I’ll start this with a confession. I was a little sceptical, not just sceptical about this particular shoe, but just a little sceptical about the whole Hoka ‘crazy does’ thing. Like a lot of the people I run with, I was pretty happy with what I had on my feet, and to be fair I’d kind of bought into the slightly minimalist approach, preferring to have my feet closer to the ground so that I could ‘feel’ what I was running/climbing/stumbling/slipping/walking on at all times.
OK, that bit’s done. So I get a pair of these, let’s say ‘innovative’ looking shoes. The first thing I see is a massive sole, there’s nowhere to hide it. But they also look kind of quirky and cool – great colours! Let’s not kid ourselves, we like to look good on the trails – we might be peeing/pooing behind trees (or in front of our friends), sweating far more than we should be in public, and looking (and feeling) very inadequate - but throughout all of this we like to look as cool as possible. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, best we all just admit that’s how it is.
I’m no front-of-the-pack runner, if I’m in good shape and running with some sort of commitment, absolutely always driven by having an event goal, then I’m (at best) just a bit below the middle of the field. If life gets in the way, as it does continually, then I’m more like a ‘top of the bottom third’ kind of a guy. So there’s some context. I do, however, like to be out on the trails for reasonably long periods of time, and it’s the longer 21km+ off-road and trail-based events that get my attention.
Anyway, about the shoes… I live in Riverhead, so no prizes for guessing where I do most of my running, yep Riverhead Forest. In my opinion, the best private/commercial forest in Auckland, you just need to know where to go and you’ll have an awesome day out – guaranteed. As we know, it rains in Auckland, and being a predominantly clay-based forest, it tends to get a little ‘sticky’ in winter. Those of you that have spent time in Riverhead will call me a liar perhaps and say that it’s a flippin quagmire in parts.
So to be fair, my expectations were minimal, unlike the soles of my new Mafate Speed’s, but they did look cool and felt really comfortable on. At this point in their life, these new wheels had done a day of walking about, a 6-7km road run, and around 15km on some pretty hard packed trails in Taupo. What I was about to do was a little different, and off I set from my standard launch pad at the wee parking spot on Old North Rd.
Starting from this point generally means a gravel/forest road run for 1-2km, then the trail menu presents itself, determined as always for me by my mood and appetite for adventure. As you can see from the map I opted for a kind of figure 8 number, I wanted to be out for around 2 hours, and my Riverhead speed is 7-9km/hour, depending on the technical nature of the trails, and the amount of climb I choose to consume.
This was a really good all round run, and I made a point of throwing all sorts of variety in. The Mafate’s felt good, they felt good on the road but I always expected them to go well on gravel road, so no extra points there. You definitely feel a little higher off the ground, but there’s such a solid, well balanced base that this wasn’t the issue I thought it might be. As I headed into some of my favourite trails in the forest, I wondered what was in store… what was in store was a very pleasant surprise. I talked about sticky Riverhead trails before, I was on some sticky Riverhead trails!
There is not a shoe that exists that will keep you on track and stable on some of these trails, but the Mafate’s were up to it – the wide sole made me feel solid and comfortable, and the ‘stickability’ offered was outstanding. Have I mentioned yet that you seriously feel like you bounce along wearing Hoka’s? When all is said and done, running is just a little easier with a pair of them on.
I didn’t miss being a little closer to the ground, and to be perfectly honest, feeling every little rock and root was not something I missed at all. Perhaps at this point I should also mention that I’m 42 and weigh in somewhere around 90-94kg, so a little bit of extra padding does not go amiss.
I had a great run this particular day, I came back feeling like a runner - a feeling that makes me feel physically and mentally on top of the world. Running in general, but running off-road in locations where the trails are top notch and plentiful help to shed the woes of the world, along with the stress we take on by merely being alive and succumbing to the pressure (which we generally place on ourselves).
I digress. I wasn’t looking to replace my favourite pair of trail running shoes, as mentioned back at the start, I was sceptical. But I am sceptical no longer, I am now officially a fan of the Hoka One One revolution, long may it continue.
Oh and one last thing, normally after a relatively tough 2-hour run I’ll feel it in my legs for a day or two, and this often provides me with a good excuse not to run for 2-3 days. With these little gems, the next day felt like I could do it all again, which perhaps I should’ve but didn’t. I’m good at excuses.
Keep an open mind, be prepared to allow running to be easier, and get yourselves into a pair.