Hoka One One Rapa Nui Comp Review by George Harris

Hoka LogoIntro from Pete: Guest reviewer George Harris is a 58 year-old runner from Manteca, CA. He’s been running for 36 years, most of that as a soldier in the US Army. His first pair of real running shoes was the 1978 Nike Waffle Trainer, which cost the outrageous price of $45.00. George currently runs 70-75 miles per week, many of those miles in Hoka One One shoes. Here he shares his thoughts on the newest Hoka shoe, the Rapa Nui Comp.

First off let me state that I am a fan of Hoka One One shoes and so is my wife. They have helped me conqueror my persistent left knee pain to a point where it no longer bothers me while running. Likewise, they have really helped my wife with her grumpy knees. They have also helped my legs in that they don’t feel trashed at the end of 70 plus mile weeks. I’ve run in every model they have (Bondi B, Bondi Speed, Evo Tarmac, Stinson Evo, and Mafate). The Bondi B and Bondi Speed seem to work the best for me.

Hoka is known for its big, super cushioned running shoes while other companies seem to be going to minimalism. Enter what could be called “racing Hokas” – the new shoes are the Rapa Nui Comp (trail version) and Kailua Comp (road version). These shoes are currently only available in Europe (although the women’s version of the Kailua Comp are now available at a couple of online retailers). Being a fan of Hoka shoes I had to acquire the Rapa Nui to see what this shoe was all about.

Hoka Rapa Nui Comp

Hoka One One Rapa Nui Comp

The Shoe

The first thing one will notice about this shoe is that it is not as big or bulky looking as other Hoka shoes (see photo below comparing the Bondi Speed with Rapa Nui Comp).

Hoka Rapa Nui CompHoka Bondi-B-Black-Red

Hopa Rapa Nui Comp (left) and Bondi B (right)

The upper is mesh with welded overlays. The tongue is made of a thin, suede-like material that is similar to the Tarmac but thinner and softer. Not sure how breathable this shoe will be but I had no issues in temps of 90-100 degrees (but it was a dry heat).

The midsole is blown EVA as in other Hoka shoes, but only 1.5x volume compared to 2x volume for other Hoka shoes. For example, my Bondi Speed has 35 mm of midsole in the rearfoot and 30 mm in the forefoot. The Rapa Nui has 26 mm in the rearfoot and 21 mm in the forefoot. With this reduced volume it comes as no surprise that the Rapa Nui weighs less as well. Some reviewers have noticed as much as an ounce in weight difference between full size Hoka shoes, like the Tarmac, and the Rapa Nui. My unscientific test showed about 0.75 oz less weight for the Rapa Nui versus my Bondi Speed (both size 11.5). The outsole has lugs that should (and did) handle single and double track trail terrain very well, although I did not test it in muddy conditions. The shoe comes with a 2mm OrthoLite non formed insole (not my favorite – I am looking for another insole to replace it) and speed laces.

photo (3)

The Fit

photo (1)I ordered a size 11.5 since that size fits me perfectly in every other Hoka I have worn. Wearing thin Drymax socks the shoe fits fine. If I had thicker socks I probably would have opted for a size 12. The shoe is a bit narrower than the other Hoka shoes both in the forefoot and rearfoot areas. This is a “racing Hoka” after all. The shoe had ample room in the toebox area, however, not as much as my Bondi. The midsole extends up and around the upper to create what Hoka calls their “bucket seat” for the foot. I had no slippage issues in the heel area on this shoe.

The speed laces that come with the Rapa Nui are up to the task of securing my foot (I have not liked them in the past – for example I cut them off my Tarmacs and replaced them with regular laces; however they work fine with my Bondi Speeds). Unlike other Hoka shoes with speed laces there are no regular laces supplied with this shoe (I think that needs to change). The depth of the shoe will take an orthotic (it handled mine very well and left more than enough room in the shoe).

photoThe Ride

I have taken six runs with this shoe on a mix of trails and road (35 miles total). While the shoe is still well cushioned (it is Hoka after all), it does not have that plush feel of my Bondi Speeds. The midsole feels firmer than the Bondi but in my opinion it has better cushioning than the adidas Energy Boost shoe. One must remember that this shoe is billed as a performance shoe and has 9mm less cushioning than the Bondi.

The forefoot is flexible, more like a normal running shoe. In fact, the shoe is overall far more flexible than other Hoka shoes, but the rocker effect, while less pronounced, is still there and does allow one to get “on their midfoot” a bit more. Running at faster speeds the shoe feels great. It does work well on the road unlike some trail shoes that can be a bit harsh. So this is a great “door to trail” shoe.

Running uphill was a breeze compared to my Bondi Speeds. Coming downhill the cushioning was adequate to handle that portion well and protect my knees. On the trail it handled rocks and branches just like the Bondi – no issues even though there is no rock plate (the Bondi is like a tank on the trail while the Rapa Nui is more of a half track). I was concerned about how stable this shoe would be given that it does not have the wider profile of other Hoka shoes. I can report that it was very stable and I had no issues.

The Verdict

I like this shoe very much as it combines the things I like about the Hoka shoes in a more slimmed-down package: cushioning, stability, protection for my knees. So this shoe has a little less of the “Hoka cloud” sensation but with more flexibility, less weight, and a performance oriented feel. I think it is a real winner…now if they would only add those regular laces.

Other Reviews

Run From the Ordinary (great hi resolution shots of the shoe I got)

Trailplodder

Sam’s Running, People, Places, and Things

Purchase

As mentioned, the Hoka Rapa Nui Comp is not yet available in the US, though other Hoka models are available at Zappos. The Rapa Nui Comp can be purchased from Hoka’s European website.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. Great review. I’ve got to say that your Hoka’s look much more fashionable than mine. I have the Stinsons and have had similar benefits. Like your’s mine have the speed laces too, but I have grown to like them. A little tricky to get even though. Here is what I think about the Stinsons, if you are ever interested in that model: link to therecreationalist.com

  2. George Harris says:

    Sam thanks for linking my post. I agree on the stability issue on really rocky type trails and had that experience this weekend but performs well on single and double track trails. FYI I am getting the road version as well I wonder how much difference it will be between the two. I noticed a real bit of difference in the Stinson tarmac and the Stinson Evo trail

    • Sam Winebaum says:

      George, where are you getting the road Kailua Comp from? I have the Tarmacs and the earliest Stinson. Significant differences but also 2 generations of the shoe. The upper in the Tarmac far better. I am going to guess that the uppers on the Napa and Kailua are pretty much the same. I would think without lugs the Kailua will be even smoother.

      • George Harris says:

        Pete Bland sports in the UK had them. I got the last pair of 11.5 US they had. I guess they did not get many of either the Rapa Nui or the Kailua and I got the last pair of 11.5 in both.

  3. bob baks says:

    These shoes have apparently helped a lot of people. I haven’t been running very long, and there is no reason people should listen to anything I have to say. However…

    Here is a picture of a man with a very impressive race history. He has been injured recently, and has turned to Hokas to keep running. In looking at this photo, it seems that there are some aspects of form that could be improved upon, and I’m not just talking about foot strike. I wonder how many other Hoka wearers are similar to this man–talented and robust, but finally at a point where it might be a good idea to slowly start rebuilding their running technique? It may be that many people are simply too impatient and unwilling to try the kind of “goofy” stuff that people like Ken Bob Saxton, Michael Sandler and Mark Cucuzzella talk about.

    • Oh hey, that is a picture of me! I assume you saw it on my blog: http://recoveryourstride.blogs… or maybe just from the race photos. Thank- you for saying I am “talented” and for having an “impressive race history”. I have been at it a long time, but I am not sure I can remotely be called talented. I just like to run. Since it is pictured here, I will just update a bit on my use of Hokas. I did have arthroscopic hip surgery for a torn labrum 2 years ago. I got my first pair of Hokas right before the surgery thinking they might be a good choice post surgery for moving around. The first pair were too tight so I would get squished toes, but I like the rocker -rolling feeling once a started running post-surgery. My second pair were too big, but they were comfortable and I got up to a 71 mile week on the treadmill using them this winter. Once I got this blue pair (and off the treadmill) my running has gone downhill. I guess running on the treadmill is not good post hip surgery ( I am now told). I wasn’t using my glutes and stuff and relied on the treadmill to pull my leg through. That is beside the point. I basically have stopped running completely for now to try to calm down the muscles around my hips and I am working on some rather deep imbalances with a professional.

      I got an ElliptiGO two weeks to deal with the lack of running 2 weeks ago and I am back in exercise heaven!! I had already signed up for this race so I ran it on extremely limited mileage two months prior. It was also the worst I have felt in a race in 40 years of running (conditioning wise and my hips did not have the range of motion I was used to-plus after 2 miles my glutes tied up and I had to limp for two days after the race). I ran in the Hokas as that had been the shoe I had been used to. I also see how ridiculously big they look in the photo, but have you seen an ElliptiGO, I don’t care how I look if it keeps me moving.

      I am not sure if the Hokas or this pair in particular is good for me. I had some muscle testing done about 6 weeks ago and when the doctor tested my TFL after walking around in the Hokas, it completely turned the muscle back off after she had activated it. I don’t know how valid this observation was, but I am not sold right now that Hokas are the best shoe for me. I do think, from hearing other long time runners speak, that they have done a lot for many runners towards getting them back up and running and doing more mileage. It is not the cushioning that appeals to me and my foot does not agree with shape of the Hokas, but I did enjoy the rolling motion on many runs. That is why I was interested in the review of this pair of Hokas.

      I was a minimalist long before “Born to Run”. I always liked training in race shoes rather than training shoes. I have done all sorts of form training, but just briefly, I was either “born” with some rather weird stuff on my left side or my muscles have developed compensations through the years that seem to confuse doctors and therapists alike. Doctors have said I have: functional hallux limitis, tibial torsion, inverted heel, femoral anteversion, and mild dysplasia all on that one left side. I don’t get how you can be born with all that just on one side, so who knows what is really going on or what triggers my form problems and compensations to keep running.

      After 40 years, running is no longer fun. A shoe is not going to change that. “Running” on the ElliptiGO is helping me get back into shape and getting that running feeling back. I am hoping it also reeducates my muscles around my hip in how to balance weight and work together properly again, so I can get back to running. My legs actually look straighter in that photo than they did a few years ago when I was running 4-5 minutes faster on this course.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I tried ultraminimal, form change, etc. with my wife. She has totally changed her stride, went from being a big overstrider to a forefoot striker. But, Hokas are the only thing that have allowed her to run pain free for any length of time.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
      -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
      -Twitter: link to twitter.com
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      -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

      • bob baks says:

        I’m not rejecting them entirely. Some people swear by these Frankenstein boots. I’m just putting the idea out there that maybe, just maybe form should receive more attention in some cases. Did your wife ever try barefoot? Just a little bit every day on the rug in the hall or something? Building really, really slowly? Did she? Frankly, she doesn’t sound like the type to be interested in something like that, not that I know her or anything. Anyway, that’s what it might take to really get the hang of it some cases. But again, there’s no reason you should take my word for it…

        • Pete Larson says:

          Sorry, Bob, but you’re a bit single minded about this stuff. We rebuilt her form from the ground up, went in Vibrams and Merrell Barefoot with no cushion for a long time. As I said, I have seen her form change dramatically. It didn’t solve her problem.
          Sent from my iPad

          • bob baks says:

            Ummm…OK. Just trying to help.

          • Pete Larson says:

            Here’s my issue – the barefoot cures everything mentality can get way out of hand. Yes, form change to a more barefoot style can help in some situations. We originally tried it to deal with her hip issues, and it did seem to help there for a bit, but once she upped her mileage after a long, slow buildup she started having trouble again. Then she developed a foot issue. Running barefoot adds stress to the foot, doesn’t reduce it. Running barefoot does not make forces go away, it shifts them around, and the foot and ankle take more stress, knee and hip less. With a foot problem that we for a time thought might be a stress fracture (looks like it was a neuroma), the last thing I’d want to do is have her run barefoot. That’s where the Hokas came in, and they provided instant relief. It’s about knowing the problem and how form or footwear can be used to reduce tissue stress where there is a problem.
            Sent from my iPad

          • Robert Osfield says:

            Do you have a feel for what makes the difference for your wife when running the Hoka’s?

            My guess is that the substantial rocker may well be the key for conditions like nueroma. A rocker will allow the foot to remain relatively flat and avoid the toes from having to dorsaflex on toe off.

          • Pete Larson says:

            I suspect a combo of the rocker and cushion. She’s gone almost too far to her forefoot and I think this may be part of her trouble, been working on getting her to ease off and aim for a more midfoot landing.

            —-
            Pete Larson’s Web Links:
            -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
            -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
            -Twitter: link to twitter.com
            -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
            -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

          • Robert Osfield says:

            Have you tried running in sand? Last summer I ran barefoot on a beach where the tide had only recently gone out and got to see my footprints in the slightly wet sand. What surprised my is how much deeper I sank under my big toe, clearly I was putting the most load there by a long way.

            I mention this as it might be a good way to test out how you are loading your put and where you are putting the most loads. For your wife it could be that she’s overloading the forefoot. This might occur because of landing on the footfoot and thus pre-loading the foot and calves combination so that toe off is strong and again loads the toes too much. Or it could simply be just pushing off too actively.

            I suspect habitual heel strikers probably push off more strongly than they need to once they stop heel striking. When mid-foot or forefoot striking one can rely more on elastic recoil so one in theory should need such an active push off.

            The cue of lifting ones feet off the ground, and leaning from the ankles while being mechanically a bit nonescensical might help those who are prone to pushing off too strongly.

            The suggestion of barefooting might actually be not that bad an idea, as it’s uncomfortable to land on the forefoot and push off strongly as the extra friction hurts. I find when I barefoot my cadence goes up and I don’t push off strongly, rather I automatically change everything to getting the foot back down on the ground.

            Running too fast barefoot will however put huge loads on the forefoot and do lots of damage for anyone for an injury to the forefoot. Some short, ultra slow barefoot jogs might be something to add back in. They’d have to be done with a very specifc purpose in mind – that is working on keeping the ankles relaxed, the foot evenly loaded on landing right through to toe off. Running on wet sand would add in some visual feedback to the loading.

            For longer, faster runs to keep fit or for racing one would need to stick to the Hoka or similar shoe till she’s healed up.

            I must admit I’ve wondered about going for a cushioned shoe with a rocker to help out with the brusied bones in my forefoot, but everytime I look at HOKA or similar shoe I just get turned off. I just adore my modest shoes and love the feel of the ground beneath me. So for now, rather than resorting to a HOKA I’m resting.

          • Pete Larson says:

            I have not tried that, but I suspect she is overloading her forefoot. That’s one of the challenges with trying form change, sometimes they go too far in the other direction and new problems crop up. I’m wondering if I got her to relax her ankles a bit if it might help. At the same time though, she’s happy now and running well so not sure I want to mess with things. She’s had two months pain free, and it has been a long time since that’s happened :)

          • bob baks says:

            OK, but here’s my issue: I started this with a picture of Jim Hansen, and asked a question about Hoka wearers in general. I should have never responded about your wife, because I know nothing about her, and didn’t have her mind when I started this thread.

          • I think something to consider, Bob, is the number of elites who have adopted Hokas as their weapon of choice. It’s not just Karl Meltzer. It’s Dave Mackey, Jason Schlarb, Marshall Ulrich… I just crewed at Western States and the sharp end of the Men’s Field had a lot of Hokas.

            In fact, Hokas gained traction with the elite 100 milers first… As opposed to the barefoot movement, which largely started with the Born To Run crowd. Hokas are a “if the 100 mile champions like them… maybe they will help me” tool. And word of mouth is what is helping them. I know, because I was a major skeptic until enough people told me to “close your eyes and give them a 30-miler”

            The bottom line is — as Pete has so carefully documented — running is such a complex motion that advocating or dismissing any one solution — even by posting a photo of someone who ‘appears’ to have bad form in that one frame — seems to be missing the point entirely.

          • bob baks says:

            I’m not dismissing anything, guys. And didn’t I say that I really don’t have a great deal of experience, so don’t take what I say too seriously? But when I start seeing more people wearing Hokas in 5ks, like I did last weekend, it makes me wonder a bit. Y’all may want to consider that these strong reactions to me might be a case of “I think you doth protest too much.”

          • Hokas are great for running 5ks. I did all my 5Ks this past season in Hokas and I was rewarded with great times and quick recovery! I also find the Hokas to be fantastic for speed training.

          • bob baks says:

            Before I saw the error of my ways, I certainly would have said that despite your success with them, you should abandon the Hokas immediately and join me and the other groovy barefoot people. But now I just say–hey, great. Whatever works, man.

          • bob baks says:

            All I’m trying to say is maybe try taking your shoes off a little bit, and see if you notice anything different about your form. Be aware of posture and arm carriage and all that other good stuff. Maybe make sure you try that before spending a bunch on shoes. What the hell’s wrong with that!?

          • Smash Lampjaw says:

            For someone who thinks others here are “protesting too much,” you seem to be doing quite a bit of it yourself. Who cares if someone wears a Hoka or a VFF? Are they running without issues? If so, then let it be. You’ll feel better when you don’t care as much.

          • bob baks says:

            Wow, you’re right. I’ve seen the light. Here I was thinking I had something valuable to add to this discussion, by merely suggesting that people try a tiny bit of barefoot running and pay attention to form. But now I see that I was DEFINITELY telling people to never, ever wear Hokas. I’m a terrible person.

          • bob baks says:

            And I hope people realize that sometimes I’m just trying to be funny and joke around. Guess it’s not working.

  4. Hi Pete / George

    Rapa Niu are the only Hoka’s available to try in my town in the UK, where I live. I really like their feel but what would you say if I told you I was a heel -striker and an overpronator. Will these exaggerate my overpronation?

    • George Harris says:

      I overpronate as well and have found these have helped with that because of the wide base. I also got a pair of inserts Foot Levelers (they have these in the UK as well) and the combo of the Hoka with these have done the trick

  5. Sam Winebaum says:

    Great review George. Thanks to you and Pete for linking to my post about the Rapa Nui. I will do the same. Don’t have any knee or other issues after 41 years of running, except I am getting slow. I appreciate and think the serious cushioning is good for any runner’s recovery,longevity, and high mileage. Also really like the adidas energy boost and reviewed them here: http://samwinebaum.blogspot.co… Also very cushioned but more responsive in my view.

    I have been running almost all roads (85 miles so far) in the Rapa Nui and it is fantastic. Far more flexible than other Hokas, lighter of course, runs more like a normal shoe. Seeing some pretty rapid wear on the rear most lugs on my goofy leg side. Am able to get it up to decent but not yet great speed which I have had problems doing with other Hokas, not much knee lift here. Not as stable on the very rocky, rooty NH trails as other shoes or even Hokas in the forefoot/midfoot. Too soft without that extra thickness and stiffness of the other Hokas or a plate or denser outsole on the perimeter, as the adidas achieves with its plastic plate around the forefoot. Going to UT soon and I am sure they will be sensational on the smoother western trails.

  6. Steve Tremblay says:

    Running shoe discussion becomes sometime more an evangelisation than experiences sharing.

  7. Thanks for the review – the Hoka Rapa Nui (trail and road) are now available at boulder running company website, I just ordered a pair, looking forward to trying them out (I’m addicted to my Bondi B’s already)!

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