Hoka One One Athletes and Retailers Reveal What Made It Brand of the Year in 2021

On Nov. 30, Hoka One One will be honored as Brand of the Year at the 35th annual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Nov. 29 print issue featuring comments from key retail partners and athletes about what makes the sneaker label stand out in a crowded category.

Jeff Espersen
GM & chief merchant, Zappos

“Hoka designs shoes not for a single activity, but for a multitude. They know that customers want to get max results from their purchase and be able to take a single pair of shoes on a run, a walk and even a hike. Hoka is always innovating and open to trying new technologies, which keeps them on the cutting edge of sneaker culture. Another of the brand’s cool and distinctive attributes is that they listen and deliver on what they’re hearing from customers. People are looking for more unisex color options, which have historically not been prevalent in athletic shoes, and Hoka is answering their call.”

Luis Grijalva
Olympic long-distance runner

“Hoka’s lightweight, cushioned feel and durability keep your legs fresh both during the run and after. The cushion and responsiveness of the shoes allow me to run more miles without the miles taking much of a toll on my body. I made the [Tokyo] Olympics final in the 5,000 meter [event], placing 12th and setting a new PR of 13:10 in hot and humid conditions while wearing the Hoka uniform on the biggest stage of track and field.”

Luis Grijalva Hoka Tokyo Olympics
Luis Grijalva (far left) competes in a men’s 5,000-meter heat at the Tokyo Olympics.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Kris Hartner
Owner, Naperville Running Co.

“When we got an early sample of the shoes, the concept just didn’t seem logical. We were told they were for downhill running, and a big thick sole seemed like the opposite of what you’d need. But then we had all of these people who, thanks to Hoka’s shoes, could suddenly run again after a long time due to things like joint issues. All that extra cushioning underfoot helps our customers run better, recover quicker, and have fewer injuries. Now, especially as Hoka has continued to improve the colors and styling of the shoes, it’s just gone crazy. We can’t get enough of them.”

Aliphine Tuliamuk
Olympic marathoner

“Most Hoka shoes have lots of cushioning and are pretty lightweight, and this is important for me as a marathoner because I do a lot of running on pavement to prepare for races. Hoka’s new technology, combined with high cushion, definitely contributes to my performances at a higher level. The Rocket X is my go-to shoe for racing because that’s what won the [2020] Olympic trials for me. I wear the Clifton 8 for training and most long workouts.”

Aliphine Tuliamuk
Aliphine Tuliamuk.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Hoka One One

Tacey Powers
EVP & GMM, Nordstrom

“Hoka has really shaken up the traditional approach to running shoes. Not only have they made color relevant and understandable in a market that was known for black and white, but they are leading the tech market. They created the ‘visual comfort’ trend, and it’s been amazing to see how quickly our customer has adapted to Hoka’s unique point of view. They’ve also been very thoughtful with their customer-first strategy of offering differentiated pillars for all types of athletes.”

Rick Ravel
President, Karavel Shoe Stores

“Hoka has become our second-biggest brand and will probably overtake New Balance this year because of the supply issues. Initially, our typical customer was 55 and up, but now we get all ages and everyone from runners to walkers. Customers love the fit and lightweight [construction] of the shoes.”

Hoka One One Clifton 8
Hoka One One revealed the highly anticipated Clifton 8 road running shoe in May.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Hoka One One

Jim Walmsley
Ultra-trail runner, 2021 Western States 100 champion

“Hoka shoes always combine light weight and cushioning to provide that gliding sensation — which is exactly what I need to run ultramarathon distances fast. Combine that with Vibram rubber in the trail shoes, and you can do anything in these shoes. While wearing Hokas, I set ultramarathon course records all over the world including the Tarawera and the Western States 100. I won a world championship trail race in 2019 in Argentina, and I set American and world records on the roads in the 50-mile and 100-kilometer distances.”

Lester Wasserman
Owner, Tip Top Shoes & West NYC

“I first discovered Hoka in 2013, when I was running the Boston Marathon. From the minute I laid eyes on them, I knew there was something big there. Although minimalism was trending at the time, these shoes — with the exaggerated rocker bottom — made a lot of sense for the running community. I also saw a tremendous opportunity for athletic walking. Since then, Hoka has become synonymous with max cushioning. They truly own that business and that look.”

For 35 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards ­— often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2021 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide.

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