Hoka who? Yep, we know what you are thinking, you've never heard of Hoka One One, but the bonkers colour scheme and the huge cushioned heel of the Huaka running shoes has drawn you in. That's exactly why we said yes to going out running in them too. But do they deliver more than just jazzy colours?
The brain-child of Jean-Luc Diard (formerly president of sporting brand Salomon) and his partner, Hoka One One is the result of their idea to create a shoe with up to two and a half times the amount of cushioning than your average running shoe.
The Huaka running shoes promise over 50 per cent more cushioning, and that is instantly noticeable not only through its design - there's an offset of 2mm over the length of the shoe (the heel is 27mm while the forefoot is 25mm) because of it - but also the feeling the minute you put them on your feet.
The shoe itself is fairly lightweight, at around 265g, and designed to deliver more stability as there is no cutaway for the arch, delivering a design that has full ground contact from heel to toe. Race laces that lock into place also save you have from having to tie bows.
At first, this considerable cushioning is rather off-putting. All sensation of the road, dirt, grass, or whatever else you are running on just disappears. If you currently run in anything with zero or minimal cushioning you'll notice that polarised feeling even more. It's like walking on a very thick shaggy carpet, even more so if you lean back into the heel.
Out on the road for our first 5km run, this new amount of cushioning jarred with our usual running experience - but to be fair we normally run in a very minimal pair of Nike Free 5.0.
Where some overly cushioned shoes can be as sluggish as wading through a bowl of mushy peas, the Hoka One One Huaka have over compensated for this by making the sole as stiff as a metal rod. There is virtually zero flex in the sole giving a very stiff ride similar to the Adidas Boost range. It's vastly different to the experience we have with the cushioned Nike Lunar Glides, for example.
A second run simply reinforced our feeling about the cushioned feel. But that's exactly the point of these running shoes, which may be to your personal preference.
There is no doubting that the Huaka experience is comfortable, which suggests these would be perfect for those looking to pile on the miles without worrying about "feeling" the ground they are running on.
Compared to the Nike Lunar Glide 5, the Hoka One One Huaka soles are massive
Three runs in (22km total) and our concerns founded on the first run were beginning to settle down. Although we prefer a slightly more touchy-feely running style, we can see the appeal of the Hoka One One Huaka for those training for a big race when they've just got to get some mileage under the belt.
You do have to ask whether that takes away some of the enjoyment - nay rawness - of it all, if that's what you are about. But it's much the same argument that many have over which car they want to buy: something to feel the road or to enjoy the extra cushioned suspension. The choice is yours.
If stability and cushioned comfort are at the top of your list, you should definitely check the Huaka out. Just expect people to say something about that crazy, colourful French styling. Your feet might not feel the ground, but everyone's eyes will be transfixed on your feet.