It’s 2020, and the turf battle for chonk is more real than ever.
In a turn of events that makes the Nike Alphafly and New Balance Fresh Foam More look like off-the-rack mom Keds, HOKA ONE ONE just belly-flopped onto the scene with the all-new TenNine.
A surrealist fever dream brought to life, the TenNine is a specialized all-terrain shoe that stakes its claim as “the biggest shoe in the marketplace.” So big, in fact, that it can’t be trusted near your Subaru Outback’s gas pedal or a flight of stairs. Like, literally, HOKA advises against using it while driving or walking.
(They ain’t kidding either–I actually almost bit it down a flight of stairs when the heel caught on a stair lip behind me.)
HOKA is no stranger to breaking the mold of running shoes (let’s be honest, we all thought this company was a joke when it emerged as a counterbalance to the minimalist movement). But it appears that they’ve literally broken the mold this time, as the midsole foam looks like how I feel after eating a Pizza Hut Mozzarella Popper pizza– just oozing out the sides and rear of the shoe.
According to HOKA, it all serves a purpose. The geometry of the midsole provides extensive ground contact (no shit) and helps stabilize the foot, especially when running downhill. Much like a cycling shoe or ski boot (or an apple corer or one-hitter), those downhill rips are the core function of this shoe. By providing that longer and wider platform, the contact begins earlier, the load on impact is dispersed, and the transition from midfoot to toe-off comes more smoothly.
Which is good, because it comes in at a beefy 12.7 oz. (360 g) for a size US M9.0. Honestly, it’s not terrible considering the size– the adidas Ultraboost 20 weighs only a half-ounce less. The weight doesn’t matter so much with downhill momentum, but even with an aerodynamic upper, it ain’t exactly a HOKA Rincon over flats or uphills.
In fact, it’s not well suited for technical terrain either.
So, what is it suited for? Fire roads or mildly technical terrains, particularly on softer surfaces. While wildly specific in terms of usage, HOKA contends that the Meta-Rocker technology and the unique midsole will work no matter what incline you’re running on.
Our first thoughts? We haven’t gotten it out on a proper trail run, but it’s not as weird to run in as you’d think. The heel portion is really only felt on downhills. For more midfoot strikers or efficient runners, it’s not really noticeable on flats. Unsurprisingly though, I did get a couple of calf clips.
The upper, made of a lightweight, high-abrasion-resistant mesh with an Ariaprene tongue and Lycra vamp, is pretty incredible. It’s soft and comfortable and feels light and airy around the foot. I hope to see an iteration of it in more trail shoes, or even road shoes. And, of course, as with any HOKA shoe, the cushioning is more than adequate.
Lastly, if you thought the design was a stunner, check out the sticker price– $250.
I am not totally sure how that’s justified, or who will pay that, but apparently their research has shown there’s a market for it. At the very least, you’ll have a shoe collector’s item for years to come.
That brings us to my last point of contention– HOKA says this isn’t a lifestyle shoe. I disagree. Wear this loud and wear this proud. Just don’t get mad at anyone for stepping on your heels.Shop HOKA TenNine Men Shop HOKA TenNine Women
The name of the HOKA ONE ONE TenNine comes from the original working name of the shoe, Giga. In physics, Giga is represented by 10 to the power of 9. And there you have it.
Below is based off a US M9.
Stack height: 33 in heel, 29 in toe (4 mm drop)
• Lightweight, high-abrasion-resistant mesh for protection
• Ariaprene tongue provides comfort, breathability and water management
• Internal tongue wings provide foot lock-down
• Lycra vamp adjusts fit to accommodate foot swelling over long distances
• Heel collar pull tab provides extra support and comfort
• Hubble geometry in midsole designed to provide a stable, smooth ride