"My name is Stephanie, and I am a Hoka Cutter."

This man is brilliant in the most literal sense of the word. He is well spoken, and an avid reader of the kinds of books most of us don't really think people read. Although I never knew what it was Marshall did before he made a career out of being a crazy ultra runner, I'm sure it was something that required lots of letters after his name on all his dinner invitations.

This man, who completed more than 120 ultramarathons averaging over 125 miles each plus about 425 miles in Death Valley during the most blistering summer month in U.S. history wearing Hoka’s, swears by them both for running on pavement and technical trails.  So I thought maybe I should stick with them for my foray into more advanced ultra running.  However, I was still concerned about the narrow toe-box. Ulrich says the latest models have a much roomier toe box like his favorite Hoka Mafate’s (pronounced true to form as "my fatties") but I didn't want to drop another $170 on another pair before figuring out whether they would really work.  So I decided to try a little experiment. Inspired by other ultra runners whose feet swell during long, hot races, I cut holes in my existing Hoka Bondi’s to give them more room for my toes. If I liked that, then I could try buying a new model.

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As you can see, they are extra-thick, and the padding definitely helps. I tried walking the kids to the park for a few miles wearing them and I could really feel them doing their magic.  The forefoot and toes felt fine although I could still slightly feel the pressure starting to build on my toes.  However, when I cranked up to running speed, that sensation went away, and I just felt like I was running in nice, soft, roomy shoes.

So I soon began jonesing for another pair of trail-specific Hoka’s after learning a snooty running shoe store carried them in my new neighborhood.  I mention the snootiness of the particular store only because I seemingly appear to running store clerks like a lower income single mom with two hyper ADD kids under the age of 5.  In no form or fashion am I the hip, young $150+ running shoe shopping demo.  Based on appearance alone, I wonder if anyone anywhere even notices me anymore.  I've somehow managed to become so boring that I am now completely invisible to the naked eye and can fully expect to wait at least 15 minutes with display shoe in hand before anyone at the running store makes verbal contact with me.  This results in thoughts of my ending the shoe charade and stopping at a sensible orthopedic footwear outlet before I leave the DC area to leap into old mom age feet first.

In sad summary, the local running store isn't happening for me.  I dutifully put in my time waiting, patiently staring at each sales specialist really hard hoping that maybe I'm a little like Carrie and their head would explode leaving teeth, hair and eyeballs all over the place and since no one knows I've got the Carrie thing happening, they will never pin it on me and I'd totally get away with it.

Despite my passive aggressiveness and the lack of attention being sent my way, I still figured since I AM getting serious about running the trail ultras around these parts I needed to wait out my extended walk-in wait time and at the very least get fitted for a newer model of Hoka One One's.  This store had the Conquest and even though I feel this model is too hard in the soles compared to other Hoka's I was game to try it on just to get a feel for where my Flintstone feet are size-wise. 

So finally, after the third person who arrived 15 minutes after me got served their shoes, I got measured and fitted.  Afterward, I went home and promptly ordered from runningwearhouse.com. 

When my mail order of brand new Hoka Mafate's in size 8.5 men's were promptly delivered to my doorstep three days later, I proceeded to walk around in them to pinpoint where the toe box would require more "natural" flexibility. After I decided where my toes needed to stretch out of the shoes, I flicked open the box cutter and made two transverse cuts across what I would consider to be the torsion bar part of the sole of the shoe. The extra room from the new slits in the toe box made the shoes feel extra cushioned like a bouncy floatation device.

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