By Judy Leand
For Richmond, CA-based Hoka One One, a maker of oversized performance running shoes, bigger has always been better. The brand came onto the scene in 2010, just as the minimalist/barefoot running craze was shifting into overdrive. While most other running brands were sprinting in the opposite direction with the release of lightweight models with less cushioning, Hoka drew inspiration from the oversized equipment advances that spawned game-improvement technologies in skis, golf clubs, tennis racquets and mountain bikes. In fact, Deckers Outdoor was so enamored with Hoka’s concept that it took a minority stake in the brand in July 2012, and then fully acquired the company this past April. Now, as minimal mania subsides, Hoka’s strategy has proven to be downright prescient and the footwear is being embraced by runners of all ability levels, from recreational enthusiasts to ultra-marathoners.
The brand’s patented shoe design combines lightweight uppers with an oversized outsole footprint, cushioned midsoles for comfort and propulsion, and active Meta-Rocker technology that promotes an accurate foot roll through the gait cycle. According to the company, the foam used in the midsoles is 30 percent softer than the material used in traditional running shoes, and there is 2.5 times more midsole volume. This extra cushioning dissipates up to 80 percent of the shock associated with heel-striking when running and allows for as much as 20mm of compression in the heel. Overall, the softer ride provides much better control and promotes natural foot motion and efficient running mechanics over nearly all types of terrain. Moreover, says Brand President Jim Van Dine, the oversized outsoles have 50 percent more surface area than typical running shoes to allow for stability, traction and connection to the ground.
Hoka is now on the fast track: Last year it had 92 dealers and this year it has leapt to 300, and by the end of 2013 there will be 400, according to Van Dine. He expects Hoka’s business to increase by 600 percent this year, and to double in 2014. For now, the brand’s early adopters are primarily ultra, trail and injured runners, and in the immediate future, the Conquest model, which hits stores in January, boasts proprietory materials, improved aesthetics and “will help fast-forward the Hoka concept quite a bit,” Van Dine predicts.