Hoka One One Bondi 3 Review
- Ultra cushioning
- 4.5 mm drop (29 mm heel to 24.5 forefoot)
- 10.8 oz. (Size 9)
- Meta-rocker geometry
- Speed-laces and optional regular laces
Why “Maximal” Running Shoes?”
I recently purchased the Hoka One One Bondi 3 running shoes to address a chronic foot pain issue under the ball of my foot. For those who haven’t heard of Hoka One One, the brand is one of the pioneers of the “maximal” style of running shoe that developed partially in reaction to all the hoopla over “minimal” running craze championed by books like Christopher McDougal’s Born to Run. I have to admit that after reading Born to Run, I went on a minimal shoe craze, and even ran barefoot from time to time.
Barefoot running or minimal shoe running is fantastic, but I did develop an injury while running a half-marathon on pavement with almost no shoe protection for my feet. At that time, I was experimenting with hitting the ground hard with my feet to maximize my lift. In retrospect, the injury was not too surprising. Unfortunately, I live on a small island (Saipan) without a resident podiatrist, so my best self-diagnosis of the problem was metatarsalgia, which is basically pain under the front metatarsal bones of your foot brought on by overuse, poor fitting shoes, or other reasons. I spent about a year trying to rehabilitate by taking weeks off from running. I still ran and did races, but there was always chronic pain… until I tried Hoka One One running shoes!
Hokas have about twice the sole of a regular running shoe, but still have some of the “barefoot” features of minimal running shoes like a low heel-to-toe drop. My first pair of Hokas was the Rapa Nui 2 Trails, which are a little stiffer and lower profile than other Hokas, which can tend to look like clown shoes depending on how thick and bright they are. The Rapa Nui 2’s really helped my pain, but it would come back after longer runs. When I purchased the Bondi 3s, however, all of my foot pain disappeared. I can now run half-marathon or longer distances on pavement with no foot pain. I consider these shoes training shoes only, however, as they are a bit heavier than your average running shoe (about 10.8 ounces). Nevertheless, they allow me to do the quantity of running I need to do without having to take a week or two off from running to heal.
The Nitty Gritty
So, onto the specifics of the Bondi 3. First, as I mentioned above, they have a low 4.5 mm heel-to-toe drop, so your foot lands more naturally than shoes with more lifted heels. I really like this because I feel it doesn’t unnaturally change my gait or my foot strike. The padding of the Bondi 3 is just amazing. You can literally run forever in these shoes and not have sore feet. The thick padding of all of the Hoka running shoes is what make them so popular among ultra runners.
I will also say that, although the Bondi 3 is a road shoe, the traction is pretty fantastic even off-road. I took them up a gravelly fire road this morning and got almost as good grip as the Rapa Nui 2’s, which have aggressive lugs on the bottom. I did experience a little slippage in loose, larger than sand gravelly terrain, but I’m not sure how much better bigger lugs would have been. Certainly, bigger lugs are an advantage in wet or slippery trail conditions, but if you have to buy only one maximal running shoe for both trails and roads, the Bondi 3 is probably the best choice. And since it is really a training shoe instead of a racing shoe, a little slippage won’t really matter because you’ll be using your lightweight shoes for the races anyway.
There are some minor things I didn’t like with the Bondi 3. First, as with all Hoka shoes, they come pre-laced with speed-laces, which are basically a loops that you can tighten with a plastic cleat. The cleat tends to bounce around a lot unless you really tuck it in somewhere snug, but there is no intentionally designed place to tuck the cleat. Also, the cleat can loosen a bit after running and doesn’t seem to provide as good of a lacing-up as traditional laces. Fortunately, the Bondi 3s (and all Hokas) come with regular laces that you can use after cutting off the speed-laces. Another reason to do this is so that you can lace the shoe all the way up through the highest hole in the shoe in case your heal is lifting when running.
The toe box of the Bondi 3s have ample room to let your toe splay naturally, though maybe a smidge less than the Rapa Nui 2s. I really had no issues with the toe-box, however, since I have just average width feet. All-in-all, I absoluely love the Bondi 3s. I can now do the quantity of running that I need to do to stay competitive without worrying about further injury. I will switch to lighter weight shoes for races, but use the Bondi 3 especially for distance training.