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Hoka One One Rapa Nui Comp - Review
(Click on images for large view)
Recently, we've had quite a few enquiries into the Hoka One One brand and the concepts behind them. To be honest we weren't too sure of the answers. So we contacted the guys and gals at Hoka One One and got a pair of Rapa Nui Comp sent over for Papa Ferret to ferret some trails with.
When reading around on the blogs it seems that they're a bit 'marmite' - you either love them or you hate them. In a time of the barefoot / minimal resurgence they appear to be the anti-christ. Comments which particularly caught our eye were:
"Because they're so big it's much easier to turn your ankle"
"They're so big and heavy"
"They're for heel strikers"
"They take a while to get used to because they're so big"
Out the box our first thoughts were "they're BIG!" However whilst having a laugh and comparing them to a pair of Inov8 cross-overs we started to realise that there didn't seem to be a lot of difference in weight. A quick weigh on the kitchen scales and we found that the Rapa Nui at 325grams per shoe (size 9.5UK) are just 50grams heavier than the Inov8 cross-over road shoe?!! When you look at the difference in size of the soles then this tells us that the foam density must be fairly low, and they must have a good bit of air in there.
So straight away we can say that our opinion is that these shoes are not "heavy".
When wearing the Rapa Nui it is noticeable that trying to flex the shoe by bending one's toes up or down is virtually impossible. Good or bad? Well if inflexibility of footwear was bad then wouldn't there be generations of Dutch clog wearers with serious issues?....
Heel to toe drop - Hmmm. I'm going to update this again later when I have done more research. Take a look at the picture on the right out of the 3 images at the top of this page. Heel to toe drop seems to be measured mid heel to metatarsal by most manufacturers. If you don't know the bones in your feet then lets say roughly around the ball of your foot - not the toe. You can see from this picture that the difference from metatarsal to actual toe is quite different and that also if we were measuring toe we would have to rock the shoe over to measure the point from where the sole under the toe touches the ground. Recently, I spoke to one of the UK's top prominent proffessors in foot biomechanics and she mentioned that there is a bit of discussion surrounding 4-5mm heel to toe drop. One school of thought is that with compression and age this could actually result in a heel to toe raise. Food for thought....
Time to hit the trails! I headed out of Trail Ferret HQ, hit the North Devon coastal path and turned right. One of the first tests was a steep downhill of damp grass. I run this route regularly and this hill can be a bit of a death slide at the best of times, but especially so when wet. Cautiously, I started to traverse but I was surprised at how soon I had the confidence to open up and head straight down hill. Grip was good, stability was good and I didn't need time in getting used to running in these shoes - one foot in front of the other....
I decided to head for the dunes, which was a big but deliberate move at the outset because nobody likes running with a shoe full of sand. As I entered the dunes, I stopped to tighten the laces. This was very easy due to the adopted race lace system that everyone seems to be going for nowadays. The pictures don't really do it justice, but the dune section is over a mile and the sand was heavy in places. However, when I stopped in Woolacombe to check, there was no sand in the shoes. One of the points I would make here is that on first viewing the tongue seemed quite thin, but on reflection this enables it to fit closely and snuggly to the bridge of the foot.
Pushing on out of Woolacombe and time to test the performance on rock. The path round Morte Point turns into a weathered and worn route winding (at best convenience) through the Morte Slates Formation which are the result of mud, silts and sands deposited at the bottom of a shallow sea some 360 million years ago during the Devonian period. As a side note; Devon is the only British county which gives its name to an internationally recognised geological time period when Britain was part of the super continent Pangaea, located somewhere just south of the equater - why did we move?!!!
The Rapa Nui performed well over dry rock and stability was not an issue. These rocks are formed over many layers and at times can be quite sharp and pointy. The ride over them was actually more comfortable than usual. No turned ankles so far...
Covering the height of the shoe and ankle turning, well this is just balderdash. One could understand if the sole was of a much more rigid construction but, as already mentioned, the sole is low density and therefore much more forgiving. In fact the Rapa Nui made for a really comfortable run given that a lot of this route is quite severely cambered. Due to the compression in the foam, and that there is much more of it to compress, there is actually a lot of stability in this shoe.
Down to the business end and the slog. The long middle section of this route is hard compacted path with loose top stone. Over 16 miles there was 5,200ft of gain and just as much steep down. Writing this the following day I can say that my feet are no different from when I started. At the points where the coastal path route takes in road sections i really felt the support from this shoe protecting me from the unforgiving asphalt.
Between Lee Bay and Ilfracombe I was able to give the shoes a good soaking. I can say that the water was displaced quite quickly and the shoes did not retain the water, neither did the water create excessive play or slip.
The points of weakness with this shoe are in line with most other trail shoes. All weaknesses were focussed towards the toe end of the shoe and possibly related to different toe end composition, but I can't confirm this from the website info. This was only noticed on green rock and on upward road climbs where the road was leafy or oily. In these situations as the foot rolls over the toe slips slightly. However, show me a shoe that grips green rock or oily roads....
All we need now is some mud.......
Overall what started out as a bit of a fact finding mission has ended up with me seriously contemplating adding Hoka One One to my final shoe choice for the Spine Race in January. I would also like to try the Mafate 3 to see what kind of ride the Ultimate protection provides. Hoka One One shoes are rated from 'Plus' protection at 1.5 x midfoot construction of a regular shoe, through to Ultimate at 2.2 x the midfoot construction. The Rapa Nui are a 'Plus' rating so the most streamline rating of Hoka One One....
Check out what Hoka One One say here:
If nothing else they match my outfit.....