Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Hoka One One Tryout

The HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 3 and Rapa Nui 2
          I haven’t bought any running shoes for about 4 to 5 years mainly because I haven’t worn out what I already have due to infrequent running in recent years. In those 4 to 5 years of no purchase, the barefoot running movement had come and gone and in some cases swung over to extra thick soles in some shoes. When some of my running friends started posting pictures of their thick soled Hoka One One shoes, I became curious about them. I knew when they first came out that they were very expensive and cost $150! The shoes have a negative foot drop, a rocker sole, and due to its thickness, a cushioned ride. Being an overpronator with already damaged posterior tibilialis tendons, they were the exact opposite of rigid, motion control shoes I’ve worn for decades.
          I checked the prices online and found some closeout deals as much as 40 percent off on older models. The Bondi 3 was down to $83.99, still steep but considering the price of running shoes nowadays, more reasonable. So I ordered one just to try it out and see what the hulabaloo was all about. Maybe it would resurrect my running, maybe not, and if not then I can always wear them for walking or at work. The shoes arrived in less than a week and a couple of days later, it was time for a test drive.
          I started with baby steps and as slowly as I could jog. Any slower, I might as well have walked briskly. But I really wanted to feel the shoes. At first the cushioning made me feel like I was sinking a little instead of being propelled forward. But then again it could have been that my legs have lost muscle memory from infrequent running. I was expecting it to feel like the 1979 version of the Brooks Vantage which was very cushioned and bouncy when new and was rated best shoe by a running magazine at the time. It turned out Brooks paid the magazine for that rating. But I digress. Another thing I noticed is that it felt as if I was running more upright instead of leaning forward and on subsequent runs, my knees felt more underneath me instead of my usual overstride. Could this be due to the negative foot drop as opposed to the usual wedge shape of running shoes? But, back to this first test run which lasted a whole hour. I kept track of the mileage on Runkeeper and when the run ended, I checked the distance and pace. Heavens to Betsy! It was much slower than I thought! 4.94 miles in 1:00:54 at a pace of 12 minutes and 24 seconds per mile. The upside was that my ankles didn’t hurt and it felt like a good workout despite the utter slowness.
          Two days later, I went for another run but this time, I programmed Runkeeper to alert me to run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute. Another one hour run but this time despite the walk breaks, my pace was 11:14 per mile. This must have been a miscalculation by Runkeeper. Maybe the GPS didn’t connect until mid-run. The third run which was only 30 minutes yielded an 11:02 pace using my trusty old Garmin 305. Still no ankle pain.
          I went back to the website I bought the Bondi 3 from and looked for more closeout deals. I noticed the Rapa Nui 2 for 73.99 with an original price of 130. Mind you, these were trail shoes and I don’t run on trails but nobody cares what surface I’d run on them. I hemmed and hawed to myself but ordered it anyway. During the run test, I noticed that even though it was still rated as a cushioned shoe, it felt more like a stable shoe because it was a little stiffer than the Bondi 3. It actually felt like it was propelling me forward a little better and the 11:03 and 11:24 pace on the 2 minute run/1 minute walk intervals seemed to reflect that on the two workouts I tried them on. Either that or I was beginning to regain my running legs.
          Those short run/walk intervals seem to be working for me as an alternative workout to my stationary biking. I’m not looking to increase my pace or lengthen my run. I’m just happy that the Hoka One One appears to have rejuvenated my running. I’ve only had 6 workouts between the two shoes and I hope I can keep on doing what they have allowed me to do so far and not just a placebo effect of having new shoes.
          Unfortunately, two days after writing the above experience, I suffered a strained right thigh which had nothing to do with the shoes. Apparently 3 days a week of running was a little bit more than my body can handle. That's just the way my muscles react to running in the past few years. They can only tolerate about 6 weeks of running regularly before they break down again. Nevertheless, I'm still sold on the Hoka One One shoes. I'll start running in them again as soon as I heal.

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