By Paul Freary
Despite being a relatively new brand to the running world, Hoka has gained many loyal followers in its 10 years on the market.
Known for the higher stack height shoes, the brand has fans on the road and trail and especially in the world of Ultra running thanks to the deep cushioning and lower heel drops.
HOKA - Deep Stack Cushioning
This deep stack of cushioning arose from the brand’s founders wanting to create shoes that could absorb more easily the greater impacts placed upon the body when running down steep mountainsides in the Alps and high peaks of Europe. After several years of trials, the deep stacks of cushioning that we have today came into being.
HOKA - Rocker Shaped Midsole
Another key component of Hoka shoes is their rocker-shaped midsoles. While most running shoes feature a rocket to the sole of the shoe (the way in which the shoe turns up slightly under the forefoot), the brand has made this feature a key part of its story and indeed, success.
It was the deep stack of cushioning that also called for the rocker midsole shapes as they in turn help the thicker-soled shoes move with the foot when running.
The geometry of the shoe’s rocker affects how it ‘rolls’ forward. A more aggressive rocker helps promote a faster or smoother gait.
HOKA Running Shoes - For All Types of Runners
Here, I’ll look at some of the most popular Hoka running shoes and make my recommendations for different runners, from those wanting a lightweight, performance marathon racing shoe to those that simply want a shoe for everyday easy miles.
About the Author
Having over 30 years of experience in the running shoe industry, I’ve tried hundreds of different shoes and worked for several top running shoe brands. I’ve made recommendations to thousands of different runners using video gait analysis as well as a range of the latest technology available.
Based on my experience and runner's feedback the following are customer favorites and the most popular Hoka running shoes. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have run many miles in all of these Hoka running shoes.
Best HOKA Shoes for Running
1. Clifton 9 - Best HOKA Running Shoe
Hoka’s best-selling shoe is the Clifton 9. It’s a shoe that was born with the brand and has seen many updates and revisions throughout the previous generations but it always retains its key features and in doing so has kept its legions of followers loyal over the years.
The latest version, the Clifton 9 sees the midsole cushioning stack increased by 3mm yet the shoe's overall weight is reduced by 4g. Ok, that’s only a fraction lighter, but it's that added cushioning that makes the difference.
The shoe feels softer and smoother, with a great big 32mm of stack under the heel (men's version, women’s is 29mm), the shoe feels great and rides as well as ever.
For the neutral runner, the Clifton 9 provides endless cushioning, a low drop (5mm) and that familiar Hoka rocker.
The CM-EVA midsole provides a familiar feel that, ultimately isn’t too far away from that of the original around 10 years ago.
The engineered mesh upper with the gusseted tongue is the best yet to be seen on the Clifton and provides step-in comfort that remains for any length of run, be it a short stride around the park to a marathon.
The Clifton remains the brand’s number one seller and their most versatile daily trainer. It’s available in a wide range of colors and width fittings, further adding to its wide-ranging appeal.
2. Bondi 8 - Best HOKA Running Shoe for Maximal Cushioning
As a brand known for its high stack of cushioning (the thickness of the cushioning, measured under the heel and forefoot), I’m starting with the brand’s most cushioned model.
The Bondi was one of Hoka’s original shoes and since its launch, its seen several updates. Now in its eighth iteration, the shoe remains the brand’s best, cushioned running shoe.
The latest model features a softer cushioning foam material, compression molded ethylene-vinyl acetate (CM-EVA) with a new, extended heel and billowed crash pad to create a softer landing than previous models.
The Bondi 8 is a neutral, cushioned running shoe offering a smooth, balanced ride.
With a 4mm drop from the heel stack into the forefoot, the shoe is popular with ultra-distance runners, with a shorter stride and more mid-foot running gait.
With 33mm of cushioning under the heel, the shoe is the brand's most cushioned training shoe and is perfect for those logging high daily miles as well as those simply wanting a running shoe that offers exceptional cushioning for day-to-day comfort.
3. Arahi 6 - Best HOKA Support Shoe
For those runners requiring a shoe to provide support from overpronation, the Arahi 6 is the best choice.
With its J-Frame support device, the shoe is also a great choice for those seeking relief from plantar fasciitis.
With a dual-density CM-EVA midsole, the firmer midsole foam forms the shape of the letter J. This J-shaped support frame sits around the rear of the shoe and helps cradle the foot within it. The foot will sink into the center of the J frame and be held in a more neutral position.
By holding the foot neutrally, overpronation is controlled and the foot and lower limbs are stabilized through the running gait cycle.
Those suffering from plantar fasciitis (a strain to the plantar fascia tendon under the foot), may also find some relief and the supportive frame helps to reduce excessive strain on the tendon.
The Arahi 6 has a breathable mesh upper that’s supportive and helps hold the foot securely in place to maximize the effect of the J frame. The shoe's extended heel tab flares away from the Achilles. This reduces any potential irritation which, could again be caused by pronation.
The Arahi is Hoka’s best support category running shoe and a great choice for everyday training.
4. Mach X - Best HOKA Running Shoe for Everyday Speed
The Mach X is a light and fast-running shoe. It’s so light at just 266g that indeed many runners may find it light enough for racing. In fact, if it weren’t for the brand’s latest road racing model the Mach X would indeed be my number one race day pick.
Instead of a carbon plate, the Mach X uses a PEBAX plate embedded within its PEBA and ProFly X midsole. This combination of cushioning materials and plate makes for a very special blend and gives the shoe that much sought-after combination of great cushioning and responsive ride.
PEBAX is the foam midsole cushioning material now used by many brands and is quickly becoming the must-have midsole for those wanting fast and lively running shoes.
Put a plate inside this high-tech midsole and the shoe takes on an extra level of highly energized ride. PEBAX can be too soft in some shoes, but here, the plate helps stabilize things and eek the most out of that added feedback, helping propel you along the road.
A 5mm heel drop into the forefoot encourages a more mid-to-forefoot gait and this in turn loads the plate before it springs back into life.
A Creel jacquard upper is used to create a lightweight and supportive fit that has a high build-quality becoming of this performance model.
5. Rocket X2 - Best HOKA Race-Day Shoe (Unisex)
The Rocket X2 is built for speed. The brand's lightest road racing shoe, it uses carbon plate technology for a feel like no other shoe in the brand’s line-up.
Men's / Women's
The previous version of the Rocket X was felt by many to be lacking a magic foam midsole to give it some special ingredient. Here the use of a blend of ProFly X and PEBA foam adds that secret sauce!
The shoe is soft and springy. So springy in fact that it raises a smile every time you slip it on. The full-length carbon plate helps here. A scooped design to the plate places the foot in the optimum position to roll forward and push off with an exciting level of anticipation.
When at speed the shoe delivers, soaking up the impact and giving it right back as you drive off the ground. The plate comes to life and gives a level of response not previously felt in a Hoka running shoe.
The upper has a minimalist design to help keep the weight down, with a translucent mesh construction that’s highly breathable for those marathon distance races.
The shoe works well at any speed so it’s a great choice of road racing shoe from 5k up to and beyond the 26-mile distance.
6. Speedgoat 5 - Best HOKA Trail Running Shoe
This fifth generation of the ever-popular trail running shoe is the best yet and offers more cushioning and better traction than previous versions. It’s also 15g lighter than the previous generation making it great for those go-anywhere adventures on the trails.
Traction comes courtesy of the Vibram Metabase outsole, a rugged rubber that provides a great grip on pretty much any surface in any conditions.
With 33mm of cushioning, there’s plenty of protection for even the most adventurous trail athletes and despite that deep stack, the shoe still manages to weigh in at less than 300g.
While some trail running shoes can feel heavy and stiff, being based on the brand's Clifton shoe, the Speedgoat is essentially a road shoe that’s been given an off-road make-over. The cushioning is soft and responsive and the shoe remains flexible enough to be able to adapt to contours and the unexpected conditions one might encounter on the trail.
While the Speedgoat 5 is a trail running shoe, it’s so versatile that it doesn't shy away from the odd stretch of road on those door-to-trail routes many use frequently.
7. Rincon 3 - Best HOKA Lightweight Everyday Shoe
When it was introduced, the Rincon sat within the Hoka range of running shoes as a lightweight daily trainer that some may even find suitable for racing.
At just 218g, there is no doubt it’s light it remains one of the brand’s lightest shoes, indeed one of the lightest running shoes on the market full-stop!
The Rincon 3 is essentially a no-nonsense running shoe, light and with a simple construction. Its CM-EVA midsole offers everyday comfort but now with ProFly and PEBA foams at their disposal, the brand has much more accomplished models available.
That doesn’t make the Rincon 3 any less of a shoe and in fact, for me, it’s still a great choice as a shoe for everyday use without the weight and bulk of many competitors.
It’s a neutral cushioned shoe with a 29mm stack height, so it’s not short of cushioning. A 5mm drop also makes the shoe a good choice for daily use as that slightly higher drop adds comfort and can help with those suffering from conditions such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and calf strains.
All that said, one of the most appealing features of the Rincon 3 is its price. At just £110/$125 is a great value shoe that punches above its weight, competing well with higher-priced models from many other brands.
8. Tecton X2 - Best HOKA Trail Racing Shoe
While the Speedgoat 5 is Hoka’s best trail training shoe, the Tecton X is their range-topping off-road racing shoe.
Taking the best technologies available, the Tecton X combines the latest ProFly X midsole cushioning with twin carbon plates. These plates run parallel to each other throughout the length of the shoe.
Using the parallel design ensures the shoe can provide added propulsion yet still adapt to the contours and uneven terrain you’ll find on the trails.
The shoe really does have an energized, propulsive feel to it that comes into its own on firmer trails, gravel paths and fire roads.
The cushioning is soft on impact so long runs remain comfortable, but it’s the carbon plates that give this shoe an extra special feel that presents itself in an almost springy ride!
The Matryx fabric upper is a fast-drying design which means the shoes doesn’t retain weight in wet conditions as well as providing a supportive and durable fit.
At just 252g the Tecton X is lightweight to almost road racing shoe levels. This makes it a shoe that’s built for speed but also encourages you to reach for it on a daily basis.
HOKA - How Do They Fit?
Do HOKAs Run Big?
As with any footwear, we are all pretty unique when it comes to foot size, width and length.
How you like your running shoes to fit can also be a personal choice. While some runners like a very close-fitting shoe, others prefer them to be more on the roomy side.
Generally speaking Hoka shoe are very similar in terms of size to those of other popular running shoe brands such a Brooks, Saucony and New Balance. If anything I’d say they perhaps come up just a little bit shorter and a little bit narrower.
With that in mind it might be useful to try a half size up compared to your regular shoes when trying Hoka for the first time.
Of course, many of the Hoka running shoe models are available in different width fittings too. You can find wider fitting options in both the men’s and women’s models.
A regular men’s width would be a ‘D’ width, while a wide fit would be a ‘2E’. For women, a regular width would be a ‘B’ and a wide fit a ‘D’.
When comparing the sizes of Hoka shoes in UK sizes, it’s worth bearing in mind that the brand uses a half size difference from a US size. So, a US size 10 equates to a UK size of 9.5.
Other brands such as Brooks, Nike and Saucony use a full-size difference when converting from a US size, so for these brands, a US size 10 equals a UK size 9.5.
Granted, this all can be a little confusing, so, if possible, do try the shoes before you buy.
HOKA Comparison Chart
32mm / 29mm
Light weight Trainer
Twin Parallel Carbon Plate