Monday, March 6, 2017

RunnerDude Shoe Review: Hoka Bondi 5

If you've been following me on social media the past year, you may recall, that I've had quite the time finding a long run shoe that worked for me. My long run shoe of choice had been the Hoka Huaka. Then last year Hoka discontinued the shoe and I was lost. A runner without a shoe. Because I put so many miles on my feet and metatarsal issues in both feet, I can't just wear any shoe. Yes, I have very persnickety feet. So when Omega Sports (our local sports store) asked if I'd give the Hoka Bondi 5 a try, I said,YES!

Actually several years back just before starting to wear the Hoka Huaka, I had tried the Bondi. I'm not sure what number it would have been. At the time, however, that version of the Bondi didn't feel as good to me as the Huaka, so I went with the Huaka. The Bondi 5, however it nothing like the version I had tired on all those years back. If you are a runner who wore the Huaka and are familiar with the shoe, the Bondi 5 in my opinion, is a close match. The Bondi is a little wider than the Huaka and thus feel a little more stable upon foot landing. 

After logging several short runs and several moderate distance runs in the Bondi 5, I'm pleasantly pleased with my experience in the shoe. 

To back up a bit, if you're not familiar with Hoka running shoes, they are known in the industry as a provider of maximalist shoes. Around 2009-2010, with the publishing of the book, Born to Run, the barefoot and minimalist shoe running craze began. Like myself, many runners really wanted to experience the more natural running form of barefoot running or minimalist shoes, but just were not able to run with the lack of cushioning that goes with barefoot and minimalist running. I mentioned earlier that I have metatarsal issues and I also have a neuroma in both feet. As a result, I have to wear custom orthodics and a metatarsal pad in my shoes in order to run without pain. I can run a marathon in my running shoes no problem, but trying to walk across the floor barefoot can be very painful. 

The great thing about the whole barefoot running craze is the information that it revealed about natural running form. But get this.... natural running form can be achieved wearing running shoes. The problem is that traditional running shoes with a heel-to-toe drop of 12-13mm tends to promote more of a heel-strike foot landing, while natural running advocates for more of a midfoot (flat foot) or forefoot foot landing underneath your center of mass. As a result, many running shoe companies have begun lowering their heel-to-toe drop to 8mm and below in many of their standard running shoes. Problem in lowering the heel is that sometimes cushioning can be lost. 

So, enters Hoka. Hoka has engineered several different lines of what are now known as maximalist shoes which have a low heel-to-toe drop (shoes in their various lines range from 2mm to 6mm verses 12mm in a standard running shoe). Other running shoe companies also provide shoes in the same heel-drop range, but what sets Hoka apart is the stack of the shoe. Stack refers to the thickness of the shoe's sole. Stack height isn't heel height. Stack height refers to the amount of material between your foot and the ground for the entire length of the shoe. Maximalist shoes typically have around a stack height of 30mm or more. Remember that Hoka shoes heel-to-to drop ranges from 2-6mm. So the incline from from the 30mm  is at most only 6mm. Very little increased heel height. Basically, Hoka's are a low profile shoe similar to a minimalist shoe, but instead of very little between you and the road, there is a lot between you and the road.
What does this mean? Well, it means you can more easily achieve a midfoot (flatfoot) or forefoot landing) without losing the cushioning. Maximalist shoes have saved my feet tremendously on long runs. 

The most important thing that a runner has to keep in mind when switching to a maximalist shoe (and it's actually the same thing if they were considering a minimalist shoe), is that whenever you change to a shoe that is very different from the shoe you are currently wearing, you need to ease into using the shoe. DO NOT go out and run 10 miles your first run in a maximalist shoe with a lower heel-to-toe drop. You will use muscles differently in a maximalist shoe and you need to allow time for your body to acclimate. To start,  run just a mile or two your first couple of runs, then increase the distance to 3-4 miles for a week, then go to 5-6 miles. Easing into your new maximalist shoes will help avoid injury related to doing to much too soon. 

So back to my Bondi 5 review. These shoes are great! They are the most cushioned shoe line in the Hoka family. I need that cushion. But, even with all that cushion the shoe has structure. On my test runs, I definitely felt the cushion, but I never felt unsupported. I think that can be contributed to the wide platform on which the shoe is built. Hoka has provided a lot of surface area upon which to land, giving a very stable foot landing. That was one thing I didn't like too much about the Huaka. It had a  narrow platform and sometimes, if my foot hit just right, my ankle would role outward. Never experienced that in the Bondi 5. Very stable. There's also lots of room in the toe box. My toes had plenty of room to move around, but not so much that that shoe felt too loose.

I am also impressed with the construction of the shoe's tread. In my past experience with maximalist shoes, because the stack is so thick, the material used in the stack had to be very lightweight in order not to make the shoe too heavy. That light-weight material often wore down very quickly making me have to replace the shoes frequently. The Bondi 5, however has a very durable tread that covers most of the bottom of the shoe . While being very durable, it's not very heavy. Often a more durable outsole sounds clunky when your feet hit the ground, but that's not the case with the Bondi 5. The shoes feel light and sound light when running.

I'm very impressed with the Bondi 5 and look forward to many more miles in them. If you're in the Greensboro NC area, you can check out the Hoka Bondi 5 at Omega Sports on Battleground Ave. Tell them RunnerDude sent you. If you don't have an Omega Sports in your area, check them out at the official Hoka website.

No comments: