I’m not much for designer shoes. I’ll tell you that right off the bat. So it was with a little bit of hesitation that I bought myself the Bondi 3 model from Hoka One One. At $140 from Zappos.com, these shoes are not cheap. They also look kind of funny:
But there’s a reason for that funny look with the Hoka One Ones. That right there, my friends, is an extra few millimeters of foam padding for my feet. My first impression upon walking in these shoes was, “Oh, holy crap, wow!” It was like walking on a marshmallow. That, and they’re not shaped like the “tone-up” shoes. The sole is still shaped like a regular shoe’s sole, but with a lot more padding and a little less heel, making your foot strikes more natural.
THE FIRST WALK
I took the shoes out for a quick, 30-minute walk along with the dog. It was a slow walk because it was a really nice day. I still wanted to get the 30 minutes in, but I didn’t care much about any sort of distance. So it ended up being slow and methodical.
The shoes felt incredible. It really was like “walking on a pillow” as others have described running/walking/jogging in Hoka One Ones. What I noticed the most at the end was the lack of fatigue. I was not tired at all, even thinking that I probably didn’t do the whole 30 minutes or the 1.5 miles.
THE FIRST JOG
I went on a quick jog around the neighborhood and that’s when I knew these shoes were different. I was not tired at all at the end. In fact, I felt like I should have put more into the run, but I had other things to get done. So I didn’t do another lap around the neighborhood, but I probably could have done it.
I was really liking where these shoes were taking me. So I took them to Boston.
THE FIRST RUN
To say that I am impressed by how I feel after each walk/jog session with these shoes would be an understatement. I’m really, really surprised. I must admit that I thought of the whole “big sole, lots of foam” thing to be a ploy, a marketing gimmick designed to get people to try the shoe and just spend all that money once. But after the walking and jogging I described above (which I did more than just the two times I mention), I was getting really good vibes about the shoe.
We went to Boston for a conference, and I thought I’d spend some time outside of the hotel, getting to know the city. My comprehensive exams at school were the next week, so I was spending plenty of time studying in the hotel room. But I needed to get out and oxygenate my brain. So I went for a couple of runs. The first was around Boston Common. The second one was near the hotel as well, and it was my fastest two miles in a long time.
I consider the second run more of a run. The first one around Boston Common had more walking involved. This one was at a good pace and I felt great afterward. My legs were not tired. My feet did not ache. Yeah, I felt tired from the run, but there was little to any feeling of “Oh, dear God, what have I done?!” In fact, after the walk/jog on the first day, my wife and I walked an additional 3 miles to go have dinner and take in the sights, and I still was not too tired the next day to go our and do those fast (for me) 2 miles.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had the Hoka One One Bondi 3 shoes, and I am very happy with them. They provide just the right amount of cushioning for my “big” (i.e. “fat”) frame. They keep me out on the road and less tired than my regular running shoes, whose sole padding would wear out quickly (probably because of my weight). I did not like the quick-laces that came with the shoes, but the folks at Hoka One One did provide a regular pair of laces that you can use to replace the quick-laces.
Overall, the shoe is a great buy if you care about quality and durability. After one month and many miles of me pounding on them on the road and on the trails, they’re still holding up well. The bounciness is still there, and that’s something I can’t say about other shoes. I’m using these shoes exclusively for running (no cross-training or anything like that), so they might be holding up even better because of that.
The shoes might look weird, and they might be costly at $130 a pair, but they’re already giving me returns in the number of times I’ve been able to get out and get moving. I’ve lost a few pounds because my motivation has not faded away with aches and pains. That right there — the utility of the product — is what we really need to look at.
How about you? Are your running shoes stored away somewhere? How “funny” do they look now, and how much did they really cost you?
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
Of course, you don’t have to just take my word for it. Over at “Must Love Jogs“:
“My first thought, even before I put them on, was that these shoes were well-made. They are better quality than the average running shoe. I like the material that the upper is made out of because it feels quite durable.”
“Maybe it’s because I didn’t run far enough or fast enough, but I didn’t get that feeling of weightlessness or running on clouds that I’ve heard so much about. It really just felt like a running shoe with a much thicker sole. I’m not saying this as a negative – but I’m not saying it as a positive either.”
“This shoe is designed for the roads. Like I mentioned above, they feel well-made and I suspect they would hold up to a significant number of miles. I probably wouldn’t use them for racing – especially not at 12.6 oz – but HOKA does have other models available on their site…”
“Runner’s Garden” posted this on YouTube:
And “The Tri Guy” had this on YouTube as well:
Finally, “The Dancing Runner” had this to say:
“I’ve slowly been breaking them in since I purchased them at the Houston marathon expo not long ago. So far I like them…and think they would hold up as excellent shoes for a long run. I hear they are great for the trails as well if that is your thing. I just love the support they provide me out on the roads. They take a couple of runs to break in so I recommend you start out with shorter runs and slowly build from there. The first word I would use to describe them is…cushy. In my opinion they truly are like running on clouds and provide great protection from impact. If you’re used to running in a more minimalist shoe I’d say this one provides you more stability but it’s still lightweight enough that you can turnover quickly once you get used to running in them. I have more of a neutral foot and it seems to suit me well. They would be great for marathon training runs…I’m not sure yet about racing in them. Everyone is different though in their running economy and how their foot handles each shoe…but if you are an ultra runner or just love to log long miles…I’d definitely give this shoe a try, for something out of the ordinary.”