The roomier fit of the Bondi 3s from Hoka One One will give you a fighting chance of keeping your toenails.
Last year, right before flip flop season, I reviewed Hoka One One’s Stinson shoes and soon after had to say goodbye to my two big nails. I liked the feel and the performance of the Stinsons, but the toebox was much too narrow.
“But I really want a trail shoe with a smaller toebox,” said no one ever.
Unlike those older Stinsons, these new Bondis are built on a last designed specifically for women, which has greatly improved the fit. So far I’ve run two 50Ks in the Bondis and still have all 10 of my toenails.
However, the much roomier fit puts the Bondi 3s on the wide side. I have a fairly standard-width foot and notice that I have to tug the laces tight — almost bringing the sides of the shoe together — to keep my heel snug. If you have narrow, feet these may not work well for you.
And I’d still like the toe box to be a smidge wider.
Specs: The Bondi 3s are built on Hoka’s CMEVA midsole, which serves up a stack height of 29mm on the heel with a 4.5mm heel-to-toe drop. Surprisingly, these chunky shoes weigh in at just 8.8 ounces. To compare: The Olympus, Altra Zero Drop’s high-cushion offering, measures 36mm and weighs 9.9 ounces (women’s). (Read a review of the Olympus, here)
Pros: For me, the early-stage meta rocker geometry works well with my stride, and I’ve gotten quite spoiled by Hoka’s cushy footbeds. I’m not sure I could go back to pounding rocky trails without 20+ mm of foam between the rocks and my wimpy feet.
The main attraction for Hoka shoes is their pyramid-shaped base. The base of the shoe is significantly wider than the footbed, giving you more contact with the ground and a really stable ride. I’ve had noticeably fewer ankle rolls in Hokas. This is a feature I wish Altra would incorporate to their max-cushion shoes.
Cons: Like any pair of Hokas, these will set you back some cash. While not the most expensive of the company’s models, the Bondi 3s will still cost you $150.
I was a fan of the speed lace system on the Stinsons, but on the Bondis I just couldn’t get the fit dialed in. Specifically, the tongue on the left shoe kept slipping and putting extra pressure on the outside of my foot. The speed laces aren’t removable — without scissors that is — so you either have to deal with them as is or cut them out and go with regular laces. To fix the tongue issue, I needed to thread the laces through higher on my foot. I cut out Hoka’s speed laces and replaced them with a pair of adjustable bungee laces from Fitletic. Problem solved.
Reps from Hoka said they were working on a speed lace system that could be removed and put back in.
Function: Despite being marketed as road shoes, the Bondi 3s performed well even on the muddiest of trails (see the evidence, pictured above). They provided better traction on mud and snow than my beloved Altra Superiors, and the no-sew breathable upper dried quickly after being submerged in mud for miles and miles.
Lifespan: I’m about 200 miles into these and haven’t noticed any degradation in the performance, but I am wearing a hole in the collar.
Verdict: I’m a fan of the performance and the fit is a huge improvement. Would I buy another pair? Sure, these definitely fill a need in my trail shoe collection and I’m flirting with giving them a more-permanent spot. But I’m still not 100 percent sold on the way they fit my feet. For you, reader, they may be perfect, but right now I’m torn between the Bondi 3s and Altra’s Olympus.
Each have their good qualities. Check back soon for a review of the Olympus.
Buy them: www.hokaoneone.com; $150
Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and our resident women’s gear destroyer.