HISTORY OF HOKA, THE BOULDER RUNNING COMPANY & HALBERSTADT
THE BOULDER RUNNING COMPANY AND THE HOKA BONDI
Behind every running shoe there is usually a tale to tell. And the HOKA ONE ONE Bondi, the first road running shoe HOKA released back in 2011, is no exception.
What many might not know is HOKA and the Boulder Running Company, one of the amazing local Colorado stores in the JackRabbit family, go back a long way. They’re the kind of pals you’d see sitting sharing a beer after a long run and talking about old times.
MEETING HOKA ONE ONE FOR THE FIRST TIME
Back in 2009, Nico Mermoud, a Frenchman with a vision, walks into The Running Event, a running industry gathering wearing the first HOKA prototype. It was the most maximalist shoe anyone had ever seen. It stood out like a neon sign in a time when minimalist running shoes were all the rage.
The impact was impressive – it was bold in color and bold in cushion – and caught the eye of the Mark Plaatjes and Johnny Halberstadt, co-owners of the Boulder Running Company, who literally took the shoes off Nico’s feet and took them for a test run.
Unlike anything they’d run in before, the cushion level in such a lightweight package was unheard of; a completely new concept for trail runners. The possibilities this cushion/weight combination opened up was a game-changing moment.
HOKA ONE ONE: A NEW VISION IN RUNNING SHOES
Inspired by a variety of sports and the lure of the trail running community, Nicoand his co-founder Jean-Luc Diard,both with a background in the outdoor sports industry – took cues from technological and design advancements in running and a variety of other sports like skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, golf and tennis.
Just as mountain bike wheels, fat powder skis, oversized tennis racquets, and jumbo-sized golf club heads have increased power, performance, efficiency, agility and self-expression, the unique design of HOKA shoes shattered any preconceived limits of running.
The first shoe the BRC family saw at that running show was the Mafate, a ridiculously light trail running shoe built for long runs and speed downhill.
PUTTING YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
When the Halberstadts (father and son team Johnny and Jason) saw the value in this unique, new running proposition, they put their heads together, sat down with Nico and came up with a plan to help launch the first HOKA shoe into the US market.
Literally, this meant putting their own skin in the game and taking a risk on bringing this very, very different shoe into The Boulder Running Company store in quantities that showed their commitment to making it work and their belief in the concept.
And the rest, you might say, is history.
The close-knit crew at the Boulder Running Company that tried the shoes were soon themselves running up the Boulder foothills in their new found ‘bff’s. They started to excitedly spread the word to the local Boulder running community, encouraging them to give these ground-breaking shoes a try.
The proof of any running is shoe is how it works for the runner, and the runners jumped on the bandwagon and so the HOKA story began.
HOKA: FROM TRAIL TO ROAD
From this humble beginning with an oversized trail shoe, the team knew that road running was the next logical step for the HOKA ONE ONE story. And so with all hands in the game, the first reiteration of the Bondi was born – with the same roots as the original Mafate but adapted for the demands of those who choose and/or have to pound the pavement.
The Bondi was a massive success and they started flying off the shelves and online quickly. At one point the Boulder Running Company was making up approximately 75% of global sales of the HOKA brand. ‘Those were good times!” comments Jason Halberstadt, who now works for the HOKA ONE ONE brand.
HALBERSTADT TALKS HOKA ONE ONE
But don’t just take our word for it! Watch this video chat from Johnny Halberstadt – original co-founder of the Boulder Running Company and former pro-runner from South Africa – as he talks about HOKA and why he believes every runner should try a pair at some point during their running journey.
We couldn’t agree more.
HOKA ONE ONE BONDI 6
Check out the JackRabbit review of the latest release of the HOKA Bondi to learn what’s new and what you need to know about adding the Bondi into your running shoe rotation.
From its humble roots in the mountains of France and Boulder foothills, the Bondi has become a perennial for runners worldwide. And we can all drink a beer to that.