Have you heard of Hoka? Those thick chunky looking things known as maximalist shoes. Ever wondered if they would work for you?

They are a bit different, originally designed by a couple of guys who ran trails in the French Alps, including a lot of downhill running. They just wanted something softer to land on, especially on the descent.

They are light, very soft and one key feature is the rocker (see green line)

See how the shoe on the left curves up at the toe and heel?
This is called a rocker bottom (or Meta-Rocker technology according to Hoka) โ€“ it acts like a wheel and helps roll your foot forward during gait.

Is this a good thing? Hoka believes it can help encourage forward momentum.

I believe it can help with some injuries.

I most commonly use this shoe for runners suffering particular injuries where the rocker can reduce load in those areas. Eg. Forefoot, ankle and sometimes calf/Achilles/Plantar Fascia. If you have stiff toe joints due to arthritis or another reason, stiff ankles or mid-foot pain, they can be very effective as those joints simply donโ€™t have to bend as much. This can mean less pain and more enjoyable running.
Hoka comes in under the category of maximalist shoe. We do have some research to go on regarding maximal shoes. A group of researchers found that peak forefoot, calf/Achilles forces were lower. However, shin and knee loads were higher. Choosing a maximalist shoe may depends on where your niggles lie.

One thing to note is that if you are a heel striker you will get more benefit from the rocker bottom sole than a forefoot runner.
In summary, if you are suffering forefoot, toe joint or ankle issues, or love running downhill a lot โ€“ consider the Hoka.

Phillip de Mestre
Sports Podiatrist and Runner