Untitled Linking current research to running

By Nikki Reiter

I couldn’t figure out how to respond in only 140 characters to a Run SMART reader’s tweet, ‘Say no to Hokas?’ in response to my last post about the ‘foot core system’. While I’m not an expert on Hoka shoes, I do have some reservations about it’s thick midsole. Thanks to @SaltyRuns for the tweet!

An athlete I coach was recently advised to wear a pair of Hokas in response to some sidelining sesamoiditis. This came from a respected physiotherapist very familiar with runners, so I realized I had some investigating to do about Hokas. A Hoka shoe provides greater shock attenuation from the increased cushioning (twice that of standard running shoes). It also boasts a fulcrum-changing ‘meta-rocker’ that changes the load the metatarsals experience into the propulsion phase. While the Hoka wasn’t the right solution for the athlete, the suggestion makes a lot of sense in light of the irritation to the sesamoid bones.

Ultramarathoners have been credited with developing this unique running shoe, initially constructed for use in downhill trail running – and for that it makes great sense as a racing shoe. Its claims as a ‘very supportive’ shoe, however, a ‘Catch-22.’ Yes, the foot is well-protected and supported, but the foot’s intrinsic muscles are not being challenged to the same degree as a regular running shoe, lending to the old adage for muscle strength, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it.’ This is fine if you plan to live the rest of your life in your Hokas.

No doubt it’s a comfortable shoe and allows for a smooth ride. The way I see it, there may be some room for using this shoe to help supplement an injured runner’s training or as a way to log more miles with a reduced chance for injury. I would liken it to doing additional miles on an Alter-G treadmill. To be a successful runner one cannot log all of their mileage this way, but it is a great way to supplement additional training.

Nikki Reiter is a Biomechanist and certified NCCP Performance Coach in Endurance Running. She offers online gait analysis through Run Right Gait Analysis. Visit her website www.run-right.ca for more information.