Putting HOKA Shoes to the Test: How Do They Affect Speed, Form and Calories Burned?

Posted: Dec 20, 2017 in ACE Press Releases

American Council on Exercise studies compare standard running shoes to maximalist option

San Diego, December 20, 2017 —Avid runners, from weekend joggers to competitive marathon runners, will tell you that the key to being injury-free is having the right shoes. Many will debate the merits of two competing methodologies to avoid injury: maximalist shoes with extra padding and minimalist shoes with less cushion. In recent years, lighter minimalist shoes have earned the running world’s attention, but shoe manufacturer HOKA One One has turned the spotlight to maximalist styles.

As part of its mission to get people moving, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned two research studies that test how wearing this brand of maximalist running shoes impact speed, mechanics and energy use compared to a standard style of running shoes.

The first study tested the impact of HOKA shoes on runners' form and speed, with eight male and eight female study participants. All participants maintained a running habit of at least 6 miles per week, had not sustained a foot or leg injury in the past three months and had never worn HOKA shoes before. Using three-dimensional motion capture cameras and force plates, researchers measured how each shoe type affected the force with which the runners’ feet hit the ground, their speed, and multiple aspects of their running form.

The second study compared how many calories runners burned while running in HOKA shoes as compared to standard running shoes as well as standard running shoes with added weight to match the slightly heavier maximalist shoes. This study involved 16 runners who each maintained a running habit of at least 15 miles per week. Study participants ran on a treadmill at the same speed for the same amount of time in each of the three shoe types.

Existing research shows that once a runner is accustomed to a specific type of shoe, adding curvature and weight often leads to poorer form and can increase the risk of injury. These studies showed that except for a 4.5 percent increase in ground impact forces (which researches speculated might be mitigated by the added padding the shoe provides), runners in HOKA shoes performed nearly the same in all measures of speed, form and energy expenditure as they did in standard running shoes. ACE researchers say this is a rare example where a lack of significant findings could be considered a positive outcome.

"This lack of difference in a variety of measured outcomes is evidence that the shoes are a quality option for runners," says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for American Council on Exercise. "While results didn't indicate any significant performance benefits from HOKA shoes in the short term, these studies didn’t show a negative impact on performance, either. If runners find them to be more comfortable than a standard shoe or minimalist shoe, they may be worth a try."

ACE researchers note that this study only measured the impacts of HOKA shoes on runners in the short term. More research is needed to test the long-term performance and health benefits or detriments.

View the full ACE study on maximalist running shoes here.

About ACE

With a mission to get people moving, the nonprofit organization American Council on Exercise (ACE) educates, certifies and represents more than 70,000 currently certified fitness professionals, health coaches and other allied health professionals. ACE advocates for a new intersection of fitness and healthcare, bringing the highly qualified professionals ACE represents into the healthcare continuum so they can contribute to the national solution to physical inactivity and obesity. ACE is the leading certifier in its space and all four of its primary certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the United States for accreditation of certifications that assess professional competence. ACE also plays an important public-service role, conducting and providing science-based research and resources on safe and effective physical activity and sustainable behavior change. For more information, call 800-825-3636 or visit ACEfitness.org. AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE, ACE and ACE logos are Registered Trademarks of the American Council on Exercise.

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