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Tags: hoka running shoes | sneakers | marathon

Hoka: The Chunky, Ugly Sneaker Craze

Hoka: The Chunky, Ugly Sneaker Craze
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Thursday, 02 February 2023 01:19 PM EST

Hoka, one of the most surprising sneaker success stories, is the fastest-growing running brand in the world and continues to gain in popularity.

Its main allure is its super-thick sole to protect long-distance runners, CNN reports. Thick mid and outer soles have recently been linked to high-performance marathon running and have piqued the curiosity of mainstream America.

It also doesn’t hurt that celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Emily Ratajkowski, have been seen wearing the colorful shoes.

Or that “the disruptor brand” has espoused “virtue-signaling” causes of the day, like women’s empowerment, Native Americans and Black Lives Matter, Forbes reports.

“Long pre-George Floyd’s death, we had already been telling stories about our Black ambassadors,” says Wendy Yang, president of the Performance Lifestyle Group at parent company, Deckers Outdoor Corp.

But Hoka’s main allure is its anti-fashion niche, like mom jeans. Customers take their comfortable Hokas from running, to work, to shopping, to relaxing at home.

It's not just runners who are hooked on their Hokas. Hikers, weightlifters, walkers and older people like them, too.

This has prompted mainstream sporting goods chains like Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI and Zappos to carry them. Hoka even recently expanded its shoes with clothing, with an eye to take on giants like North Face.

In 2022, Hoka sales topped $1 billion, up from a mere $70 million in 2015, when Yang took over as president.

Elizabeth Semmelhack, director of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, puts it thus: “They were able to successfully update the ‘dad shoe’ or the ‘ugly shoe’ by investing in the functional benefits of the sneakers.”

Hoka has been committed to its bulky, klutzy look since its beginning 10 years ago — the antithesis of Nike’s minimalist Free line sneakers, launched in 2005.

“There were a lot of brands trying to emulate that (Nike) look,” notes Jay Sole, a UBS retail analyst. “There wasn’t anyone doing what Hoka was doing.”

“That chunky heel says to people, ‘That’s the shoe I can wear and run long distance and not get hurt,’” Sole continues.

Hoka’s high integrity, ugly style also implies people can run faster.

As Yang says, “Our purpose is to propel people forward — whether you’re an elite runner or a casual enthusiast.”

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StreetTalk
Hoka, one of the most surprising sneaker success stories, is the fastest-growing running brand in the world and continues to gain in popularity.
hoka running shoes, sneakers, marathon
371
2023-19-02
Thursday, 02 February 2023 01:19 PM
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