The maximalist brand takes a step toward minimalism.

By Jahla Seppanen

SGB was in attendance at the Hoka One One Clayton release party (if you consider running a 5K and testing new shoes a party…which we do), hosted at the legendary Boulder Running Company. Big-name athletes and run-devoted writers mingled over the very surprising new feel of the Clayton shoes, and were the first to take them for a test drive.

Where Hoka users may expect to find a curved sole with extra cushioning in the middle of the foot, instead was a neutral bottom. Hoka Co-founder, Jean-Luc Diard verified our suspicions, sharing a new and unexpected direction for the brand…

A step toward minimalism.

SGB got a few minutes to chat with Diard about the motivation behind the down-shift.

“I wanted to focus on protection and rebound, because it used to be one or the other, and not for us, but for all shoe brands,” said Diard. “We strive for light with tons of protection, and used materials in a completely different way. It’s popular to use materials by layering, but we took a three-dimensional approach that becomes adaptive to different profiles of users. These are technologies you already see, but not in running footwear. It’s like how the car engine has evolved. There are still a lot of things to make shoes smarter.”


Hoka One One Clayton running shoes. Photos courtesy Matt Trappe

Diard’s vision came through in the Clayton, where the oversized active foot frame lends stability and support, while the Meta-Rocker prompts a smoother ride. Take note: the Claytons aren’t technically minimalist footwear, but compared to older Hoka models, they’re not as lofty. The Clayton’s RMAT outsole layer eliminated the excess weight of tradition shoe rubber and adds a responsive edge. And in Hoka fashion, designers made the new shoe even lighter, with the Men’s weighing in at 7.3 oz and Women’s at 6.3 oz.

It’s a risky step to go smaller, when the brand’s cult following caught the Hoka bug through its love for max cushioning. But when you look at the history of the company, it’s no newbie to risk.

The French company came to U.S. markets during the height of the minimalist running trend (think Five Fingers and barefoot running via endurance idols like the Tarahumara). Hoka’s maximalist style was a little, or in truth a lot different. But somehow it caught. And although the cushioned yet stable Hoka shoe was first introduced for trail and ultra runners, the company has expanded into the road, track and tri spaces. Hoka is now owned by Deckers Brands, which acquired it in 2013.


Athletes and media tested the Claytons on a 5K run through Boulder, CO.

The breath of Hoka’s usability was clear at the Clayton release party, where sponsored athletes from track to trail rallied to support the newer, lighter model. The all-star athlete lineup (who set the pace for a very fast “fun run”) included:

  • Sage Canaday, the 2014 TNF Endurance Challenge 50-mile champ, two-time U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifyer in Marathon, American record holder at the Mt. WA Mountain climb, and three-time Speedgoat 50km Champ.
  • Darcy Piceu-Africa, 3x Hardrock 100 Champion, 2012 Rocky Mountain Slam Champion, Bighord 100 and Bear 100 course record holder, and third-place female UTMB finisher.
  • Danielle Mack, 2015 Ironman Canada Champ, 2015 Ironman New Orleans Silver finisher, and 2014 Ironman Boulder Champion.
  • Lauren Goss, 2015 Ironman 70.3 New Orleans and St. Croix top finishers, 2015 Challenge San Gil Champion, 2015 NYC triathlon second-place finish, and 2014 Mont Tremblant 5150 Champion.
  • Drew Scott, 2015 Ironman 70.3 St Croix third-place finish, 2014 Silverman 70.3 Champion, and 2014 New Orleans 5150 Champion.
  • Drew’s father, Dave Scott, six-time Ironman Triathlon Hawaii Champion and first person to be inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame.

The event was capped off by Upslope brews and a general refusal to take the Claytons off.

I spy SGB's Sports & Fitness Editor in the mix of Hoka athletes...can you spot them?

I spy SGB’s Sports & Fitness Editor Jahla Seppanen in the mix of Hoka athletes.

Photos courtesy Matt Trappe