It might be hard to believe but you’re looking at potentially the hottest trainers of 2018. These are Hoka One One running shoes (or Hokas for short) and, until very recently, they were reserved for hard-core, long distance trail runners who needed a shoe that would support them over hundreds of miles on rough terrain, and make them go faster, to boot. It's no surprise then that their name means "fly over the earth" in Māori.
That was until the footwear buyers of some of the UK’s most well-respected menswear stores caught wind of them and decided they wanted in on the action. Now you can buy shoes designed for running ultra-long distances from the sort of places you’d have once felt uncomfortable wearing them in. Think Selfridges, Mr Porter and Brown’s.
Sure, Nike, adidas and New Balance runners have all been assimilated into people’s everyday wardrobe but this type of specialised shoe being singled out is a bit like Harrods selling a padded cycling-unitard as high-fashion.
These geeked out, high-tech running shoes will now take you on a long-distance run and garner approving looks from the front row at a Prada show, too.
Volker Ketteniss, Menswear Director at trend forecasters WGSN, explains why:
"I think these trainers follow two trajectories. There's all the chunky, maximalist trainers being made by Raf Simons and Balenciaga, which have been really visible at the very high end of fashion. And then you have had a lot of interest in outdoors brands like North Face, Napapijri and Patagonia, who have all been collaborating with designer brands. This feels like the next trend following on from 'normcore' that doesn't immediately look cool but eventually becomes so.
"These shoes fall into the category of being chunky because of what they need to do. Brands like Hoka and Salomon are affordable, accessible (in that they won't immediately sell out) and practical because of what they're designed to do. I think that idea of really functional apparel has become like the four-wheel-drive car. It could take you up a mountain if you need it too but you just drive it to the supermarket."
It’s the shoe’s technical chops that are helping it transcend style and fashion, then. But there are plenty of brilliant, technically advanced running shoes available to buy. What makes Hokas so special? Ben Hobson, Digital Editor of Runner’s World thinks it’s a comfort thing.
“Hoka are unique in running for their ‘maximal’ approach to cushioning. What sets them apart is that they came from a super-niche part of ultra-running. You can look through any brand’s range and find an all-black version or fluro version of most shoes, but the appeal to a non-running audience is their comfort. If they can handle 100 miles of desert racing, they can handle pretty much anything else.”
As for what to wear them with, we’d suggest a similarly athletic inspired choice of trousers, tailored jogging bottoms being the obvious choice. For the particularly adventurous there’s also the option of going ‘full ninja’ and wearing black leggings under athletic shorts with a T-shirt, hoodie and bomber jacket over the top.
Whatever you do, though, avoid wearing them with suit trousers. Regardless of how comfortable they are, the mix of formal dressing and technical, athletic footwear is as jarring as wearing Oxford shoes in the gym.
Article originally appeared on menshealth.co.uk