Shoe Review: The Secret I Learned by Cutting My Hoka Evo Stinson Running Shoes in Half

Cutting one of my favorite and expensive (MSRP $170) running shoes in half was difficult but I felt compelled to do it in the name of science… and fun. Like most men, I enjoy sharp steel cutting tools, both electrified and non powered and applying them to new situations. You can imagine the glee on my 7-year-old’s face as he watched his old man wield the saw.

Running in Moonboots?

After doing several ultra-marathons I kept noticing guys bouncing along and floating by me on these cloud-like squishy shoes that looked like a cross between a moon boot and a running shoe. I wondered if the extra cushioning might ease some knee pain I had developed.

For me, going from minimalist shoes to these was like sleeping on a yoga mat one night and a Tempur-Pedic the next. I got the shoes pictured here, it worked and I was hooked.

Donuts and Holes

Shoe: Hoka One One Evo Stinson Trail, size 12

Runner’s Weight: 190-205 depending on # number of donuts

Mileage: Approximately 500

Terrain: 50/50 Road and trail

Running Style: Neutral / Mid foot strike mostly / Fore foot strike down-hill

I guess cutting this side hole mid-way through the Hoka’s life was a foreshadowing of the deeper cuts to come.

As you can see the Evo Stinson Trail is a beefy looking although fairly lightweight (about 10.5 oz), cushioned cadillac of a shoe and still proudly exhibits it’s foamy superstructure after 500 miles. You probably can’t help but notice the hole I cut into the side of the shoe (Thanks for the idea Fellrnr) after experiencing some blisters which definitely helped.

Over the course of the year I ran with less injury and with legs that felt fresher the next day and so I wanted to get to the heart of this magical, secret foam and half expected it to be wound with the fibers of a unicorn horn.

5 Things I Learned – Secrets Revealed

This hardly looks like the same shoe!

1. Crazy outside but sane inside: As you can see in second photo in this post, the outsides of the shoe have a lot of visible foam. I think it stabilizes the wide sole, cups the heel and almost cradles the rest of the foot aside from simply giving Hoka One One shoes a very distinctive and recognizable look.  After slicing the shoe in half I realized that’s part of the secret: the shoe is a big party on the outside promising a different experience – and it is different ride: it is a wide shoe, it’s taller (although some of the height appearance may be a trick on the eyes because of the tall foam on the outside) and the cushioning is pretty luxurious, especially at the beginning. But looking at the cross-section it’s a lot more basic and definitely more akin to what you’d envision a “normal” running shoe to look like to the point of the above photo almost looking like it is another shoe. And for me, this combination of crazy but sane really works.

2. The heel to toe drop looks accurate: Hoka notes that the offset is about 6mm and while I didn’t measure it w/ calipers it’s far less drastic than it appears on the side of the shoe.

3. Well built: There are a few places where the foam was beginning to break down, especially under the ball of my foot which makes sense since I have high arches and tend to forefoot strike going down trails but for the most part the foam is in pretty good shape. Additionally, the upper is really well sewn and bonded to the mid-sole and withstood many miles of trails in all weather conditions.

4. It’s sort of minimalist!: Yes, there are big logos on the side of the shoe and some flexy structural rubber along with the foam on the sides but the cut view reveals some well executed simplicity. Well placed padding in the heel, nicely laminated fabric in the tongue, a fairly even layer of foam on the bottom and very little rubber on the out-sole keep things almost bauhaus looking at least when looking at the cross section.

5. Flex pattern: Under key areas of the shoe, like the forefoot, I noticed small cuts had been engineered into the foam. These slits appear to to help the foam flex and move with your foot in somewhat similar although reverse fashion as the Nike Free

 

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a Hoka One One fan and before I hacked into these I had already procured another pair. It’s fun to know a little about what makes a favored object “tick” and I’m already thinking about which shoes I’ll cut in half next. 

UPDATE: Check out the New Video of this hacked apart shoe here!

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62 thoughts on “Shoe Review: The Secret I Learned by Cutting My Hoka Evo Stinson Running Shoes in Half

  1. Nice article. I too am I hoka lover and am not surprised the over foam depth underfoot is not as great as it appears from the outside. I have a pair of Bondis with around 1000 miles on them. The bounce is long gone and they are pretty slick on the bottoms but I still wear them for road runs. Good value for the money.

  2. thx for the info! I am a Hoka lover and it was very interesting reading your post. I know they are a well made shoe, (aside from the small toe box) but it was good seeing it cut in half and all the fun details of how its made. Not sure I could do that with any of the 3 pair that I have! Thx for sacrificing your shoe for those who are curious – thx! :D

  3. I can’t tell if the hole you cut off due to blister issues is on the medial or lateral side of the shoe. I LOVE my Hokas but develop horrible blisters on the medial side of my great toes on any runs over about 16 miles in them. Were your blisters on the medial side? If so, I am going to try cutting mine. I had already considered trying it, but wasn’t sure if it would help or not. I switched from Stinson Evos to Bondis in the hope the wider toebox would help solve the problem, but no such luck.

    • If you cut the speed laces and use the regular laces that come with the shoes, then you have more options to increase the width of the shoe by using alternative lacing techniques. Also, the shoes come with two sock liners, each have a different volume, make sure to use the lower volume sock liner. That might help.

    • The hole is on the lateral side. I was only getting blisters on that side of the Left foot. The blisters were on my little toe mostly although had some gnarly ones on my big toe right on the underside of the joint. It did help w/ my little toe but it felt a bit exposed the world on trail runs w/ lots of roots and rocks… thankful for the tall platform :-)

  4. I’d love to do the same with the Mafates that I have, they feel a bit more substantial but even there the foam wrapping the sides makes the sole seem thicker than it is. I think it’s the combo of the wide base, soft foam, and bucket design that makes Hokas so unique.

  5. this is very cool! i’ve not yet tried hokas, and maybe that’s partly due to the moon-boot looks that it gives off. however, i know that it’s got a place of honour among ultrarunners and i’ll be tackling my first ultra in 2014 – so who knows? :)

  6. I hv been considering a pair. I run a minimal NB with a 4 mm and hv a bunion on right foot. I also supinate so I need a real flexible shoe! Recommendations from any users on models?

    • I cannot speak to supination, but before I started wearing Hokas I wore stability shoes for pronation. The Hokas work great for me even up to 100 miles with no beyond normal foot pain. As for a model, I would go with the Bondi Bs. I think they have a 4mm drop (less than the stinsons) and in my opinion are a little more flexible. They do ok on trails, but the tread is all EVA and wears out pretty fast. I have a few pairs with no tread left, but still tons of sole left that I use on roads, but no longer on any trails where I would need traction.

      • Thanks for the input. I had a running store put me in newtons when the first hit the market and the platform would not allow enough flexibility. They nearly crippled me. So I figured I would let the hoka have some time out on market and get feed back before trying. How’s the toe box on the bond?

    • I find the toe box wide enough, but a little too shallow – meaning 2 of my littlest toes will rub on the top side. For this reason I remove the insoles from every pair of Hokas I have run it. The remedies the problem. Overall the shoes do not quite have enough volume for my feet with the insole in. This is just me though. I have heard of others running without the insoles.

    • My feet supinate severely, and I have femoral anteversion. In addition to providing a great ride, the hokas keep me from rolling my ankle on trails. Love them!

      • I have Stinsons (both trail and tarmac.) When I first tried them both, the tarmacs felt more flexible than the trails, but I wanted the trails for their tread. However the most recent trail version seems to have the flexibility of my earlier tarmacs…it could have just been an anomaly with my first pair of Stinson trails.

  7. I have been running in the Bondi Bs for a year and really like them. I am a neutral runner with narrow feet and a high arch so they really don’t fit me worth crap, but they are still an incredibly comfortable shoe to run in. I don’t think the toe box in the Bondis or the Stinsons is so narrow – I think the problem is the heel and midfoot are so wide that your foot slides forward, especially on hilly runs. This could cause blisters on the outside edge of the foot. The newest generation of Hokas includes models called Rapa Nui and Kailua that fit much better for neutral runners. I ordered a pair of Rapa Nuis from UK and they are unbelievable. The Kailuas are now available in the US but only in women’s so far.

    • Erik, When you say they fit better for neutral runners, what do you mean? It sounds like you’re saying that the midfoot and heel are slightly narrower, but is the forefoot still the same width as the Stinsons but slightly taller? Thank you.

  8. Has anyone tried hokas for expedition adventure racing?
    I have the bondi’s for road and fire-trail but find they have a bit much flex when running over rocks, broken ground and have a very road based sole which will be lethal on slippery rocks / river crossings. Cheers.

  9. Nifty thanks for the post. I had often wondered why I could still feel larger rocks etc under my feet. Now I know. I have glued the sole back on in one patch and that was after approx 1000 klm still couldn’t cut then in half though as I figure they still have plenty of life left in them. Plus a few new Hoka’s in the cupboard too.

  10. I have hard time with the Hokas, not wanting to put something that bulky on these planks I call feet. I jumped on the minamalist bandwagon, but these Freak Runner stunts just may convince me to give them a whirl.

  11. I too love the comfort of my Hoka’s but after owing a pair for only a couple of months I noticed a hole wearing through on the upper part of my left shoe. Unfortunately, I did not save my receipt so I can’t return them.

    • Bondis? I have had the same problem repeatedly with my Bondi 2s. I love, love, love these shoes because I can walk pain-free. However, after just a few months of 10-15 miles/week walking I get a hole wearing through the fabric on one of the shoes. 4 pairs in less than a year (ouch!). Just got the new Bondi 3s but can’t say I’m a fan of the minimalist/plastic feeling tongue so far.

  12. Great post! I’ve heard awesome things about the Hoka shoes. Like you, I go between highly cushioned shoes for long runs and easy runs, to racing flats for speedwork. I’ve heard many people say now that their recovery times are greatly reduced when running in Hokas. I’m think I might get myself a pair when I need to replace my current cushioned shoes. Thank you for sharing this, in the name of science!

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