Since its birth in 2009, Hoka has become one of the most popular running shoe brands in the United States Known for its unprecedentedly thick midsoles that created the trend for maximum cushioning, the brand has continued to push the boundaries of shoe design over the past decade. Its kicks have been worn by elite athletes in major marathons, Ironman triathlons, the world’s toughest ultra-distance trail races and the Olympics, and can also be found at the feet of runners and athletes. walkers of all ages and abilities around the world. Here are 10 facts you might not know about the brand.
1. Hoka was born in France.
Although the company is now based in Goleta, California, and its name comes from New Zealand (more on that later), Hoka was founded in the French Alps. Launched by French adventure athletes and product developers Nico Mermoud, Jean-Luc Diard, and Christophe Aubonnet near Chamonix, France, Hoka unveiled its first shoes in the US market in 2010 while operating on a self-funded shoestring budget. Deckers Outdoor Corporation purchased the company in 2013, but it still maintains an advanced product development office in Annecy, France.
2. The Hokas were originally designed to race down steep mountains.
At first, the company’s developers decided to make modern trail running shoes for rugged mountain runs in the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites. The wide-body, thick-padded design concept was based on oversized technology that had been used successfully in powder skis, mountain bike wheels, and tennis racquets. A bigger sweet spot, Mermoud surmised, would apply equally to running. Early in their development process, Mermoud, Diard and Aubonnet considered making a sort of slip-on downhill-only shoe cover that could be carried in a bag on uphill sections and strapped on for long, rugged descents. But once they created a lightweight working prototype, they knew they weren’t making a technical accessory but a real running shoe.
3. The real brand name is Hoka One One.
Hoka One One is a phrase from the native Maori language of New Zealand that loosely translates to “flying above the earth”. The founders say they used a New Zealand name out of admiration for that country’s rich racing heritage. “Hoka” is a verb meaning to hover or fly, while “One One” (pronounced “Own-ay Own-ay”) is an Earth-like noun meaning. The name is behind the brand’s slogan, “Time to Fly”, and its advertising and marketing, including the latest brand video, “Pursuit”. In 2021, Hoka quietly removed the “One One” from its website, social media accounts, and marketing materials to simplify the name, although according to the brand they officially remain Hoka One One.
4. Hoka comes from the minimalist movement.
Back when Hoka shoes debuted, minimalist running shoes were all the rage. Hoka went in the opposite direction, but not entirely. While their “maximalist” models had thick, cushioned midsoles, unlike the near-ground “barefoot” models of the time, they shared some of the key design principles of the minimalist movement. Despite their thickness, they were extremely lightweight, had low heel-toe offsets, and their “rocker” profile kept the toes in a natural position and promoted a balanced forward gait.
5. Boulder was the first place you could buy Hokas in the United States
The brand owes some of its initial success to Mark Plaatjes and Johnny Halberstadt, the original owners of Boulder Running Company (BRC). At a trade show in December 2009, Mermoud asked Plaatjes, a physiotherapist and 1993 marathon world champion, to do a brief test run on a Hoka prototype. Plaatjes immediately liked the concept. Mermoud told him that Hoka had 1,000 pairs about to ship from a Chinese factory and, based on that short trial, Plaatjes said that BRC would buy as many as the store could get, which ultimately was 770 pairs, the majority of Hoka’s initial production. Course. “It was clear it was something new and different, but it made sense,” Plaatjes recalled.
6. Hoka was the second brand to introduce a “super shoe”.
Diard says he started developing the concept of a high-stacked road-racing model with a carbon-fiber plate embedded in a bouncy midsole at Hoka’s Annecy office in 2014, but Nike hit the mark. finish line first, launching its Vaporfly 4% in 2017 Hoka introduced the Evo Carbon Rocket in late 2018. Lower and firmer than the Vaporfly, the shoe had its own unique ride and was very fast: Cam Levins wore a prototype when he broke Canada’s national record on his marathon debut this fall, and Scott Fauble wore them to place seventh in the 2019 Boston Marathon in 2:09:09, a time that ranks him in the top 10 among the list of all-time American marathons.
7. Hoka makes more than maximum cushioning running shoes.
While the brand got its start and remains known primarily for its high-pile profile, its management insists the company has always been about innovation, not just chunky midsoles. As such, it continued to produce groundbreaking models for all types of racing, including its Speed EVO R racing spikes with an asymmetrical design designed to make left-hand turns around the track, and its new Tecton X trail running shoes with dual carbon-fiber plates that improve propulsion and stability on rough terrain. However, the brand’s most innovative shoe might be the gargantuan TenNine model, which has a wide midsole that extends for several inches at the back of the heel. It was designed as a concept shoe aimed at running downhill on the trails – and it’s good enough for that – but it’s unsurprisingly a little bulky for running elsewhere. The shoe’s technology and design elements have carried over to the rest of their running and hiking line, however, in less extreme manifestations that preserve the benefits without compromising the ride.
8. You can go fast and long on Hokas trails.
America’s first Hoka-sponsored athlete was Utah ultrarunner Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, the winningest 100-mile runner of all time, with 40 wins to his name (including a record five Hardrock 100 wins). ). With input from Meltzer, Hoka released the original Speedgoat model in 2015, a trail shoe with high-density cushioning and a Vibram rubber outsole designed to tackle rugged mountain terrain. Since launching his signature shoe, the 54-year-old Meltzer has won nine more 100 miles, including Beast of the East last December wearing a pair of Speedgoat 5s ($155).
9. You can go fast and long on the roads of Hokas.
In May 2019, Hoka held a special time trial event in Sacramento, California to promote the launch of its new Carbon X ultra running shoe, aiming to break a world record. Although the event lacked the glamor and grandeur of Nike’s Breaking2, Hoka pulled it off: Arizona ultrarunner Jim Walmsley set a new 50-mile world best time of 4 hours, 50 minutes, 8 seconds. His effort – averaging around 5:48 miles over 50 miles – broke South African Bruce Fordyce’s 1983 record by 13 seconds.
At the US Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2020, Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s race in 2:27:23, wearing a pair of just-released Hoka Rocket X shoes. Her NAZ Elite teammates Stephanie Bruce (6e2:29:11) and Kellyn Taylor (8e, 2:29:55) wore the same model, making Hoka the most popular brand in the top ten. The other seven spots were won by runners wearing shoes made by Nike (3), Saucony (2), Brooks and Asics.
10. Thanks to Hoka, maximalism is now mainstream.
Although Hoka shoes have reached the highest ranks in running, they can also be commonly seen on the sidewalks of Manhattan, on the feet of nurses and other professionals on their feet all day, as well as in just about any airport. in America. The brand’s cushy, comfortable and colorful designs have also started to generate buzz among those who live the jet-set lifestyle. Pop singer Britney Spears has been with the brand for at least five yearsand earlier this year posted a snap on Instagram showing her wearing a pair of HOKA Bondi 7 sneakers. Reese Witherspoon, Pippa Middleton, Katie Holmes, Winnie Harlow, Kylie Jenner, Heidi Montag and Gwenyth Paltrow are among many other celebrities have been spotted wearing HOKAS for the past few years.