When I started running about 3.5 years ago, I did exactly what is recommended to every beginning runner. I went to my local specialty running store and tried on lots and lots of running shoes. I have very, very flat feet so it’s not surprising that I was steered in the direction of stability shoes. Most of the shoes that I tried were uncomfortable immediately, before I even took a step. Very few felt good but I did find something I liked. My very first pair of “real” running shoes were Brooks Adrenalines. They seemed to work just fine and I replaced them at the appropriate intervals (every 350 miles or so). I did notice that my shoes seemed to wear out a bit where my big toe connected with the rest of my foot but I never got blisters or pain at this spot.

After using the Brooks for about 2 years, I started to read more about running shoes. Inspired by the book Born to Run, I considered more minimalist shoes. After doing some research I picked the Brooks Pure Cadence. I took them for a short run at the store and really liked them. After uses them a few times at home, I realized that they aren’t quite wide enough for me. While I still will wear them for an occasional short run or a cross-training session, I just don’t love them.
A year ago I returned to the running store and asked to try on some shoes. I re-tried the Brooks Adrenalines and they were still fine. I also tried on the Saucony Hurricanes and really liked them. They Saucony shoes were a little bit more expensive but within the same price category as the Adrenalines and I decided to try them. I bought my 2nd pair of Saucony Hurricanes about a month before the Goofy and I brought both sets with me – one for the half marathon and one for the full marathon. I like the Saucony shoes and haven’t had the same wear problems that I had with the Brooks.

I have had a nagging injury though. During my Goofy training I sustained a 5th metatarsal stress fracture in my left foot. Although it was very painful in December, it felt much better by the time I ran the Goofy. I had no foot pain during the Goofy but I could point to the exact spot of the injury for months after. It was more a nagging awareness than anything but it hadn’t gone away completely.

I recently returned to the running store. I knew there were some newer models of my former running shoes and I wanted to make sure there were no serious changes before buying a new pair. While I fully intended to buy another pair of Saucony Hurricanes, I was open to trying something new. We decided to abandon the Brooks Adrenalines due to the wear pattern on the upper part of the shoe. I tried on the newer model of Saucony and found them unchanged from what I was wearing. And then the salesman brought out a curveball. Would I like to try a new shoe called the Hoka One One?

These shoes just look silly. Imagine moonboots that have been redesigned as shoes. And yet they have been cleverly engineered. There is ample cushioning to reduce impact but also a reduction in the drop from heel to toe (more traditional running shoes have a larger difference in height from heel to toe than the new-fangled “zero-drop” or reduced drop shoes that are becoming popular). This notion of flattening out the running shoe is right in line with the concepts of Born to Run. While these are highly cushioned shoes (read: not minimalist!), they retain some of the conceptual benefits of the reduced drop. They also have a very wide toe box which appeals to someone like me who has had issues with that in the Brooks Adrenalines.
I tried them on and immediately fell in love. They were roomy in the toe and felt like walking on clouds. I suspected that it would help my metatarsal heal without having to give up running. When I bought them I figured I’d use them for one short run a week and probably go buy a pair of Saucony Hurricanes in a few weeks for my long runs. Instead I find that I prefer my Hokas to my other shoes. I have no foot discomfort when I run in them. My metatarsal injury feels better than it has since before the injury. I am so happy that I took a chance.

Hokas are certainly not for everyone. The price tag alone is enough to scare most of us. If I hadn’t been absolutely in love with them in the store, I never would have risked wasting that much money on a pair of running shoes. Instead… I’m already trying to decide when I should buy my back-up pair.