In the past, I'd always raced in pretty traditional racing flats, usually so minimal that I could feel every pebble. I liked feeling like I was in close contact with the ground, and I liked the springy feel of the rigid soles. I plan to post about "Why Hoka?" in the near future, but for now, I'll just compare my three initial concerns with the Huaka and what my actual experience has turned out to be.
Concern 1: It looks like a much more beefy, heavy shoe than what I used to race in. I mean, just look at how thick the midsole is! And at 8.2oz for a women's size 8 (I wear a 9), it really is considerably heavier than my previous racing flat - the Saucony Type A6 at 4.5oz.
My Experience: Honestly, I don't even notice the weight difference between the Huaka and my old shoes. I don't know what to say about this. The actual number of the weight is what it is, but it really isn't an issue for me at all.
Concern 2: With all that extra mid-sole material, it's not going to give me the "poppy" feel I've come to love in a racing flat. I used to do a lot of my racing in the adidas Adios, which was pretty low-to-the-ground and had 2 stiff plastic pieces along the sole that seemed to help propel me forward.
My Experience: Wow! Of course the Huaka feels different from the other shoes - it IS different! But, I don't feel like I'm sacrificing anything in terms of spring or propulsion. I would have to ask someone with a more intimate knowledge of the technology, but my guess is that the rockered geometry provides that feeling of springing forward that I was hoping for. When you take the shoe in your hands and bend the toes upward, it springs back nicely. That's a super unscientific way to look at it, but it works for me!
Concern 3: Again, as I've already said, the Huaka has a substantial amount of cushioning for a racing shoe. I worried that it would feel mushy and slow and I was also concerned that it might actually leave my feet and lower legs feeling more fatigued after hard efforts if it felt like running through sand. Maybe this concern was a little extreme, but it was still something I was worried about.
My Experience: Hooray! The cushioning isn't mushy at all! I actually think the extra cushioning makes this a great shoe for longer runs and workouts because it makes me feel LESS beat-up afterward. And "slow" is definitely not a word to describe the Huaka! I've run the best workouts of my life in these shoes! After a recent race, a woman came up to me and said "I can't believe you ran so fast in Hokas!" That's a misconception I'd really like to dispell about Hoka shoes, that you can't run fast in them. You absolutely can! I've run fast (for me) in them, and pros like Matt Llano and Sage Canaday run super fast in them!
In short, I highly recommend runners open their mind to trying the Huaka for their next racing shoe. It's got great cushioning but is still responsive, and your legs won't feel as trashed after the hard effort.