Hoka One One Stinson Evo B Review

Adapted review at Fitness Rocks:

People can generally be classified into three groupings where Hokas are concerned – the lovers, the haters, and the curious.

Hoka One One is the brainchild of two gravity sports enthusiasts Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud. They identified fatigue, impact and muscle strain as the main challenges facing runners on a daily basis and designed a shoe that would help to alleviate these problems.

The result was the Hoka One One brand.

“The word Hoka is derived from the ancient Maori language and roughly translates to ‘now it is time to fly’. That’s just how it feels to run in a pair of Hoka One One shoes; with each and every step your foot takes flight.”

http://www.hokaoneone.com/en/insiders/about-us.html

At first glance they do appear to be the antithesis to the growing minimalist movement. However, with only a 4mm drop from heel to toe, they have more in common than you might think with a lot of the minimalist shoes currently on the market.

  • They are, most definitely, a conversation starter
  • They attract subtle glances and not so subtle stares
  • They are quite unique

Aesthetically the colour scheme, although generally bold, is not the stand out point. That honour is reserved for the sole, and what a sole it is. A relative asked when platforms came back in to fashion and, in all fairness to them, there is a similarity!

The sole makes use of a 50% rockering profile to encourage an efficient foot strike through to push off. With up to 2.5x the volume of EVA in the midsole in comparison to standard running shoes, all of the Hokas offer outstanding impact absorption. The shoes have a bucket seat design, with the foot sitting recessed into the midsole by 20mm to 30mm. This provides for optimum foot stabilisation. Finally, the sole is some 35% wider, resulting in enhanced foot stability.

I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised the first time you pick up a Hoka shoe. They are ridiculously light (320 grams), far lighter than they look!

I have found that I needed to alter my running style fractionally, especially when running on rocky, rooty terrain. I found this out the hard way on my first outing in my Hoka Mafates when I really did ‘learn to fly’. That one incident aside, I have had positive experiences in my Hokas.

It’s true that you do lose an element of feeling for the terrain and this is no more evident than when returning to minimalist running shoes. However, this trade off comes with a promising plus side – those same roots and rocks that would otherwise be felt at each and every mile of your run are simply brushed aside. For those who like ultra distance running, it is those same roots and rocks that can make every single step feel like walking on glass by the time you reach the later stages of a race.

With this in mind, you can see why Hokas are steadily increasing in popularity amongst ultra runners, including ultra legends like Karl Meltzer and Dave Mackey.

I received a pair of this years Hoka Stinson Evo on the wednesday, took them out for a very quick 5 mile ‘spin’ on the Thursday and, on the strength of that, decided to ‘break them in’ at a 33 mile race on the Saturday. That probably is as daft as it sounds!

However, 33 miles later I was less sore than normal, had no blistering whatsoever and had taken 23 minutes off of my course PB from the previous year.

On the strength of that performance, the Hoka Stinson Evo is going to play a big part in my running this season and will likely be my shoe of choice for my remaining 6 ultras in 2012, including my first attempt at the 95 mile West Highland Way Race.

I usually run in minimalist shoes and will likely continue to do so on shorter runs. However, when it comes to those long slow runs for training and on race day itself, it will be ‘time to fly’.

Up until a certain book about the Tarahumara, the idea of barefoot running seemed ridiculous to most people and the concept of minimalist running has now been taken on board by all of the major companies. As such, who can tell what ‘the norm’ will be in future years.

The only thing to do is to put your preconceptions aside and to try them out for yourself. A quick Google search on Hoka unearths a huge debate (again, the lovers, the haters, and the curious) but you have to wonder just how many of the haters have actually tried out the shoes.

Pros

  • Reduction in muscle fatigue and DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
  • Comfortable fit (appears to have been refined further in 2012 models)

Cons

  • Price – Hokas will set you back over £100. However, they should not need to replaced as much as normal trainers and, as such, this should be factored in to any evaluation of the cost
  • Aesthetics – The ‘platform’ sole and colourschemes are not to everyone’s tastes, but then that’s like, for example, buying a particular car because “it’s a nice blue colour!”

Merrell Bare Access 2 Review

“The best of all barefoot worlds, our Bare Access shoe has a 0mm drop to let your feet land flat, and uniform toe to heel cushioning – an ideal feature for longer distances, harder surfaces or transitioning to barefoot running. Its breathable upper adds to your foot freedom with its feather-light construction.”

The Merrell Bare Access 2 shoe is part of the new M-Connect line. A zero drop shoe but with a cushioned sole, the Bare Access 2 are positioned around the mid point of the M-Connect line, offering a minimalist shoe but one that is easier on the feet than the uber minimalist Trail Gloves and the other new addition to the Merrell range, the most minimal Merrell shoe yet, the Vapor Glove.

I first came across the Merrell Bare Access 2 back in September 2012 at the inaugural Scottish Barefoot Run, only I didn’t realise it at the time. The model on show was the Sulphur Springs colour variant, a really cool yellow colour and I have to admit, I wanted a pair right there and then. I didn’t catch the model on the day, if, indeed, anyone was told the model, and, determined to find out what they were, I emailed Merrell, attaching the photo of the shoe that I had taken on the day. It was fairly obvious from a quick inspection that these were a minimal shoe but with slightly more cushioning, thereby providing an option for running longer distances while sticking with the minimalist approach to footwear.

Fast forward to February 2013 and my very own pair arrived from Merrell for testing.

As the name implies, this is the second incarnation of the Merrell Bare Access shoe. Aesthetically, it’s far cooler than its predecessor, and is different enough that when I saw it at the Scottish Barefoot Run I had no clue that it was an updated version of the original Bare Access.

I have to admit to not having tried the original Bare Access. Reviews of the original Bare Access online show that there were some little niggles and, by all accounts, these have been remedied in the new Bare Access 2. Most noticeably, there are changes to the layering and material used in the upper and the sole is now a full Vibram rubber outsole. As such, if you tried the original Bare Access, you might want to check out the new, improved model.

The Bare Access 2 that arrived for testing came in the black/parrot (green) colour scheme and, with a white EVA outer sole, had quite an ‘old school’ look to it which I really liked. It certainly passes well as a casual shoe and it would appear from comments online that I am not alone in using the Bare Access 2 in this way. Despite managing to refine my running form away from a heel strike to midfoot/toe strike style, I still find that my walking form finds me heel striking. As a result of this, long days walking in minimally cushioned zero drop shoes can lead to days where my feet end up feeling tired and sore. The Bare Access 2, with 8mm cushioning, provides a solution to this problem, and looks just at home on the high street as they do running around.

Further, with the addition of cushioning, the Bare Access 2 also lend themselves to distance running and, going by comments online, a number of minimalist runners have taken to the new Bare Access for completing marathon and ultramarathon distances.

The tread of the Bare Access 2 is designed with road and flat packed trail in mind. It does fare well on dry trail and rocky terrain but, given that there are no rock plates to offer protection from the sharper end of the trail, you would be advised to be careful with your foot placement. The lack of trail friendly lugs on the sole also means that the Bare Access 2 doesn’t cope too well with wet and muddy trail running, something that we in the UK are all too familiar with. Given the intended surface, road and hard packed trail, the 8mm cushioning provides a welcome bit of protection from the effects of running on a harder surface.

Finally, the Bare Access 2 is also touted as a transition shoe for those looking to make the move towards a minimalist shoe who may not yet be comfortable (no pun intended) with the thought of diving in straight at the deep end with the likes of the Merrell Trail Glove and/or Vapor Glove.

The Bare Access 2 is built on the same last as their Trail Glove, Road Glove and other minimalist shoes. As such, if you find that a particular minimalist Merrell shoe works for you, there’s a good chance that others in the range will also be a good fit for your feet, handy to know if you fancy experimenting with other shoes from their range at any point. Fortunately for me, the result is a shoe that I find particularly comfortable, despite having fairly wide feet.

The sole of the Bare Access 2 is a full Vibram rubber outsole, well tested and trusted throughout the Merrell range. This provides a grippy, durable sole and remedies one of the complaints with regard to the original Bare Access model, centred around sole degradation.

The sole has 8mm of cushioning, with a 13.5mm stack height. The cushioning itself is quite firm, quite unlike the softer, springier cushioning of, for example, the Brooks Pure Drift.

The forefoot area of the sole, with a number of grooves cut out, is particularly flexible and overall the Bare Access has what could be described as a ‘reasonably flexible’ sole. While you can bend the shoe completely from heel to toe it is not as easy as, for example, when doing this with the Trail Glove. But then, with 8mm cushioning on this model, this is only to be expected.

The upper of the Bare Access 2 is minimal and yet supportive and has also been altered to remedy one of the issues with the old model, namely the trapping of debris between layers. The highly breathable upper employs three layers, a durable mesh for the outer layer, a soft foam grid for the middle layer, and another layer of durable mesh for the inner layer.

“This configuration has eliminated previous problems with debris intrusion while maintaining breathe-ability.” (birthdayshoes.com)

A structured heel cup comes courtesy of the standard Merrell heel strap seen throughout the Barefoot line, wrapping around the heel to provide a secure fit.

The Bare Access 2 has a wide toebox, perfect for ensuring a good degree of toe splay on landing and the front of the shoe contains an element of toe protection.

My usual size 8 provided a comfortable, snug fit with ample room in the wide toebox. I was initially taken aback at the level of arch support on the Bare Access 2 but this was only to be expected given that I had come directly from their Trail Glove model. Whilst I personally barely notice the support now, it’s probably the one thing that I would suggest checking out in terms of fit – the level of arch support may not be to everyone’s liking.

Summary

Minimalist purists may object to the 8mm of cushioning. However, I personally find that the Bare Access 2 fills a gap in the minimalist market – for a zero drop shoe that’s also suitable for distance running. The cushioning does mean that you do end up with less feedback from the ground. However, this is only to be expected and, particularly where distance running is concerned, it’s a trade off that I am happy to make. If you do expect greater feedback then be sure to checkout the Merrell Trail Glove and/or Merrell Vapor Glove if you like it uber minimal.

Note that the female version of this shoe is called the Bare Access Arc 2.

Retail: £75.00

Upper/Lining

  • Mesh and synthetic upper
  • Moulded eyelets for secure lacing
  • Fused rubber toe bumper provides durability and protection
  • External heel stability arm
  • M-Select FRESH naturally prevents odour before it starts for fresh smelling feet
  • Reflective details for increased visibility in low light

Midsole/Outsole

  • 0mm Drop / 8mm Cush / 13.5mm Stack Height
  • Vibram® outsole

Men’s Weight: 7oz /approx 198 g (1/2 pair)