Originally designed for ultra-marathon runners, now Hoka is having a fashion moment (and you can even get them in M&S). Here's the lowdown on the hottest trainer brand around

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Walking through London on a Saturday night, it's not unusual to see a burly security guard manning the door of the latest bar or hottest restaurant. But not a running shop. Yet this is what I clocked recently outside the brand new Hoka flagship store in London's Covent Garden. Having bought myself some Hoka running shoes for Christmas (the Clifton 9, £130 if you're interested), I was tempted to join the throng but the queue was so immense that there was a one-in one-out policy. This for a shop that sells running gear not designer handbags.

If you're unfamiliar with Hoka, here's a little background. Hoka running shoes are the coolest fashion trainer around but they were originally made for the hardcore running community. 

So what is the fuss? They have quite the celebrity fanbase which always helps. Britney Spears has  been wearing Hokas for a few years (she has a penchant for the mint green Hoka Bondi 8, £150) while Cameron Diaz loves hers so much she wore them on a US talkshow.

Trinny Woodall bought some on a recent trip to LA and shared her purchase on her YouTube channel declaring her Hoka Carbon X 3, £160 as not only the “coolest thing in LA” but describing them as feeling “so light and unbelievably comfortable, in fact I’ve never worn such a comfortable trainer.” She could have got them in the UK: Marks and Spencer stocks 19 different Hoka trainers.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie Jenner and Reese Witherspoon are also said to be fans and the trainers are all over TikTok too: #hoka has had 554.1 million views.

Image: Youtube, T R I N N Y

What are Hoka running shoes?

Nearly all Hoka running shoes are bright and colourful. Style-wise they are on the chunky side and some have an almost banana-like rocker sole. This aesthetic is not unique: this year we've seen clunky, almost orthopaedic-style high fashion trainers from brands such as Prada and Celine.

While they look clunky and heavy Hoka trainers are ultra-lightweight as you'd expect from a functioning sports shoe (should you, shock horror, actually want to wear them to go running).

What’s so special about Hoka running shoes?

Hoka is a Maori word that means ‘to fly’. The shoes were created in 2009 for ultra-marathon runners; more specifically ultra-marathon runners who were racing over rugged mountain landscapes. What was required was something light but robust. The makers studied the technology used in mountain bike wheels and tennis rackets and this inspired the thickly cushioned sole and wide design.

While they are still worn by a huge number of running enthusiasts - there’s a different shoe to suit whatever type of running you’re into, from trail running to road running, hiking, or gym - they’re also having a serious moment in the fashion world.

As well as running shoes Hoka makes recovery sliders, ultra-cushioned, easy-to-put-on sandals that were designed to help post-running muscle fatigue and recovery. Again, recovery footwear is having a style moment too. Oprah declared it 'life-changing'. 

Are Hoka shoes worth the money?

The price is always going to be slightly subjective. What price style? The cheapest is the Ora Recovery Slide, £49. The most expensive is the Tennine Hike Gore-Tex Boot, £230, described as 'part hovercraft, part hiking boot'. 

The average Hoka running trainer is £140 to £150 – a good price for a running shoe if that’s what you’re going to wear it for, but perhaps pricey if you’re just planning on wearing it to Sainsbury's. 

Our pick of the best Hoka running shoe styles

If you are looking to join the Hoka crew, these are our picks:

Best for racing: Cielo X1, £250

The newest (and most expensive shoe) from Hoka, this is one for serious speedy running aficionados. It’s ultra-lightweight and has a winged carbon fibre plate in between the layers of the sole which allows for more propulsion while also keeping you stable.

Buy now

Best for a busy day: Kawana 2, £125 

If you need your trainers to take you from doing the food shop, to some light gym work, to a dog walk to the school run then these are the ones for you as they work for all. It’s designed to support your feet as you constantly change direction and provide support but not in excessive amounts.

Buy now

Best for wearing all day: Hoka Arahi 6 Trainers, £130

Probably the best style for wearing everyday but sturdy enough for short road runs, gym workouts  and walks.

Buy now

Best for hiking: Hoka Speedgoat 5 Trainers, £139 

Designed with lots of grip these are a great option if you’re into trail running or hiking. They have lots of built-in cushioning to protect your feet and body from strong impact.

Buy now

Best for sprint running: Hoka Mach 5 Trainers, £129 

Created for speedy road runs, these shoes comes with elasticated laces so you never have to worry about having to slow down to tie them back up again.

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Best for regular outdoor runs and walks: Hoka Bondi 8, £150 

Ultra cushioned and super comfy, if you’re a regular outdoor or treadmill runner or spend a lot of time notching up your daily step count then these are the style for you.

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Best for recovery: Hoka Ora Recovery Slide, £49 

Now we would argue these are the least pretty style in the entire range but people absolutely rave about them for how comfortable they are to wear when you’ve either worked out really hard or have been standing on your feet all day and need to put your feet into something that feels both cushioned but supportive.

Buy now