Hoka Bondi 4 Review

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The Bondi was my favorite of the Hoka range for some time. Then the Altra Olympus, came along, and was a 'better Bondi' because it's shaped for the human foot. After that the Hoka Clifton came along and produced Maximalist cushioning at a remarkably light weight. I've found that the Original Bondi B, the Bondi 2, 3, 4, and Bondi Speed are all remarkably similar. The Bondi has a horribly small toe box, but once its cut open the shoe works quite well. The Bondi has a reasonable balance of soft cushioning and weight, but has been surpassed by the Clifton. In fact, running with a Clifton on one foot and a Bondi on the other proved to me how close the two shoes feel, except for the weight. The Bondi is not available as a trail specific version, but I've found it works pretty well on most trails, though it lacks the lugs for slick, muddy tails. I've rated it as "Highly Recommended." (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Hoka Bondi 4 top
Hoka Bondi 4 bottom
Hoka Bondi 4 inside
Hoka Bondi 4 outside
Hoka Bondi B top
Hoka Bondi B bottom (you can see the wear that occurred rapidly at Badwater.)
Hoka Bondi B inside
Hoka Bondi B outside

1 Characteristics

These characteristics apply to all of the Bondi range of shoes unless otherwise noted.

  • Why you'd buy it. Probably the only reason to get a Bondi now would be if you can get it far cheaper than the Altra Olympus or Hoka Clifton, unless the slight increase in cushioning over the Clifton is critical to you.
  • Cushioning. The Bondi is one of the best cushioned shoes available, and is slightly softer than the Altra Olympus. While it's not as thick as it looks on the outside, it is much thicker than a traditional running shoe. The latest incarnations of the Bondi, the Hoka Stinson and the Hoka Mafate all have surprisingly similar levels of cushioning.
  • Drop. Sadly the Bondi does not have a zero drop midsole, and the rear is about 5 mm thicker than the front. This is only about half the drop of a traditional running shoe and I typically don't have any issues moving between the Bondi and a zero drop shoe like the Altra. The Bondi has a rather abrupt taper at the very front of the shoe, unlike the Altra Olympus that has a gradual taper. Hoka describe this as a 'Early-Stage Meta-Rocker', a fancy name for putting the taper under the toes. I find this can feels like the Bondi has a lump under my toes, but typically I only notice when I swap shoes late in a long ultra. However, I know of the runners that prefer the Bondi taper. The very rear of the shoe is cut away slightly, creating a little bit of a rocker shape. The midsole does wrap around the lower part of the foot to create some additional stability. This helps overcome some of the problems you get with a thick sole creating a stilt like instability.
  • Structure. This shoe is made of a single type of foam, so there is no variation in foam density within the midsole to interfere with the movement of the foot on the ground.
  • Flexibility. The Bondi does not have much flexibility, though the level of cushioning offsets this a little.
  • Outsole. The Bondi has a variety of materials on the outsole. There is some exposed midsole, some slightly more durable foam, and some durable rubber. While this helps balance durability with the weight it does create some uneven wear over the life of the shoe. In hot conditions I've had problems with the difference in wear levels, with the harder outsole at the extreme front and back of the shoe remaining intact while the softer outsole and exposed midsole wear badly.
  • Shape. The Bondi has the typical Hoka shape, which includes a horribly constricted toe box. The toe box is so bad that I've noticed a distinctive pattern of blisters it causes when I'm working blister repair at aid stations. I believe it is critical to cut open the toe box of any Hokas. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper varies a little with the different models and versions of the Bondi. The earlier versions had a multilayered and complex upper, but the later versions are much simpler. The padding around the ankle opening has become rather thin in the later versions, which reduces the comfort.
  • Tongue. The Bondi has a classic tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper. The tongue has good padding.
  • Lacing. The Bondi Speed and Bondi 3 have a "speed lacing" system that uses fine laces and a locking system, but they include traditional round laces as well. I generally prefer the traditional laces as it can be tricky to get the tension right with the "speed lacing" system. Like many shoes in the Hoka range, the earlier versions had elastic straps that pull the sides together even if the laces are loose, but they were dropped from the Bondi 4. (I always cut these elastic straps off.)
  • Heel counter. The Bondi has a mild heel counter with no strongly defined edges, so it should not cause a problem. The heel counter comes as far up the back of the heel as is normal for a running shoe.
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2 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Hoka Bondi

How Hoka Bondi compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Hoka Bondi compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Hoka Bondi compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Hoka Bondi compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

4 Compared with the Hoka Clifton

The Hoka Clifton seems like it's an evolution of the Bondi, with the two shoes feeling remarkably similar, even when wearing one shoe on each foot. You can think of the Clifton as a Bondi that's lighter, with similar cushioning. The Bondi does have more cushioning in the heel, but I don't think you'll notice unless you're a serious heel striker. I prefer the Clifton and would choose it every time.

Hoka Bondi 4 top
Hoka Bondi 4 bottom
Hoka Bondi 4 inside
Hoka Bondi 4 outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside

5 Compared with Altra Olympus

The Altra Olympus is a competitor for the Hoka range, and I believe it represents a much better shoe. The Olympus has a slightly thinner sole, but its toe box is shaped for the human foot, and it's zero drop. Overall, I prefer the Olympus to the Bondi.

Hoka Bondi 4 top
Hoka Bondi 4 bottom
Hoka Bondi 4 inside
Hoka Bondi 4 outside
Altra Olympus top
Altra Olympus bottom
Altra Olympus inside
Altra Olympus outside

6 Compared with Hoka Stinson Lite

The Hoka Stinson has become closer to the Bondi as it's evolved. The latest version of the Stinson Lite has remarkably similar levels of weight, cushioning and comfort. There is a slight difference to the midsole shape between the shoes. The Stinson has a little more drop, but a less abrupt taper under the toes. Hoka refer to this as the early or late meta-rocker, but even when I run with one shoe on each foot, the difference is slight. It's not clear to me why Hoka would produce two shoes that are this close, but the outsole on the Stinson Lite is better than the Bondi, making it a slightly better shoe.

Hoka Bondi 4 top
Hoka Bondi 4 bottom
Hoka Bondi 4 inside
Hoka Bondi 4 outside
Hoka Stinson Lite top
Hoka Stinson Lite bottom
Hoka Stinson Lite inside
Hoka Stinson Lite outside

7 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review Bionic Highly Recommended $95 6.4 7.0 10.9 15 18 2 4.5 9
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 11 11 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
New Balance 980 Review NB 980 Worth considering $110 4.6 10.1 15.7 21 30 5 4.6 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Brooks Transcend 2 Review Transcend Recommended $170 5.1 12.6 19.6 30 36 6 6.5 4
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.