Hoka One One Hupana Review

temporaryTL; DR: Not your mama’s marshmallow-y HOKAs. Light, fast, and responsive enough for fast efforts, the Hupana is a model I find myself reaching for over and over. Love it. (Click here to jump to the overall rating if you aren’t down for the full 1,200-ish word review.)

After some major missteps with the Clifton (making a near-perfect lightweight do-anything model heavier, more structured, and decidedly un-Clifton-like) HOKA One One gets its act together with the Hupana. This shoe has a sleek knit upper plus sole geometry and stack height comparable to a “regular” running shoe. A firmed up version of HOKA’s RMAT foam does double duty as both midsole and outsole, lending the Hupana a quiet, smooth ride. I put over 75 road and treadmill miles on these before I knew it — despite having loads of shoes in my collection (a truly unhealthy number of pairs), these were the ones I consistently wanted on my feet. It’s not all sunshine and roses with these, but it mostly is. Read on for my review of the Hupana in ten key areas, ultimately arriving at an overall numerical score out of a possible 100 points.

Disclosure: I bought these shoes myself and my opinions are entirely my own.

Weight
In the same way that I failed with my Saucony Freedom ISO review, I did not weigh the Hupana before I ran in them, and weighing them now after a fair amount of use is not only a gross way to use my food scale, but doesn’t give the model a fair shake. As much as it pains me to do it, I have to rely on the stated catalog weight. I have some reviews in the pipeline with at-home weigh-ins, so I won’t always make excuses! Running Warehouse has the exact same women’s model weight below listed for a size 8, not the size 7 specified by HOKA One One, so I’m leaving their specs out this time because I suspect that’s a mistake, not some different size, same weight sorcery cooked up by HOKA.

Per Hoka One One: 8.2 oz (men’s size 9)/6.3 oz (women’s size 7)

For about half an ounce more than the Saucony Kinvara 7 (Kinvara 8 review coming soon), you get a densely woven upper (will run warm in the summer, for sure), a semi-plush inner lining, and a thick, protective midsole. While the Hupana isn’t as lean as the Kinvara 7, it’s easily as spry and willing to pick up the pace. Its 8.2 oz weight matches that of the Nike Zoom Elite 9 (review coming soon) and is a couple tenths of an ounce lighter than the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 (review also coming soon). The Hupana is in good — FAST — company with these similarly lightweight models. 8/10

Ride
You already know what I’m going to say since I’m barely holding myself back from gushing on this point. Smooth heel to to transitions. Quiet footfalls (noisy shoes are a pet peeve of mine as they make headphones-free running less than serene). Good groundfeel and feedback without being bone-jarringly firm or harsh on my legs. In short, the ride is superb. 10/10

Fit
No-fuss fit with excellent lockdown thanks to the stiff knit upper. The heel is adequately plush without being skate shoe-like, allowing for secure foot hold at minimal weight.  Logos printed on both insoles are completely intact, so I know my feet aren’t sliding around. Pull the laces and these are good to go with no fine tuning needed. 10/10

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Comfort
The Hupana is another shoe that disappears on my feet so my thoughts don’t run to “ahh, so comfy!” as I’m running, but it’s also plenty cozy enough that it’s a delight to slip into after a long day in high heels. No complaints, but the comfort isn’t something to write home about. The Hupana is performance-oriented, so I don’t think that’s a knock against it at all. 8/10

Traction
The grip is surprisingly excellent. I felt as surefooted as a billy goat on wet roads and sidewalks in these. I was pleasantly surprised that midsole foam could grab the ground so well. Even wit some areas of moderate wear in the toe and lateral heel, the traction is undiminished. However, one thing to note about the Hupana’s midsole-outsole: it builds up static like crazy. Shuffle across a carpeted floor in these and you’ll turn yourself into a weapon. Worse, run on a treadmill and you’ll shock yourself over and over if you reach for a water bottle or incidentally touch the machine with your hands. I released a shock so powerful on my home treadmill that it actually turned the machine off. You’ve been warned! That said, I’m still very impressed with the traction and I can live with the perils of using the Hupana on a treadmill. 10/10

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Flexibility
It’s not reasonable to expect much flexibility out of a sole that’s just a thick slab of foam. Even with a number of flex grooves carved out, the Hupana is hard to bend, with a flexion point just in front of the first row of lace eyelets. I don’t think this negatively impacts the ride character, but it’s not an asset either.  7/10

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Durability
This version of RMAT foam is way more resilient than the easily shredded RMAT found in the Clifton 1. My pair of Hupanas is showing a bit of wear in the toe (light wear), forefoot (light wear) and lateral heel (moderate wear), but otherwise looks great. Much of the shallow texturing on the “outsole” is still intact. No creases in the midsole and no fraying in the upper or laces. The upper is stiff enough that it holds a sharp crease at the flexion point just in front of the first row of eyelets, so that may be a failure point in the future. 9/10

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Looks
The two-tone blue knit upper on my pair is accented with orange at the toe, heel, and eyelets. It’s more sophisticated for a HOKA (who has produced a veritable glut of garish models, like the Speed Goat), but it’s not quite there for me. You could slap a Skechers logo on the side and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. A truly monochrome knit might have been more sleek. I don’t totally hate the looks of these, but they don’t excite me either. 7/10

Price
I’m pretty accustomed to spending between $120-$140 for running shoes. The Hupana’s MSRP is $115, which is pretty great. It’s not the cheapest performance model out there (that title probably belongs to the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3), but it’s reasonable and given its durability and excellent ride, it’s a great value. 9/10

Suitability for Intended Purpose
HOKA bills the Hupana as an all-day shoe that can carry you from the grocery store and daily chores right through to your run. It’s meant to be as performance-oriented with its RMAT outsole as it is stylish with its knit upper. I agree with the performance side of this, but am disinclined to wear the Hupana with anything other than running clothes. However, it gets the uptempo running part of the equation so right that I can’t fault it too much for getting the lifestyle shoe part wrong. 9/10

Overall
To recap for you TL;DR folks:
Weight: 8/10
Ride: 10/10
Fit: 10/10
Comfort: 8/10
Traction: 10/10
Flexibility: 7/10
Durability: 9/10
Looks: 7/10
Price: 9/10
Suitability for Intended Purpose: 9/10
TOTAL: 87/100

I’m a tough grader, but in my defense, there are a lot of excellent shoes to choose from, so it’s important to know where a particular model shines and where it stinks. Overall, the Hupana is great and will likely be on my feet for a marathon this spring.

Until next time, happy trails!

-Ultrarunner Hope

Three Secrets for Success with the Hoka One One Clifton

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Disclaimer: The following is just my opinion based on my experience with the shoe, which includes long training runs, a marathon, and a 50 mile race. Every runner is different. Among dedicated running shoes there is probably no 100% bad shoe, but probably a lot of shoes that aren’t right for you. As much as I love it, the Clifton isn’t even my Cinderella shoe! Before buying any running shoe, I recommend trying it on. The best running specialty stores (You’re shopping at a specialty running store, right? You’d better be.) will let you take it on a short run (on an in-store treadmill, or maybe even outside if it’s a really cool store), so do that too when possible.

1. Use both insoles.
The Clifton comes with two insoles, both of which are super thin and light. One is orange foam, one is white foam. I would guess that the orange foam is Ortholite and the white foam is EVA, but I’m sure you can find out for sure on your own if you’re interested. I probably could research specs and write that sort of review, but I don’t want to portray myself as some sort of footwear expert when I’m not. Yes, I run in almost all of the major brands, often multiple models from each line, but I’m not an actual expert. What I am an expert in, is my individual experience with a shoe. That said, my real point is that using both insoles is the way to go. The midsole of the Clifton is so marshmallowy soft that I felt like I was running through the shoe during the Marine Corps Marathon — all squish, no spring and the shoe felt like it was bottoming out. Adding the orange insole atop the white insole added just enough additional padding and support for me to get through my mostly-trail 50 miler without getting that bottomed out feeling from the shoes.

2. Wear thick socks.
I love Drymax Hyper Thin socks. I don’t love wearing them with the Clifton because I don’t love blisters. Other Hoka fans rave about the great fit of the Clifton’s upper. Are their standards super low, or is my foot super low volume relative to the average Hoka customer? Because I swim in these puppies! I’m not blister-prone, but with thin socks (socks that I wear blissfully without issue in other shoes), I suffer. My solution: thick socks to reduce the amount of sliding around my feet do in these shoes because of their sloppy fit. Extra padding is a nice fringe benefit, too. Sticking with Drymax, I rocked one pair of Drymax Max Cushion Run Mini Crew socks for the entire JFK 50 Mile Race. Anticipating disaster, I brought four pairs of different kinds of socks and didn’t need to change once. I’d always rather have something and not need it (like Immodium, am I right?!) than need it and not have it.

3. Don’t crank the laces down.
Yes, the Clifton has a sloppy fit. But don’t try and correct it by lacing it tightly. Over long distances, blood pools in the feet, causing them to swell. There’s absolutely no padding in the Clifton’s tongue. As soon as swelling sets in, those laces will be digging into your feet. Having endured that during the Marine Corps Marathon, I can tell you that it is extremely uncomfortable over the long haul. The pain lingered: a week later I still felt like my right foot had been stomped by a Sumo wrestler. Leaving the laces a little looser for the JFK 50 Mile Race didn’t cause me any trouble on the downhills (I wasn’t sliding all around within the shoe) and I didn’t feel like there was a lag between when I lifted my foot and when the shoe actually came off the ground — there’s a level of looseness that keeps under-lace soreness at bay while still keeping me adequately locked in.

Following the above tips left me with blister-free feet after my first-ever ultramarathon. Running long is all about the mental game and being able to roll with the punches, but anytime you can dodge a problem by dialing in your gear, why not do it?

Be on the lookout for a full review of the Hoka One One Clifton…eventually!

Don’t Call It a Comeback…

After an extremely full race calendar in 2013, I was pretty burnt out on running. Three marathons plus a half marathon in 27 days can do that to a person, no kidding! I was over stressing about the logistics of getting to dozens of packet pickups and then to dozens of starting lines, so I pared my race schedule back a lot to focus on quality performances rather than further straining the screws on my medal rack. This year I crushed my estimated time in the Four Courts Four Miler, ran the Runners Marathon of Reston in March for an age group win, came in first in my age group across both genders at the Big Sur 21 Miler, notched a surprise 11th place in my age group at the Marine Corps Historic Half, and logged a finish at the Marine Corps Marathon. I’ll finish the year out with less than ten total races, but I’m proud of my efforts, especially my most recent run: the JFK 50 Mile Race.

After winning my age group at the Runners Marathon of Reston, on a frigid day complete with sleet, I found that I’d met the A-level qualifying standards for the JFK 50 Mile Race. I’d held third place female for about 21 miles of the RMR and was thinking that actually qualifying for Boston wasn’t out of the question — basically, I was feeling pretty cocky. Cocky enough to dash off a $210 check to the JFK race director (the race is so old school that all entries are done via paper forms) and anxiously await the appearance of my name in the confirmed entrants list.

Fast forward about seven months and reality is hitting me like a ton of bricks. The race starts in view of a cell tower on top of a mountain. We had to run to the top of that mountain, then run back down it again, traversing miles of treacherous rocks and narrow switchbacks. One runner had the misfortune to bash his head badly enough on the rocks to end his race day — he had to be carried out, leaving plenty of blood behind. This was a guy whose name people knew, presumably an experienced ultra runner. I’d never run past 26.2. *Gulp*

Keeping my mental game tight was the most important thing. The human body is indeed fragile, but it can be pushed hard, beyond arbitrary limits we set ourselves. I couldn’t allow myself to get defeated by the staggering number of miles ahead of me, the cold, or the prospect of further pain in my legs/feet/back. I was determined that I was going to finish the race — anything else would be unacceptable — so I put all of my efforts into making it so. And believe me, it took everything I had.

The temperature at the start was a bracing 18 degrees Farenheit. I dressed in two pairs of tights, arm warmers, a long sleeve T shirt, a short sleeve T shirt, and a half-zip pullover. Before the marathon point, I got hot, and had to sit down to take my shoes off and shed one pair of tights. My animal brain said, “Wouldn’t it be better to just sit here? No need to get back up and run any more.” But I got up and kept going. I had to sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” all of the way through (and then some) to get myself to the next spectator aid station (a HUGE thank you goes out to my friend Kim who came to the start to get my gear bag, distracted me when I was nervous, took great pictures, supported me at each aid station, and made a hilarious sign for me), but I made it. Around the 30 mile point I hit upon the idea of alternating running and walking each quarter mile. My dad works with a guy who recently swam the English Channel (much tougher than a 50 mile ultra!) and he imparted this tip: break it down into sections, and focus on the next section. There were a lot of quarter mile sections in the remaining 20 or so miles, but I didn’t focus on that. I focused on each individual quarter mile as it came. I’m always up for running a quarter mile! A quarter mile isn’t bad, isn’t that long at all! As much as I wanted to follow the advice, “if it hurts to walk, and it also hurts to run, run,” I knew that the prospect of running another 20 miles was too much to grapple with mentally. A quarter mile was a perfectly digestible chunk: so doable that I found myself grinning, chatting with other runners, and offering words of motivation since I was so comfortable in my knowledge that I’d finish the race. That’s when it really became fun. I kept up the alternating cycle until my Garmin died between miles 48 and 49 and I decided to just walk so as to save a little something for the finish line approach.

I’d thought for sure that I’d cry in despair during the race, or cry with joy at the finish. Neither happened. I smiled throughout the race (not faked for the photos below!) and danced at the finish.

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First spectator aid station, near the half marathon point.

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I don’t know where on the course those were shot, either the ~marathon point or 38 mile aid stations. With few exceptions, the tow path miles all looked the same: boring.

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At the mile 46 aid station I refused to stop or slow down for a photo.

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The hardware

I expect this post will spawn a couple others if only due to this one amazing fact: I finished the JFK 50 Mile Race with no blisters and no chafing. You read that right. Perfect outfit, perfect sock + shoe combination, perfect application of anti-chafe cream. Apparently perfect nutrition/preemptive use of Immodium, too, as I had no GI issues either. I showed up at the race with a full gear bag and took nothing from it on the course — I just gave Kim clothes I no longer wanted to wear. I eschewed my stiff, frozen Clif Shot Bloks and Salted Caramel Gu (the only good flavor, as far as I’m concerned) for eight cream-filled cookies and and a PB&J sandwich. I learned some lessons about the Hoka One One Clifton in the Marine Corps Marathon which I carried over into JFK that helped me tremendously in terms of avoiding discomfort, so I think I can write an informed review. So be on the lookout for more posts, but don’t try to hold me accountable, I might go dark for another six months!