Monday, July 17, 2017

Hoka One One Arahi Review - Pillowy, Soft, Lightweight Stability Trainer

Article by Jeff Valliere

Hoka One One Arahi
29mm heel/24mm forefoot
9.3 oz. /264 g (M9); 7.6 oz. /215 g (W7)
Available in D and 2E width
$130. Available now
I have reviewed a seemingly infinite number of road shoes in the past , but this is my first for RoadTrailRun, as I pretty much live for the trails and prefer to focus on the trail side of things.  Why the change?  I have decided (again, like I do once or twice per year) to not be such an all or nothing, mountain summit or bust trail snob.  Running from the house a few days per week would save me some time in the car, giving me more time for family, other important non running related tasks and maybe, make me a more well rounded runner.  I figured it would be fun to mix it up with my reviews from time to time and review the occasional road shoe.

When choosing a road shoe, past experience tells me that I'll probably not be too satisfied in either a super light race flat, or version 17 of some heavy, overbuilt clomper.  I wanted to get into something that has a good compromise of low weight, lots of cushion and reasonable response.

Hoka jumps out in my mind to the top of the list, but Sam had beat me to my first (Clayton 2 review here), second (Hupana review here) and third (Clifton 4 review here) choices, so figured the Arahi looked like the next most interesting of the newer models.  Despite the Arahi's stability shoe billing, 29mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot at 9.3oz. sounded appealing.  I put in my order and secretly hoped I would receive any color other than the black/gold.

The printed mesh upper not only looks cutting edge, it provides an excellent blend of secure foothold and comfort, as the upper is thin, flexible and the overlays are so thin and numerous that there are no pressure points or hot spots.  Fit is true to size, with great heel hold, midfoot security and sufficient room in the toebox for splay/swell without feeling confined.
The mesh is not the most airy and I find them to not be particularly well ventilated.  They are OK with temps in the 70's, but much warmer than that, my feet start to feel a bit warm.

The laces are perfect, a nice bit of stretch and integrate perfectly with the eyelets, allowing for a snug, but not confining fit, where optimal fit is achieved on the first try.
The tongue is well padded and has a perfect height, protecting the top of the foot well from any potential lace pressure.
The heel collar is well padded, but not overly so, providing excellent comfort, no pressure and soft out of the box with no break in.  The Ortholite insole can also be seen below, which adds greatly to fit, support and cushioning.

Width is perfect for my average to low-ish volume foot.  If you need wider though, the Arahi comes in a 2E width option if needed.
The EVA midsole with J Frame construction, combined with an active foot frame and wider outsole, offers a pillowy soft and stable ride.
Hoka One One J-Frame
Image: Hoka One One
I am a neutral runner and do not require or generally seek a stability shoe , but if the shoe is not too heavy or overbuilt, I don't have any issues.  The Arahi is probably the least noticeable stability shoe I have run in, not that it is unstable, but that the J Frame technology is quietly working behind the scenes without a lot of added posting, thus keeping the weight down.
The stability is all internal, which, in the case of the Arahi, keeps the weight low and gives a clean look, without coming across as a therapy shoe.  At 29/24mm and a 5mm drop, the Arahi is a maximal shoe by any standard.  The EVA foam in the Arahi is marshmallowy soft and perhaps even spongy feeling when first trying on, or just wearing casually.  The Arahi is soft while on the run too, but not overly so and can give a surprising sense of responsiveness when pushed hard.  I noticed this the most when running uphill on steady grades.

Like many Hokas, the Arahi outsole features a mixture of varying grades of rubber depending on the strike zone, with exposed EVA to shave weight.  I found this combination to perform remarkably well on pavement, cement and even light trail use.  I even ran in the Arahi on moderately technical and rocky trails on the local peaks and while not optimal, they did OK in dry summer conditions with a bit of finesse (I wouldn't make a habit of it though).  Treadwear seems to be average to above average, with very little noticeable wear (despite some rough trail miles even).

Some scuffing on the exposed EVA after 30 or so miles, but the rubber shows little to no wear.

Overall Impressions/Recommendations
I was pleasantly surprised by the Arahi.  It is much more comfortable, capable and lighter than I expected and makes for a great daily trainer for just about any distance.  I am a neutral runner and found the Arahi to probably be the least "noticeable" stability shoe I have tested, hardly even recognizing it as such while running.
I am still on the fence with the soft EVA though.  On one hand, it does an excellent job absorbing impact, but the squishy feel takes a bit of getting used to and does not inspire fast running or feel very lively.  It does however feel slightly more responsive on the uphill and because of the low weight of the shoe, it has enough get up and go for most of my runs.  In other words, a great trainer, but I would probably look to the Clifton, Hupana, Clayton or even the discontinued Huaka for race scenarios or speed specific, up tempo training days.

The Arahi would be an ideal road shoe for anyone seeking a light weight, maximally cushioned, light stability trainer for long distances at moderate paces.

Jeff's Score:  9.5/10
-.3 for soft EVA which may turn some runners away 
-.2 for breathability
The Arahi was provided at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere unless otherwise noted.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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Jeff Valliere said...


Unknown said...

Hi Jeff,

I follow your reviews and find them very helpful. I just my Arahi's and I love them. I am hoping Hoka does not change them too much for next spring. Could you let me know what changes are coming based on what you see at outdoor retailer show. Thanks, Tom

John R. said...

Jeff, will you be reviewing the Hoka Speed Insticnt 2's? Curious how the show has changed since the first version.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi John,
Dominick Layfield, 14th at Western States, is now testing Speed Instinct 2
Sam, Editor

Jeff Valliere said...

Thomas, not sure on changes for the upcoming Arahi, pehaps Sam could chime in if he has any information. As far as the Speed Instinct 2 goes, the outsole/midsole are unchanged, but the upper has been updated to be more breathable and more durable. Will also look forward to Dominick's review.

Sam Winebaum said...

While I have not seen it in person, Hoka not attending Outdoor Retailer this year, the catalog says Arahi 2 has a new upper focused on more breathabilty in the forefoot. Looks like weight drops 0.3 oz.
Sam, Editor

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks Sam, improved breathability in the Arahi would be a huge improvement!

John R. said...

Thanks Sam, looking forward to the Speed Instinct 2 review. Will you also be reviewing the Altra Timp at somepoint? Waiting for that review as well. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Did you find wearing a "stability" shoe as a neutral runner have any ill effects to your running form when going back to a neutral shoe? I'm curious if one were to wear this for say 500 miles, then switch a Clifton for example, what effects it would have.

Jeff Valliere said...

Great question. One of the things that I feel very fortunate about as a shoe tester/reviewer is that I am able to easily run in a wide variety of shoes and transition to/from them with no issues. The stability in the Arahi is hardly noticeable if you don't need it, but there if you do, so I actually don't even think of it on any level, either when running or swapping to a different shoe.