HOKA Introduces 5 New Models For Spring 2015: Challenger ATR, Constant, Odyssey, Valor, Vanquish

Hoka Challenger ATROne of the things I’ve realized over the past few years is that though I personally lean toward more minimal running shoes (a shoe like the Saucony Kinvara hits my sweet spot), readers of this site have a wide variety of preferences when it comes to what they put on their feet. Coupled with this is the fact that my wife has had a long stretch of relatively injury free running after moving into a combo of maximally cushioned Hokas (first Bondi 2, now Kailua Tarmac) and wide, cushioned Altras (Torin and Intuition 2.0). All of this supports my footwear philosophy, which is basically that people are different and have different needs, and that what works best for me may not work best for someone else. I do best in minimalish shoes (but run in just about everything), my wife seems to do better in something with a fair amount of cushion.

Lately I’ve been getting some great feedback when I post on shoes that I have not typically covered in the past (e.g., a traditional neutral shoe like the Nike Pegasus 31). It’s made me realize that part of my audience is not being attended to when I focus only on the minimal end of the spectrum. As a result, I’ve diversified my mix of review shoes, and have started running in things that are considerably more cushioned than I might choose if I weren’t a shoe reviewer (though you won’t likely see me in a Brooks Beast anytime soon!). 

Despite the increasing diversity of shoes in my queue, I have only run once in a HOKA running shoe. HOKAs are the archetypal “maximal” running shoe brand, and they have grown considerably in popularity both in the running community and on the feet of my spouse. My one run was in a pair of the original Mafate (I think) and though I did not dislike them, they were way more shoe than I need or prefer. I’ve tried on a few other pairs and never found the fit to be quite right.

Last week I received a pair of the HOKA Clifton, and though I haven’t run in them yet, I’m impressed by the fit and the incredibly light weight (under 8oz) for a shoe with as much cushion as the Clifton stuffs into its sole (stack: 29mm heel, 24mm forefoot). They’re basically like a Kinvara with just a bit of extra cushion (and they are similar in weight). I’m looking forward to putting some miles on them in the coming weeks – stay tuned! (a giveaway for a pair of Cliftons is coming as well)

2014-08-04 14.24.42

Hoka Clifton

HOKA has been releasing a bunch of new models lately, and the trend has been toward lighter, lower profile models that still retain a lot of cushion (like the aforementioned Clifton and the Huaka). Yesterday I received a press release from my PR contact at HOKA, and thought I’d share the info provided on five new models set to be released for Spring 2015 – the trend toward lighter shoes seems to be continuing. The only details I have are what was provided in the press release, so not much info on drop, stack heights, etc. yet).


HOKA Challenger ATR

Hoka Challenger ATR

Description via HOKA: “…HOKA’s new trail shoe, the Challenger ATR, features the lightweight, smooth-riding characteristics of the award-winning Clifton shoe and supplements them with increased support in the upper and a more aggressive outsole. Independent rubber pods with 4mm lugs provide for adaptive, all-terrain traction on a variety of surfaces. This versatile, all-terrain shoe weighs in at 8.6 ounces (men’s 9) and will be available for a suggested retail price of $130.”


HOKA Constant

Hoka Constant

Description via HOKA: “The new Constant road shoe offers the most stable ride and generous fit in the HOKA lineup. The combination of cushioning EVA and RMAT® high-rebound material delivers guided stability and increased durability, while an over-sized active foot frame provides support. A mono-wrap tongue coupled with asymmetrical lacing supports the foot through the arch while reducing pressure across the top of the foot. The Constant will be available at specialty running stores for a suggested retail price of $160.”


HOKA Odyssey

Hoka Odyssey

Description via HOKA: “The Odyssey, MSRP $130, is a lightweight, smooth-riding road shoe.”


HOKA Valor

Hoka Valor

Description via HOKA: “The Valor, MSRP $150, features an ultra-sized, over 30mm, midsole to deliver a highly cushioned, smooth ride.”


HOKA Vanquish

Hoka Vanquish

Description via HOKA: “The Vanquish, MSRP $170, is a responsive performance road running shoe.”


Some Thoughts

There’s no doubt that HOKA is a hot brand right now, and when a brand gets hot the tendency is to flood the market with new models (we saw this with Vibram a few years ago). One of my worries after seeing these new HOKA models is that they are pumping out a lot of shoes without much differentiation between them. I’m not clear how they differentiate these new shoes from existing models like the Bondi, Conquest, Rapa Nui, Kailua, Clifton, and Huaka. With the Challenger ATR I can see it as being basically a Clifton Trail, which makes sense. The Constant touts stability and a “generous fit.” Narrowish, odd fit has been my issue with most HOKAs that I have tried on so far, so that makes sense as well. But where do the Odyssey, Valor, and Vanquish fit in? They need to produce a detailed comparison chart for the models in their lineup.

The other big issue I have with HOKA is price. HOKAs are expensive, and they lack options at the lower end of the shoe pricing spectrum. I’d love to see a model around $100 for example. I’m a little wary when it comes to pricing since my wife tore through the forefoot upper of two pairs of Bondi 2’s in less than 50 miles each (I have heard this was a very common problem with the Bondi 2) which is unacceptable for a shoe that costs well over $100. I also worry that the more cushioning you add, the more prone a shoe may be to uneven breakdown as the miles add up. Has anyone experienced this?

Anyway, I’m sure there will be some excitement about these shoes as there typically is with any new release announcement. The Vanquish is most enticing to me given it’s description as a “performance running shoe,” but $170 is tough to justify. It’s also the least visually appealing of the bunch to my eye. The Odyssey would be of interest as well, and at $130 it is on the low end of the HOKA pricing spectrum, but I’m not clear on how it differs from the Clifton.

Hopefully as info gets leaked from the Outdoor Retailer Show going on in Utah right now we’ll get a clearer picture of where these shoes slot in. My friend Sam Winebaum is there, and I’ll be sure to post a link if he shares any further info on these shoes.

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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. Pete – As I looked through the photos of the new Hoka models, my thoughts were exactly the same as yours: most of these new models look cool, but how do you differentiate some of them from the existing models in Hoka’s line-up. I already think there is some overlap in Hoka’s existing models. All of this said, I recently purchased a pair of the Cliftons and am really enjoying them. Best shoe that I’ve tried in a long time.

  2. Perhaps these will actually replace some of existing shoes in the HOKA line. Too many models can definitely cause confusion for consumers, but getting rid of, say, the Bondi name seems like a marketing disaster. Either way this announcement makes me scratch my head.

    By the way, I’m a HOKA convert. The Bondi 2 was my all-time favorite shoe. The Bondi 3 was possibly the worst shoe I’ve ever run in. I finally settled on the Conquest once my Bondi 2 reached end-of-life. I picked up some Cliftons last week and the jury is still out.

    • I’ve heard the same from others on the Bondi 2 to Bondi 3 comparison. Sounds like they addressed the upper tearing issue but made the ride worse.

      • I started with the Bondi 3, got rid of them, and now have the Bondi 2. I think the ride of the 2 & 3 is basically the same, but the fit is totally different. They removed the padded tongue from the Bondi 3 and that caused the effect of there being way too much room in the shoe. I could not get the 3 to lock down so that the heel didn’t slip. I basically pulled the laces as tight as they go and the shoe still slipped. I had it so tight I got some top of foot pain and that’s why I got rid of them. Hopefully the Bondi 4 will fit more like the 2. Loving the Cliftons so far after 4 runs. The Hokas have really made a difference for this over 50 runner.

  3. Rachel Kiser says:

    As I understand it, some of these (Challenger ATR, Vanquish, Valor and Odyssey) are aimed at bigger box stores rather than run specialty specifically. The Vanquish can be seen as a big-box Conquest, the Valor a big-box Bondi and the Odyssey a big-box Clifton.

  4. Add me to the confused… Which isn’t something for Hoka to take lightly… Buying the wrong $150 shoe is an easy way to lose a customer for life.

    For example, the Cliftons (and I think the Conquest) feel very different through the arch than other Hokas. Basically, if I run in them I get terrible blisters along the side of my arch (feels like those shoes are built up there). I read carefully but had no way of anticipating this would happen. In fact, I kept hearing the Cliftons were roomy!

    Meanwhile, I love the Huakas and will rotate them in with my less cushioned shoes to give my legs a change of feel. Interestingly, softer shoes yield less bounce, less ground contact time, and a shorter stride for me

  5. When will these new models be available? I’ve run a few miles in a pair of Conquests, but I have a (possibly irrational) mental block preventing me from straying too far from a traditional stability shoe (with reinforced medial posts). That said, I’d love to try the forthcoming Constant. Also — definitely agree about their overlapping model matrix. I’d imagine it’s a marketing thing, where they’re trying to appeal to all possible interested runners. Seems like they’d only need a few models to do this though.

    • Early 2015 I think. As for the stability shoe issue, I will say I filmed a guy last week in Hokas and in a New Balance stability shoe and the Hokas actually seemed to control his foot motion to a much greater degree than the NB’s. N=1 so take that for what it’s worth, but I found it interesting.

  6. George Harris says:

    My friend Brett Rivers ran the Western States 100 in the prototype of the Challenger ATR and finished 9th overall and he loves them. That is a shoe I am looking forward too. I agree the rest tend to confuse me as to where they fit in the current line up or will they replace other shoes? BTW really like the Clifton and Huaka and also liking the Mafate Speed for recovery runs.

  7. Zeiwestremp says:

    Hy, just read the article and i am a little curious how those Hokas must feel on your feet. I just run with five fingers i do also race with them (10k in 36m30s) Right now a french trail runner Christophe le Saux aka le Jaguar who also runs in Hokas is testing the toe socks from Knitido i export in western europe from Luxembourg/Berlin. I think i have to try those Hokas one of these days. It s not that i am pro minimalistic shoe that i condemn every other shoes like the barefoot people :-)

  8. Marty Eaton says:

    I and a couple friends had the same issue with tears in the Bondi 2s. To Hoka’s credit, they exchanged the shoes with no hassle after I contacted their customer service. I’ve been in Hokas since the early days and yes, they seem to be flooding the market but I’ll stay with them. Shoes are pricey but a knee replacement is more!

  9. That much foam on the ATR and only 8.6 oz! Wow! I wish the other companies would take notice and make a lower stack 8mm drop trainer at about 4 oz. It seems they could looking at the ATR! Lower weight = faster and easier turnover, but I like cushion too, for my boney feet. :) I guess I am old, but Hokas look like those older Sketcher fitness shoes? Different strokes for differnet folks, for sure! :)

  10. Peter, I started running in HOKA’s a year ago and I love them. I had gotten to a point where I thought I might have to give up running. With arthritis in both knees, running had just become to painful. Then a lady asked me if she could guest post on my site and she wrote about HOKA’s saving her life. After reading her post I bought my first pair and fell in love. These days I am back to running a full load with two marathons scheduled for the fall. I cannot recommend these shoes enough. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Hey Pete & fellow runners,
    Just got a pair of Nike Zoom Fly. 8.8 oz, 23mm heel, 15mm fore-8mm drop. They run great, and the toe box is pretty roomy for a fast pace trainer! The plus is the waffle pattern on the fore foot+air-I’m gonna use them on the trails. I think these might work well for some of your readers who need alittle support and little higher drop. Running Warehouse has Liquidation colors for $64:88, and with your RUNBLOG10 discount, they are a steal! :)

  12. Stéphane says:

    Maximalism is nonsense. This recent tendancy to oversize cushioning only has a meaning for ultra distance runners. 95% of the people who buy those ridiculous looking shoes do not actually need them. Running ultras is definitely not for the average runner.

    • I would not agree that they are only for ultrarunners. Do most people need this much cushion? Probably not. But seeing what they did for helping my wife deal with her foot issues there is a place for road runners as well. We’ve seen a number of people in the clinic have positive results in Hokas for forefoot pain- the combo of cushion and rocker seems to help. And others, including some in the comments section here, have seen benefits for the knee as well. Personally, I just ran in the Clifton the other day and though they are comfortable, I do feel like they make me work harder than I need to. Different needs for different people.

      • I also disagree with Stephane. I run only 20 to 30 miles per week (just don’t have enough time or energy at this stage of my life to do more). Over the past three to four years, I’ve ran exclusively in more minimal shoes — e.g., Brooks PureFlow, Saucony Kinvaras, Asics Gel-Lyte 33s. But I recently began running in a pair of Hokas and am noticing a big difference in how my feet and legs feel, both during the run, and particularly the next day.

      • Stéphane says:

        Yes, you’re right. If your wife (and others) have been helped on their way back to running, surely Hokas are not only for ultra runners. It’s just that I can see the rationale behind minimalism but I have a much harder time seeing how you rationalize maximalism. I’m pretty convinced groundfeel and flexibility are two essential aspects of healthy running and I can’t see how those can fit in with maximalism. To me the whole thing feels like a fad whereas minimalism feels like the right way to go about running.

        • I agree as well, but unfortunately many of us as adults have a lot of baggage developed over the years whether it be from lots of inactivity, poor shoe history, etc. So it becomes a matter of finding what works to keep each individual running and enjoying the sport. That’s really the end goal, and whatever shoe it takes given your circumstances is the way to go.

  13. Jim Philips says:

    I feel proudly out of touch when I look at these poofy things. What’s the next phase? Running on rubber stilts?

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