The Hoka OneOne Bondi – what makes this running shoe so different?

For Australian runners, the Bondi B/ Bondi Low/ Bondi Speed/ Bondi 2/ Bondi 3 in all its incarnations has been the shoe that grabbed so much attention when Hoka first came to Australia back in 2011, the shoe that most users of Hoka OneOne running gear will have at least one pair of, and that probably offers the clearest first experience to new wearers of what Hoka OneOne means.

See the grey ones in the middle – that was my first pair of Bondi Bs! It kind of gets me emotional, and then I just feel grateful for the new colour schemes 🙂 Click on the picture for my first ever writeup of the Bondi B as well.

The Hoka OneOne Bondi puts 24.5mm of superlight cushioning under the forefoot, 29mm under the heel, and in the latest model – the Bondi 3 – it weighs in at 315g in a US8.5 men’s model and 267g in a US6.5W women’s model. You couldn’t possibly fit that much marshmallow under someone’s foot without tripling the weight of the shoe, but running on marshmallows is one of the most typical ways we hear new Hoka runners describe the feeling of the Bondi. Running on clouds, running on a trampoline, running on pillows – these are also common ways for runners to describe their first experience of the Bondi.

Fast forward 3 years, and the Bondi is a very advanced new animal with the same classic midsole and a number of champion endurance athletes singing its praises. #toldyouso

When you strap the Bondi to tired legs, or when you’re deep into a half-marathon or full marathon with less fatigue than you might be used to, suddenly the shoes weigh next to nothing and those clouds you’re running on feel like they’re racing toward the horizon. That, of course, is subjective. (I do of course work for Hoka OneOne Australia, so you’re right to question my objectivity, but I was running in the shoe before I was working with the brand and would estimate that I have put at least 6,000km into the Bondi alone over the last 3 years. Why run so far in a particular model unless you love it? Why would it be my half-marathon & marathon PB shoe and my likely shoe of choice for a 250km road run in Japan in April unless it consistently backs up all these nice words with supreme on-road performance and comfort? Just saying! But let’s get back to the review and comparison – RH).

So let’s look at the technical jargon and see what it means, then consider some comparisons with other Hoka models, and consider some pretty popular questions about the shoe.

The Catalogue Says:

The BONDI features an oversized HOKA ONE ONE proprietary (HIP) CMEVA midsole providing unmatched combination of high performance cushioning, lower heel drop offset, with an inherently stable ride.   An early stage Meta-Rocker helps increase economy of running performance and an accurate foot roll through the gait cycle.  A layered and highly breathable upper construction provides a secure fit.   An ideal shoe for runners looking for a ULTRA Lightweight, Stable, and performance cushion running shoe.

What This Means:

It’s a pretty clear description of the shoe but to clarify a couple of terms to help the interested runner/ triathlete/ walker better understand, it’s worth knowing that:

  • CMEVA means Compression Moulded Ethylene Vinyl-acetate. EVA is the foam that the midsole is made of, and Hoka’s compression moulded EVA is exceptionally soft, light, and resilient. Compression moulding is the production process factories use to produce soft foams, like those found in Hoka and generally to a lesser degree in a wide range of other makes of running shoe. IMEVA means that the foam in a shoe’s midsole has been produced by injection moulding. This generally results in a firmer, higher rebound material, like that in the midsole of the Rapa Nui 2 and Kailua Trail and Tarmac models.

Rachel McBride, Canadian pro triathlete kicking serious butt in her Bondi for a 78-min half-marathon on the way to her win at the 2013 Subaru Vancouver 70.3

  • Stability no longer means what it used to. Stability and Control were two ways of saying that a shoe was a supportive model for people who tend to collapse through their arches, ankles and even knees when they walk or run. Shoe design tended toward wedging a mound of plastic, glue, rubber, and more EVA under the arch of the user’s foot in an effort to ‘correct’ this motion. However, when Hoka says ‘stable’ we mean ‘stable’, in the same way you might make sure that your table is stable, rather than wobbling. All Hoka OneOne models are designed neutral, with a cradle (aka the bucket seat) that holds, protects, and responds to your foot’s natural motion. Coupled with an oversized outsole that works to prevent instability, the deep-set cradle which holds your foot in the Bondi and Hoka’s other supercushioned models combine to spare you unnecessary motion as you roll through your run. It might look like you’re on top of a platform, but you’re actually gently embraced by that ‘platform’ and, hence, stable.

Bondi midsole on the left, Stinson on the right. Both clearly showing the one-piece sole assembly and the sidewall/ cradle/ bucket seat design which holds the foot so comfortably and responds to the foot’s motion so intuitively on the run.

  • And, of course, the Meta-Rocker. The Meta-Rocker gets its name from the fact that it is positioned under your metatarsals and because of the efficient thickness of the Hoka sole there is enough material at the end of your leg to produce a nicely rounded rocker under the forefoot. How much material? 1.8 times the typical volume of EVA in a standard running shoe. 

    A fair comparison of the radically different volume of a Hoka Bondi midsole to a more traditional running shoe.

    The Meta-Rocker under the forefoot on the Bondi – indeed, many things about the Bondi – produces a relaxed feel. Treating your foot as the end of a radius that begins near your hip, the rocker produces an efficient rolling transition from landing to takeoff that feels very natural. In the Bondi, with its more relaxed feel, the Meta-Rocker is less aggressive than, say, the Stinson Tarmac, where the Meta-Rocker is set to take you immediately into your next stride the moment that your ground contact approaches the midfoot.

    The Hoka Meta-Rocker. Note also the rocker at the heel. Both are an essential design feature to produce a smooth and more efficient run.

Who is the Bondi 3 for?

EVERYBODY! Well, not necessarily everybody BUT we generally recommend Hoka OneOne for anyone who loves running, and anyone who hates running.

Ironman World Chamion from the late '80s, Scott Molina, pumping it out at Ironman New Zealand 2014. He sometimes credits the shoe for his ability to keep running the long stuff. We just think he's a hardcore legend.

Ironman World Chamion from the late ’80s, Scott Molina, pumping it out at Ironman New Zealand 2014. He sometimes credits the shoe for his ability to keep running the long stuff. We just think he’s a hardcore legend.

Why? Because if you love running we hope this shoe will help you do more of it, and if you hate running then the Bondi might really help you hate it less. A number of people have to run simply as cardio support for their main sports, like bodybuilding, tennis, and football. When they get into a shoe that helps protect them from the potentially damaging impacts of road and pavement running, their eyes tend to light up, just enough to make us hope that one day they will love running too.

If, as is more often the case, you neither love running nor hate running, but a light, comfortable running shoe that takes a lot of the impact out of your weekly training or next long race makes sense, then you should get to a stockist and try out the Bondi as well as some of the other models from Hoka OneOne, and even from other running shoe brands just to see what feels best for you. When you’re in there and you’re trying on a Hoka, especially the Bondi 3, please ask yourself, “Have I ever felt a running shoe that works like this before?”. We’re pretty confident what your answer will be.

As much as they’re good for weekday cruising, you should also feel free to take your Bondi out for fast runs too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What surface is the Bondi for? Designed and generally used as a road shoe, the Bondi 3 was also adopted by a wide variety of trail runners doing both moderate and extreme distances. For many, the idea of running trail in a shoe that is more interested in feeling good than in feeling the ground did not make sense. But for many who just wanted to run, and run, and run, the Bondi was a revelation. Most trailrunners will use the Bondi for packed firetrails, big downhill adventures, and gravel roads. But the even more adventurous runners who have adopted the Bondi as their main trail shoe have found that the thick, soft, protective sole also moulds around and races across rubble, rocky outcrops, and other tricky Australian terrain quite nicely. Epic mud, clay, and steep loose surfaces generally justify reaching for something with a bit more lug on it though (like the Stinson Trail or Rapa Nui 2 Trail).

Meltzer running the smooth pavements of Zion National Park in his Bondi B

What’s this wear on my outsole? Part of the Bondi’s extreme lightness comes from Hoka’s advanced EVA and also from carefully chosen materials for the upper construction, but the materials chosen for the outsole also play their part. The front outsole panel, under the forefoot, is a durable rubber with a grippy tread carved with shapes almost like animal pawprints. I have seen this tread pattern still clearly visible on Bondi with over 1,500 and even over 2,000km on them. But the panel behind this, the outsole panel under the midfoot, features a hexagonal tread that will begin to disappear over the first 100km of wear. Why? Because this panel is a blown rubber. Blown rubber is light. The way that these hexagons wear down will give you a clear indication of how you’re striking the ground, whether you’re rolling through or diagonally across or even up the side of your midfoot. Once they flatten out, the remaining panel of flattened blown rubber will continue to function as intended across a variety of surfaces and almost invariably will do so for the life of the shoe.

The Bondi from Hoka OneOne really has turned the conversation about running on its head.

How many kilometres? At the end of the day, there is no value at all in putting a suggested mileage on a running shoe. A 200kg man with no formal running background will put very different wear on a shoe than a 48kg woman with a history of track and field. Interestingly also, surface makes a big difference. Running one the side of the road, where there is camber, will wear shoes differently and generally faster than running on flat pavement. But running on flat pavement in the middle of the day once it is sunbaked will potentially wear a shoe faster than running on the side of the road in the morning. In most cases, the runners that we talk to get similar mileage, if not more, from their Hoka OneOne as they do from their previous set of trainers. Will this be the case for everybody? No, because everyone runs differently.

Yeah, I’ve seen thes – MBTs, right? No. No, no, no. No. This question was common in the early days when there was no other fram of reference for a shoe with a rocker bottom sole. The MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) was/is a rocker shoe. But their function is in many ways as an instability platform, constantly firing people’s leg muscles to keep them standing properly. The Hoka design with its oversize midsole means the shoe is actually a stability platform, sparing as much unnecessary muscle-firing as possible.

And Finally, Some Comparisons.

Probably the most asked question that we hear at triathlons is, “what’s the difference between the Stinson Tarmac and the Bondi?”. There are a number of technical answers to that question, relating to the shape of the flexion grooves in the midsoles, the choices of outsole materials, the fabrics used in the upper and the way they’re assembled BUT the answers of greatest value to you, the potential user are these:

Stinson Tarmac 2014, grrrrrrrrrr

Bondi 3 will be a better fit for the runner with a higher volume foot, while the more slender-footed runner will likely find themselves more at home in a Stinson Tarmac. Its upper fits more closely against the foot and spreads over the first few days of wear, whereas with its extreme endurance running background, the Bondi has a roomy toebox to allow freer movement, greater airflow, and even accommodate some of the foot swell that typically happens to ultramarathon runners.

The Bondi 3 is a more relaxed feel, while the Stinson Tarmac is more aggressive. The Meta-Rocker on the Bondi gives you a ride like a Cadillac, big and well suspended, whereas the Stinson Tarmac’s more dynamic roll prefers to surge forward, like a well-tuned muscle car. Roads, speed, competitive behaviour – this was all going to arrive at a car analogy sometime!

Both offer maximal cushioning, both are designed to go long and love it, and which ever feels better on you will probably be the better choice for you.

So what about the Conquest – how does it compare to the Bondi? The short answer is, “It’s different,” but the long answer is much more helpful and we’ll take a look at this exciting new option from Hoka OneOne next week.

Please ask any questions you might have here on the blog and we’ll get to them within 24 hours but generally same day.

5 Responses to The Hoka OneOne Bondi – what makes this running shoe so different?

  1. Miki says:

    What are the main differences between the Bondi 3 and the Bondi Speed?

    • hokaau says:

      The Bondi Speed was called the Speed because it had a speed lace. The tongue was different to shed water better for triathletes but otherwise it was the same shoe. Now that all Bondi 3 come with a speedlace, there’s no more Bondi Speed for now, just lots of Bondi!

      • Blair says:

        Personally, When I get my new bondis, I get rid of the speed lace and put the standard lace straight in. I find it a better fit. But I’m not jumping off a bike before running.

  2. Philippe says:

    Hi and thanks for a good review of the Bondi and the comparison with the Stinson Tarmac. I bought a pair of Bondi-B in December and within 3 weeks, after some 300km, the uppers were knackered – holes though the toewalls and shredded at the base of the big toe. As a Hoka fan, with several ultra-trails using Mafate, while the Bondi’s were super-comfortable on the road, they simply did not last – is this a manufacture / design error? Thanks for your advice.

    • hokaau says:

      Hi Philippe, that shouldn’t have happened as the majority of the 2s lasted significantly longer. You need to contact the store where your bought your Bondi Bs or the Hoka distributor for your region depending what country you’re writing from. They will want to look at your shoes to see what has happened.

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