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Trail • April 13, 2020

HOKA ONE ONE TenNine Performance Review


What You Need To Know

  • The HOKA ONE ONE TenNine weighs 12.7 oz. (360 g) for a US M9.0
  • Obviously it’s the most insane running shoe you’ve ever seen
  • Meant primarily for downhill running, featuring Meta-Rocker technology and “Hubble geometry” in midsole
  • Upper is made of a lightweight, high-abrasion-resistant mesh with an Ariaprene tongue and Lycra vamp
  • Surprisingly a really fun shoe to run in, although its weight does it no favors on longer hauls

TAYLOR: I went out for a run in the HOKA ONE ONE TenNine. My wife and kids were going to pick me up along the way going into town to pick up our supper. Being a proud runner, I have no problem wearing my 2” splitties or running tights around town post-run. It’s just part of being a runner.

And there’s the TenNine. My wife (also a proud runner) insisted I throw another pair of shoes in the car as to not be seen in the TenNines. Her facial expression was understood that she didn’t think that the general public was ready for these yet.

All that to say, this shoe sure is something. Pictures do not do them justice. They are not for walking, driving, date nights (obviously), hiking, gym use, etc. So what are they for?! Only running. And guess what? They are pretty good at it.

For an in-depth look at all this shoe is supposed to do, check out our First Look. Quick recap: Yes, this is the largest show in the world (literally), but the extended heel and wide platform is meant to allow downhill runners to let it rip. Specifically, on less technical terrain like fire roads or hard pack. Yes, that seems very specific. 

The shoe features a very nice and new high-abrasion-resistant upper, Meta Rocker technology in the midsole/outsole, as well as a “Hubble geometry in midsole designed to provide a stable, smooth ride.” Stack height is 33 in the heel and 29 in the toe (4 mm drop).

Anyway, with a design that comes from beyond left field (like, from the hidden bunker underneath the left field’s bullpen), the TenNine gives runners a new running experience. The basis behind this craziness is giving runners more ground contact and a smoother ride with every step. Before getting into it, I have to say I’m glad to have been able to test this shoe out for the sole purpose of how unique it is, but also to see where this innovation goes from here.

The Good

TAYLOR: Let’s get a few things out of the way before getting to the elephant in the room (no pun intended).

The upper is Covergirl great. Easy, breezy, beautiful. A protective and breathable mesh covers the outer portions while a booty-like Ariaprene tongue gives a supremely comfortable hugging fit to keep your foot locked in. 

Underfoot, the foam isn’t a completely new feeling from Hoka. The density seems to be pretty similar to something like the Evo Mafate in which I believe is one of the most comfortable cushioned running trail shoes out there. It’s a pretty balanced firm to cush ratio.

Nitty gritty time! Hoka originally pitched this shoe as a “downhill” running shoe and they were sure to point out that this midsole design is more of a piece of gear rather than a shoe alone. Yes, downhill running in the TenNine is a new experience, but I appreciated the midsole design for so much more than the downhill sections.

First, You’d think it’d be like driving an Astro Van limo through Moab but the TenNines are surprisingly smooth on trails. Besides being heavy, they were surprisingly well-balanced too. 

The Hubble Technology in the midsole counts on a lot of ground contact via a wider platform and, of course, the heel. The extendo-heel-gadget helps guide your foot to give the feeling of constantly striking in the midfoot/forefoot no matter the terrain. Despite being as heavy as a small dog, the TenNine’s snowshoe-sized contact gave uphill running a boost by getting a whole lot more purchase underneath each step. More ground contact = more potential energy return and traction.

Personally, I felt that the TenNine also helped by guiding a more crucial part of the body to be in line; the hips. This would be the big selling point to me and the only practical reason why anyone could justify spending 250 smackaroos on a pair of shoes like this. If your hips are in a good position for running, that’s the largest part of the anatomical battle. Repeated training in the TenNine is bound to condition your running form. 

Let me tell you, if you slam a few steep descents and it’ll help you feel some hip flexor muscles you haven’t felt in a while. I also want to note that, even though I count myself as a strong downhill runner, my average times in the TenNine’s at a moderate effort were slightly faster on descents and even on some uphill segments. These things never let you put your guard down. 

ROBBE: Yes, I also thought this shoe was mind-boggling when I first laid eyes and hands on it. Like, there is no way this is real. When we first got seeded the shoe I thought it was a legit April Fools, but it was only the first week of March. 

So count me mildly surprised that this shoe was fun and interesting and totally runnable. The downhill portions of a trail run were quite the sensation. Instead of braking like you normally would when landing on the heel, the extended section almost acts as a springboard to propel you forward into your next step. Every step rolls into the next. It’s super weird at first, but once you expect it, it’s really fun.

I will say that this only works on rolling hills without crazy technical rocks and roots. On a steeper downhill section with roots, I found myself not accounting for the extended heel and almost wrecked when it landed and caught unevenly on a root.

Flat running felt totally fine, and uphill running was only bad because the shoe weighs so much. 

The upper on this shoe is a real gem. Super comfortable and breathable, I would love to see HOKA incorporate this into some other trail models. Outsole traction was good, basically what you’d expect from a HOKA trail shoe.

All things considered, I enjoyed running in the shoe, and the downhills were really fun. Kudos to HOKA for trying something crazy and new and letting their design team go nuts. I mean, we all thought the Clifton and Bondi were insane eight years ago, and look where we’re at now.



The Bad

TAYLOR: Wearing the TenNine around was not as awkward as you would expect. Besides some friction on my heel during the first couple of runs, I didn’t have any issues with the fit. 

Weight was a different story.  If there is an influx of HOKA ONE ONE purchases in South Philadelphia, I know why. Instead of cement shoes, mobsters are transitioning to TenNines to sink any rats to the bottom of the Delaware River. These things are heavy and they feel it every step of the way. My size 11 weighed in at 14.3 oz which is an ounce heavier than the Challenger Low GTX. The TenNine rolls smoothly, that’s true, but not smooth enough to offset the weightiness. 

The price is also something only a kingpin could afford. At $250, it’s crazy for a shoe, no matter the benefit it brings. 

ROBBE: Basically what Taylor said. The weight is just monumental. It’s actually not awful for being the largest shoe in the world, but it’s not enjoyable after a bunch of miles. And although it’s made for “downhill running,” unless it’s in a drop bag at the top of a hill, what goes down must come up, so you’re going to face some hills. I hit a 15% grade hill at the end of a 7-mile run and I was toast twenty steps into it. I’m also terribly out of hill-shape, so take that with a grain of salt.

Also, the price. I mean, $250… people have kids to feed and this isn’t a shoe that’s going to propel you to a BQ.



HOKA ONE ONE TenNine Conclusion

TAYLOR: Innovation has been the name of the game in 2020. HOKA ONE ONE popped another wild idea out there in the TenNine’s and I’m excited to see where similar technology comes into play. Even though it is hard to get past the weight, I appreciated a lot about these shoes– namely how they are able to provide better running form and optimal foot strike for runners. The TenNine is smooth on gentle/moderate terrain and even assisted with some faster average times when it got steep.

If you have some quarantine cash burning a hole in your wallet, could benefit from a little form assistance, and need a unique trail trainer, the TenNine’s are screaming your name. 

ROBBE: Look, if you want a piece of weird shoe history, then you have to get this shoe. If you also have some dough to burn and just want a shoe that’s fun and wild and can double as something in a Halloween costume, then go for it. 

I think it is a unique sensation that I wish everyone could experience, but I understand how you may balk at the price point. In any case, I like what HOKA’s doing, and hope they incorporate some of this technology into future shoes (especially the upper).

You can pick up the HOKA ONE ONE TenNine for $250 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Cristian says:

    No half sizes for this shoe? I wear 10.5 and can’t seem to find it. Downhill trail running is what gives me the endorphins, so I am intrigued by this shoe.

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