If you have read any of my reviews before you will know I am not fast, I generally gravitate towards minimal shoes but I like comfort. The benchmark for all of my tests is the Pearl Izumi E-motion Trail N1. I still love this shoe and nothing has come close. Nothing until now.
Hoka are known for oversized soles and the Rapa Nui is the most conventional of all their offerings to date. You would be forgiven for not even realising it is a Hoka, but despite it’s more traditional styling it retains all of the best aspects that made this brand such a huge name within trail and ultrarunning in recent years.
I have a pair of Stinson Evo’s and I still really like these, but they are a little large for my feet which is probably why I haven’t worn them as much as I otherwise would have over the course of this year. These are big, maximal shoes and are quite a contrast to my N1’s or Salomon Sense’s, so take a little getting used to. Not so with the Rapa Nui’s.
Now many people might say, what is the point of buying a Hoka that feels more like a normal shoe when you could just get a normal shoe? Good question, but these shoes do retain the best of the brand.
All Hoka’s come with a set of quick-laces which work on a drawstring function and also a pair of conventional laces in the box. To be honest, I don’t rate the quick laces and cut these out after my first run, replacing with the conventional ones which are much better. The fit of the upper is very comfortable and I have had no chafing or rubbing issues on the top of my foot, even when laced tight to deal with thick mud which I am running through often at present.
The toe box is wide and roomy and there is plenty of room for my feet to expand during a longer run. The inner sole is very grippy and hasnt slipped once even in torrential rain. The only issue I have had is with some of the eyelets popping out when laced tightly. This doesn’t cause any discomfort but is probably the only quality related issue I have had.
Like most Hoka’s, the Rapa Nui offer decent trail grip but are predominantly designed for dry trail running and the lugs are not huge. Recently in preparation for the flat Brazos Bend 100 I have been running a lot on the canal path and they are perfect for this, but venturing out onto the Cotswold Way for my long weekend run does involve quite a bit of slipping and sliding.
The Rapa Nui’s are not the lightest shoes in their class by weight, but this is more than offset by their supreme comfort and they still feel very light on my feet.
In a similar vein to the N1’s by Pearl Izumi, the outsole of the shoe is curved. Whilst I used to be a massive heel striker I have changed my form slowly over the last few years, yet still have a tendancy to heel strike, particularly when tired. The curved outsole allows the shoe to roll from back to front or if you are a toe striker, from front to back and this is what really sells the shoe to me. Just like a cavity as opposed to a blade on a golf club, these shoes are forgiving and roll a poor strike into a corrective one. It makes the long runs fantastic and easy going.
Without a doubt this is the best shoe I have ever run in. There will always be Hoka bashing from some and whilst these shoes still look a little unconventional, they are much more toned down than previous incarnations of the brand.
When I was little and used to go shopping with my mum and my brother in Exeter, I used to always get excited when I saw the stands were set up for the Pepsi challenge. Mainly because we weren’t allowed fizzy drinks at home and I couldn’t care less about correctly guessing if it was pepsi or another brand of cola. I just wanted an excuse to drink two cups of sugar and would then throw a guess out at the end.
If you did this when you were younger you will know that one was pepsi and one wasn’t and it was a blind challenge to guess. I genuinely believe that if Hoka did the same with the Rapa Nui and another leading brand of trail shoe, most people would say that the Rapa Nui’s are one of the best shoes they have ever put on. Just don’t judge a book by its cover or what other people might say about Hoka’s. Look down at your next trail race and you will see this brand is booming for a reason.
I will be wearing these at Brazos Bend and also taking an extra pair for the night leg. I haven’t even considered a second type of shoes to change into. The Rapa Nui’s will be my shoe of choice for 2015 and it will take something pretty considerable to blow these out of the water.
You can buy the Rapa Nui and loads of other Hoka options here at The Ultramarathon Running Store (plus they are currently on sale…)