If this is how you feel about exercise, perhaps the problem stems from wearing the wrong shoes. I’m not a runner, but I do love to walk on the local prairie path. But even the smallest foot issue can take center stage during a long walk if my shoes don’t fit and feel well. Too tight toe box? Bunions complain. Not enough cushioning? Mr. Plantar Fasciitis returns. Arch support lacking? I can’t make it to the half mile marker!
Currently, I wear my Asics GT-2000 with Superfeet 3/4 insoles which help with my plantar fasciitis pain. Billed as a stability running shoe for medium-high arches, I’ve found them suitable for walking as long as I add the insole. However, I think I could do better. I’ve noticed a few new brands enter the fitness shoe category over the last year-maybe you’ve heard of them too? Hoka One One and Altra shoes both pique my interest with their thick foam midsoles (dubbed “maximalist” footwear to counter the minimalist fad from a few years back) and rocker outsoles. On footwear is another brand that looks dreamily comfortable with their cloud-like rubber elements on the outsoles.
Let’s take a look at Hoka One One (pronounced “Ho-Kah Own-ay Own-ay”). Most of their styles classify as running shoes, but podiatrist Larry Huppin of the Foot and Ankle Center of Washington recommends Hoka’s trail running shoes to his patients that enjoy walking for exercise. The oversized yet lightweight midsole provides maximum cushioning, the meta-rocker technology allows foot to roll smoothly through the stride taking pressure off the forefoot, and the active foot frame allows the foot to sit deeper into the midsole instead providing enhanced stability.
I asked my Facebook followers if anyone owned a pair of Hokas and what they thought about them. Here are a few responses:
Praise for the Hoka One One Clifton from Monica:
“I love them! I was very dubious when I tried them on because I haven’t had comfortable tennis shoes in so long, but they are so great! They come with 3 types of insoles, so you can choose the type that works for you. I’m a size 10, so they’re big, but I just decided to own the funkiness and get a bright purple pair!”
From a Zappos customers: “Amazing! I live in Fit Flops and was hoping to find a supportive shoe that had lots of cushion – this is it! Works with my bunion and hallux rigidus (arthritis great toe) – feels like you are running on a massive cloud of support! Fit true to size – love them!”
“Suffered a Lisfranc sprain and broken metatarsal over 7 months ago and was making very slow progress. The cushion/support in these allowed me to start walking and even running again.”
“They are light and with the rocker bottom they really help me with toe off, which for me is very hard because I have Hallux rigidus in my left big toe.”
They saved my running as I aspire to run a 5K in a few months and drop the lbs! I needed something forgiving for my knee. This is the answer.
Of course Hokas have the potential to make a big foot look massive, so if you’re not into that, they might not be for you. But if you’ve tried all the other running and walking shoes and still can’t find relief for your foot issues, Hoka One One could be a good fit. Currently they offer shoes for underpronation, overpronation and neutral stride. Still wondering if Hoka One One is for you? Read this informative article in Podiatry Today. Care to try a pair on? Check out Hoka’s store locator. Still have questions about fit or arch support? Join in the discussion at the Barking Dog Shoes Facebook page.
Hoka One One footwear is available at HokaOneOne.com, Zappos, Amazon, all with free shipping and returns. Update 7/2016: The Hoka One One Clifton 3 was just released-the toe box is wider than the Clifton 2 and feels more like the originals.
Let’s turn to another member of the maximally-cushioned athletic shoe family, Altra shoes and their collection of “zero-drop” footwear. As the name says, there’s no drop from heel to forefoot. Level cushioning is designed to align feet, back and body posture for less impact. The creators of Altra footwear also state that this “zero drop” strengthens the achilles and lower calf muscles that have been weakened from walking and running on elevated heels.
The second feature of Altra footwear that defines the brand is its FootShape™ toe box. While it makes the shoe look a bit clownish, your toes can spread out which decreases irritation to bunions and hammertoes, creates stability, and simply makes for a more comfortable run or walk. There’s nothing clownish about that.
Altra also takes into consideration the differences in a woman’s foot and makes accommodations: narrower heel and midfoot, higher instep and longer arch.
Altra offers different levels of cushioning and support . See the categories to find out which shoe will be best for you.
Zappos customers weigh in on the Altra Olympus with maximum cushioning:
“My foot specialist recommended these shoes. I have an extremely wide foot and have problems with my little toe having enough room. These shoes were great from the moment I put them on. They are truly the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn. I have a custom fit orthotic so I had to go a size and a half up. They do run a whole size smaller for those who do not have orthotics. This is a great supportive shoe, so thankful my doctor recommended them.”
”Love these shoes! I have been having foot problems. I have been a nurse over 30 years! Work 12 hour shifts! No longer have bunion pain thanks to wide toe box and these shoes have plenty of cushioning for the long hours on my feet! Finally!”
More praise for the Altra Provision 2.5:
“I’ve had surgery for Morton’s Neuroma in one foot and had read online that this was a good option for walking and cross training going forward. The sizing is true to what I’ve worn in other brands, and the shoe provides better than average arch support. I love the wide toe box, as wearing shoes with more narrow toe boxes is what leads to issues like Morton’s Neuroma for many women.”
Altra shoes are available at AltraRunning.com, Zappos, find a deal at Amazon and 6pm.com. See Altra’s store locator to find a retailer near you.
I’d love to hear from you on the topic of Hoka and Altra “maximalist” shoes. Do you own a pair? Which style? What do you love about them? Any concerns? Leave a comment below to help others in their quest for the perfect fitness shoe.
Before signing off, I want to leave you with a comment sent my way on the Barking Dog Shoes Facebook page. Linda from WV took the time to share her experience with a Mizuno running shoe: