Testing out a pair of Hoka One One running shoes

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I'm test driving a pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR running shoes. PAM LEBLANC/Austin American-Statesman

I’m test driving a pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR running shoes. PAM LEBLANC/Austin American-Statesman

I took my new Hoka One One Challenger ATR’s for a test run this morning.

They’re an all-terrain version of those thick-soled shoes you’ve probably seen everywhere – and maybe snickered at – lately.

Six or seven years ago, everyone raved about minimalist, thin-soled shoes. Some brave souls even ran barefoot. The experts talked about how cushioned shoes kept us from properly feeling the ground, and didn’t allow the natural muscles in our feet to develop and teach us a good gait.

But some folks didn’t properly ease into those wispy shoes, and found themselves nursing injuries. They don’t work for everyone.

Suddenly the pendulum swung the other direction. Super cushy shoes with soles as thick as layer cakes swept into shoe stores, looking like high-rises next to their skinnier siblings.

At first, I rolled my eyes. They looked almost dangerous, like you could fall off them and wreck an ankle. But lots of folks swore by them.

Finally, I’m trying a pair.

I headed out in the fog and mist this morning for a 8-miler on a combination of roads, sidewalks, grass, gravel and dirt.

My first impression? Roomy in the toebox (good), but I felt like they tipped my feet slightly inward (not so good). I certainly didn’t feel like I was walking around on platforms, which surprised me. They felt snug and cozy in the upper. And for all that sole, these shoes are deceptively light.

Or, as the manufacturer says, “independent rubber pods provide stability on uneven terrain for the runner who values versatility.”

I’m pretty sure I’m going to like them best for trail running – when I ran down a steep hill, they felt grippy and stable, even though the ground was slightly wet and tacky.

The pink, lime green and black pair I test drove sell for $130.


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