I’d like to start off this review with a confession. I used to mock people that wore Hokas. “Look at those dorks wearing those clown shoes” was something I thought to myself more than once. I was a road runner having competed in numerous half marathons, 10k’s, and marathons dating back to 1994. I’ve logged my fair share of miles in traditional running shoes made by Brooks, Nike, Saucony, and New Balance. I was happy in those shoes, they worked well on the mostly flat roads that I trained and raced on.
Then something happened. I moved to San Elijo Hills in San Marcos, Ca and started running the trails where it is virtually impossible to get a run in without either going up or down a hill. There are very few flat sections. At first I hated it. My feet hurt from the sharp rocks on the trails and my Achilles tendons were miserable from running uphill all the time. Then I developed a case of plantar fasciitis for the first time in 20 years of running. Running downhill made me want to cry. I experimented with different trail shoes. First was the Brooks Cascadia. The rock plate in them reduced the pain of running over rocks but that same rock plate made the shoe very stiff which I didn’t like because my PF always flared up in them. Next up was the Nike Wildhorse which was better but still not the answer. I liked the low toe to heel drop (4mm) and I felt nimble in them, but running over rocks in them was not fun. I could feel them poking into my tender feet, especially in the second half of my long runs. Plus they were not durable.
So eventually, I decided to give the Hoka Stinson a try after a local runner whom I respected raved about them. The Hokas proved to be a game changer. They have a 4mm heel to toe drop which I like and the oversized mid-sole and the extra cushioning felt like the running equivalent of a Cadillac. While stiff because of the mid-sole that has 2.5 times the cushioning of a traditional road shoe, I could run over the rocks without feeling them poking into my tender feet. The stiffness of the midsole is countered by a meta- rocker that helps move the foot through its natural motion. The extra cushioning lessened the pain from my plantar fasciitis. In fact, my PF went away while I was wearing the Hoks training for a 50k. This was a period where I was increasing my mileage! Now I could not only enjoy the scenery of trail running, but I could do it without my feet being in pain most of the time.
My only quibble about them is the uppers. They tend to run narrow and I went through a period of getting blisters in them on my long runs. My feet are pretty calloused now and I've lost a few toenails, but now I don’t get the blisters. Sure my feet look more hideous than ever but it is worth it to me. I buy them in a half size larger than most my road running shoes and this helps overcome the narrow toe box. The other thing that is a huge selling point is that they are extremely durable. I have a pair that currently has 750 miles on them and they still feel pretty good. I am starting to be able to feel the ground a bit, but they work great on non-technical trails. I wouldn’t be surprised if I get another couple hundred miles out of them. I rarely run more than 400 miles in a pair of shoes. All in all, the Hoka Stinson ATR is well worth the $160 price tag. A great value when you take into account the durability. I have three pairs that I bought on a clearance sale still in their boxes waiting to be worn when these are retired. That’s how much I like them. While not a shoe I chose when I want to run fast, they are my go to shoes for my training runs on the trails. Especially long runs on rugged trails.
reviewed by Chris Bryan