A Quick Look At Shoe Terminology
Put simply, heel-to-toe drop measures the difference between the shoes height at the heel and height at the forefoot. My current shoe, a 30mm and 20 mm , with a 10 mm drop, would be a high-drop shoe. A zero-drop shoe might be 25mm and 25mm .
Shoe cushioning, which is measured by stack height, can vary. Lower stack heights, like the Torrents 23mm at the forefoot, provide a firmer feel for the trail, while higher stack heights are softer and can give less feel for the trail. The mens Hoka Speedgoat 4, considered a maximum cushion shoe, has a stack height of 32mm at the forefoot.
The other thing to consider is how your foot lands on the ground: Do your forefeet strike first, or do you land on your heels? A low-drop shoe is geared toward a midfoot or forefoot strike. The result is a more stable landing and better balance. But if your heel strikes first, low-drop shoes might not be comfortable, and you might want to consider a higher drop shoe. Do not expect a low-drop shoe to change your gait from heel first to forefoot first.
Whatever shoe you choose, put on a heavy pack and walk, walk, walk to be sure this is the shoe that will be comfortable for long trail miles.
What Does Hoka Stand For
This brand has an odd pronunciation. There is some contention as to whether the o in Hoka is like in hot or home, but the short vowel seems preferred. The One in Hoka One One is not pronounced like the number but as oh-nay. The name Hoka One One comes from a Maori phrase that means fly over the earth. This explains why their logo looks like a seagull in flight.
Hoka One One Torrent 2
Although not necessarily billed as such, the Hoka Torrent 2 is a worthy racing shoe for nearly any race distance. In contrast to the cushion-first appeal of most Hoka trail shoes, the Torrent 2 combines a very grippy outsole and a responsive yet moderately cushioned midsole in a nimble package. Hoka described the Torrent 2 as a seemingly contradictory combination of cushioning and agility, and that description works.
The Hoka One One Torrent 2
The Torrent 2s upper is a bit more generous than some other Hoka models and allows for a runners toes to spread out a bit without feeling imprecise. Indeed, the Torrent 2 stays firmly locked in place on steep descents. All in all, the Torrent 2 is a well-rounded trail shoe with plenty of traction and cushioning for most runners while being a solid value at $120.
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Hoka One One Torrent Features
Fit: I wear a size 12, so thats what I got for my review pair. The fit was good, with extra space at the toes so they werent cramped. Despite my spot-on fit, the rule of thumb for HOKAs seems to be go down a half size so you might want to try them on in a store.
Midsole: Hokas trademark Profly midsole is soft in the heel and firmer in the forefoot, providing a cushioned landing and more padding for pushing off with your forefoot. The shoes have minimal cushioning overall, a departure from the generous cushioning that Hoka is known for. I could definitely feel the response of the firmer midsole in the forefoot when rock-hopping or ascending trails.
Outsole: High-traction rubber and multidirectional 5 centimeter lugs provide aggressive traction. The Torrent gave me firm footing up and down rocks, and didnt slip in the mud.
Uppers: Engineered mesh thats designed to be breathable and protective, and it is. My feet stayed cool inside. A thermoplastic urethrane overlay wrapped around the shoe just above the midsole is intended to increase stability and overall durability. It also provides extra water protection.
Sure footing on a rocky stream crossing.
Stack height: 23mm. This is a low stack height, and gave me an excellent feel for the trail underneath my feet.
Rock plate: None. Typically placed between the outsole and midsole for protection against stones. I didnt notice the lack of one on rocky trails.
Support: Neutral. The landing was comfortable and stable.
Altra Vs Hoka Which Brand Is Right For You
Altra and Hoka One One are two running shoes brands that are enjoying a surge in popularity. Both were once niche brands, catering to different types of runners who steered clear of the big brands in favor of some unique design aspect.
Altra gained popularity among the minimalist running crowd, since they are generally zero-drop shoes, across the whole brand. Hoka gained a cult following for a very different reason: maximalist cushioning and super-thick midsoles.
If youre looking for a cushioned shoe or a zero-drop shoe, chances are that these two now-popular brandsAltra and Hoka One Onehave crossed your path.
While they both remain niche shoe brands that fit in the same broad category, these shoes are very different. So its important to know the key differences to see which one will be best for you.
This article will cover everything you need to know about the fit, price, and other considerations of Altra shoes versus Hoka shoes.
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Best Altra Trail Running Shoe
In my years of trail and ultra running, I have tried almost all trail running models by Altra. Each one I have tried differs slightly in cushioning and slightly in use . The most popular ones seem to be the Superiors, Lone Peaks, and Timp models in the trail running community.
From my experience, I believe that the Lone Peak 4.5 are one of the more popular and personally my favorite. The shoes of course provide the zero drop and wide toe box. The biggest change recently is the foam in the midsole, which has allowed the shoe to be more protective and durable for a more long lasting cushion on the trail.
The reason I prefer the Lone Peak 4.5 is that it still has a comfortable cushioned fit, but a little less cushion than the Timp 2. They are lightweight, grippy, and durable. I can use the shoes on any type of trail and have no issue. Even though I am a big fan of all the shoes, the Lone Peaks are a good in-between to the Superior and Timp models.
Next Steps For Zero Drop Shoes
Truthfully, you arent barefoot enough hours of the day to do any good lengthening your tendon. Youll have to gradually work on elongating that strong, thick tendon. The Achilles can and will lengthen but it takes time. Start by going barefoot more often around the house and yard. Put on your low rise shoes and taking short walks gradually increasing the distance over time.
Dont fight the process. If you are experiencing pain in the calf or around the ankle regardless of the time and effort, zero drop shoes for hiking just may not be for you. They arent for everyone and thats ok there is not reason to fit your body on this. You may need a more supportive shoe due to your arches, foot strength, foot shape or other reasons.
Remember, just because something is popular for many hikers doesnt mean you need the same thing to be successful. Do what works for you!
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Difference Between Zero Drop And Minimalist
The minimalist or barefoot running movement may not have created the book born to run, but it certainly thrust the concept into the mainstream.
As the name implies, minimalist or barefoot running involves the absolute minimum of shoe material between the sole of your foot and the ground. For this reason, minimalist running shoes tend to be zero-drop or very close to zero-drop.
The flip side of the equation does not hold true, however. All zero drop running shoes are most definitely not minimalist.
Where I run the trails are rocky and some fairly sharp rocks at that. I tried super minimalist shoes and had to slow down and keep looking at where my feet were landing to avoid getting bruised feet from sharp rocks. For that reason, I prefer a range of running shoes with varying amounts of cushioning depending on how severe the rocky terrain.
I am certainly not alone. By far, more cushioned zero drop shoes are sold than minimalist shoes. In fact, companies like Altra have built their brand awareness around the concept of zero drop maximalist running shoes.
Who Owns Hoka Shoes
This is a very new shoe company, founded in 2009 by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, former employees of Salomon. Their goal was to make shoes that were easy to run downhill in. They quickly became a favorite with people who ran ultramarathons. Deckers Brand bought Hoka in April of 2013. Deckers also makes UGG and Teva.
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Range Of Motion Of Ankles And Lower Legs
Having a good range of motion through the ankle joint is key to maintaining a fluid and efficient stride pattern.
The trouble with shoes that have a higher heel-toe drop is that they promote the shortening of the calf muscles, Achilles tendons, and heel chords. This is done through the thousands and thousands of repetitive foot strikes that running involves.
The restrictive impact does not end there either. At the office, womens shoes and to a lesser extent mens shoes all have heel-toe drops that are seldom less than three-quarters of an inch . If your work involves being on your feet a lot or for that matter a lot of walking, this will all add to the shortening of your heel/calf connective tissue.
Tightness and a restricted range of motion through the ankle area dramatically increases your risk of soft tissue over-use injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
I learned about my own range of motion issues in an unusual way. It was back when I was getting into triathlon training. My swim coach had me do some drills with the kickboard. My ankles were so tight that I couldnt produce any thrust with the kickboard. In fact, as soon as I had lost the momentum from pushing away from the pool edge, I actually started going backward.
Not great when your swim kick drives you backward rather than forwards.
Overall Fit And Comfort
Because Hoka One One provides a more conventional fit and drop, they tend to be a better choice than Altra for many runners. Masters runners who love the extra cushioning and the rocker bottomespecially go for Hoka.
Because they are zero-drop with some extra cushioning, Altras can take some time to get used to. If you dont ease yourself into using them, you may find yourself with an injury. Zero-drop shoes are different from standard running shoes, and your body needs time to adjust.
Some runners find that they dont get as many overuse injuries using zero-drop shoes. But other runners seem more prone to injure themselves with zero-drop shoes like Altra. The most common injury when adopting zero-drop shoes is a calf strain.
Altras are particularly popular for runners who have wide feet, because most other running shoeseven ones that are marked widedo not fit their feet. The wide toe box also appeals to anyone with issues like bunions.
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Plantar Fasciitis And Shoe Choice
There is a very interesting anomaly that I have noticed in the seemingly bizarre relationship between shoe choice and foot injuries, plantar fasciitis in particular.
The Luxembourg Health Institute study of 2017 showed a higher propensity of foot and Achilles injuries among runners using zero drop shoes. This was not showing the full story, especially given that the study period was a mere six months.
All of the zero drop runners in the study that fell victim to plantar fasciitis during the study had already been struggling with the injury on and off for months and in some cases years. Most had been running in 12mm and 10mm drop shoes. The sudden change to zero drop shoes combined with increased run volume at the start of the study period caused a flare-up of what was already there.
As mentioned earlier, 12mm drop shoes promote a shortening and weakening of soft tissue through the foot/heel/calf chain. This shortening increases the risk of plantar fasciitis. Conversely, zero drop shoes promote the lengthening and strengthening of the same connective tissues.
The logical conclusion is that zero drop shoes should be ideal for you if you are at risk of or have a propensity for plantar fasciitis. Here is the rub if you pardon the pun. If you make the switch too dramatically or quickly, you will be almost guaranteed a painful flare-up.
Acclimating To Zero Drop Shoes
If youre ready to start running in a pair of zero drop shoes, youre going to need to take some time to get used to them. If you have a race coming up, this is not the time to make the switch.
If you dont heed this advice, youll likely sabotage your race, end up with an injury, or both. Switching to zero drop shoes is best done in your off-season or at the very beginning of a new training season.
A 12 mm drop difference from heel-to-toe in the popular Brooks Ghost 12 may seem like a miniscule change from a 0 mm drop, but I promise you will immediately notice the difference. Making the switch to a zero drop shoe, for many, means making a commitment to completely changing the way you run.
So how do you acclimate to a zero drop shoe when moving from a running shoe with the more typical 10 15 mm difference?
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Grippiness Of This Road Shoe On Trails
Remember that the Bondi 5 is a road shoe. However, there is no way that over the course of 700 miles that I wouldnt use them on the trails.
The tread on the Bondi was designed for road use so there are none of the lugs that offer grip on sandy, leafy, or muddy trails.
That said, they work great on both hard-pack trails as well as rocky trails. What is brilliant about the stack height and soft cushioning is I never feel any stones jabbing up into my feet.
Final Lace: The Best Zero Drop Running Shoe
Whether you are a new or a veteran to the zero drop running shoes, the journey to finding the best one can be exciting, as with buying any new pair of shoes.
With this in mind, on this journey, be sure to always gauge each candidate utilizing Our 10 Factor Formula, which will help weed through the bad and good running shoes.
Remember, running is a sport and activity that is meant to be enjoyed. Be smart. Purchasing the right running shoe is only half the journey to a successful running performance.
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Trail Running Shoes With A 4 Mm Offset
1) Saucony Peregrine 11
Last year, the Peregrine 10 abandoned the ISOFIT strapping system in favor of a more subdued arrangement of regular eyelets and laces.
The result was a trail running shoe with a nuanced fit and ride character. The ride was cushioned enough for the trail, yet firm and stable enough for uneven terrain. The Peregrine 10 had a protective rock plate and a sticky rubber outsole for grip over wet surfaces.
For 2021, Saucony has updated the Peregrine, but the changes are minimal. The Peregrine 11 has the same midsole and outsole as the 10, and the upper isnt all that different.
On the upper, many goodies from the V10 are carried forward. Therere two gaiter attachment points, a reinforced toe-bumper, and a smooth and secure fit that is comfortable enough for high-mileage trail runs.
Saucony is the rare brand that sells an assortment of trail running shoes with a 4 mm offset. Otherwise, this category is usually populated with 8 -10 drop models. Saucony retails the Switchback 2 with a 4 mm drop, so thats an option as well.
Also see: The Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX, a variant with a waterproof Gore-Tex upper.
2) Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 7
Here on Solereview, we like to be blunt. We prefer the Terra Kiger 6 over the 7, and thats not just due to the $10 price increase.
The bottom-line being, if you can get a Kiger 6 on sale, buy a pair. Or two.
3) Brooks Caldera 5
How To Find The Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
Picking out a proper pair of running shoes is not as simple as finding shoes that look visually appealing and fit well in the store. This is why its essential to take the time to evaluate and research all of the important facets of the shoe.
In order to figure out what shoe is best, its always important to consider your personal preferences and running style. In this section, we are going to review how to find the best zero drop running shoe by discussing the important characteristics to consider and what to avoid.
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Hoka One One Torrent Pros
Bonus points: Early spring colors that matched the Torrent laces.
Lightweight: Nine ounces for a size nine shoe. Thats compared with 10.5 ounces for the popular Altra Lone Peak 4.5.
Stack height: 23mm. Thats considered minimal cushioning, but for me it was still enough so that I didnt wince at every rock or bump on trail. Again, compare that with the Lone Peak 4.5s moderate cushioning 25mm stack height.
Toe box: Wide for a HOKA. My toes never felt cramped, whether on a steep descent or uneven trail.
100% vegan: I didnt know that some trail runners use animal byproducts. 100% vegan is a plus for me.