Hoka Hupana Review

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The Hoka Hupana is not your stereotypical Hoka. While it has the thick sole that Hoka are renowned for, its use of RMAT foam makes it much firmer than the awesome Hoka Clifton. Unlike many other Hoka shoes which are styled to look like their sole is even thicker than it really is, the Hupana disguises this thickness visually. The upside of using RMAT foam is that it lasts much longer than traditional EVA foam found in the vast majority of running shoes. Like most running shoes, and all the Hoka's to date, the Hupana has a horrible toe box that restricts toe movement. The upper of the Hupana is unusually thick and stiff, as well as somewhat abrasive. I've rated the Hupana as "Recommended", mostly because I think it's longevity is likely to reduce the cost per mile quite a bit. (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 Hupana top
Hoka Hupana bottom
Hoka Hupana inside
Hoka Hupana outside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Hupana is not cushioned like a classic Hoka; The Hoka Clifton weighs nearly exactly the same as the Hupana, but the Clifton is vastly softer. These classic Hoka shoes have massive, pillowy soft midsoles that not everyone liked, but became a big favorite with ultrarunners. The Hupana is more like another recent Hoka, the Tracer, with moderate cushioning and a relatively light weight. Both the Hupana and Traer have similar cushioning, though the Tracer is 1.5oz lighter. The big difference between the Hupana and the Tracer is the type of foam used in the midsole. The Tracer is like the vast majority of shoes on the market, and uses EVA foam. This is the popular choice for midsole foam because it provides great cushioning for its weight. The downside to EVA foam is that it breaks down remarkably quickly. The Hupana on the other hand uses RMAT, which is a foam with higher density but much greater resilience. I see the Hupana as a competitor to the Saucony Freedom which uses TPU foam. Both TPU and RMAT produce a heavier shoe for a given amount of cushioning, but the cushioning lasts for many more miles when compared with traditional EVA foam. The early versions of RMAT were far too heavy and firm, but the Hupana suggests that this material is coming-of-age. Running with the Hupana on one foot and the Freedom on the other, the shoes feel surprisingly similar, and the Hupana is noticeably lighter. One interesting cosmetic oddity of the Hupana is that Hoka have painted the uppermost part of the foam midsole to match the upper, giving the visual appearance of a more traditional running shoe with a thinner midsole. While EVA foam can take a few miles to warm up and soften, this seems rather more noticeable in the Hupana.
  • Drop. The Hupana has about a 7mm drop which is rather more than I'd like. Not only does the increased drop make it more likely that I will land more towards my heel, but it produces a shoe with a lot more cushioning on the heel than the forefoot.
  • Structure. This shoe is made of a single type of foam without any attempts to manipulate running form.
  • Flexibility. The Hupana is somewhat inflexible, but there is a nice degree of springiness rather than simple rigidity.
  • Outsole. The Hupana is all exposed foam, with no harder rubber outsole. The idea here is that the RMAT is hard wearing enough that the hard outsole is not needed. In the first hundred miles of testing, I've seen no indications of abrasion at all. In the first hundred miles of testing, I've seen no indications of abrasion at all. In the pictures below you can still see the very faint pattern that was imprinted into the foam. This is quite remarkable, as I'd normally see more wear on a hard rubber outsole than I'm seeing on the shoes exposed RMAT. The RMAT foam has good grip on most surfaces, even in the wet.
The forefoot of the Hupana, enhanced to show the original pattern and the wear.
The heel of the Hupana, similarly enhanced.
  • Shape. The Hupana has the typical Hoka shape, which includes a horribly constricted toe box. This is a common problem in many running shoes, and I'd recommend [Shoe Dissection| cutting open the toe box]]. (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 Hupana upper is rather strange. It's far thicker than any running shoes that I can recall, and this is reflected in a noticeable lack of breathability. Even though I've cut open the toe box, and I'm running in freezing temperatures, I'm still noticing the lack of breathability. The upper is so thick, I found that I need to completely cut away the toe box rather than leaving a flap in place. The material is rather more abrasive than many other running shoes, so I wouldn't consider running into them without socks. The upper is unpadded except for a moderate amount of foam around the ankle opening.
    The upper of the Hupana with a light inside to show the breathability (or lack thereof.)
  • Tongue. The Hupana has a classic tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper. The tongue has a moderate amount of soft padding and I found it to be comfortable and stay in place.
  • Lacing. The Hupana uses flat laces which stay tied.
  • Heel Counter. The Hupana has only a typical Heel Counter, and while it didn't cause me a problem, I much prefer shoes that do without this waste of material and weight.
helping-hand.jpg

2 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 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
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 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 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 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
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 6
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 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
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 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

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, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.