"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hoka Bondi B 2 Review

By Guest Reviewer Jason Robertson

Jason's review of the Hoka Stinson Evo Low was so popular that when he bought a pair of the new Bondi 2's I pestered him for a review until he finally agreed.  Enjoy!


My Recent History with the Hokas:
     Last June I picked up a pair of Hoka One One Stinson Evo B Lows.  In my review I raved about their downhill prowess, sticky rubber traction, and the polished fit and feel.  I also questioned the outsole longevity and how would running in such a pillowy-soft shoe effect the training adaptations typically received in lower, less cushioned, more flexible shoes.
     The summer is my high volume time of the year as I am not teaching.  So I ran.  Mixing the New Balance 110’s, Brooks Pure Grit, and the Hoka Stinson B’s; I averaged 85 miles per week.  The Hokas were my long run shoe of choice.  I continued this until the peak phase for the Hell 50k in September.  I ran the Woodstock 50K and two weeks later I raced and won the Hell 50k.  I did both races in the NB 110’s.  After Hell, my hip was incredibly sore and I took October off.  During this time the Hokas became suspect to the hip injury and I shelved them.
     During November and throughout the winter months I tried several new shoes and started to mix the Hokas back in.  My hip healed up after some much needed cross-training and yoga sessions.  Finally, in February, I was 18 miles into a road run wearing the Altra Instincts.  My left calf felt as if someone had snuck up and stabbed it with a knife.  I immediately called my wife and she graciously picked me up.  Throughout the next two months I tried every shoe, stretch, and rehab technique in my inventory and nothing seemed to help.  The calf would seem ok, then boom! Injury and back to square one.  I pulled out of the 100 miler I was signed up for, but I had this awesome trip planned to the Smokey Mountains.  I utilized Running Warehouse’s return policy, sending back the Altras (both the Instincts and Superiors) and had them send me a pair of the new Hoka Bondi B 2s.


Hoka Bondi B’s
     These shoes allowed me not only to enjoy the trip, but to run much more than initially expected.  I started very cautiously, hiking the ups and jogging on the downs (there’s not much in between).  Then, toward the end of our first outing I was able to run the downhill and feel zero pain in the calf.  The next day, I ran everything that my current state of fitness would allow and no pain.  I commented to Jon several times how good these shoes felt and how good my calf was doing.  Third day, besides crossing an icy river of death, all was well.  On the fourth, I switched to the Brooks Cascadia because of some preconceived notions of mud in the upper elevations needing increased traction.  My calf spoke to me all day.  I still have no idea why the calf is good in the Bondi B’s and nothing else, but I’ll take it.  Here’s my take on the shoe

The author horsing around in his Hoka Bondi B 2's

Fit and Feel:
     The Bondi’s have a great upper.  Very thin mesh on the outer, a hexagonal structured material and then a final mesh that sits against your sock that is very comfortable.  I had over seven hours and never felt a hot spot or uneasy rubbing.  The shoe runs true to size, if not a touch over-sized.  I wear 10’s in the NB 110’s and bought a size 10 Bondi.  I could probably go for a 9.5, but with long races and foot swelling, the 10’s will be just fine.  My first run in the Stinsons did develop some chaffing around my pinky toe area.  I had nothing with the Bondi.  From the first run until now, no blister or hot spots; these uppers are top-notch.  One of our shorter outings, a 3.5 hour, had a stream crossing right off the bat.  Feet were wet the entire time and no issues. They are not over-built, but do offer enough structure for technical trail use.
     As good as the uppers feel, there does seem to be a weak spot.  I now have well over 50 hours in the Bondi.  After yesterdays trail marathon the upper around the toe box was stressed to the point that some holes were forming in the first layer of mesh.  These had not formed until yesterday and the race took place on a mountain bike course with many tight, twisty switchbacks.  I wasn’t too surprised by this and it confirmed the major weakness of this shoe.
Slight wear on both sides of the toe box

Not a Shoe with the Quickness:
     This is the major drawback with the Bondi, in my opinion.  You just don’t get a high turn-over or quick turning manners from this shoe. Think slow(er) and methodical versus light and racey.
On the first major downhill, heading back to Laurel Falls the trail was strewn about with a lot of technical debris: rocks, roots, mud, tight-twisty turns, and off cambers; I thought I was flying.  Jon came up and let me know that our 9 minute per mile pace was ok, but went shooting by in his Senses (half the weight, half the mid-sole, much higher turn-over).  I just didn’t feel safe following.  I felt very protected and could’ve ran that pace over that terrain all day, but just didn’t feel like I could handle all the technicalities any faster.  Yesterday’s trail marathon was on much smoother terrain where I could really fly on the downs, but the tight-twisties forced me to slow slightly.  
     Safety on the down hills is also where this shoe seems to shine over the Stinson.  I never felt my ankle twist or have any major deflection on the loose rock as I did with the Stinson B’s.  This did give me more confidence going into loose rock piles and slick roots.  In my opinion, I think the Bondi does a better job of absorbing the side-load impacts than does the Stinson; most likely because of mid-sole design.
Outsole design:
     Super tacky! As good as the Stinson B’s outsole and the quality of the rubber for trail use is, the Bondi trumps it.  As mentioned before, I wore the Cascadias on our last outing because we thought it would be incredibly muddy with all the snow melt.  I didn’t notice much of a difference in traction levels and was left wanting the plushness and calf soothing feel of the Bondi. Anything but algae covered river rock is traction for the Bondi.  Back in Fort Wayne this week, we had a few days of sloppy, snotty mud and while there was some slippage, I was happy with the way that this road shoe handled the mud.  Hoka could make a very nice winter running trail shoe simply by adding lugs to the rubber portions of this shoe- good stuff.
Outsoles after about 50 hours



Conclusions
The Goods:
1. Great fit and feel, the upper and sizing are spot on. All day comfort, lace ‘em up and forget.
2. Protection and midsole shape.  Inspires confidence and great for injury prone runners and recovery days.
3. Awesome outsole, holds on to multiple surfaces even though it’s marketed as a road shoe.

The Bads:
1. While very comfortable the upper is weak in some spots
2. Not a fast turner or allows for high turn-over as other lighter shoes do (12oz on the food scale)

All in all, these are allowing me to run and get back to a normal training schedule.  If you’re in the Hoka market, I would definitely look at, and try on a pair of the new Bondi B’s.  They are very useful for trail applications, high mileage outings on road, trail, mountains, ect. If you’re racing 50 miles or more, these would be great in a drop bag- the longer the race/outing the better they feel. 
  

1 comment:

  1. I know your article is a few months old but wanted to say that I blew out 2 pair of the Bondi B 2's, the blue just like you had. My next replacement pair was a the orange Bondi Speed. About 400 miles later the material is holding up great. It is thicker than the thin blue material. Much like the first Bondi B's which I don't run in because they are worn but still wear in my everyday use. I have bought 5 pair of Hoka's, Mafate, Stinson and Bondi's and I think I am sticking with the Bondi's. Looking for another pair of Bondi Speed now. The Orange grows on you..... not.

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