Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hoka One One Infinite Review


Hoka One One (pronounced O-nay O-nay) is a running shoe company founded by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard back in 2009. Though still an infant, they braved the challenges to stay and compete against some of the well-known giants in the shoe industry. Amazingly, not only did they survive, they are thriving! They were able to establish a solid benchmark by winning many prestigious races from Trails to Tracks to Roads to Ultra Marathons and Olympics.

A brief history of their success: Hoka One One took a gamble by taking the opposite approach, producing “maximalist” shoes when the majority of the shoe industries were going “minimalist”. In 2010, Nicolas Mermoud asked Karl Meltzer (a.k.a "Speedgoat Karl") a decorated ultra-runner, to give it a try. Karl was very skeptical in the beginning and thought that the shoe looks nothing but a “Clown shoes” with a massive sole that probably weighs a tank just by looking at it. Karl still entertained the idea and during the run, he felt the joy of running and how forgiving the shoes were…he was sold that moment! Fast forward, Karl has won many races aboard the Hoka and thus the rise of HOKA ONE ONE. Their gamble paid off and here I am reviewing one of the best shoes in the market today. So with that, let’s get into details.

Description
If you are familiar with the Hoka’s, the Infinite is the “beefed up” Clifton 2 (a neutral shoe). Both shared almost identical DNA when it comes to structural components and lightweight cushioning. The two things that set them apart are:
1.) Infinite is considered a stability shoe (so this is not as flexible as the Clifton 2).
2.) It weighs 2 ounces more. The added weight came from beefing up its structural components. But this is still crazy light in comparison with other stability shoe that could weigh up to 12+ ounces.

The Infinite is designed for runners seeking a medium level of stability. The shoe weighs in at 9.70 ounces for men size 9 and 8.10 ounces for women size 9. The heel to toe drop is 5mm for men (Heel height: 29mm, Forefoot height: 24mm) and 4mm for women (Heel height: 28mm, Forefoot height: 24mm). I tested a size 10 and it really feels true to the size.

Upper
The upper material is made of a seamless breathable air mesh with some added layer of fabric and a printed Hoka name on one side. I was curious about the added layer, so I tested it out by putting my hand inside the shoe and blew some air against the mesh, trying to simulate the air when running. I felt some decent air passed thru…that’s a good thing. However, I’m just not sure how the shoe will handle on summer when the temperature starts to rise, I’m guessing that it might heat up a bit, we’ll see. But for now, I’m still enjoying some cool breeze and occasional rain here in northern California so I know that it will protect my feet from getting cold.

Similar with the Clifton 2, the Infinite has a high level of padding in the heel and tongue area for added comfort and hug throughout my top feet. I would say that the toe box room is average and not too constricting. This is great since we all know that our feet tend to swell up during the run. But don’t expect that you can splay your toes in it.

Sole
It’s MASSIVE! That’s the Hoka One One signature on all of their shoes…massive yet so light. The Infinite’s sole is not as marshmallowy (is that a word?) in comparison with the Clifton 2. It is a reinforced with a bit firmer sole and it doesn’t flex much on the forefoot…well, it’s a stability shoe, if they make it cushy then it will defeat its purpose. However, to retain that “like stepping on a cloud” feeling that we’re used to with Hoka shoes, they incorporated an oversized EVA midsole for that cushion feel and also utilized the X-40 “high rebound” Ortholite insole that is a bit different from other insoles. It is few millimeters thick on the bottom of the heel to help absorb the impact when running and gives some energy return on the take-off. It has a wider platform for greater stability and a Meta-Rocker geometry for enhanced forefoot support to encourage midfoot landing. The very rear of the shoe is cut away slightly to reduce the heel striking and help promote natural gait movement. The outsole is reinforced with high abrasion light weight rubber that were placed strategically for traction and durability over the long haul.

The Ride
This is the part that really excites me most. No hype, no sugarcoat…I’ll call it the way I see it.
That’s the purpose of this review, to promote and help the readers make a smart choice if it’s for them and if it’s worth the buy. I want to be fair and honest. I know it’s impossible to level my review with others, since we have our own different needs, feel and opinion on things. Though I’ve done a lot of running and have used different types of shoes throughout, I’m no shoe expert by any means, but I’ll try my best to capture what’s best and “not so” best about this shoe. My normal protocol is to run it on three different occasions: 1.) easy 2.) tempo / interval and 3.) long run. I’m hoping that by doing these, it will give me enough perspective what this shoe is best for in my humble opinion.

My first test run was the easy run, I immediately noticed that it has that stability feel in it, it’s not sloppy. Initially, I thought that the lack of forefoot flexibility would be an issue and it might inhibit my natural foot movement, but that was never the case, it didn’t bother me at all and it really feels natural when running. I didn’t feel the side to side flex in the midsole when I was cornering which is apparent for a stability shoe.

On my second test run, I opted to do the interval around the track (that is not rubberized) close to my work to get more feel...and will it be comfortable and responsive when I amp my pace? The traction is exceptional and I’m happy to say that it feels fast and responsive on every stride I made. Thanks to the firmer sole with enough cushion, it gave me the feeling that I am still connected to the ground and I can easily exert energy without the feeling of being rob.

The last run I did was the long run, I believe there is no better way to test the shoe than going for a long distance. I have to say that the feeling was much better than I expected. I’ve done a lot of running with my Clifton 1 (from training to racing) and I was really spoiled with its lightness and cushiness. I thought that the added weight of 2 ounces will be an issue but I didn’t notice it at all. The shoe was responsive and forgiving enough on those miles that I pounded on the road and its traction was uncompromising. The only downside that I noticed was that the shoe needs to be broken in more, probably one more long run before I can actually race on this shoe then it’ll be good. That’s just my opinion but some people might be able to race it straight from the box.

My Verdict
I ran closed to 17 miles with the Infinite and enjoyed it all. The shoe is somewhat like a two edge sword that it lets me feel that I’m connected to the ground but still gave that plush ride which I really enjoyed. I read some articles about the cons of going maximalist, that it robs them the energy and felt that their muscles and joints are working even harder in comparison with using a minimalist shoe. Well, depending on the person you’re talking to, it can be argue on both ways. So it’s more of a preference thing in my opinion. Running is not a one size fits all sport…same goes with the shoe. You need to find the right balance of what work and what doesn’t work for you. One thing that I want to emphasize is that make sure that you break it in very well. Some runners might have to adjust due to lack of forefoot flexibility in the beginning but log some good miles in it then it will be ok.

The price of $120 is very reasonable and within the price range of most shoes in the market today, so I cannot argue with that. You can purchase the Infinite directly on their website or you can go to your nearest retail store so you can try it on first and get the right feel.  

Overall, I am really impressed with this shoe. If you want a little bit of both worlds, the amount of cushion and still feel connected to ground, then this shoe is for you. The shoe does what it intends to do, not sloppy but not too aggressive, it will not give you that feeling of throwing them after your run. Hoka change the flavor a bit by mixing stability and cushion altogether that doesn’t weigh a ton…I think you’ll be pleased with these changes.

I love to hear your feedback and let me know what you think.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the thorough review ... it really helps. Will you be reviewing the Clayton too?

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    1. Hi David,
      Glad you liked it. Clayton is one of the shoes I love to review, hopefully I can get a chance to test it. So stay tune.

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  2. I have flat and wide feet so this is a very helpful review, I ordered a pair online.. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi LurWa,
      Thanks for reading and glad you find the review helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

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  3. LurWa, what is your impression now?

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