Trends in fashion and footwear come and go, but innovations tend to endure.
The latest in athletic shoes gobbling up market share is a quirky-looking French import called Hoka One One. With broad thick-cushioned soles curved upward in front and back, the underside of the platform-style shoes resembles rocking-chair rails with girth.
“They looked absurd,” said Laura Schmitt, 51, of Kentfield, California, a former collegiate distance runner at the University of California, Berkeley, and still an avid competitor, when she first saw Hokas. “But now that the shoe is kind of streamlining a little bit, they look more like a running shoe. They have more styles and more uses.”
— Olivia Hernandez (@ohhappyrun) October 19, 2015
In the running world, Hoka One One is the epitome of a trend toward a maximum shoe, which appears to be eclipsing the minimalist trend over the past decade.
“I don’t think (Hoka) is a fad,” Schmitt, also an educator and high school track coach, told LifeZette. “There’s a lot of research involved, so I don’t think they’re going anywhere.”
The expensive brand, established in 2009, was designed for high-performance distance and trail running, and Hoka One One now sponsors more than 30 elite athletes. Sales have been on the rise, with engineering aimed at top-tier competitors generating unanticipated popularity with other folks afoot.
“I put those shoes on in the store and started walking around in them, and I said I’m not leaving without them,” said 53-year-old runner and registered nurse Jennifer Borwick from Tahoe City, California.
“I started wearing them at work and a couple people tried them on. Within a couple months, 50 percent of the nurses were wearing them,” Borwick said. “They’re just super-supportive and you can stand in them all day.”
The design features that Hoka One One calls meta-rocker shaping and max-cushioning sets the brand apart. The performance, which the company claims includes a 40-percent increase in shoe longevity, has caught on with runners recovering from injury and those feeling the wear and tear of older age.
— Scott (@RunGearGuy) October 15, 2015
“It’s much more stable than the traditional running shoe, so it’s good for people with plantar fasciitis issues, or back pain, or knee pain,” said Brendan Madigan, 38, owner of Apenglow Sports in Tahoe City, California, the store where Borwick bought her Hokas. “For us, as a mountain running shop, it is the dominant brand.”
Sales often depend on product reliability, but satisfying the tastes of a fickle consumer base is another challenge.
Style was a considerable hurdle Hoka had to clear. For some, it’s a matter of sensibility.
“When I went to New York City, I just wore those the whole time,” Borwick added. “I’d walk 10 miles a day, and I didn’t have any pain in my back or legs or anything.”
Think about it. Some sideways looks on the streets of fashion-conscious Manhattan couldn’t possibly hurt compared to a couple of blocks in stiletto heels.