Before we start I have to admit, early on I was a Hoka hater. I thought the shoes looked like clown shoes and the people wearing them were the same people that used to wear those MBT shoes or got all their footwear from Comfort One. I am judgy like that. I never went with the Vibram Five-Fingers and I wasn’t going to go to the other extreme with Hokas, no f’n way.
So now, let us eat crow.
Thomas: Foot crack, foot candy, foot-opia, any other way you can say it, these shoes feel like beds of pillowy trampolines. When walking over to the Bondi 4, I would find myself smiling and looking forward to bounding around Baltimore’s inner harbor. I soon realized I was falling for these shoes. The upper of the shoe fits well, keeping your foot locked down over the massive midsole. After 75 miles, the Bondi 4 still looks brand new. Hoka’s styling is really well thought out and the welds are seamless. This is engineered down to the smallest details, there doesn’t seem to be anything on the Bondi that looks like an afterthought. The midsole is soft without being mushy, it cushions at the strike and then seems to spring you forward. For so much stack height, I always felt stable while running. The traction of the outsole performed well on, bricks, wood decking, and pavement. The shoes felt so good, sometimes my feet felt like I hadn’t even run. This is after 15 milers. The Bondi didn’t seem to change my pace. My experience in other “maximal” shoes has been more comfort traded for a slower pace. The Bondi is heavier than the uber popular Hoka Clifton weighing in at 10.9, but doesn’t feel heavy on the foot even after double-digit mile runs.
Meaghan: I was dying to try another pair of Hokas ever since I got my hands on the Cliftons. The Bondi 4 arrived just after my run in Boston so I’ve been using them primarily for slower recovery runs. I’m a big fan of the look. The upper is a deep purple with neon orange accents (did I mention they match my Boston jacket meticulously?) Anyway, these shoes are stupid comfortable right out of the box. They’ve got a snug midfoot and open up slightly around the toebox and heel. Hoka calls it their ComfortFrame upper, which seems like a fitting name. Although the toebox isn’t super wide, it accommodates a lot of volume so your toes have plenty of room to move around. As with all Hokas, there’s a shit-ton of cushioning on these guys. However, the Bondi 4 has a much firmer ride than the Clifton. There’s more rubber placement through the outsole and they come with extra support and stability. The distinctive meta-rocker midsole seems to encourage a continuous ride. My stride never felt forced. I wore the Bondi for several 8 mile runs and a couple 10+. I would feel confident taking this shoe out for marathon distance and further.
Thomas: I am not sure, but I wonder if the Bondi trades one pain for another. While my feet felt amazing I seemed to get sore in other places like the hips and calves. I have no solid proof, but the minor aches and pains seemed to be mitigated by working the less cushioned Zante into the rotation. When I first opened the box, it was not love at first sight. These are big bulbous shoes with a midsole that harkens back to the 70’s platform shoe. As true with all love stories, they now look beautiful to me. I am not in complete denial, I know they haven’t changed the way they look, I have changed the way I look at them. People may see us together and mock us, but in my heart I know it is the right fit.
Meaghan: Similar to Thomas, I struggled with some odd quad/hip pains during a few runs. I think the Bondi work some muscles that I’m not used to using. I also think I’m still recovering from my last marathon, so I will not blame the shoes completely. The Bondi are a little heavy (8.8 oz), but it’s totally worth if for all the cush.
Thomas: This shoe can change how you feel about running. The Bondi 4 made me want to try all the other Hoka One One shoes. I put lots of miles on the Clifton, and I might prefer the Bondi. I tried to compare the two, however, my Clifton have too many miles on them to make it a fair contest. I have done a serious 180º on the Hoka brand. I have now moved onto another shoe to review. The Bondi 4 is making it hard to adjust back to a normal trainer. The ride was so nice.
Meaghan: The Bondi 4 is a great everyday trainer. While it does not surpass my love for the Clifton, it’s a solid shoe. These shoes have proven to be extremely durable and can handle lots of terrain. I won’t be using the Bondi for any races, but I’ll definitely keep them in rotation for the easy runs. There is nothing better than slipping on a pair of Hokas when your feet are feeling tired and beat up.
Shoes provided by Hoka One One for review.