Hoka: A Modern Rocker for both Performance and Orthopaedics

One of the most intriguing shoes on the market comes by way of designers and adventure sports enthusiasts Jean -Luc Diard and Nicholas Mermoud.
Influenced by the popularity of wide tires and wide skis they created a line of trail runners with thick protective cushioning and a rockered profile. For a prototype they de-laminated a runner, separating the midsole/outsole from the upper. They then cut a piece of foam 2 1/2 times as thick as the foam of a regular running shoe, rockered the sole, patterned some tread and glued it back together.  The result is a somewhat bulky looking, yet surprisingly lightweight, line of shoes that delivers world class results in both athletics and orthopaedics.  Hoka One Ones are popular with the Ultra-Marathoners. They seem to deliver on the designer's goal of reducing fatigue, impact, and muscle strain over the long run. 
 At the same time rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can ambulate on a Hoka where they often experience significant forefoot pain in conventional flexible footwear. As you know, the Forefoot rocker is not a new invention.  It is used extensively in managing a variety of orthopaedic foot issues from post-surgery, to neuromas, to various forms of metatarsalgia. The problem is that a stiff rocker is usually only available in an uninspiring, unathletic, orthopaedic shoe. The Hoka provides a lightweight, well cushioned mainstream option.  I know... It sounds like another infomercial, but some firsthand experiences have proved compelling. Case in point:  Recently a 27-year-old female living in northern BC was brought into the store for some stiff rocker shoes. She entered alongside her occupational therapist from the GF Strong Rehab Centre. The patient had not walked comfortably for two years due to severe rheumatoid arthritis.  Her gait was painful, robotic, and thereby limiting.  After unsuccessfully trying on a few orthopaedic shoes, we tried the Hokas. A few careful steps later she began showing confidence in the rocker and fell into a more natural heel-toe gait pattern.  Knee and hip recruitment was a welcomed site to the therapist. The wide full ground contact base and stable rearfoot provided the patient with confidence and support while the forefoot
rocker allowed her to pass quickly through the painful metatarsals with limited flexion.  Unlike the Sketchers and MBT, the Hoka provides stable footing while the slight rearfoot rocker and 4 mm heel/ toe offset seems to promote a smooth heel- toe transition (be aware that the midsole foot frame sidewalls are firm and unusually high often restricting some wider based orthotics).  There is a second application for this shoe that may prove useful for runners and walkers. Case in point:  Forced to run with an acute calf strain I put on my Hokas (quite by accident really).  To my surprise, after 5 km, the calf was not aggravated at all which made me wonder:  Could it be, that with the rocker helping to get through toe off more quickly, meant less calf stress?  With less lower leg involvement, was there increased hip flexor, hamstring, and quad recruitment?  Does the increased use of the larger muscle groups during ambulation help explain why ultra-marathoners can go further in this type of shoe than any other?  
 Send us your thoughts... We’d love to hear them!  In the meantime, think of Hoka when looking for a lightweight rocker shoe for athletes and non-athletes alike.