Athletic Shoes Hoka Clifton 2

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Altra Shoes and Hoka One One – Awesome Running Shoe Options

Gollum running

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.

Hoka One One

Hoka One One “Clifton 2”

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.

Hoka Technology

Hoka One One Technology

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, 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.

Altra Zero Drop

Altra “Zero Drop” Footwear

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.

Altra Foot-Shaped Toe box

Altra’s Foot-Shaped Toe Box

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.”

Altra gender specific technology

Altra’s gender specific technology

”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, Zappos, find a deal at Amazon and 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.

Mizuno Wave Rider 19

Mizuno Wave Rider 19

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:

“Just a share here..on Wave Rider 18 by Mizuno--perfect fit for anyone needing help with flat-foot or plantar fasciitis, or recovering from ankle injuries. I normally wear ladies 12, this size was not an option at Dick’s Sporting Goods, so a men’s 10 worked perfectly. I had read, searching google for a great review on support shoe for women, that these were the pick! So ladies, do not hesitate on men’s selection–these shoes are the best! Just wanted to share and give new shoe for grumpy feet.”

Good news for women with larger feet, the Mizuno Wave Rider 19 is available in a size 12 wide at Zappos!

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28 Responses to Altra Shoes and Hoka One One – Awesome Running Shoe Options

  1. Andrea in Florida says:

    I’m on my second pair of Altra Torins and will not wear other running shoes at this point. They’re superbly comfortable, cool and light (for Florida), and wonderfully roomy in the toe box yet fit my narrow heel. I love the zero drop! Altra seems to have increased the bottom cushioning from my 1st to 2nd pair, and my yoga teacher/trainer wears her Torins for everything except long distance running for which she needs extra cushioning.

  2. Ginny says:

    I have inserts made for my shoes or I couldn’t work. I have no padding on the bottom of my feet and the ball of my left foot can be painful. Sometimes they burn or they’re numb. He said that I have diabetic feet but I’m not a diabetic. Tired of buying shoes and even with inserts some shoes I have to return. I work in the kitchen at school and at a camp in the kitchen during the summer. Love to go walking too. Do you have a shoe that would help my feet?

  3. Mandy says:

    I’m a runner with a host of foot issues; consistently Morton’s Neuroma & a tailor bunion (flares of PF). I’ve been in Altras for over a year & I love them! I was in the Torin & now the Intuition. The heel of the Torin fits me better but I like the upper on the Intuition better. I do wear my custom orthotics in them. Because of the orthotics, I had to size up. The Altra website has a feature to help you determine size. You def need to ease into wearing them–my calves hurt even though I thought I was!

  4. Ellen says:

    I have flat feet, hallux limitus, and a tailor’s bunion. Because of that I never thought I could be a runner. Last year I tried out the Hoka One One Challenger shoe with a powerstep insole. I was able to train for and complete my first 5k in them! The rocker sole was a game changer for me.

    I also tried Altras and I like them for casual wear but not for running.

  5. Shirley says:

    I have hallux rigidus and love my Altra shoes.

  6. Marlyn says:

    “Piqued” your interest.

  7. Laura says:

    Ive tried both altra and hoka . I loved the wide toe box of the altra, but not the zero drop, its was a bit wierd for me to get used to.
    Im on my 2nd pair of hoka one one bondi 4s. The first pair came with 2 insoles, which was SO cool. i started with the wider one and when the shoe stretched out i switched. But i just got a 2nd pair with a totally different insole , which isnt as good, but i kept them any way.
    BTW i wore out my first pair in 4 months,the tread totally gone, the top totally stretched out and my foot not supported (and im only a walker). If you read the comments on zappos several people commented on how fast they wear out. I dont know if ill get a 3 rd pair….

  8. cedar says:

    I had the first edition of the Hoka Clifton. After 2 shorter runs on asphalt, the soles were showing signs of wear and tear. I returned them, as I have never ever been hard on shoes. I also suspected they weren’t good for me, because I developed pain in my left knee which has sadly continued to bother me, despite physical therapy. I wish I had only used them *after* running for the light weight and cushy feel. I read reviews of later models which were not as stellar as the first edition model, so I lost interest in Hoka. I pretty much think zero drop isn’t for everyone. My fitness trainer developed the only knee pain he’s ever had after wearing zero drop shoes.
    My husband has a pair of Altra street shoes. Although I think he likes them okay, I don’t see him reach for them often.
    As far as ultra cushioned shoes go, too much cushion feels like I’m trying to run with water balloons strapped to my feet, which makes for great instability and better chance of injury.

  9. Amanda says:

    I really wanted to get the Hoka One One’s because I like saying the name. 🙂 But reviews on zappos said they ran narrow and my wide feet in narrow shoes is why I have Morton Neuroma pain in my left foot. So I ordered a pair of Altra Shoes; Intuition 3.5. I haven’t worn them a full day yet but after a long walk in the city on the uneven pavement my forefoot feels great! And normally that is not the case. I was worried they’d make my feet look big because of the wider toe box. But they really don’t.

    I also was able to put my 3/4 orthotic in the shoes without sizing up. But if I had a full orthotic I might have ordered a size up to accommodate it a little better.

    I’m very impressed with the look of the shoe, the comfort, & the upper mesh lining which also doesn’t push on my bunion. Thanks so much for bringing these sneakers to my attention!

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  11. Michelle... says:

    I’ve had my left ankle fused (talocrural joint) and thought that the Hoka’s would be perfect for me with their rocker sole but my surgeon said no way (something something, heel strike, knee hyperflexion (I’m already hyperflexible in my knees), something, something!).
    Anyway I’m in the Mizuno Wave Creation 17 (12mm heel-toe drop) now, having come from a Wave Ascend 7 (11m heel-toe drop), and find them super-duper comfortable (I have a really wide forefoot too, with an Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot).

    • Kirsten Borrink says:

      Thank you for the helpful info, Michelle!

    • Deb says:

      Interesting comments by your surgeon. I’ve been wearing my Hokas for a month and they feel very comfy. I can get walk all day and my feet never hurt (bunion, Mortons neuroma, high arch, & more.) However, I’m also recovering from a broken ankle & ligament tear and my range of motion & stiffness is not progressing- think I’ll go back to my old shoes for a few days and see if there is any difference.

  12. Erica says:

    I just had to come back to this post and thank you for it. I have RA and my feet continue to change shape and can be very painful. I needed a shoe with a wider toe box, but not an overall wide shoe (my heals are really narrow). I have purchased two pairs of Altras this past month and they are amazing. I can’t get over the fact that I can walk distances without added feet cramping from my shoes. Thank you for finding me a shoe that allows me to exercise even through the joint pain.

  13. Julie J says:

    I’ve been a runner for 30+ years. Through the years, I’ve had two separate neuromectomies, issues with my IT band, ankles, hips, knees, achilles, and plantar fasciitis. I purchased my first Altras in December of 2014 and have NOT HAD A SINGLE ACHE OR PAIN since!!!!! Not one issue with injuries! I swear by my Altras!

  14. John says:

    Thank you for a helpful article! I am a guy, but still very relevant information. I have had struggles with Morton’s neuroma, Arthritis, etc. In part because I have a wide toebox with a narrow heal (similar to some women). Wides are too wide for my heel.
    I had narrowed down my current search to Altras and Hoku before reading this article. However each brand has like 20 pairs to choose from. I have had no luck with several podiatrists or running shoe store experts helping me find the right footwear (which has resulted now in a bad knee, blah blah…)
    I have had many custom insoles and ultimately they just gave me planter fasciitis.. so it’s been a long road trying to get footwear dialed in.
    Any suggestions for getting extra help in correct footwear solution that encompasses all of my personal issues/needs?

  15. Jurlene says:

    I have been wearing Altras for a couple years now and do like them. However, I have started to have just general foot pain (my feet just hurt) after I run 1/2 marathons. I am wondering if I need the extra cushion of the Hokas.

  16. Connie Lewis says:


    Do any of the ankle boots for hallux rigidus you had mentioned run in narrow? I can’t wear a B or M in any shoe, can only wear a N since my foot sooo narrow.

  17. Angie says:

    I loved my Altra Torin shoes because they helped my foot pain! I have morton’s neuroma. However after wearing them daily for about a month I developed worsening knee pain. I had to use crutches and ended up going to physical therapy. I decided to wear my previous shoes which were New Balance Fresh Foam. My knee pained has lessened but my foot pain is worse!! I don’t know for sure if the Altra truly caused my knee pain because I do have osteoarthritis in both knees and have had surgery to repair meniscus on both knees. I just wanted to share my story. I still love my Altra shoes for my feet. The big toe box decreased the pressure on my hammer toes and helped with the ball of foot pain!!

  18. Karen Paulson says:

    I’m on my second and LAST pair of Altra running shoes. The lining inside the shoes is not robust and tears at the heel. My first pair lasted about 6 months, but for much of that time I was not walking because of foot surgery.
    The pair I have now is 35 days old and I have a hole in the lining of the heel on one shoe and the other is pretty worn. I walk 4-5 miles a day and about 3.5 miles of that is in my running shoes. So we are looking at about 90-100 miles of wear I got out of my Altra Provisions for $142. I’ve written to the company and sent photos along with my purchase invoice. I hope I can come back and say they refunded my money or replaced my shoes. But they have 30 days warranty and I’ve seen comments on the internet that they are not helpful. I’ll update you when I hear back.

    • Carol says:

      1) With receipt was sent to Hoka One One, their corporate office sent check for amount paid for shoes which were purchased elsewhere and when that store’s return date had expired.
      2) Buy in future from stores with good policy on returns of worn items:
      REI has 1-year return policy on all (except for their REI-Garage-priced items). Nordstroms has infinite no-hassle return policy.
      Super Jock and Jill (Seattle area) has infinite no-hassle policy.

      • Karen Paulson says:

        I purchased mine from Amazon. Altra replied and did not say anything apologetic about the shoes. They referred me to the retailer. Amazon refunded my money and paid for shipping back to them.

  19. CB says:

    I have RA and the Altra’s are the only shoes that don’t make my foot pain worse, but I had to send them back after 3 months. One of the shoes the cushioning completely compressed and the other one squeaked like crazy when I walked. I contacted Altra’s customer service, but they were less than helpful. After spending $100 on a pair of shoes, I would expect them to last more than a few months. So disappointed in this brand, especially when they’re the only shoes that help with the foot pain. I’ve tried so many other shoes in other brands, but nothing works…

    • Kirsten Borrink says:

      Well that plain sucks! I know they’re a newer brand so hopefully they’ll improve on their durability which shouldn’t be an issue at that price point! I appreciate your feedback.

  20. Barbara Allison says:

    Have stocked my closet with Hoka One One. Suffer from hallux limitus for years. Normally have no choice but New Balance 2E x-trainers to run. The Hokas got me back to running many miles per week. Prefer their road runners. Some of the trail runners don’t fit quite right. Can be a trifle narrow in toe box. Suggest using Sierra Trading Post to get outlet prices. I live near a store, so order a bunch at once, try them all on & wear around the house with my RX24 inserts (3/4 length, hard & wide). Then return those that don’t work. At age 57, I’ve learned to rock the colors. And I can run!!! Glory be!

  21. gary fishman says:

    for those wanting the cushion and rocker sole of Hokas, but cant deal with the cramped toe box, cut open the toe box like so:
    Also, the new clifton 4 in wide is better in this regard, still a bit snug but i dont think ill need to modify them like i did the clifton 3 and challenger 3.
    IMO, altra has great fit and decent cushioning, but wear out fast. Prefer hokas now with their rocker sole.

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