Running shoes come in many different iterations, meeting the demands of many different styles and theories of running. The early part of this decade saw the rise of barefoot running and minimalist styles like the New Balance Minimus 10v1 and it is only fitting that the response would be the so-called maximalist style championed by HOKA ONE ONE, a brand touted by marathoners and that wild breed of runner known as the ultramarathoner. The maximalist style provides tons of cushion, more than 20mm, but a pretty limited heel to toe drop to provide a more natural landing and gait.
Last year we took a look at the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3 and gave it the Top Pick for Stability Award. This year, we compared it to HOKA ONE ONE Arahi and we are confident that the Arahi deserves that crown. We maintain that the Clifton 3 is a fine, no fuss shoe that deserves attention, but if stability is the drive, the Arahi deserves the longest look. It is also worth noting, as with the Clifton 3, the Arahi also look something like the faddish Skechers Shape Ups from a few years ago, but once we took them out and put some miles on them, we came around and saw their great qualities.
HOKA ONE ONE Arahi ReviewPrice: $130 List | $90.73 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, stable, supportive, cushioned, wide option
Cons: Bulky, runs narrow, even in wider version, heel may be loose for some runners
Bottom line: A unique, maximalist stability shoe that will meet the needs of any runner.
Toe to Heel Drop: 5 mm
Style (Traditional,minimalist,etc.): Stability/Maximal
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
RELATED REVIEW: Best Running Shoes for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Test Results
We found that the responsiveness of the Arahi was superior to that of our previous Top Pick for Stability winner, the Clifton 3, also from HOKA ONE ONE. This is likely owed to the model's firm EVA and J-Frame guidance structure which does a great job of dispersing landing force across the shoe instead of the localized compression experienced with the plush cushioned Clifton 3. Between firm(er) EVA and support structures, the Arahi brings significant improvements to the HOKA responsiveness game.
Being a HOKA ONE ONE model, the midsole's thickness did not severely diminish at the forefoot like most shoes, which means there was no significant loss of responsiveness at toe-off as experienced in other stability models like the New Balance 1540v2 and Saucony Hurricane ISO 3. While the Arahi have some internal stability structures, what puts them above the competition is that they maintain a light shoe with a uniquely stable design while the other contenders spend their resources on clunky, embedded structures.
Generally, the Arahi's maximalist stack cushioned the heck out of every stride with 24mm of EVA foam at the toe and 29mm at the heel. It certainly takes a lot of getting used to and it really is not for every runner, but for those that need the cushion and don't mind the added give, the high score is completely warranted. What's more, with only 5mm of offset between the toe and heel, there was no feeling of wearing high heels as one might expect from traditional running shoes.
Landing comfort is something that really depends on a runner's gait and their preferences for the way they think shoes should feel. This means that our ratings here will be a little more subjective. We rated the Arahi up near the top of this measure, just below the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34, our Best Bang for the Buck Award winner. We also ranked the more traditional stability model, the Saucony Hurricane ISO 3, alongside the Arahi.
As with the Clifton 3, the Arahi has a really low weight compared to its volume. It is easily the largest shoe in the lineup, but at 21.7 ounces, it's lighter than all three of the other stability shoes and even the neutral Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34. It is slightly heavier than the Clifton 3, but its extra weight can be attributed to added stability features like the J-Frame and denser EVA along the outsole.
Aside from the Clifton 3 the most approximate lighter model for padding or maximalist features would be the Kinvara 8, but if extreme cushioning and stability features are the aim, there is no better lightweight stability choice than the Arahi. If weight is your prime motivator, we suggest looking at the On Cloud, our Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat, which came in at just 17.3 ounces.
One of the downsides of the previous Top Pick for Stability, the Clifton 3 was that its lightweight design left it vulnerable to breakdown, particularly with its thin mesh upper with exposed threading and its EVA outsole. The Arahi has a 3D puff printed upper that adds an extra layer of protection from wear and hardier zonal rubber on its outsole, protecting the more vulnerable EVA from being torn up as the miles roll on.
The HOKA line occupies a tough spot because the shoes are expected to go through the abuse put in by the marathoner and ultra crowd, but they are built like lightweight racing flats, which means lighter materials, which means quicker wear. Even so, the shoe will get through a few seasons for the average runner and at least one season for an ultra runner running mostly on the road. We think the shoe will meet the expectations of most runners, but we did rate the Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat Nike Pegasus 34 the same as the Arahi. We also gave the same rating to the Saucony Hurricane ISO 3, which is a heavier traditional stability shoe worth a look.
The Arahi upper is less plush than some of the other models, like the ASICS GT2000 5 and the Hurricane ISO 3, but its slightly firm padding around the heel collar and ankle gives the right amount of cushion and hug without crowding the foot. The real tradeoff here is that the less padding the less moisture retention and greater breathability. The padding in the heel is typically more important in stability shoes because they tend to use rigid heel counters that rub up against the foot and cause blisters, but the Arahi had great coverage and there were no rub problems.
Another great aspect of the Arahi upper is the padded tongue. It doesn't get lost or folded up when you put the shoe on, which can be incredibly annoying and even chafe. It also protects the top of the foot from rubbing against lacing, seams, and the tougher materials that make up the exterior of the upper. It's also not so plush that it traps too much heat. It has just enough cushion to naturally transition the sensitive top of the foot into the smooth lycra liner without a noticeable drop off in comfort. We felt that these were above average in comfort - more comfortable than the average shoe on the market, but the On Cloud, Nike Free RN, New Balance Minimus 10v1, and Saucony Kinvara 8 all had the same degree of comfort, typically attributed to firm, uniform padding and soft liners. A more comfortable stability shoe is the Saucony Hurricane ISO 3, whose plush padding and smooth liner necessarily place it at the top of the ranking next to the Best Buy Award winning Pegasus 34, which had an incredibly natural fit that demanded top ranking.
The most breathable shoes in our lineup tended to be those with mesh uppers. The Arahi was not one of those. The Arahi feature a 3D puff printed upper that tends to hold in heat and moisture. The most breathable feature is the tongue, which is closer to a mesh material that allows aeration along the top of the foot.
Not only is the upper effectively sealed, but its high degree of padding along the collar make for a hot ride that traps moisture and heat as well. The tradeoff there is that in cooler temperatures the shoes will be warmer and the padding will do its job of creating a comfortable ride. If breathability is important to you, we suggest looking at the On Cloud, which are are very light, have a fair degree of midsole cushion, and a very thin mesh upper that top our charts in breathability.
The Arahi is really meant to be a stability shoe for distance runners, especially at the marathon and ultra level. It also works well for those who do a good deal of walking on hard surfaces, even for gym sessions. Though they could be taken out to the trails and rough terrain, they are much better suited to the road.
These shoes are meant for a specific type of performance - stabilization and extreme distance running. For runners needing those specs, they meet that need and more, earning every bit of their $130 price tag. However, we suggest that runners do their research and are sure that this style of shoe is right for them before they take the plunge into this new style. For those who put in the hard miles or have a hard time putting in the miles, the maximal padding, great comfort, and stabilizing features combined with its lightness make it worth its ask.
This unique maximalist offering is definitely popular in the distance running crowd for a reason, but it might not be for everyone. It proves to be a versatile shoe that can meet the demands of a 5K or a 50K, heel strikers, midfoot strikers, or forefoot strikers. Its wide, even design taken together with its stability features create a shoe that assists those who need the stability, but don't force placement like the Saucony Hurricane ISO 3 and so many traditional stability shoes. What's more, these shoes are as light as a racing flat - in fact, lighter than the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34s. Don't be fooled by the bulk and appearance, the Arahi are excellent, lightweight running shoes that meet many of the demands in the running world and they are worth your time.
— Ryan Baham
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