We logged hundreds of Kms on both roads and trails to pick the most outstanding from the King of Cushion.
tHE bEST HOKA ONE ONE SHOES
Founded in 2009 by French trail runners Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, Hoka One One began just as the minimalist running shoe trend was reaching its peak. In spite (or because) of that trend, what Hoka offered went completely against it: a maximalist shoe that cradled and cushioned runners’ feet. Inspired by the smooth ride provided by mountain bikes and powder skis, Mermoud and Diard wanted to bring a similar floating feel to running.
They started by making prototypes themselves and eventually worked with a chemist at a Chinese shoe company to develop an entirely new kind of EVA foam that was soft and surprisingly lightweight—characteristics that are now hallmarks of Hoka kicks. Early releases like the Mafate (now Evo Mafate and Mafate Speed), Bondi, and Stinson ATR proved that the Hoka design philosophy had merit. These shoes provided enough cushioning to soften rough terrain and return energy, but weren’t so heavy that they weighed down runners. The shoes caught on, and Hoka has expanded rapidly ever since.
The Hoka Recipe
Mermoud and Diard developed their shoes around a few basic principles: adding more cushioning, using light materials, and creating a wide rocker midsole to help preserve momentum and create a smoother ride. The shoes were initially marketed to trail runners, but the brand now makes road shoes and even track spikes. While many other companies have forsaken EVA foam in favor of newer formulations, Hoka has stuck with its proprietary EVA-rubber blend that’s more elastic (for better support and energy return) and more durable (it can stand up to higher mileage) than traditional EVA. The foam has gone by different names, including RMAT and R-Bound, but the underlying chemistry is essentially the same.
Hoka One One
- Memory foam collar for secure, comfy fit
- Very soft, yet durable, EVA foam midsole
- Very tall stack height can feel less stable to some runners
- Thick upper material can trap heat
The Bondi is Hoka’s most cushioned road shoe, with a layer of EVA foam anchoring a downright beefy midsole. The latest version of the Bondi keeps the formula that has won this shoe such a devoted following: maximum cushioning for an ultra-plush ride. Like with previous versions, an open mesh upper increases breathability, and the Meta-Rocker sole helps you roll through your stride. Plus, the seventh iteration comes with a new memory foam collar for a better fit and feel around the ankle.
—BEST DAILY TRAINER—
Hoka One One
- Lighter than the Clifton 6
- Rocker sole promotes smooth, quick transitions
- Thick upper mesh feels less breathable
The original Clifton is legendary among Hoka fans and marked a turning point for the brand—it proved that a shoe could provide maximum cushion without being clunky. The seventh version builds on the model’s reputation as a solid daily trainer and recovery shoe. The Clifton’s EVA foam and Meta-Rocker sole create a soft but responsive ride, and its roomy toe box delivers a comfortable fit. It’s also slightly lighter than the previous Clifton, but testers did complain that the thick upper led to overheating feet.
—BEST FOR MIDFOOT STRIKERS—
Hoka One One
- Carbon fiber plate delivers a fast, propulsive ride
- Light and airy mesh upper
- Heel strikers felt the shoe interfered with their strides
The Carbon X helped ultrarunner Jim Walmsley break the 50-mile world record in 2019. But for the rest of us, it’s a polarizing shoe. Designed for speed, it features a lightweight upper and Profly X EVA foam that provides an even level of cushioning from heel to toe. Most notably, the midsole contains a carbon fiber plate that’s designed to accentuate the Meta-Rocker design and help you roll onto your forefoot. Midfoot strikers loved the shoe and described its ride as “smooth and propulsive, like pushing off a slight ramp.” But the same sensation felt awkward for heel strikers. The latter group felt like they had to work much harder to get up on their toes and generate speed.