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Upgrade me from Hoka trail runners?

I'm not particularly unhappy with my current two shoe Europe travel setup:

Hoka Stinson trail runners
All plastic Birkenstocks

But I would like to if possible optimize on a couple of fronts.

My personal footwear needs: I bicycle tour, but also hike and do big urban walking tourist days. I'm somewhere between 190 and 200lbs with somewhat heavy footfall.

I have a fracture in a tiny pea-sized bone right under the ball of my foot that will never heal naturally. It's manageable, but a shoe like the Hoka Stinson, with a ton of cushioning is very helpful. I also have high to very high arches. Arch support is very helpful because it distributes weight away from the cracked bone under the ball of my foot. Also a stiff enough sole helps with the cracked bone and is good on the bike.

My minor beef with the Hokas is that they're a bulbous shoe. I spend a good amount of time on my trips on a bike in Lycra. I'm tall and reasonably thin, and the big old bulbous Hokas Make me look like a Great Dane puppy. It's a fairly goofy look.

Plus the Hoka's are a bit overly athletic shoe looking. I don't mind athletic shoes at all, but nearly all of the Hoka's have pretty aggressive colors and graphic patterns. I'd like a quieter shoe like a New Balance maybe.

So anyway, a sturdy shoe that can do a lot of athletic stuff, with a high level of cushion, enough native arch support to make my custom insoles work, mellow enough looking to put on pants in a nice shirt and not stick out in a restaurant too much, and not super big and puffy looking. Any suggestions?

Thank you!

Posted by
6603 posts

Hank, I can't speak for the men's shoes, but last year before my trip to Germany I found a pair of Oboz shoes. They are made in Bozeman, Montana and are the best shoes I've ever worn. They're good for walking and hiking and I love them. The ones I have are very supportive, with a wide toe box but regular heel width, a sturdy sole and very good arch support.

The day after I bought them, I wore them to my dentist's office since I was going for a walk afterward, and it turned out that one of the dentists there (male) was wearing his Oboz. He told me that he's had them for a year or so and wears them to the office because they are so comfortable and wear so well.

I know that REI sells them and I'm sure there are other places in Seattle that have them so you could try on a pair - there is a dealer locator on their site. But they're great shoes, in my opinion. When I went to Germany, I wore them every day and they were wonderful. As soon as I came back, I bought another pair.

I should mention that some of their shoes look more athletic, but a lot of them don't. I have the Low Leather shoes, which are great because you can wear them to walk and hike but they also look good with decent pants.

Posted by
358 posts

Have you looked into Kuru Shoes? I find their Chicane model to be especially comfortable. Their website has a host of search options based on foot size, ailments etc.

Posted by
1259 posts

Wearing Altra for twelve years. My podiatrist recommended Altra when it became obvious I had serious issues. Altra makes two max-cushioned models, zero-drop, Paradigm and Olympus. You might also find the new super-cushioned models from New Balance worth a try. They have conventional stacks.

Posted by
890 posts

My podiatrist recommended Hoka or Merrell. I chose Merrell and have not been disappointed. I am heading to Spain soon for 60 days and will be taking two pairs of Merrells with me. Both fit my custom orthotics. One pair has been travel tested for 54 days last year in Scandinavia (Merrell Moab), and one pair is a very lightweight pull on style.

I have worn my Merrell Moab on my mountain bike when I have wanted normal shoes without cleats.

I have these - black and grey - women's version - and they are fine for restaurants. I didn't like the yellow vibram branding and just coloured the lettering black with permanent marker.

Posted by
8732 posts

Female and I swear by the Keen brand of shoes. Have 5 pair. Lace ups, hiking shoes, boots, slip on and sandals.

Had horrible planter fasciitis for years until I bought my first pair of Keens. Within 48 hours plantar fasciitis was gone, never to return. That pair was the low cut Targhee hiking shoes. Wear them nearly every day. Over 7 years old.

Posted by
535 posts

Well, I listened to Mardee and got some Oboz shoes and I just tried them out today. Very comfortable and supportive! There are quite a few Oboz on sale at REI right now. Mine were 50% off. You might give them a try!

Posted by
1800 posts

Hank, you've gotten some nice shoe recommendations above. But none of
them will match the Hoka for cushion. I sold footwear for a long time
at REI, and I also run in Hoka, use them for backpacking (not always
but some trips) and have worn Oboz, Merrell and Altras. I long to take
my Hokas on European trips- I get you. They are big. You could look at
at different model, maybe the Stinson, but I think your best bet is a
more "urban" shoe. I'd go to Nordstrom and see what they might have.

I found a shoe by Soludos, leather sneaker style, slight platform, and
I put a thin insert --from a Hoka backpacking boot, coincidentally--
and wore them on my last trip. Absolutely up for the job, and we do
12-16 mile days. Maybe they make a men's version, I don't know. Best
of luck to you!

SO helpful thanks! As are the rest of the recommendations. I'll head out soon to REI and Nordy's to try some of the recommendations.

I do though wish my Hokas could be all they are AND not so bulky - I need shoe-specific magic wand :)

Posted by
1800 posts

Well I tried out some Adidas Terra X Trail Runners. Nope, soles too stiff, tread with of heel too narrow and tippy, high stack height but less than cushy, too much padding in top of shoe (it will dry too slowly). Shades of black colorway passable but look a bit like a mailman's shoe.

Not a terrible shoe but not for me! The search continues :)

Posted by
116 posts

Try the Fleet Feet store in Seattle. We have had luck getting our feet”imaged” and then recommendations to try on here in Texas. If we needed a size larger r smaller or different colors they are fantastic about returning.

Posted by
286 posts

Ask your doctor to refer you to a good podiatrist for an orthotic consult that addresses the pressure point on your foot. This may open up a new world of possibilities for you. Also, I have seen a new shoe from Samuel Hubbard called the Performance Walker that may appeal to you.

Posted by
1327 posts

I cannot revommend a specific shoe since I do not know your feet. But I can recommend that you try to get access to a tread mill to test out your new shoes BEFORE using them outdoors. If they don't feel nice after 10 km it should be easier to return them if they have not been used outdoor.

Posted by
10245 posts

Brooks trail runners are my daily shoes. I'm on my 4th pair. I have the same issue, an old break on the edge very close to the ball, as well as high arches.

Posted by
207 posts

I bike tour as well, and I have been able to walk all over the place with Shimano MTB shoes, with SPDs. I have switched to Fizik cyclocross shoes just because of the stiffer sole, and less walking involved. No comparison with walking though: Shimano wins every time.

A guy I tour with sometimes wears his all over the place, even with his "after bike" clothes.

Having said all that, I recently bought some New Balance in black (again; I have had several of these) runners because I do a lot of walking at home, and wear them everywhere.

Posted by
1800 posts

Phoffen I use Shimano MTB shoes at home all the time. They walk great for cycling shoes, but my Europe trips are too mixed to use them as my primary off the bike shoe, and I only want to carry one shoe and plastic Birks.

I settled on Saucony trail runners, the Xodus Ultra distance model. I wish they were available in a middle gray color. The black ones at least have enough variance with gray soles and slightly washed out black color to not look like "mailman shoes," while still being understated enough to mostly pass in more formal settings.

Not my ideal understated aesthetic, but okay. The reflective strip could go be se la vie.

Functionally they are great, lighter and slimmer looking than my clompy Hokas, but roomy toe box and similar padding under foot. They work great for all day on hard surfaces and for hiking too.

Posted by
207 posts

I am going to the UK in a couple of days. I ended up keeping the Fiziks and bought super light airplane and walking shoes from Walmart. Plan to bike most of the time, with little walking. The new walking shoes fit very easily in my saddle bag, and weigh less than the water shoes I was going to bring. I couldn't find a way to fit proper runners in my bags.