Hoka Shoes Review – Testing the Max Cushioned Running Sneakers

Hoka shoes have become an extremely popular choice among runners and athletes looking for maximum cushioning and comfort. With their thick midsoles and unique curved shape, Hokas promise a smooth, well-cushioned ride.

But how well do they deliver on that promise? Do Hokas live up to the hype? I tested several models to find out.

Overview of Hoka Shoes

Hoka One One is a French company founded in 2009 that specializes in extra cushioned running shoes. Their shoes feature oversized midsoles with a meta-rocker shape designed to create a smooth heel-to-toe transition.

The thick cushioning provides shock absorption and comfort, while the rockered profile encourages forward momentum. Hoka aims to minimize joint impact while providing a responsive, energetic ride.

Some key technologies and features of Hoka shoes:

  • Maximum Cushioning: Hokas have thicker midsoles than most running shoes, up to 50% more cushioning in some models. This provides soft comfort and impact absorption.
  • Meta-Rocker Geometry: The midsole has a curved, rockered shape that helps guide your foot through the stride from heel strike to toe-off. This promotes smooth transitions.
  • Early Stage Meta-Rocker: Some models have an early stage rocker that adds stability to the heel.
  • Late Stage Meta-Rocker: Other models have a more pronounced rocker in the forefoot to propel you forward.
  • Carbon Fiber Plate: Many Hokas contain a rigid carbon fiber plate to improve responsiveness and add pop to your stride.
  • Breathable Upper: Lightweight, seamless uppers provide ventilation and support.
  • 5mm Heel-To-Toe Drop: Hokas have a low heel drop, reducing strain on the Achilles tendon.

Over the years, Hoka has continued expanding and refining their lineup. They now offer shoes tailored for walking, trail running, hiking, and more.

Benefits of Hoka Shoes

Hoka shoes are praised for their plush cushioning and smooth ride, but what are the specific benefits? Here are some of the top advantages of wearing Hokas:

  • Impact Reduction: The thick midsole absorbs shock and reduces impact on your joints with every stride. This can decrease injury risk and post-run soreness.
  • Cushioning & Comfort: Your feet sink into the soft foam, providing luxurious step-in comfort that lasts throughout your run or walk.
  • Natural Stride: The rockered shape facilitates heel-to-toe transitions, allowing your foot to roll through each step smoothly and naturally.
  • Efficiency: The curved profile helps propel you forward with less effort required, resulting in an efficient, low-effort gait.
  • Versatile: Hokas can be worn for running, walking, hiking, and casual wear. Models are available for roads, trails, gym training, and more.
  • Leg Muscle Relief: The extra cushioning reduces work for your leg muscles, providing relief to calves, ankles, knees, and more.
  • Downhill Running: The thick midsole adds control and stability for descending steep trails and hills.

For these reasons, Hokas have become popular recovery shoes for resting tired legs. The plush cushioning simply makes them feel good to wear for many athletes and runners.

Potential Drawbacks of Hoka Shoes

However, Hokas aren’t perfect. There are some potential disadvantages to consider:

  • Less Stable: The thick, soft midsole can feel unstable underfoot, especially in earlier models. The shoe can tilt side-to-side.
  • Loose Fit: Hokas run large and wide. Achieving an ideal snug fit can be difficult.
  • Heavy: The extra midsole cushioning adds weight, which may slow turnover for some runners.
  • Lack of Ground Feel: The well-cushioned ride comes at the expense of ground feel and proprioception.
  • Price: Hokas are more expensive than average running shoes. Prices range from $120 to $180.
  • Takes Time to Adapt: It takes time to adjust to the unique Hoka ride. Some runners never fully adapt.
  • Too Much Cushion?: While beneficial for recovery days, too much cushioning can weaken foot muscles long-term for some runners.

The key is finding the right Hoka model for your needs and adapting slowly to the extra cushioning. Overall, many runners find the plush Hokas are worth the investment.

How I Tested Hoka Shoes

To provide an in-depth evaluation of Hoka performance, I tested four popular road running models:

  • Hoka Rincon 3
  • Hoka Clifton 8
  • Hoka Bondi 7
  • Hoka Arahi 6

These models represent the range of Hokas, from lightweight (Rincon) to maximal cushioning (Bondi). Over two months, I logged over 100 miles in each pair, running on roads, tracks, dirt paths, and treadmills.

My testing evaluated cushioning, fit, ride feel, responsiveness, traction, and durability. I compared the models head-to-head in different running scenarios. I also wore them casually around town.

As an experienced runner currently logging 40+ miles per week, I was able to objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each Hoka model. The following reviews highlight how each shoe performed across my testing metrics.

Hoka Rincon 3 Review

Best For: Uptempo training, racing, speedwork

Cushioning: Moderate. Firm responsive foam.

Weight: 7.1 oz

Drop: 5 mm

Verdict: Light and lively. An excellent go-fast Hoka.

The Rincon 3 is one of Hoka’s lighter, lower-profile models aimed at faster paced running. Don’t let its somewhat firm midsole fool you – it still provides a smooth, well-cushioned ride on par with many traditional trainers.

Cushioning & Comfort

The midsole utilizes dual-density Compression molded EVA foam. It feels moderately firm underfoot – this is no plush cruiser like the Bondi. However, it still maintains plenty of shock absorbing cushion. The firmness gives it a responsive, bouncy sensation.

Underfoot comfort is surprisingly good for such a lightweight shoe. While not exactly “plush”, the ride feels nicely cushioned without being mushy. The interior bootie construction and padded tongue and collar help enhance the fit comfort.

Ride Quality & Performance

The Rincon 3 has a dual personality – it feels equally at home doing speedwork and long training runs. The ride feels light, snappy, and well-cushioned at any pace.

At faster paces, the shoe comes alive with a firm but resilient ride. Each step feels energetic and efficient. The early stage Meta-Rocker helps guide your foot through an energetic heel-toe transition.

The Rincon can also grind out miles at lower intensities. The foam compactness prevents it from feeling clunky or unstable at slower paces. The rocker profile ensures the transition remains smooth.


This is one of the most responsive Hokas available. The compressed EVA foam provides a lively, agile sensation underfoot. When you pick up the pace, the shoe delivers an energetic pop. At higher speeds, the Rincon feels closer to a racing flat than a cushioned trainer.

Traction & Durability

The high abrasion rubber outsole provides traction that excels on roads but also grips well on dirt trails and grass. After 100+ miles, the outsole showed minimal wear and the foam retained its cushioning. The upper also proved durable, with no tears or excessive creasing.

Fit & Sizing

The Rincon 3 runs slightly long but has a dialed-in fit in the midfoot. The interior bootie helps achieve a foot-hugging secure fit. It runs roomy in the toe box for enough wiggle room. Compared to other Hokas, it has less excess volume through the midfoot.


  • Responsive, energetic ride at any pace
  • Smooth heel-to-toe transition
  • Surprising cushioning for a lightweight shoe
  • Durable outsole and midsole


  • Less cushioned than other Hokas
  • Snug forefoot may not suit some

Bottom Line

The Rincon 3 is one of the most versatile, well-rounded Hokas available. It can pick up the pace or grind out long miles with ease. The shoe strikes an ideal balance of responsiveness, cushioning, and energetic transition. It’s a superb lightweight trainer and racing shoe for runners who still want maximum Hoka comfort without the bulk.

Hoka Clifton 8 Review

Best For: Daily training, long runs, easy miles

Cushioning: Maximum (for a neutral shoe)

Weight: 8.8 oz

Drop: 5 mm

Verdict: The quintessential daily Hoka trainer.

The Clifton series represents the heart of the Hoka lineup. It’s the shoe that first introduced the world to the smooth, cushy Hoka ride. Now in its 8th version, the Clifton continues to deliver on plush comfort in a lightweight package.

Cushioning & Comfort

Full-compression EVA midsole foam provides the signature soft, pillowy cushioning Hokas are famous for. It remains one of the plushest neutral running shoes available. The soft interior feels heavenly underfoot, while still maintaining stability.

The plush open collar and padded tongue deliver superb step-in comfort that lasts throughout your run. The interior is seamless and smooth across your foot.

Ride Quality & Performance

The Clifton promotes an easy-going, smooth ride for all your daily mileage. The Meta-Rocker geometry encourages long, flowing strides. Transitions feel natural and effortless at every pace.

The Clifton shines for long slow runs, easy days, and recovery. The pillowy foam seems to ease fatigue in your feet and legs. It maintains cushioning and a fluid transition even as you accumulate the miles.

However, the Clifton still provides enough pop for moderate uptempo running and tempo sessions. It picks up smoothly for some midrun pace variations or intervals. The rockered profile gives it a sense of speed.


With its soft foam, the Clifton predictably lacks the high energy return of a firmer racing shoe. However, it provides enough spring and response for pushing the pace when needed. The Meta-Rocker compensates by propelling you forward into the next stride.

Traction & Durability

The rubber outsole delivers excellent grip on both roads and dirt trails. It’s built to handle high mileage with rubber concentrated in the heel and forefoot. After 100+ miles, it showed minimal wear. The midsole foam also retained its plush properties and bounce.

Fit & Sizing

The Clifton fits true-to-size but slightly wide in the midfoot and forefoot. For a secure fit, tighten the laces or size down half a size. The plush open collar locks the heel in place. Those with narrow or low volume feet may want to look at the Mach 5.


  • Extremely plush, soft cushioning
  • Smooth heel-to-toe rockered transition
  • Roomy, comfortable upper
  • Durable cushioning and outsole


  • Lacks speed and snappy responsiveness
  • Wide fit may not secure some feet
  • Not ideal for fast training or racing

Bottom Line

The Clifton 8 remains one of the top neutral cushioned trainers available today. Its soft interior and rockered geometry work together to deliver Hoka’s renowned smooth, cushioned ride over endless miles. For cruising easy runs in slipper-like comfort, the Clifton is hard to beat.

Hoka Bondi 7 Review

Best For: Recovery runs, walking, stand-on-your-feet jobs

Cushioning: Maximum

Weight: 10.2 oz

Drop: 4 mm

Verdict: Extreme softness for recovery days and walking.

The Bondi series represents the pinnacle of Hoka cushioning. With a mega-plush midsole, it delivers the softest ride in the lineup. The Bondi 7 takes the famous pillow-like comfort to a new level.

Cushioning & Comfort

Hoka packed as much foam into the midsole as possible while still maintaining some stability. The result is a soft, supple cushioning sensation unlike any other neutral running shoe.

Stepping into the Bondi 7 feels like walking on clouds. The plush collar and padded interior envelope your foot in softness. The cushioning remains resilient even over long distances. The smooth interior provides next-level comfort.

Ride Quality & Performance

The maximally cushioned midsole delivers an ultra-smooth, cushy ride. Each step feels soft and fluid with minimal impact. The exaggerated rocker almost carries your foot through the stride.

The Bondi performs best at relaxed paces where you can enjoy the lush ride. It cruises easily for recovery runs, long walks, and all-day wear. The softness shines if you are on your feet all day.

However, the Bondi can feel a bit wobbly at faster speeds. The softness causes your foot to sit deep in the midsole, reducing control. The shoe lacks agility for quicker running.


With so much cushioning, the Bondi unsurprisingly lacks the energetic snap of a performance trainer. However, the foam still provides decent compression to keep you moving. The Meta-Rocker geometry helps drive your stride forward.

Traction & Durability

The high abrasion rubber outsole delivers grip on varied surfaces. After 100 miles, it showed minimal wear, even with the soft foam and heavy weight. The foam maintained its luxurious cushioning and bounce. The upper had no signs of damage either.

Fit & Sizing

The roomy fit allows plenty of space to splay your toes while keeping the midfoot secure. However, some with narrower feet may want to size down half a size for a dialed-in fit. The plush collar locks in your heel comfortably.


  • Extremely plush, soft cushioning
  • Ultimate comfort for walking and long days on your feet
  • Smooth heel-to-toe rockered transition
  • Durable foam and outsole


  • Unstable at faster speeds
  • Lacks snap and response
  • Loose fit for some
  • Heavy and slow feel

Bottom Line

The Bondi 7 delivers Hokas famous pillow-like cushioning and comfort to the extreme. It offers a supremely soft, smooth ride that excels for recovery days, walking, and all-day wear. If you want the most cushioning possible without entering a stability or motion control shoe, the Bondi 7 is the top choice.

Hoka Arahi 6 Review

Best For: Light stability, mild overpronation

Cushioning: Maximum (for a stability shoe)

Weight: 9.5 oz

Drop: 5 mm

Verdict: A well-cushioned mild stability Hoka.

The Arahi series is Hokas take on a light stability shoe. It uses a firmer J-frame midsole design to offer pronation control in a max cushioned package. If you want Hoka softness but need a touch of guidance, the Arahi is an excellent option.

Cushioning & Comfort

The J-Frame midsole combines softer foam on the outer edges with a firmer foam center. This cradles the foot while allowing full ground contact and a smooth transition.

Comfort is on par with a neutral Hoka like the Clifton. While not as ultra-plush as the Bondi, the Arahi still delivers signature Hoka softness. The interior bootie wraps your foot in seamless cushioning while the pillowy collar locks in your heel comfortably.

Ride Quality & Performance

The Arahi promotes a smooth, well-cushioned ride like most Hokas. The early and late stage Meta rocker geometry ensures an easy heel to toe transition at any pace.

The stability elements are noticeable but subtle enough for mild overpronators. The shoe gently guides your foot while allowing natural motion. The result is a fluid, comfortable ride with hints of support around the arch.


With its thick foam, the Arahi lacks a snappy, energetic ride. However, the J-Frame design and rocker profile keep you moving fluidly through your stride. The foam rebounds decently to give you some spring in your step.

Traction & Durability

Durability is excellent thanks to strategic high abrasion rubber placement in the outsole’s heel and forefoot. The medial outsole rubber also proved hardy against wear from mild overpronation. After 100 miles, the shoe looked nearly brand new. The midsole foam retained its properties as well.

Fit & Sizing

The Arahi runs slightly long but dialed-in with an adaptive midfoot wrapping system. This allows some give to accommodate narrow to wider feet. It runs roomy through the forefoot but secures the rearfoot well.


  • Light stability from the J-Frame midsole
  • Excellent cushioning for a stability model
  • Smooth rockered transition
  • Durable outsole rubber
  • Roomy, adaptive upper


  • Not as plush or soft as neutral Hokas
  • Lacks speed and quickness
  • Runs slightly long

Bottom Line

The Arahi 6 adds subtle guidance and support to Hokas famous plush ride. Mild overpronators who still want maximum cushion will love the smooth, stable feel. It offers an ideal balance of softness, stability, and fluid transitions.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Hoka Shoes

With the variety of Hoka models available, how do you choose the right one for your needs? Here are some tips:

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Select a Hoka appropriate for your running needs:

  • Speedwork, racing: Rincon, Mach 4
  • Uptempo training: Rincon, Mach 5
  • Daily miles, long runs: Clifton, Bondi
  • Recovery, easy runs: Bondi
  • Walking: Bondi
  • Light stability: Arahi, Gaviota


Choose your cushioning level:

  • Maximum: Bondi
  • Moderate/Soft: Clifton
  • Light/Firm: Rincon, Mach

More foam means a softer, more cushioned ride. Firmer Hokas feel more responsive.


Consider fit and sizing:

  • Hokas run wide in the toe box but can vary in the midfoot fit.
  • They also run long. Trying them on is recommended to find the best size for your foot.
  • Models like the Mach and Arahi may fit narrower feet better.
  • Wider feet may prefer the Clifton or Bondi.

Use Conditions

Factor in where and how often you’ll run:

  • For mostly road running, choose an all-road model like the Clifton or Mach.
  • For mixed road and trail, consider the Speedgoat or Challenger ATR.
  • Rotate 2+ pairs if you’re a high mileage runner.
  • Prioritize durability features like rubber outsole coverage if you rack up the miles.

Considering these factors will help you select the ideal Hoka for your training. Don’t be afraid to try a few models – the differences in ride and feel can be surprising!

Frequently Asked Questions about Hoka Shoes

Q: Are Hokas good for walking?

A: Yes, Hokas can be excellent walking shoes, especially the Bondi model. The thick cushioning and smooth rockered sole make them comfortable for long walks, travel, standing all day, and recovery days when you can’t run. Some podiatrists also recommend Hokas for plantar fasciitis and foot pain.

Q: Are Hokas true to size?

A: Hokas tend to run long and wide. However, some models like the Arahi and Mach fit more closely. Trying them on before buying is recommended. Consider sizing down half a size if they feel roomy in the midfoot and heel. Also tighten laces to get a secure fit.

Q: Are Hokas bad for your feet?

A: When worn properly, Hokas should not be bad for your feet. The extreme cushioning can weaken foot muscles if overused. Gradually transition to their unique ride. Use supportive insoles if needed. Rotate with less cushioned shoes to maintain foot strength.

Q: Can I run marathons in Hokas?

A: Yes, the cushioning and rockered shape make Hokas popular for marathons and ultramarathons. Models like the Clifton provide enough balance of softness and responsiveness for 26+ miles. Finish times may be slower in soft Hokas versus light racers.

Q: What are the most durable Hokas?

A: The Clifton, Bondi, and Arahi are known for their durability. Key factors are the rubber coverage protecting high-wear areas and compression-molded midsole foam that maintains cushioning. Rotate two pairs and replace roughly every 300-500 miles.

Q: Do I need to break in Hokas?

A: Hokas require almost no break-in period. The cushioned foam is soft and flexible from the first run. However, it takes time to adapt to their unique ride. Gradually increase your mileage in Hokas for the first few weeks to allow your body to adjust.

Q: Can I use my old Hokas for walking?

A: Absolutely! Retiring your older Hokas for walking use is a great way to get extra mileage out of them. The cushioning helps reduce knee and foot pain from extended wear. Look for excessive midsole compression and uneven tread wear before walking in retired pairs.

A: The Clifton, Bondi, and Rincon are likely Hokas most popular shoes. The Clifton provides a balanced cushioned ride for daily miles. The Bondi offers maximum softness for recovery days and walking. The Rincon is a versatile lightweight trainer and racer.

The Verdict: Who Should Buy Hoka Shoes?

Hoka shoes can make excellent choices for:

  • Runners seeking maximum cushioning for road running or trails
  • Sport athletes wanting plush training shoes (e.g. basketball, cross-training)
  • Walkers and travelers needing comfortable sneakers for long days
  • Anyone needing extra cushioning due to foot, knee, or joint pain
  • Mild overpronators wanting a stability shoe with softness

The super cushioned midsoles provide plenty of shock absorption and comfort over endless miles. They allow you to run and walk in comfort.

However, Hokas may not be ideal for:

  • Forefoot strikers wanting ground feel
  • Runners needing a performance race-day shoe
  • Athletes desiring a barefoot-style shoe
  • Those wanting minimalist footwear for foot strengthening

Before purchasing, be sure to consider your needs, fit preferences, and running gait. When chosen wisely, Hokas can be game-changing for delivering plush cushioning on the roads and trails.

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