Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hoka One One Bondi 6 Review - Subtle Updates to a Tried and True Maximal Road Cruiser

Article by Jeff Valliere

Hoka One One Bondi 6
Stats:
Weight: 10.9 oz/ 310g M9, 8.6 oz/246 g W8 (11 5/8 oz. / 329g US Men's size 10)
Stack Height: 36mm heel/32mm forefoot, 4mm drop
Available in Wide sizes for men and women
$150. Available Now

First Impressions:
As expected, the Bondi is reliably puffy with a huge 36mm midsole that screams maximal cushion and comfort.  The Bondi 6 looks great (in my opinion) in the Caribbean Sea/Storm Blue colorway with yellow accents.  The upper, midsole and outsole have all received subtle upgrades for a slightly more refined look and feel, but putting a Bondi 5 on one foot and a 6 on the other, it is hard to tell them apart.


Upper: 
The upper is now a seamless, open engineered mesh that is light and airy while providing good structure and support (which I find to be critical on a shoe with such a stack height) and the added ventilation is noticeable over previous versions and is welcome on hotter days.  A supportive upper on such a highly stacked shoe is of the utmost importance, otherwise I often feel a bit tentative, even when running a straight line on flat ground. However, the upper of any Bondi, especially the Bondi 6 delivers plenty of security for uphills, downhills, cornering and even moderately technical trail running.  The upper feels soft and supple with no pressure points or hot spots.
Fit of the Bondi 6 is generally consistent with previous versions, though with a slightly widened toe box that fits my slim, low volume foot perfectly with no foot slide or blistering and just enough wiggle room in the forefoot for swelling and splay.
The lacing integrates perfectly with the eyelets and am able to achieve one and done snugness.
The shape and design of the heel counter/collar remains essentially unchanged.  The heel counter is sturdy and structured for excellent support and a locked in feel with adequate padding for comfort.  A new lycra comfort frame heel section lines the interior of the heel which makes for a smooth, breathable surface, a slight improvement over the Bondi 5 that became pilled over time.
The tongue is moderately padded near the top and thins ever so slightly as it progresses down toward the front of the shoe.
The Ortholite insole is comfortable and supportive, providing a bit of added cushion to an already well cushioned shoe.

Midsole:
The full-length compression molded EVA midsole features a refined early stage Meta Rocker to enhance underfoot feel and offer a smoother ride, at least that is how Hoka describes it.  I honestly can't really tell the difference in the Meta Rocker re positioning, even wearing the 5 and 6 on successive runs, or one on each foot.  The Meta Rocker (think rocking chair) however is key to the Bondi performance, as the Bondi is super thick and stiff with hardly any give to it and thus relies upon the rocker action to provide a distinct feeling of forward propulsion.  As always, the ride of the Bondi is smooth as can be and the deep maximal cushion is soft and forgiving, but not spongy or energy sapping.

Outsole:
The outsole has also been reconfigured with a rearrangement of rubber tread, along with two long flex grooves that run the length of the shoe to improve flexibility.
Top: Bondi 6 Bottom: Bondi 5
The tread is durable and grips well on most surfaces and though not suitable for rough trail running, I have run in previous Bondis in the Pikes Peak Marathon and Grand Canyon double crossings where they have performed and held up well.
The flex grooves help to give this very stiff shoe a bit of lateral flexibility, but since the Bondi 6 is so thick, the difference here is minimal and I only slightly notice it on uneven terrain.

Overall impressions/Ride/Recommendations:
Having run in 4 of the 6 versions of the Bondi , I have to say that the Bondi has improved steadily, while not deviating from what I came to appreciate most about it, a maximal cushioned every day long distance versatile trainer with a surprisingly light and fast feel (despite it not being a lightweight shoe).  The Bondi 6 is an ideal shoe for recovery runs, long runs or runs on hard surfaces where I am looking for maximal cushioning and impact absorption.

I find that despite the size/weight/bulk of the Bondi 6, it can also roll along well at higher speeds with very little nudging, much of which I attribute to the Meta Rocker, coupled with the feeling of not being beaten up from the impact of higher speeds on hard surfaces.

Transition is extremely smooth and it is very easy to find a cruisy flow state in the Bondi 6 without it feeling like much work.  Though not a race shoe, in previous versions, I have raced road 10k's, mountain marathons (primarily for the near 8,000 vertical of downhill), as well as 50 mile trails runs in the Grand Canyon and they performed remarkably well, leaving my legs feeling more fresh than most other shoes.
Jeff's Score:  9.7/10
- .3 for weight, as I would love to see an ounce or so shaved off, while retaining everything that makes the Bondi so great.
Comparisons:
Hoka One One Bondi 6 vs. Hoka One One Bondi 5 (RTR review here) - It really comes down to budget.  The subtle changes of the Bondi 6 are nice, but not so revolutionary that I could recommend paying more for it if you can find a closeout on the Bondi 5.  Side by side, I can't really even tell them apart.
Hoka One One Bondi 6 vs. Hoka One One Clifton 5 (RTR review here) - The Clifton 5 is lighter, less expensive and has less cushioning and on paper is a shoe more geared toward maximal uptempo training.  However, despite the added bulk and weight of the Bondi 6, I find that the Meta Rocker and overall feel of the shoe helps to propel me forward with greater ease and the added cushion helps me to not feel as beat up afterwards, especially on faster runs on hard surfaces.

Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

Reviewer Bio
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.   

The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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5 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

Miki said...

Which shoe would you recommend for long runs on pavements- the Bondi 6 or the new Mafate Evo?

Jeff Valliere said...

For roads, definitely the Bondi. If not for the very pronounced lugs on the EVO Mafate, I would give the nod, as it is a much lighter and snappier responsive shoe, still with amazing cushion.

Miki said...

If I understand you correctly, it’s something of a tradeoff: pronounced lugs vs.light and snappy, but still cushioned. In your opinion, are these lugs a deal-breaker for someone who runs only on roads? Are they so detrimental to the comfortable and cushioned experience when running in the Bondi?

Jeff Valliere said...

Specific to these shoes, yes, a tradeoff. I think the lugs on the EVO Mafate are too much for road, though if you run mostly trail with little bits of road, you can certainly get by. The Bondi 6 is maximal cushion and made specifically for the road, but if you are looking for lighter weight and still a lot of cushion, Hoka has quite a few lighter and more responsive road options for just about any running preference without having to resort to a trail shoe for primarily road running.