The 10 Best Hoka Running Shoes, According to Our Experience

Hoka is now making some of the best running shoes around, and the idea caught on. After working with a Chinese company to develop a new kind of EVA foam, Diard and Mermoud came up with the basic recipe for Hoka shoes: they are light enough to feel peppy, but well-cushioned and soft enough to soak up impact. They also made some prototypes.

The brand currently produces the finest pairs of running shoes in every category. These features elucidate the primary technologies employed in Hoka shoes, which I will emphasize. I will guide you through the main technologies utilized in Hoka shoes and elucidate how these features assist you in selecting the most suitable pair for your requirements. Regardless of your needs, the company offers models that cater to various preferences, whether you require a reliable trainer, a sturdy trail shoe, or a pair of fast kicks for race day. The top Hoka running shoes encompass the entire range of running.

More of The Top Running Gear: Top Running Shorts ● Top Running Shirts ● Top Running Accessories.

The Expert:

Factors to Keep in Mind When Purchasing Hoka Running Shoes

It’s helpful to know a little more about the key aspects of technologies that define a brand, especially when it comes to comparing and selecting the right shoe for you. If you enjoy the feeling of having ample padding under your feet while running, Hoka may be the perfect shoe for you. Hoka develops its shoes around a few basic principles, such as creating a wide sole rocker to create a smoother ride and preserve momentum, as well as adding extra cushioning to absorb impact forces.

Padded Foam

Some companies have shifted to using foam acetate vinyl ethylene in their newer formulations, while Hoka has stuck with its proprietary EVA foam padding and various blends of compression-molded CMEVA foam to fine-tune the shoes for either strong energy return or low weight.

The Hoka shoes, including the Clifton and Bondi models, are loved by fans for the cushioned feel they provide. CMEVA is used in all the shoes across the lineup, creating a traditional cushioning experience.

It feels lightweight and snappy, perfect for runners who want shoes that are responsive and lighter. The EVA foam is made porous by the supercritical fluid, which is created by intense heat and pressure using chemicals like carbon dioxide or nitrogen.

Recently, Hoka has also started using the same material as Nike’s Cushion ZoomX foams – PEBA foam (amide block polyether) – to create a cushioned, lively ride that offers ultimate resilience and shock absorption. These top-tier racing shoes, like the X Rocket from Hoka, blend PEBA with low weight to deliver a cushioned ride that is similar to Nike’s foams.

Meta-Rocker

Every Hoka shoe showcases a modification of this design concept. The Meta-Rocker constitutes a sole layout that merges a curved sole form that complements your inherent gait to promote seamless shifts from heel to toe with every stride and a minimal differential (the majority of Hoka running shoes possess differential measurements approximately 4mm to 5mm).

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The Hoka lineup currently splits into two categories. Shoes featuring the “Late Stage” Meta-Rocker design offer a more stable sensation by having soles that curve up nearer to the toe. On the other hand, shoes equipped with the “Early Stage” Meta-Rocker design provide a faster running experience as their soles start to curve up beneath the balls of your feet, swiftly propelling you onto your toes.

Dynamic Foot Support

Hoka shoes typically feature a substantial amount of foam beneath your feet, which is particularly crucial as it prevents your feet from moving around inside the shoes and provides a comfortable and secure fit. Hoka compares the active foot frame to sitting in a secure, low bucket seat of a race car. Additionally, the shoe’s midsole offers enhanced stability by securely enveloping the foot within the intricately designed sole that is present in every Hoka shoe.

Our Evaluation Process for Selecting the Top Hoka Running Shoes

To narrow down the list, I utilized my understanding of the running shoe market, my personal experience testing Hoka shoes, feedback from RW editors, RW reviews, and consulted with a company representative to gather information about their latest shoes. After reviewing the Hoka shoe lineup, I have chosen the top Hoka running shoes that are currently available. The following models represent my selection.

I looked for running shoes that showcase the best brand’s innovations in midsole and foam technology, in order to help create the widest range and most dynamic list for runners’ performance.

For even more insight, check out our full-length shoe reviews (where available) to get detailed info on the performance of individual models.

The Clifton 8 is slightly lighter than its predecessor, with a stack height that grew by -3mm. This ninth iteration features even more cushioning, making it the perfect shoe for fans of the legendary Hoka brand. The Clifton original marked a turning point for the brand, as it provided maximum cushion without feeling clunky, and it remains highly regarded among Hoka fans.

It’s a reliable choice for a versatile training shoe. The Early Stage Meta-Rocker sole shape promotes fluid movements, the upper is designed to be more streamlined to reduce weight, and the new compression-molded EVA foam enhances its responsiveness.

Explore the complete review of the Men’s and Women’s Shops.

The 3 Torrent is a solid and affordable trail running shoe that may get you hooked on trail running. It boasts a lightweight and cushioned profile that provides a good feel on the ground, making it suitable for interested runners who are venturing off the pavement and onto the dirt.

The latest version showcases enhanced grip on diverse surfaces, thanks to a redesigned sole. Hoka has introduced a single-layer mesh upper to enhance airflow. The upper, which incorporates a gusseted tongue, will effectively prevent trail debris from entering and will stay securely in place while traversing over roots and rocks.

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The latest version of Bondi, a shoe that is devoted to providing an ultra plush and cushioned ride, has improved the fit and feel around the ankle with a memory foam collar and increased breathability with an open mesh upper. Compared to previous versions like the Bondi 7, the foam midsole is even softer and lighter. The Bondi is Hoka’s most cushioned road shoe, with a downright beefy midsole.

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For a faster ride, consider the X Bondi, which includes a plate embedded with carbon fiber for a snappier and speedier feel, while still providing a cushioned experience similar to the previous version. The eighth iteration of Hoka also features a new pillowy tongue, reshaping and extending the lower down to offer better stability and shock absorption in the heel.

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The shoe is designed to be firmer than the plush models of the ultra-brand, with an added comfort step-in sockliner and a molded EVA. The Meta-Rocker Stage Early shape of the sole helps you transition quickly from toe-off to landing, providing a snappy and responsive ride for your foot. The 5.0 version of the Mach retains the dual-density cushioning setup, which places supercritical EVA foam closer to your foot. Our testers raved about the slight changes made to the previous version of the Hoka shoe. The Mach line is built for race day and speedwork sessions.

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The Overpronation counter aids in supporting and cushioning your foot by incorporating a stiffer foam layer that runs along the inside edge of the shoe, curving around the heel in a “J” shape. The J-Frame, which serves as the centerpiece of the shoe, is present in previous versions as well. The Arahi and Gaviota, for instance, combine stability features with cushioning to offer a more responsive ride at a lower weight.

We believe that one of the best stability shoes in 2023 is Hoka, and it’s a great pick for running and recovery. It has a comfortable fit, with extra cushioning and a new mesh upper that helps trim some weight off the shoe. Paired with durable and bouncy CMEVA cushioning, it provides a responsive and enjoyable ride.

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The excessive bending of the shoe hinders flexibility and diminishes the responsive and energetic feel. A spoon-shaped carbon fiber plate is incorporated to provide a cushioning effect underneath. The all-new PEBA foam midsole features a low weight and delivers excellent responsiveness. The X Rocket is a completely new shoe that resulted from the development process initiated in 2021. Technically, it is a follow-up to the X Rocket 2020, but with significant upgrades.

Opt for this Hoka shoe for optimal race day performance. Within the toe compartment, you’ll experience increased spaciousness, enabling your foot to rest further back in the shoe. Hoka has slimmed down both the mesh upper and heel collar to enhance the overall fit.

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The latest version of the Challenger is a trail shoe that is built to perform on both pavement and dirt. To create a plusher ride and trim a little extra weight at the same time, Hoka used a softer CMEVA foam and increased the stack height. The upper is designed for breathability and features a 4mm rubber outsole with lugs that provide confidence-inspiring grip on mixed terrain.

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During the process review, one of our testers said that the Kawana is our favorite cushioned shoe of 2022. It is named as one of our top choices for runners who need an all-in-one, comfortable trainer. The shoe features Hoka’s SwallowTail crash pad, which promotes fluid landings and an asymmetrical wide shape in the heel. The geometry of the shoe also includes a beveled edge, ensuring smooth strides. Additionally, the Meta-Rocker shape of the sole guarantees good energy return and absorbs impact with its CMEVA foam. In summary, the Kawana is a plush and comfortable trainer that is perfect for all-day wear.

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The Speedgoat 5 is approximately half an ounce lighter compared to the Speedgoat 4. Hoka also implemented a new CMEVA foam in the midsole, which aids in reducing weight. A reinforced double-layer jacquard mesh upper offers additional safeguard against debris. The outsole is equipped with a fresh Vibram Megagrip lug pattern to enhance traction on unstable surfaces. Hoka has significantly enhanced the fifth iteration of this speedy trail shoe. This shoe serves as Hoka’s flagship trail shoe and is particularly suitable for lengthy excursions away from paved paths. It pays tribute to ultrarunner Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer.

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The downside of styling your upper designs in technicolor is that the platform of the shoe may not be suitable for fast-paced rides. However, during longer rides, I found that the shoe’s firm ride and responsive design were well-suited to keep my feet comfortable and protected from obstacles. The dual-density midsole and excellent traction serve as a strong combination for tackling steep and technical terrains. In our review, we declared the Hoka 4 Speed Mafate to be the best trail shoe for eating up steep terrain while still providing a cushioned yet responsive ride.

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Interview with Running Shoe Specialist Michael Charboneau

RW: I’m someone who overpronates. Will Hoka shoes be suitable for my condition?

While running, the Hoka Arahi 6 utilizes a firmer layer of foam around the medial side of the shoe and the heel to counter overpronation and maintain alignment of your feet. If you overpronate and require additional support, the Hoka Arahi 6 is considered one of the most dedicated models for extra support. The Active Foot Frame, a sculpted footbed that extends upward on either side of your foot, creates a stable and relatively supportive feel in all of its shoes.

RW: Am I allowed to compete in Hoka footwear?

The Hoka brand’s current pinnacle racer in their lineup is the 2 X Rocket, which features a generous wedge of foam and carbon fiber plates embedded in its carbon fiber plate, keeping overall weight low and ensuring a snappy response. These super race-oriented shoes have embraced the trend of well-cushioned, lightweight midsoles with thick carbon fiber plates, which has been popular among elite racing shoes recently. Absolutely: MC.

RW: Can Hoka shoes help in avoiding joint injuries?

To address typical running injuries, refer to our guide if you have concerns about running injuries or are currently managing one. Merely relying on your footwear may not be the decisive factor in preventing injuries. According to a study, running in maximalist shoes, which encourage harder landings, actually increases stress on your joints with each step. While some runners find softer shoes with ample cushioning more comfortable, this notion lacks substantial research support.

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