very nice pace for me. I ran the entire way with pure enjoyment and no discomfort. I never cursed the roads like I always do but instead just wanted to keep running all night.
I hit the mountains again for more trail testing. Just over 10 miles and 2300' of gain. Hoka's did very well but I took the leaf covered downhills a bit more cautiously. Most of the run I was experiencing a great deal of tightness in my lower back and found myself with bad form and hunched over most of the run. At the time I no idea what this was and thought maybe I was just fatigued and my form was causing my back to go tight.
I wake up the next day and my back is totally screwed up! I keep telling myself it can't be the Hoka's. I've had lower back injuries in the past and felt confident this was not a reaction to the shoes. My best guess is the day I slipped on the leaves I strained my back on the fall. I was forced to take a week off from running as the pain was that bad.
I'm back to running a week later in the Hoka's although still with some back pain. I can't remember the last time I fell on the trail and then the first trail test in the Hoka's I fall and get injured.
The lessons learned here for me are that the shoes have limitations on the trail and technical terrain. I will stick with the Montrails for now for much of my trail running. As far as the road, fire road, and treadmill running I absolutely love the Hoka's up to this point.
A few more things about the shoes design before I close.
Not a big fan of the laces as I find them to burly and stiff and hard to get a tight knot.
The colors and overall appearance of these shoes still have a long way to go.
For a road shoe they perform very well on trail other than traction issues described above.
The price point is tough to swallow but others state they last many more miles than the average shoe. The verdict is still out on this one.
I end a run with legs feeling fresh and no foot pain. I wake the next day feeling ready to run.
The folks over at Hoka are definitely onto something here and I'm looking forward to what is up next for this company.