The benefits of the plush ride can't be ignored. Extremely popular with marathoners and IRONMAN triathletes, these athletes swear the extra centimeters of cushion combat fatigue and training wear and tear.
"We aren't necessarily running on surfaces found in nature," Merber says. "When you go for a 26.2-mile run on roads, it requires some technology to combat that amount of pounding."
Athletes have also reported less soreness and tendon issues after switching from minimalist shoes to maximalist; most never look back.
But maximalist shoes aren't just for pros and competitive athletes. Anyone from a novice 5K runner to an ultrarunner can enjoy the benefits of extra cushioning.
"New runners are constantly battling little injuries like shin splints and knee injuries, and having extra cushion can really make a difference," Merber says. "For new runners who aren't as efficient as someone more experienced, using a shoe with more room for error is hard to say no to as your gait is smoothing out."
And the notorious look of the shoe? Maximal shoes don't exactly inspire a fast feeling at first glance the way a sleek pair of minimalist racing flats might. The key is to set skepticism and vanity aside, try them on and run around the block.
"Fashion is tough for anyone making that first leap, but HOKA is being seen on so many more people," Merber says. "The fact they look bulky is no longer as crazy because everyone you see out there now is wearing more cushion in their shoes because they realize the benefits."
So is maximal running the new minimal running? Not exactly. It's certainly grown in a similarly sharp trajectory, but unlike the minimal trend, maximalism is here to stay.
"I think as more and more people have tried it, they've realized it works so it's proving its merit in the marketplace," Merber says. "I only see that growth continuing because once you try it, the experience is unlike anything else.
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