Running shoes from the brand Hoka One One are easy to spot. The telltale sign is usually a super-thick sole, and we can rightly credit the brand for ushering the concept of maximalist running shoes into the mainstream. But its newest trail running shoe, the TenNine, takes the idea to a new plane entirely.
The TenNine’s unmissable feature is its gigantic heel. If it weren’t for its sculpted ridges and serrated yellow-on-blue pattern, you might think that something had gone terribly wrong with the mold. It’s as if the upper portion of the shoe smeared forward before the rubber was dry, elongating its foam platform. This, of course, is all on purpose.
“The TenNine is designed to have a unique ride based on the greater ground contact area,” says Thibaut Poupard, Hoka One One’s senior manager of innovation. Holding to that statement, the TenNine boasts the largest contact area of any Hoka shoe (and likely any running shoe on the market); its sole extends not only back from the heel, but also on the sides as well.
The idea, he says, is to improve stability and grip while managing the impact on the heel. “This effect is exaggerated when running downhill,” Poupard notes, while reassuring us that the TenNine and its increased stability is perfectly capable on any uneven terrain, including uphills and flats. It can even take on paved roads, but that’s not where its unique form performs best. Hoka is also clear to note through an explicit warning that wearing the shoe on stairs or while driving isn’t a good idea.
Despite the TenNine’s oddly massive shape, it doesn’t feel that different from other maximalist running shoes. At 12.65 ounces, it isn’t that much heavier, either, and it has a low heel-to-toe drop of four millimeters. Its upper is a mix of abrasion-resistant mesh and Lycra that expands to accommodate foot swelling during long days on the trail. Yes, like pretty much every shoe Hoka makes, the TenNine is as comfy as it is weird.
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