A new running shoe hits the shelves every other week and it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. So what does it take to get noticed? Maybe it's high-grade materials, endorsement from elite athletes, or major global event.
For 10-year-young HOKA One One it's a combination of all three.
The athletic shoe company recently staged an invitational ultra running event to celebrate the launch of its Carbon X running shoe. Project Carbon X was a world record attempt unlike anything else. The gruelling race was held on an unforgiving asphalt trail alongside the American River in Folsom, California. Eight HOKA ONE ONE athletes from the United States and Japan attempted to run a 100K world record in the latest high-performance racing shoe.
Lee Cox, Vice President, Global Marketing and Sales, said the event was designed to put HOKA on the map.
"We needed a vehicle to bring this event to life, and that came about through Carbon X," said Cox.
"This shoe is the OG for HOKA - it's what we're all about. Our motto is time to fly, so we believe this was a great opportunity to combine a product launch with a compelling event."
What the HOKA?
Originating in France, HOKA first gained attention in the running industry for its oversized outsoles - dubbed maximalist shoes due to extra cushion - which was in contrast to the minimalist shoe trend that was all the rage at the time of the company's founding in 2009.
HOKA's products span trail, ultra and road running, and almost every shoe in the range features large stack heights and chunky rubber outsoles that scream cushion and comfort.
Four years in the making, Carbon X is bucking this trend. Designed to be fast, the featherweight shoe retains a generous stack height (32mm in the heel and 27mm in the forefoot), yet features sleek continuous lines that communicate speed.
A 1.5mm curved carbon-fibre plate that runs the length of the shoe and the exaggerated trademark HOKA MetarockerTM work together to propel runners forward.
The single-layered mesh upper is built through the lens of speed, making it extremely breathable, and the carbon-fibre plate is sandwiched between foam and rubber to maintain its shape and performance over the shoes' 500km lifespan.
From the mouths of runners
HOKA ONE ONE Design Director Matthew Head says the idea of Carbon X came from customer feedback.
"At our heart, we are a problem-solving company, and so when we started to think about the product we really wanted to design an inclusive shoe," says Head.
"If you go to a marathon, after four to five hours you'll start to see more runners wearing HOKA because our shoes are super cushioned and supportive.
With Carbon X we wanted to create a product that all runners could move fast in. We'd heard that our customers wanted to turn their legs over a little faster, and that's what we've been able to achieve with this high-performance racing shoe."
So how fast is the shoe?
Chance if a funny thing and warm weather meant the coveted 100K world record eluded the HOKA athletes, but American Jim Walmsley broke a 36-year-old 50-mile record by 14 seconds, meaning he ran an average 3:35 to 3:40 per kilometre. Pretty speedy if you ask me.
Double 100K world champion Hideaki Yamauchi of Japan won the race in 6:19:52, almost 10 minutes off the 100K world record of 6:09:14 set last year at the lake Saroma Marathon.
Going into the race Walmsley's mantra was caution and he claims he was careful for the first 20 miles, but the lure of two records got the better of him.
"Track and marathon really rewards courage and aggression. Ultrarunning is the opposite," said Walmsley.
"Eliud Kipchoge recently said `I'm from Africa and in Africa we don't chase two rabbits,' so that might have rang in my head today. It's a good example of that. At least for me today, two records became not the plan.
"Overall, there were definitely more pluses today, and I still got a 100K personal record. You don't know If you can hit a 50-mile world best en route to 100K unless you try," said Walmsley.
Sabrina Little was the only female to cross the finish line in 7:49:28 after suffering stomach problems for much of the race.
"I just told myself to stay within myself and focus on what I'm doing and take it one mile at a time," said Little post-race."
You can watch a recap of race at here. HOKA ONE ONE's Carbon X is available from 15 May.
The high of crossing the finish line inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. Whether you're a newbie to the running scene or a seasoned athlete, Laura brings the latest running trends and gear to readers across Australia. With a day job in the corporate world and a busy toddler, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to sharpen her mind and challenge her body.
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Laura travelled as a guest of HOKA.