Friday, February 1, 2013

Hoka Stinson Evo Shoe Review

I posted a few initial thoughts on the Hoka Stinson Evo shoe back in November when I first bought and ran in them. At that point, I wasn't sold on their utility. Now I've logged considerably more miles and done some serious long runs--including a 50-mile trail run--in these shoes. I feel more confident in providing a full review. Here goes...

Highly cushioned
Speed lacing
Reasonable traction

Slightly narrow (and runs short)
No ground feel
Tends to hold water and mud

Let's start with the negative aspects of this Hoka Stinson Evo shoe. As mentioned in my previous blog post, the shoes tend to run short. I had to order 1 full size larger. They are also a tad bit narrow in the forefoot, especially for someone like me that prefers a wide toebox so my toed can naturally splay out. Still, with the larger size, they run OK. I managed to finish a 50-mile trail run without blisters and no sense of the shoes being too tight. I wish they weren't as heavy as they are, but even with big 14oz moon boots on my feet, they don't feel that heavy. Must be a good balance of weight distribution in the shoe. I'd love them to weight a little less, but the weight isn't too annoying. One thing to be careful with is running in wet or muddy conditions--these shoes have an extremely wide foot print and will hold onto mud all around the edges--they can be extremely heavy when trail conditions are soggy or muddy! Finally, one last drawback is the very isolating feel you get with these shoes--they have very little ground feel. With the massive cushioning and inflexible sole, you are very isolated from the ground. I don't like not being able to sense the terrain I'm running across.  I suppose if you want lots of cushioning and protection, you have to give up proprioception. I worry that with the high stack height, combined with lower proprioception, may lead to more frequent false foot placements and possible twisted or sprained ankles. Hasn't happened to me, but I've read reports from others that complain about this "feature" of the shoe.

Geeez, with so many negatives, you'd think I'd toss these shoes in the trash! Not so. The high amount of cushioning is very protective on long runs and uneven hard ground. On my long runs, done at easy aerobic paces, I feel less aches and pains. I seem to recover quicker. I don't get blisters. I think the extra weight of the shoes, being lifted with every step, tires my legs a bit--but not enough to outweigh the benefit of feeling less beat up in my feet. THIS IS THE MAJOR ADVANTAGE OF THESE SHOES!  Your long runs will be more successful. You'll recover and be able to run again, maybe in different shoes, for your other runs. I get the feeling my feet are not "worked" as hard in these shoes--great for long runs, but not so great everyday. You want your feet to flex and strengthen on most runs. Strong feet are healthy feet. If I wore the Hokas on every run, I wouldn't enjoy my runs as much (feel too isolated from my environment) and I think my feet would weaken. But for long runs, they are awesome. I plan on using these in my next 100-mile race at Umstead. The speed lacing is nice and allows for quick adjustments. The traction is fine for most trails (although I would not want them for muddy conditions). The Hokas have filled a special niche for me--long runs. I still prefer my New Balance 1010s or Altra Superiors for shorter trail runs (less than 18 miles) and races, but any longer training runs are now tagged as "Hoka runs."

Bottom line, these shoes are highly cushioned and protective. If you can stand the lack of ground feel that accompanies the heavier and inflexible nature of these shoes, they may be perfect for long runs. My friends love them for every run they do. I'm keeping them for my "ultra" long runs and races. The price is steep, but they seem to hold up pretty well. My friend has broken 500 miles in his Stinson Evos, they are showing some wear, but still going strong.

If this shoe gets me through the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run in April, they will be worth every penny I paid!  I'll let you know how that race goes.


Paul Joyce said...

Chris, thanks for the review. I recently bought the Stinson Evo as I move to the Ultra distances and intend to use them only for runs longer than 20 miles. I have only had three runs in them and, as you have stated in your review, I too find the toe box narrower than I would like and have had some minor blistering. Do they loosen up over time? If not, I may have to move them on a much as I like everything else about them. Thanks, Paul

Chris said...

I have about 200 miles on mine now and the toebox is still a bit narrow. Overall the shoe is fitting better and feeling better, but that toebox is still a slight issue. I did a 50 mile run in them and didn't blister, but the toes felt a bit crunched up.

There is a runner named Fellrnr that cuts the sides out of the toebox area and does 100 milers in them. Here is his web page reviewing the Hokas:

Justus Stull said...

Take the insoles out. I do that with various models of hokas. If I leave them in I get hot spots on top of my smaller toes.

Chris said...

Thanks Justus. I'll remove the insoles on my next long run.