HOKA ONE ONE is one of the coolest new companies to hit the market recently, offering up a selection of maximalist shoes with low heel-to-toe drops. The plush, stable HOKA Elevons were impressive enough to earn our Top Pick for Stability Award. The secret to HOKA is their broad, uniform soles, which gently absorb the landing and can have the same effect as a traditional stability shoe. What sets these apart from most other stability shoes is the comfort and natural feel - even with a brick of cushion sandwiched into the midsole.
HOKA ONE ONE Elevon Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Super responsive, comfortable landing, dissipates heat
Cons: May wear down quickly, low breathability, bulky
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We put the HOKA ONE ONE Elevons through heck and back. We spent hours running in them, picking, poking, prodding, and pulling, and even longer researching their materials, design, and complaints. We broke them down across six measures and assigned weighted scores, then compared them to other top products on the market right now. Read on to see how they stacked up.
Ultra runners swear by the HOKA brand and it's no mystery why. Their super thick foam stacks and unique support structures make sure you're rockin' and poppin'. The Elevons are no exception to that reputation. They use their PROFLY™ dual-layered midsole and upper cushioning to keep you bouncing along and a meta-rocker to make sure you're transitioning forward to the toes and propelling forward. They pop just as hard on a trot around the block as do in your 12th hour of an ultra.
It's hard to best HOKA on responsiveness right now. Even minimalist runners enjoy the luxury of such a padded springboard landing. There are no other shoes that do better in this department, but there are still a few others worth a look if the maximalist thing isn't your thing. The Editor's Choice On Cloud X came in just behind, using a firm EVA cuboid design to generate great energy return. The Under Armour Charged Bandit 3 earned the Best Bang for the Buck Award, partially owing to the kick of its thick, firm foam midsole.
What sets these apart from other plush models is their ongoing comfort. They're made for long distance running - ultra distance running, but they're great even for short runs. They're fairly plush, using 33 mm of foam cushioning at the heel and 28 at the toe to make sure you're nowhere near a hard surface. This model, however, seems to be slightly firmer than other HOKA plush models like the HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 6, giving it a better feel over longer distances.They're hard to top, but a few models did just a bit better with combinations of plush or natural feeling midsoles and uppers. The Brooks PureFlow 7s use a thick, plush midsole to dampen the road and keep your pistons pounding. The Editor's Choice On Cloud X use a unique midsole made of hollow EVA pods to create perfect cushioning. Both models are super speedy, but the Cloud X has a much more natural fitting upper than the PureFlow 7, which some of our reviewers felt made for a cleaner landing, while others preferred the more padded upper for landing. If cost is an issue, the Under Armour Charged Bandit 3s also scored alongside the Elevons, but retail at half the price.
All things considered, this isn't a very heavy shoe, but in our lineup, it's on the chunky side. It comes in at 23 ounces in a men's 11. That's a little more than 5 ounces heavier than the Editor's Choice On Cloud X, but it also has 28 mm of foam at the toe and 33 mm at the heel, substantially more than the Editor's Choice and the rest of the field. Despite its mass, it's still lighter than most of the stability shoes.
If weight isn't a deal breaker and max padding is what you need, you'll be happy with the Elevons, but if weight is a big part of your decision-making, there are a few other options for you. Of course the On Cloud X is a good option, coming in at 17.8 ounces and offering a unique cushioning design with its hollow EVA pods. A more traditional shoe with a thick stack is the Best Bang for the Buck winning Under Armour Charged Bandit 3, at 18.2 ounces. Another traditional shoe with great cushioning is the Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat Brooks PureFlow 7, which comes in at 20.1 ounces.
HOKA ONE ONE is known for tough shoes - they're made for ultra-marathoners, so we expect them to be strong. The Elevons don't quite hit the HOKA mark though. The fine mesh upper is vulnerable to tears and the stitching can come undone after a few months of modest abuse. That's less problematic for road running, but hitting the trails can quickly accelerate the damage. For roadies, the rubber outsole tends to wear down quickly and there were reports that actual midsole began losing its pop and rebound after a season or so. It's also worth noting that the open design of the sole allows twigs and rocks to get stuck inside, which was an annoyance we found with the On Clouds and On Cloud Xs, though the X changed the dimensions a bit and made it harder for stuff to get lodged in there.
If you'd like to avoid those problems, you have options, but you will miss out on the stable, cushy ride HOKA brings. The models that did better did so by using basic, solid designs and not skimping on material. The Nike Pegasus 35 is very much a no-nonsense traditional design that had few durability complaints and few features that could break down sooner than expected. The Charged Bandit 3 has a similar story. There are few extras and it has solid longevity for the features it does have. If you need some cushioning in the sole and need it last a bit longer, check these two out. If you want the top end performance while running and don't mind replacing after a season or so, go with the HOKA experience.
There's a fairly constant battle between natural-feel and plush padding in the upper. Both paths lead to superior scores. The Elevons take the middle ground and pick up a comparably high score. Their upper is moderately padded, but it's also stripped down enough that its smooth liner and molded footbed give a super natural fit. This is great for these shoes because they're geared to long distance running and there's a serious diminishing returns experience with plush padding as the miles start to add up. Runners who regularly see runs north of 6 or 8 miles will see the greatest benefit.
We get it, not everyone is Eddie Izzard running 27 marathons in 27 days for Sport Relief, so if you are dead-set on more padding and comfort, there are a few other shoes worth a look. If you're looking for a similar design with a slightly more snug fit, we suggest looking at the Pegasus 35. If you are wanting a crazy plush upper with all sorts of padding, you'll want to look at the Brooks offerings. The Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat PureFlow 7 have excellent padding in the upper and will serve you well for most distances on road and non-technical terrain. The Glycerin 16 have more support and stability features and might feel more limiting to some runners, but good luck finding a more comfortable upper.
The Elevons do a good job in this measure. Modest padding limits heat and moisture retention while the open engineered mesh upper allows air in and heat out, without holding onto moisture. That was made clear on the hot and rainy summer days in swampy Southeast Virginia. That makes them great for distance training. Chances are that if you're a distance runner you don't avoid rain and you're a good sweater, so your shoes spend a lot of time soaked in one thing or another. Happily, the thin upper tends to dissipate excess moisture and the thin padding can't hold much sweat or water.
The list of outperformers here is a bit short, but there are a few. The PureFlow 7s have a much thinner upper that just saps away heat and moisture. The potential tradeoff is that the plush collar padding could hang onto a bit more moisture if you're a heavy sweater. The On Cloud X has less padding than the HOKAs and a thinner upper, which limits the retention and allows dissipation, but they're not quite as breathable as the PureFlow 7s. For longer distances, we think the HOKAs will be a better bet, but at shorter distances, it's more of a toss-up.
As we've said elsewhere, HOKA ONE ONE is popular among ultramarathoners for its endless midsole cushioning, so it's an obvious go-to for long and ultra-long distance running. But it also does really well on short runs and we've even seen a handful of guys and gals just loitering around the gym in them.
HOKA shoes don't come without their drawbacks. You pay a premium for that awesome performance and unique design. That said, the $160 is probably worth it for guys who need the cushioning, especially if they're out doing runs in the 10+ range.
Our Top Pick for Stability HOKA ONE ONE Elevons are an unorthodox pick for stability, but they still delivered the goods when it came to support and limiting the foot's tendency to pitch around. Internal guidance structures and a smooth rocker ensured a natural transition through the gait while the broad EVA stack kept everything cushioned and on an even keel. One of the most impressive things about them was their speed and lightness with their size. Other shoes nearly their size felt way bulkier and were much heavier, making them less practical for tempo runs, but the Elevons were great for pacing you friends and of course, for the ultra distance runs that inspired them. We think they're a unique shoe worth a look for any distance runner and runners in need of extra cushion in their training, but guys looking for a stable ride will get a lot out of these.
— Ryan Baham