The HOKA Bondi 7 is in for the long haul. Endurance athlete, Lori Pacheco has taken every version of the HOKA Bondi with her over the course of her Ironman career. She shares her unique perspective on how the HOKA Bondi has evolved and what the 7th edition has to offer.
by Lori Pacheco
I am an early adopter of HOKA ONE ONE shoes; I remember purchasing the very first Bondi available. At the time it was a unisex model (I know, right?!) In that era of minimalist, zero-drop shoes, my body was feeling old(er) and battered, so was really interested in a shoe that would provide extreme cushioning but with zero or close-to-zero drop.
The Bondi fit the bill.
My first impression back then was, “Man, these shoes are ugly and make my feet look huge, but it’s like running on marshmallows!” Remember this was an era when minimal was in and HOKA stormed in with these – in comparison – enormous looking shoes!
Fast forward to 2020, I’m now on my 7th pair of Bondi’s. You could say, in the world of running shoes, we’re into a long term relationship.
I have mixed a few other shoes in the past couple of years, including HOKA Clifton 5, Saucony Ride ISO and New Balance trail shoes. But I remain a faithful Bondi user for the vast majority of training and long course triathlon miles.
I’ve worn a Bondi model for my last 7 Ironman races and a few half-marathons and 70.3 races.
WHAT’S NEW FOR THE BONDI 7
The HOKA Bondi 7 pairs the maximum cushioning you expect with a 4 mm drop. The sole on this model is still the nice cushioned ride, but the responsiveness feels like a BIG upgrade.
The sole is a little more structured, a little stiffer, and feels a little quicker off the pavement than previous models. There is less of the sense of energy loss that comes with the running on marshmallow feeling that came from those first editions. A great improvement!
The early stage meta-rocker delivers a very smooth and comfortable stride. It feels as though it makes my stride a little more efficient, and reduces my tendency to heel strike, which may also help it be easier on the hips and knees.
The rubber areas of the sole provides additional structure and firmness. For those with longer toes like me, the inflection point is behind the first metatarsal which is critical for avoiding turf toe.
This is by far the best and most supportive mid-sole design for my long toes of any shoe I’ve worn in the past decade.
The upper is very breathable. There was no sensation of overly hot feet, even running in 95 degrees days; my only option for wear-testing!
HOKA’s information states that these have a wide toe box. It may be wider than the Bondi 6. For me, the shape of the upper does appear to be a little narrower than models 5 and earlier, particularly at the ball of the foot.
Since I have a long, fairly narrow foot, it’s an almost perfect fit for me. There’s no need to tie the laces extra tight to keep the foot stable. The shape of the shoe holds the forefoot firmly and comfortably in place.
WHO’S IT BEST FOR?
Don’t let my ‘experienced’ endurance athlete age bracket fool you, the Bondi is not just for a mature athlete. Runners of any age can benefit from the cushioning and meta-rocker technology, especially at the longer training distances.
I would particularly recommend this shoe for those stepping up in distance, from a 10K to a half, or a half to a 26.2.
Given there are very few races currently, now would be the perfect time to add this shoe to the rotation for long base miles and runs in zones two and three.
It would also be a great shoe for anybody generally increasing mileage for Covid stress relief. I would even recommend it for walkers as well as the heel stability is good. For those who spend a lot of time on their feet at work, the shoe’s combination of cushion and support would be excellent.
EVOLUTION OF THE BONDI
Any discussion of the Bondi has to acknowledge that over the course of 7 model years, the fit has bounced around a bit.
The earliest models were very roomy in the toe box and I had to tie them so that the lace holes were almost touching to keep my foot from moving around.
The Bondi 6 ran quite long and I ended up not loving it and made a temporary switch to the Clifton 5, although to be fair I also ended up with a full size smaller than normal in that shoe as well. I’m normally a 10 but ran in a 9 that season!
That being said, the Bondi 7 does seem to be back to a more traditionally sized last. For this demo, I have been running in a 10. They do feel a teeny-tiny bit longer than I normally like, but it’s not detrimental and could just be because I’m a bit of a freak about how my shoes fit.
So far, these Bondi’s seem very durable. I have about 100 total miles in wear testing and there is minimal to no sole compression.
The bottom of the soles are not yet showing any of the smoothing of my normal wear patterns yet, and the uppers are still in great shape with no holes or noticeable stretching.
In the past I would have recommended the Bondi only to people looking for a maximally cushioned shoe, and willing to live with the sensation of the softer sole.
The new, more responsive sole makes this new Bondi 7 a good option for a much broader slice of the running world. This model, the Bondi 7 is by far the best and most potentially crowd-pleasing Bondi yet.