Hoka One One (pronounced “Onay-Onay”) is all the buzz right now. The company that pioneered “high cushioning” or, as some say, “maximalism,” is gaining considerable traction four years after it debuted in the U.S. Getting bought by Deckers Inc. (which also owns Ugg and Teva) has given the brand financial resources that will help everything from design and manufacturing to distribution and sales. Hoka and the maximalist category aren’t the answer for every runner, but many who have converted to Hokas say, aside from the additional cushioning under foot, they appreciate that the notion that the oversized foam midsole tends to slow the rate of pronation without any rigid posts or bottoming out, reduces joint impact and also allow for quicker recovery time after long runs. This is the Hoka Clifton model ($130, 7.9 oz., which expected to up the ante as one of the first super-light maximal shoes when it hits stores this summer. In the meantime, the Hoka shoe that should make a big splash this spring is the Conquest ($170, 11.8 oz.).
Minimalism Isn’t Dead
The minimalism trend has cooled off quite a bit, but it certainly hasn’t died. A lot of people tried it and went away from it (either because they got hurt or it just didn’t feel right), but it also attracted plenty of converts — either as a full-time running shoe or as part-time training and strength-building tool. Four key models for 2014 include the Xero Shoes Cloud, a huarache-style sandal with a 3mm layer of EVA foam on top of a durable outsole rubber ($50, 2.5 oz.), Skora Fit (a low-to-the-ground, uber-flexible shoe with modest cushion; $95, 8.2 oz.), Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO (with slightly more foam that previous FiveFingers models; $120, 5.0 oz.) and the Merrell All-Out Fuse (a lightweight low-to-the-ground cushioned trainer with a slightly thicker midsole than some of Merrell’s barely-there models; $110, 8.0 oz.)
Shoes have gotten lighter across the board, thanks to new materials and a less-is-more design mentality. Among the lightweight trainers that have impressed our wear-testers so far are the Scott eRide AeroFoam Trainer 2 ($140, 8.1 oz.), Mizuno Hitogami ($100, 8.0 oz.), Puma Faas 300v3 ($90, 7.4 oz.) and Saucony Virrata 2 ($90, 6.5 oz.). Lightweight neutral and lightweight stability shoes will still make up the lion’s share of the market, but it is expected that there will be a big spike in the maximalist category. The motion control category is on the verge of going extinct—given that many retailers, runners, coaches and studies now agree that extreme support and control greatly inhibits the natural flex and movement of the foot—but it won’t go away completely. […]