For regular readers of our ultra ramblings, you will know that our gear reviews not only give you a practical insight into the product but they often have a heavy does of emotion attached to them. For example, one of the most important criteria for judging a shoe is whether, at the very least, it will pass the famous shopping test. Allow me to elaborate, we all have a real penchant for shoes at Ultra168 and we often dip into our own pockets in the pursuit of the perfect shoe. If we fail in getting the desired feedback from said shoe and it is not the next great thing, we always have the option of wearing the shoe out and about to the shops when running our errands so as not to waste our hard earned.
Let me make one thing very clear, apart from yours truly, very few members of Ultra168 spend their time parading up and down the finest designer shopping streets like Rodeo Drive, Madison Avenue or our very own Castlereagh Street in Sydney, so as a result, pretty much any gnarly wannabe trail shoe will make it onto our shopping shoe list.
Well, so I thought……….. until I turned up at one of our regular early morning runs with the rest of the team from Ultra168 wearing my nice shiny new Hoka One One Bondi B’s. I always knew the reaction from the guys would be strong, as these shoes do polarise people. But to be told that they won’t make the shopping shoe list EVER! by my fellow colleagues sowed some seeds of doubt that I could ever give these newly named “clown shoes” an impartial review. Why? Well before we stake our hard earned reputation on any gear, and especially the workhorse of our trade, the trail shoe, we love to give it a damn good thrashing and revisit it over time on several different types of terrain, but I just don’t know if I am going to be given that luxury by my colleagues.
Anyway, what are my first impressions of this shoe?
Well to be honest I am confused, very confused……. I am a strong advocate for the minimalist shoe and to go do a 180 for a maximalist show is pretty brave of me, but all in the line of duty I say and so I persevered to see what all the fuss was about. Why should I be confused, when my running times around my home in the Eastern Suburbs have been quicker by about 15 seconds a km wearing them, also why should I be confused when I can run down hill like a mad man and not feel anything? A few other positives before I hit you with the mighty caveat! They feel light to wear, they have a large toe box similar to other trail shoes we have talked about, which would be good for the seriously long stuff, they grip well on hard pack surfaces and they do turn heads !
So what more do I need to say, well, for starters I am not confident to take them on a really long run yet, when I am spoilt for choice with my current roster of minimal shoes, secondly, is there a placebo effect playing out here? They are certainly the ying to the Talons yang and so my senses have been somewhat overwhelmed by all that cushioning and bounce they give. And boy do you bounce! The downhilling has been a lot of fun, but I have really struggled to get up onto my toes when climbing the steepest streets the Sydney suburbs have to offer. Getting up on my toes is something I have really focussed on in training recently to get more speed and feel stronger on the longer runs, this is made easier in a shoe that has plenty of flex and feel but with the Hoka’s I am really fighting to make this happen. They make my feet and legs feel numb, but not in a bad way, just that I don’t seem to feel anything! Thats a good thing right ? The less you feel the longer you can run as the impact is reduced?
To date I have 150kms in them but mostly in short runs of 10-20kms so the real test will follow when I steal myself to take them out for the whole day, which will prove difficult with so much of my longstuff 100% focussed on a good performance at GNW100 miler in November. So whilst I can’t give anymore detail than this, please keep an eye out for a more in-depth review in the coming weeks as the generous guys at Hoka deserve a proper Ultra168 review……watch this space.