Comparing Hoka vs Brooks running shoes could largely be described as a difference in fit and feel, along with some company philosophy if you care about those things. But of course we know that Hoka came on the scene due to their maximal shoes…and that’s interesting all on its own!
Both brands provide high quality shoes and offer a variety of models to suit different needs like overpronation, cushioning, and trail running.
Hoka One One first became popular with Ultrarunners and has since moved in the to main stream of running. I myself have run in a number of models and previously compared Hoka styles.
Hoka Vs Brooks Key Differences
Brooks and Hoka offer similar features and models for all kinds of runners, from the new runner to Ultramarathoner to the flat-footed or high-arched.
Largely we’re looking at how a maximal shoes compares to a traditional running shoe.
I break down the differences in more detail below, but here’s a quick overview:
Brooks Running Shoes
- Wider Toe Box
- Exclusively designs running shoes
- Science-driven to accommodate rather than correct gait
Hoka Running Shoes
- Maximal shoe – has the larger sole for stability and smooth ride
- Usually more cushioned
- Some state they run narrow, but compared to other brands like Nike I disagree
- Does have some casual shoes, gym shoes and recovery sandals
I’ve worn both brands and will add some personal thoughts, along with links to detailed reviews. In fact, both brands are in my current shoe rotation.
Additionally, I’ve done a HOKA vs ASICS match up if that’s more helpful.
Brooks vs HOKA ONE ONE Feature Comparison
Both brands have been around for a very long time and are leaders in running shoe design. They both offer various technologies to aid with comfort, support, stability, and cushion. Where they differ most are in the fit.
The following breaks down each shoe based on the components buyers need to consider when purchasing a running shoe.
It’s gonna get a little TECHY…so you can just skip on down to the specific model comparison if you want, but personally if I’m shelling out $150 for shoes, I kinda want to know why.
The lifespan of shoes from both companies is fairly comparable.
- Brooks shoes have a life expectancy ranging from 300 to 500 miles, or three to six months, depending on your monthly mileage.
- HOKA is often reported to last longer. I don’t know if this is more trail runners and thus less hard surfaces which extends the life of the shoe or simply their maximal design.
Determining when to replace running shoes, of course, all depends on your gait, weight, and whether you run mostly on trail or road.
Brooks shoes have a wider toe box, which makes them a great choice for runners with wide feet or bunions. The brand recommends that buyers go up a half size from their everyday shoe.
HOKA shoes run true to size from my testing. Some models are definitely a little more narrow than others, as with most brands. In fact, they have been working on increasing the toebox in newer models.
They also have a shoe finder quiz to help you get in to the right model.
Brooks uses two types of cushioning in their designs:
- DNA LOFT – Soft cushioning, that adapts to a runner’s profile, stride, and speed
- BioMoGo DNA – also adapts to runner’s profile, stride, and speed, providing a more balanced experience with a bit of spring.
HOKA likes to say they provide marshmallow softness. More technically PROFLY.
I’m going to admit that I was really skeptical of HOKA at the start because I assumed all that cushion would make it heavy. It turned out I was wrong and instead have been running in them since of their very first shoes.
- They have 3 levels of cushion, which is important because plush isn’t what you want on all runs
- Cushion that provides both a good landing and plenty of stability for push off
- Hubble Heel – their newest shoes with a longer heel which is supposed to improve heel to toe transition
Brooks refers to individual running gaits as the “Run Signature.” Rather than “fix” the way someone runs, Brooks technology helps to stabilize your stride based on how you naturally run.
They put runners into two different categories: Neutral and Support.
Brooks GuideRails technology allows hips, knees, and joints to move naturally, offering support when needed. Neutral runners may only require them to kick in when their stride is off.
HOKA was designed entirely with stability in mind. It was a core foundation of their shoes because it allows runners to move quicker with less risk of injury. This is why they created a wide stable platform.
In fact, they call their heel system the “bucket seat”, like the seat of a race car. It cushions the heel and foot without posts or guide rails — this means the midsole remains more cushioned.
Overview of heel to toe drop and type of cushion in most shoe brands.
The prices between the two brands are fairly comparable. Brooks prices range between $100 to $160, while HOKA’s start at a slightly higher price at $120 to $250.
The most popular models for Brooks are around $150 and for HOKA also around $150. Specialty items with more features are want increase price.
You’ll notice that every brand offers a range and this is indeed due to a difference in technology and where they sell the shoe. They know that the big box store can sell the shoe with less in it, while the local running store needs to be best for dedicated runners.
HOKA Vs Brooks Models
Now that you know more about each brand, let’s look at their top models in each of the main categories. There’s no winner declared here because all are great shoes, it’s just about which one is best for your foot.
With each of these, they are the top models so numbers are constantly changing as they make a little upgrade and it becomes the Glycerin 27 or the Bondi 7.
Stability Running Shoe
The brand’s most popular road running shoe (GTS stands for go-to-shoe) just turned 20 and comes in a swath of colors. This supportive shoe is best for a medium to high arch, and is part of the cushion line.
This was one of the very FIRST shoes that I bought at a running store! I thought it was so incredibly cool my name was on the shoe…ha!!! But yes they were super duper bright white (as you’ll see below).
As noted all Hokas are designed with more stability than many brands, but these are considered maximum stability. But they provide stability without feeling rigid, a probably many runners have with other shoes.
It’s still cushioned, only 5mm heel toe drop and 10oz.
Neutral Running Shoe
The Ghost offers smooth transitions and soft cushioning for road running and is best for those seeking neutral support. Runners’ World has awarded this shoe several Editor’s Choice Awards.
I personally was so intrigued by those awards that I snagged myself a pair last year and they are nearing the end of their life, but have served me very, very well.
The other similar shoe I’ve used is the Brooks Levitate and you can see my full review here.
The Clifton was their first model and I actually got to run in version 1, 2 and 6! It’s their trademark shoe and a great one for any runner who wants cushion and to test out a maximal shoe.
At just 7 oz you’ll be shocked how much cushion in provides. It’s cushioned without being too soft, so it’s still responsive.
Cushioned Running Shoe
The plushiest model in the Brooks line features plenty of DNA Loft foam, plus the Ortholite sock liner. Despite all the cushion, the shoe remains fairly light at 9 oz and has a 10mm heel drop, encouraging speed and comfort.
If you want to feel like your feet are running on actual pillows…this is it. The most cushioned shoe I’ve tried in over 26,000 miles of running. It’s a heavenly shoe for recovery days.
Important for most runners to know a shoe this cushioned isn’t ideal for all runs. You can easily start to sink in to your low back and lose a little speed without that spring off the ground.
More About Brooks
Believe it or not, Brooks started out in 1914 making ballet slippers and bathing shoes. Since then, they have made everything from baseball and football cleats to roller skates.
It wasn’t until Frank Shorter won the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics that Brooks considered limiting its focus. The first running shoe debuted in 1974 and their most popular running shoe, the Adrenaline GTS first hit the market in 1999.
In 2001, Brooks decided to focus solely on running.
They introduced the Transcend in 2013, a shoe that used new biomechanics technology to create a GuideRails technology, allowing runners to run naturally without trying to correct their gait.
The Seattle-based company is also well known for its commitment to sustainability and giving back. Brooks donates time, gear, and money to companies that align with their values around diversity, equity, and inclusion and staff receive paid annual volunteer time.
Your gait and feet will likely change over time and you may need to change shoes.
This is also why I recommend rotating through several pairs of shoes at once.
And remember, just because these are two of the most well known brands on the market, there are still plenty of other shoe brands to select from if neither Brooks nor HOKA has the right shoe for you.
Keep in mind that shoe design can change, even with the same model, so always assess how the shoe fits every time you replace a pair.
More about HOKA ONE ONE
Let’s start with how do you pronounce Hoka One One? “Ho-Kah O-nay O-nay” which is a Māori phrase that means “to fly over the earth.”
But they’re kind of like Madonna and just need one name: Hoka.
Founded by two mountain trail runners in the Swiss Alps, Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, former Salomon employees, had an epiphany during their training that lead to the foundation of a new shoe and new company in 2009.
This makes them a mere baby in the world of running shoes, as many of the brands from Brooks to ASICS have been around 100+ years now. Pictured here is their first prototype.
At first they simply wanted a shoe that would allow them to run downhill faster and thus win!
Quickly they realized there was something more here with a smooth, super light, cushioned and stable shoe. Their maximal design took many of by surprise in a time where Zero Drop and Barefoot running were the in thing.
In 202o, the company was purchased by Deckers (owners of UGG and Teva). Hopefully that just means more marketing to keep the shoes going and not a change to what their doing right.
For more help selecting the right shoe for you, don’t worry, I’ve got you:
- Best Trail Running Shoes
- Top 5 Marathon Running Shoes
- Skechers Running Shoes review (you might be surprised!)
- Best Running Shoes
- Minimal or Maximal Running Shoes: Which is Right for You?
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