Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hoka One One Bondi B Shoe Review

It can be hard to write a shoe review when I am not really running at the moment, but here is my preliminary review of the unusual and unique shoe from Hoka One One called Bondi B  (pronounced Ho-kay Oh-nay Oh-nay which means "Time to Fly" in Maori, "Bondi" is named after Bondi Beach , so the correct pronunciation is bond-eye) . Before undergoing labral tear surgery for my left hip last summer, I ordered a pair of these shoes, after reading many reviews, thinking that the cushioning they provide might be very helpful on my return to running post surgery. I found a newish pair on eBay with only about 10 miles on them for about half-price to buy, so I did.

Sure enough they were over-sized and cushioned to the max, but I liked the looks of the grey and citrus colors and although my family snickered at the size of the shoes I didn't care. They looked nice. I did notice that when I put the shoes on, they felt hot and confining and I didn't like wearing them when I was just relaxing. I had bought my normal size 12, but most reviews say to buy them 1/2 size bigger. I liked running in  them and my orthotics fit and worked in the shoes just fine, but I did notice that my toes got scrunched together a bit and I would tend to get some blisters and abrasions as my runs got up to the 8 mile range. I realized the shoes were a little bit too tight for my liking. They weren't pressing in on my toes, but my toes couldn't really move around. They would not be comfortable or usable on longer runs (once my body fully comes around to doing distance again).

The Hoka insole wraps around your heel and orthotics.
Public disclosure: my left leg is weird. So this part of the review pertains more to the way my body functions and not to a function of the shoe. At first the Bondi B gave me a cushioned and comfortable stride. I especially liked the rocker sole that rolls the foot easily forward. That is one reason that I wanted to try the shoe. I am told I have something called functional hallux limitus where the first MPT joint will not bend when bearing weight. That means when I try to toe off, my toe stiffens up and my foot has to find another way to move around the joint. I found that with the rocker sole I had a very smooth and pleasant roll from mid-foot to toe off. My left foot also everts out to the side (tibial torsion) and suppinates on landing before trying to roll over in pronation.  I began getting the feeling that the over-sized cushioning and sole of the Biondi B was exaggerating this roll more and more and throwing my body and form off the more I ran. It is important to note that this only happens on my left side. My right foot and leg works perfectly fine in the Biondi B.

My impressions of the shoe was that it really does dampen the pounding your body takes when running. I never felt beat up after running in these and I only can imagine how great they would be on long runs. The size of the shoe may be overly large, but the weight was not. I have always liked doing my running and training in racing shoes and lightweight non-built up shoes; shoes we now call minimalistic. I hate running in trainers. The Bondi B did not feel like heavy-weight trainers at all. The problem I had with the shoes was that the model I bought was just too small for me and I was not sure my left foot was taking to them.

My Skechers GoRun compared to the Bondi B. 
So in the winter, I tried the SKECHERS GO Run shoes (I like trying out new ideas in shoes). The GoRuns also claim a rocker sole and were extremely lightweight. The uppers are one of the most comfortable (can't feel em) uppers I have ever run in. Unfortunately, orthotics don't really work in the Skecher GoRuns, and after over a year and one-half off from running (gaining weight and losing fitness) the Skechers were not the best choice as a training shoe. I did use them in the 5k races I did this winter and loved the feel of them, but any distance over that and my feet and body were not ready for them, so I put them away until I am ready to   race again.

Bondi B and the GoRun (both size 12)
I decided to try another shoe, the zero drop Altra Instinct. The first time I put them on, my feet liked the light roominess of the uppers. Whereas I would kick the Hokas off my feet whenever I was lying around, I actually felt completely comfortable lounging around in the Altras ( I know that running shoes are not for sitting around in, but hey that is what I am doing most days). When I started running in the Altras, however, something unusual happened. I got cuts right above the knuckles of my second toe joints. It seems that when I run the shoe bends on my foot at this spot and the extra material and stitching would press into my toe. I would come back from runs with very bloody socks and shoes. The Altras did this when I ran with my orthotics or without my orthotics. I liked everything about this shoe, but having a shoe cut up my toe is not acceptable.

Altra Instinct
I had a big decision to make about which shoe I would go with and I made a choice to try a larger size model of the Hoka One One Bondi. When looking around on the Hoka site, I made an interesting discovery. There is a town a few towns away that has a wonderful store that sells all sorts of interesting and minimalistic running shoes. I headed over to Townsend, Ma to find Evans on the Common. I would absolultely recommend this store to all my local running friends. They have a great collection of shoes that you can't find in most local stores and it is a real friendly store with a small town general store type feel. I would have liked to try on many of the shoes on the shelves, but I came to pick up a pair of Hokas. The Hokas do not come in a 12 1/2 size so I checked out the size 13 model. They were roomy, comfortable, and ridiculously expensive (retail price-not store markup). They also had a color pattern that I did not like as much as the grey model that I had.

My Bondi B's. I am not a fan of these colors.
Once I got them home, they really did look like clown shoes on my feet. They were just that much bigger than the 12s that I had and the color combinations made the size stand out even more. They also seem to be about 1/2 size bigger than I really need, but bigger is better than smaller. I did find them roomy enough that I don't need to kick them off when wearing them around the house. They are totally comfortable, but I don't feel like wearing this pair in public even with a pair of jeans as they feel that much more over-sized on my feet.

Comparing the colors of my two Bondi's.
I did use them running and they worked perfectly for me, giving me a nice rolling feel to my feet as I ran and if I can ever get my mileage back up again, I could imagine these shoes rolling my feet easily through 20 milers without any stress on my feet. While I was running with that nice rolling feel, I even started to think of this as being a shoe to take me on runs longer than marathon distance.

Unfortunately, the muscles in my body still haven't evened out post surgery and I had to drop my mileage and eventually sought out a new PT. He suggested that I stop running and I have done that for the past month. I am hoping to start again slowly this weekend. In the meantime, at the Boston Marathon Expo, I talked to the Altra people and bought another model,  the Altra Provision. I also decided to stop using my orthotics and started using the Provision as my daily shoe for work and walking around. I loved the feel for the first two weeks and then my finicky feet started to dislike the soft feeling of the shoe. I would come home from school and put on the Biondi's to walk around in and my feet felt more supported.

The Bondi B compared to the ultra thin Puma H Street shoes I used to wear.
 I still haven't figured out which shoe I like best, particularly for running. I don't know if the Provisions will cut into my toe. When I first wore them the stitching was irritating the top of my big toes. I feel my feet have to do more work in the Altras and my feet roll nicely in the Hokas. The big question for me is how my left foot will eventually respond to the Hokas. Will they cause greater suppination and an awkward roll on my messed up side or will PT strengthen and straighten out my foot. If my left foot worked properly, I would be totally convinced that the Hoka One One is the shoe for me. This minimalist runner would be going maximalist. The jury is still out, however, as to which shoe will let me run in the best way for my body.

Don't just take my word for it. Here is a recent review of the Bondi Bs by Marsall Ulrich, ultra runner,  adventure racer, and author of the book Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.



Roger said...

That's a thoughtful engagement with a variety of running shoes - thanks for the read!! Your problems are solved, my friend. Hoka OneOne do actually come in half sizes up to US14. I know this because I work with the shoe here in Australia - meaning, you can get into a shoe that fits you. Can I recommend you contact Mike, Jason, Johnny and the helpful cats at Boulder Running Company. The store that you went to sounds awesome but obviously by having a wide range they have had to cut down on the size ranges available. BRC has a massive range AND selection, and I expect they'll even be able to do the size you need in the colour you preferred. 303-RUN-WALK Tell 'em Roger says hi ; )

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Roger,
I was set on getting the shoes and the store was getting close to closing time. I should have tried on the other two Hoka models they had at the store for comparison purposes, but I just went for the Bondi Bs. Did they change the sizing of the shoe in subsequent years? I am thinking my first pair is an older model. It has a different footbed. Maybe the new pair fits truer to size. I don't know, they just seem so much bigger, but I have them now so I will have to wear them out before I get another pair.