From exercise to fashion statements, tennis shoes (or tenny shoes as we say in Texas) have made themselves known to be useful in more ways than one. However, sometimes we get caught up in the “culture” of it all; instead of buying sneakers that are suitable for us, we buy those with popular brand names. Yet, at what point do we sacrifice comfort and functionality for clout and status?
In 2012, Tyler Haney, a track athlete turned designer, established an Instagram athletic wear company. With headquarters now in Austin, Outdoor Voices has become one of the biggest athleisure brands in the country, according to an Inc. Magazine article. And girl do they have it all: leggings, tops and of course, their best-selling exercise dress; but one of their biggest attention grabbers is their collaboration with Hoka One One, an outdoor activity shoe company.
When OV, as the technical apparel company is commonly called, started introducing more color options to their shoe collection, the demand spread like wildfire. For me, it wasn’t until I moved to Austin that I had ever even heard of Hoka One One, let alone Outdoor Voices (us rednecks don’t get no fancy athleisure wear out in hillbilly hell). Yet, when I got here, I almost felt dumb for not having the crossover of a lifetime. Everyone I knew went on and on about how comfortable the shoes were and how it felt like their feet were resting on clouds. Blah blah blah. Still, everyone I knew buying Hokas were only buying the OV collab, making me realize they were just buying into this idea of “if I own OV then I’m cool.”
Therefore, I decided to put that theory to the figurative test and see the benefits and popularity of Hoka One One’s compared to other leading running shoe companies, such as New Balance, Asics and Brooks. Mind you, I’m not a runner at all. In fact, I refuse to run. However, I also refuse to buy into a hype without proper knowledge and research, and I don’t think you should either.
So, as any rational Generation Z member would do, I took to Twitter and asked my 742 closest followers what their favorite shoes were when it came to physical activity. Can you guess what happened? If you think everyone said Hokas, you’re wrong. In fact, I had a mix of replies.
Salvador Santos, an educator at Wooldridge Elementary for the Boys and Girls Club of Austin, said he prefers Asics not only as his running shoe but also as everyday attire.
“What makes (Asics) comfortable to me is how supported your foot feels,” Santos said. “My feet feel hugged and it feels hard to lose my footing.”
Another response, from close friend and UT student, Rachel Casey, said she preferred running in Brooks instead of her Hokas. The International Relations and Global Studies and Psychology sophomore said even though she runs with people who prefer Hokas, the stability and cushion of Brooks allows her to feel more supported and confident when she runs.
On the other hand, Gabriella Sanchez, a government and English senior, said before she fully committed to running in Hokas, she first started out in New Balances. Designed with comfort, Sanchez said she found New Balances to be springy and responsive while also being cushioned and light. With Brooks, Sanchez said she found the shoes to be more secure and durable than the New Balances, but when she was introduced to Hokas, the whole story changed.
“Once I stumbled across Hoka One Ones, I knew I could probably never go back to those other brands,” Sanchez said. “I mostly do distance runs on the road, and the amount of cushion Hokas provided was unbeatable. Fit is also incredibly important to me, and I felt (Hokas) had a roomier toe box compared to the other brands. My legs and knees don’t feel as bothered after a high-impact run as they did with my lower-cushioned Brooks.”
You may be wondering what this means. Should you go buy a pair of Hoka One Ones right now, or should you check out some other brands? Well, before you spend $100 on a pair of running shoes that don’t give you the support you need, go to your local running store and have them match your walk, run, gait and form with the right pair of shoes (and they do it for free!!). Because, at the end of the day, if you’re going to commit to a high-paced, cardio inducing workout, you need to make sure you have shoes that are genuinely suited for your needs, not just your social status.
So, don’t worry about what everyone around you is wearing on their feet, because inside those laced up things are still 10 toes, just like you and me.