Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hoka One One - Rapa Nui Trail Shoes Review

I've subjected my poor new Rapas to 2 gruelling technical runs to date.. might have been a bit too technical for what the Rapas are optimised for as it has already suffered some terrible battle scars.

Last weekend's Wild Wombat Fat Ass 30 at Lerderderg State National Park was highly technical at certain sections, and while it's painful to see your new shoes being scratched, ripped, shredded, crushed, drowned & pounded by unforgiving rocks, it did push the Rapas to its limits & gave me a very good insight into the world of Hokas.. on that note there are plenty of good reviews out there by more experienced runners and I hope to add my 2 cents here..

Rapas vs Lerderderg.. bring it on

What I'm crazy about:

1) Well.. what else.. the massive cushioning.. :)

Can't say how this compares to the other Hokas in terms of cushioning, but the cushioning has helped tremendously when I wanted to go faster during technical descents, as soon as you realise how much comfort & buffer it provides - your confidence will go up & your legs will be going faster! So whatever Hoka has described on their website in terms of cushioning they have delivered for sure. I can imagine how the bigger boys (ie. Mafate, Stinson) with even thicker cushioning will allow you to crush on whatever the trail throws at you.

Big bad cushioning.. nice & wide

2) Weight = 275g (UK 8)

Not going to put these shoes on the weighing scale to verify its weight but the Rapa's light weight is obvious as soon as you pick it up. Having worn the hefty Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 for almost a year now, the Rapas were a very nice change. However Rapa's upper construction is simple & uses light materials and as a result does come at a compromise to things like toe area protection & general layers of material across the shoe (see pic below, compared to the Salomon XT Wings). Having said that it has maintained good breathability which is important.

Play nice guys.. 

What I'm not crazy about:

1) Design - Upper

Cleaner days.. 
I gotta come clean.. I'm not a big fan of the general upper design of the Hokas (not just the Rapas). The two elastic strap that allows you to tuck in the lacing just doesn't work for me from an aesthetic point of view! If they were meant to contribute to how the shoe fits perhaps they needn't be shown at all (eg. built under the tongue).

And yea if they were meant to just hold the lacing well - there must be a better lacing design out there (ahem.. *cough.Salomon.cough cough*)

Having said that the side & back profile looks OK. Naturally this is just a personal take, I ain't no Jimmy Choo & designs are completely subjective to personal taste :)

And while I'm on it the color selection for Rapas in Australia sucks are so limited! They have much nicer color selections for the EU models.. why don't we have these Anthracite/Red/White ones?? I tried searching several EU websites but had no luck with sizing and out of retail therapy desperation settled for the ones I have now.. (OK maybe there's a bit of Jimmy Choo in me)

Photo from Hoka One one EU

2) Heel grip & overall fit

Hoka talks about 'bucket seat design' that helps with control & fit. While the midsole felt firm, my heel was sliding a bit from side to side as I went on the technical descents.. thicker socks could've helped I'm sure but the heel grip was certainly not as reassuring as my XA Pro Ultra 3D 2.

And if you study closely Salomon shoes vs the Hokas, you can see how Salomon wraps around the foot & tucks into & under the sole especially in the midsole & heel area - which will no doubt minimize foot movement within the shoe & maximise control on the trails. Perhaps its very specific to one's foot how the overall fit is - but I think tightening the heel area is definitely one area Hoka should think about..

Rapas struggled a bit with the really tech descents..
my heels kept sliding left & right.. 

In summary:

The Rapas will be great shoes for the door-to-trail & moderate technical trails especially if you're going for speed. I have subjected my Rapas to very technical trails to date and while they were fantastic with cushioning, I felt the lugs & outsole on the Rapas were OK but not aggressive enough (which I think for the Rapas is to be expected), but more importantly was the overall fit not being 'wrappy-happy' enough to minimize movement within the shoe & providing total 100% confidence going on the steep technical descents..

Good stuff:
- Light & fast
- Cushioning = very comfy
- Breathable

Wish list:
- Greater feeling of fit & control
- Nicer upper design & material choice
- Slightly more toe box protection

As I type this out & do more reading on the Rapas - I discover that they are now retailing Rapa Nui 2 in the US... mmmmm.. with what seemingly is a sturdier toe box protection! (I could be wrong - not much info found). So if you're thinking of buying, might want to wait a bit longer for the Rapa Nui 2 to be out.. check them out:

 Photo from Boulder Running Company

As always thanks for reading folks - hope you enjoy your Hokas..!

Meanwhile here are more pictures of what my Rapas were subjected to..

Rapas were doing plenty fine on these fire trails.. 
Big cushioning meant I could move fast on the technical descents.. 

Rapas went for some swims.. 

5x river crossings to be exact.. 
Hanging in there.. Rapas looking exhausted after day 1 in action!

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