Having the correct pair of running shoes is an integral step in achieving maximum performance and tackling virtually any terrain.
However, finding a shoe brand that suits your running style is daunting as you have to consider various factors.
Among the powerful brands that are dominating the running shoes spectrum are Altra and Hoka. The two brands are currently enjoying a surge in popularity due to their unique and innovative shoe models that cater to different types of runners.
While Altra gained traction for its zero-drop shoe technology and Hoka for its heavy cushioning and super-thick midsoles, both brands have other unique features that make them stand out.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Altra and Hoka to help you make an informed choice when it comes to choosing a favorite between the two.
History Behind Altra and Hoka Companies
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let’s look at the companies’ backgrounds to understand how they evolved and became the powerhouse brands they are today.
Altra dates back to 1998 when two high school classmates, Brian Beckstead and Golden Harper, decided to address the issues they were experiencing while running by creating comfy and quality running shoes.
The partners tirelessly worked on their goal year after year, and in 2009, they managed to turn a home science experiment into a powerful technology, which is used to date in most of their shoes.
After relentless work and determination, the company introduced several signature technologies through their CORE 3 shoe model.
The new shoe debut lots of performance enhancement technologies, including Zero Drop technology, the FootShape technology, and the Fit4Her technology.
Since then, the company has kept improving the existing shoe technology and introduce innovations that are helping them deliver a fabulous running experience.
Fun fact: Altra co-founder Brian had to mortgage his father’s house to raise money to produce the company’s prototype running shoe.
Best Altra Running Shoes Compared
Hoka was established in 2009 by Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud, who had a vision of designing shoes that are ideal for trail running and those that allow you to run downhills much faster.
After a series of experiments with various shoe prototypes, the two partners managed to develop running shoes with oversized soles and super comfy midsoles.
Their shoes offer increased cushioning and shock absorption, providing runners with added support and comfort during long-distance runs.
When Hoka released its first pair of shoes in 2011, it became a favorite among ultramarathoners due to the extra cushioning and its lightweight design.
In 2013, Hoka was acquired by Deckers Outdoor Corporation, the parent company for Teva, UGG, and other shoe brands.
Fun fact: The name “Hoka” is from the Maori language, and it means “fly over the earth.”
Now that we know the cradle of these two brands, it’s time to comb through their features and see how each brand stands out.
Best Hoka One One Running Shoes Compared
Main Differences in features Between Altra vs. Hoka
Both Altra and Hoka have dedicated their entire production to finding advanced technologies and unique materials that provide customers with tangible benefits based on their specific running attributes. While both brands share the same goal of making runners feel supported and comfortable, they are constructed differently.
Altra running shoes boast a unique foot-shaped design with zero drop. Since the Altra running shoes assume a more natural stance, they put less pressure on the lower body and help strengthen the Achilles tendon and lower calf muscles.
By contrast, Hoka running shoes are heavily cushioned and come with large outsoles built from soft and supportive foam. Their proprietary rocker technology supposedly helps propels you forward.
You’ll also note a few differences between Altra and Hoka in these areas.
Hoka One One is known for having a narrower upper and a smaller toe box. While the thinner upper material makes it easy to clean, it tends to restrict toe movement and cause a lot of rubbing. However, the latest models have been updated to make runners feel more comfortable.
On the other hand, Altra running shoes come with a lighter and more breathable upper material and boast a distinctive FootShape toe box. Since the toe box design is more accomodating in Altra than in any other shoe brand, there is ample space for the feet and toes to splay and move comfortably.
Therefore, if you have wider feet or suffer from hammertoes and bunions, Altra has the best running shoes for you. With this brand, you’ll never experience rubbing, blisters or chafing.
Altra running shoes come with a midsole similar to Hoka’s but are narrower in size and not that flair.
Altra boasts a unique technology dubbed as Balanced Cushioning, which helps keep the forefoot and heel at equal distance from the ground. This ensures that you have a natural stance and maintain optimal alignment on different terrains.
Altra is also renowned for the production of unique running shoes for men and women. Their Fit4Her technology allows them to design shoes that conform to women’s feet. They create women’s shoes with narrower heels and midfoot, a high instep, and a smaller toe box.
By contrast, Hoka is known for superior midsole cushioning technology that provides extra comfort and shock absorption. The wide midsole offers additional support protecting your feet from injury. This, in turn, helps you maintain optimal performance during long-distance running.
It’s also known for high arches and comes with insoles of different sizes for those who want low arches.
If you’re looking for extra cushioning, Hoka running shoes are the real gem. However, for something more energetic and conservative, you can always go for Altra.
Altra comes with two types of outsoles to suit different running conditions and terrains. First, the TrailClaw outsole has lug traction and “claws” near the front, making it highly suited for snowy trail running. The FootPod outsole is also highly flexible and responsive, and suitable for all kinds of surfaces.
On the other hand, Hoka running shoes come with oversized, foamy, and cushiony outsoles. The outsoles are fitted with the rocker bottom that propels you forward by reducing the energy lost on every stride.
Altra boasts outsoles that offer superior grip on all surfaces. By contrast, Hoka’s foamy outsoles are comfortable and are excellent for long-distance runners.
Other Features to Consider
Both Altra and Hoka are highly durable and will give you a long life of action as long as you use the right model for its intended purpose.
Unfortunately, Altra running shoes have a reputation of wearing out faster than other types of running shoes. Although some runners claim to have gotten up 500 miles from Altra shoe models, a good number get less than 300 miles. Runners are encouraged to use the correct shoe model for its intended terrain for increased longevity.
Hoka shoes may not be the absolute best in terms of longevity, but most runners manage to get over 400 miles from them. However, due to their oversized outsoles and heavily padded insoles, you need to use a trail-or road-specific model to get more miles from your pair.
Overall Fit and Comfort
Because Hoka running shoes are heavily padded and offer a more conventional fit, they tend to be a better and more comfortable choice than Altra. For professionals who enjoy extra cushioning and a small toe box, Hoka is the ideal choice.
Since Altra shoes come with zero-drop and a larger toe box that doesn’t restrict toe or foot movement, they can be pretty challenging to get used to. However, once you ease yourself into using them, they can be pretty comfortable and immensely supportive when you’re running on any surface.
So, besides the fact that your feet need to adjust to the Altra’s zero-drop, the shoes provide a better fit and are comfortable. Additionally, they’re suitable for individuals who suffer hammertoes and bunions, as well as those with big feet.
Therefore, based on fit and comfort, your choice between Altra and Hoka will depend on your unique needs. Altra is particularly great for runners with big and wide feet and those with issues like bunions. On the other hand, Hoka is ideal for long-distance runners who need that extra cushioning.
Hoka shoe models are not cheap and average around $150. And with most runners claiming to get at least 400 miles from the shoes, they definitely offer you value for money.
By contrast, Altra shoes cost an average of $130 and can deliver up to 400 miles. Since most Altra running shoes won’t take you past 300 miles, they might not be the cheapest option.
Being two of the most cushioned shoes in the market, Altra and Hoka have incorporated vast technologies that have made them titans in the trail running scene.
However, the two brands sit on different sides. While Altra shoes are known for their zero-drop technology, every pair of Hoka boasts superior cushioning.
Moreover, Altra emphasizes comfort and fit, whereas Hoka creates a personalized performance-driven line of running shoes.
Lastly, Altra offers gender-specific midsole options, while Hoka comes with performance-tailored midsoles.
Since every runner has unique needs and preferences, it’s difficult to conclude with certainty which brand is better. But since we’ve done our best to differentiate between Altra and Hoka, you can go ahead choose the shoe brand that appeals to your unique needs.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.