Altra vs Hoka

Reviewing running shoes can be a challenge from time to time.

Many brands and products have interchangeable features, and there’s really not much that can be said about one that couldn’t be said about the other.

When it comes to Altra vs Hoka, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

With its zero-drop midsoles and FootShape toe box, Altra is at the vanguard of the natural movement running philosophy.

Hoka, on the other hand, is an industry leader in providing max-cushion shoes and offers a number of products that have the highest heel-to-toe drop in the game.

For a complete breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ordinary of these two brands, keep reading for a complete breakdown of Altra vs Hoka!

Altra At A Glance

One of the newer running brands in the game, Altra was formed in 2011 in the back of a running shoe store.

Since that time, it has steadily increased its market share thanks to two concepts that stand out from the crowd:

  • A FootShape toe box that allows unmatched forefoot freedom
  • A zero-drop midsole concept

This makes it a popular shoe among the “shoeless” running community–those who believe that some running shoe designs can actually lead to injuries by putting feet in unnatural positions. 

Hoka At A Glance

With its thick midsoles and bold color schemes, Hoka is one of the most recognizable running shoe brands in the world.

Trust us: once you see a pair of Hokas, you will inevitably feel like you see them everywhere.

Their philosophy is one rooted in eternal optimism. The company believes that whether you are a beginning runner or experienced veteran, your running shoe selection can help you convey your personal sense of style and help you attain any goal imaginable.

While they are best known as an elite comfort brand, Hoka offers a diverse range of products to help runners with all types of needs.

Altra vs Hoka Engineering Comparison

Let’s take a look at some general design characteristics of Altra and Hoka products.

Altra vs Hoka


While many running shoes focus on cushioning and midsole technology, Altra is one of the exceptions that goes bold with the upper unit.

This comes in the form of the FootShape toe box.

Whereas most running shoes have a pointed toe box that is wider at the midfoot and tapers toward the toe, Altra uses a conspicuously more spacious design that accentuates the natural shape of the foot. This allows your toes to relax and splay more naturally, which is highly advantageous when running on uneven surfaces and trails.

Hoka has a more standard upper shape. 

They feature engineered mesh uppers for lightweight breathability. Many Hoka shoes are also instantly recognizable for their colorful designs.


Remember how we said that Altra was cutting-edge with their upper design?

Well, they’re actually pretty vanguard in their midsole concept, as well.

However, it’s not necessarily due to revolutionary midsole cushioning (although the company’s EGO and EGO Max foam are definitely comfortable enough).

No, Altra midsoles stand out due to their zero-drop design. This means that there is no stack difference between the heel and forefoot.

This is a pretty unique concept, as many companies market high heel-to-toe drop as a calling card of their shoes. 

While ample drop can alleviate some stress on the achilles tendon, Altra feels like their zero-drop design provides optimal alignment, promotes better running form by keeping the foot on its natural plane, and takes pressure off the ball of the foot.

The typical Hoka midsole is known for its gaudy stack and Meta-Rocker design. This makes Hoka products some of the best on the market for those recovering from injury, power walkers, or those simply wanting to log some easy miles. 

However, this does not mean that Hoka midsoles are designed exclusively for “soft” runners. The company’s proprietary PROFLY+ foam that is used in many of its more advanced products keeps the shoe surprisingly lightweight and propulsive despite the midsole dimensions. 


Compared to the upper unit and midsole, the outsoles of most Altra shoes can best be described as “standard.”

They use a carbon rubber compound to promote durability and traction on a wide variety of surfaces. As the increased toe splaying provided by Altra toe boxes makes the brand a favorite among trail runners, the carbon rubber is important for guaranteeing longevity on uneven trails.

As Hoka shoes are noted for their comfort, they tend to feature more exposed foam than other brands of running shoes. They use patterned, high-abrasion rubber at strategic points in the heel and forefoot to provide traction and withstand wear, but larger amounts of exposed foam pervades the midfoot area than the outsoles of competitors. 

Altra vs Hoka Feature Comparison

Now that you know a bit about how they are engineered, let’s dive deep and see how these two brands compare along specific performance features.

Altra vs Hoka


Neither Altra or Hoka products are particularly well-known for their durability. 

With that said, Altra is definitely the better option in this regard.

As many Altra products are designed for the trail, there tends to be more durable outsole rubber on Altra shoes. The company states that runners should be able to get between 300-600 miles in their shoes. 

Although this is a huge range that runs from “low durability” to “extreme durability,” Altra notes that there is no way of knowing exactly how many miles a pair of their shoes will get without knowing a runner’s usage habits. Fair enough.

Hoka shoes are generally not among the most durable running shoes on the market. 

But in all fairness, that comes with the territory of being a high-cushion brand.

The higher degree of exposed outsole foam causes Hoka products to get torn up on rough running surfaces, making Hoka a better brand for tracks, treadmills, and sidewalks.

If you plan on using your Hokas every day in all conditions, don’t be surprised if they start breaking down in under 300 miles. 


With their unique FootShape toe box, Altra shoes will feel spacious and comfortable for people of all foot shapes. They are particularly appealing to those with wide feet who feel constricted in shoes that have a normal toe taper.

Hoka shoes run more of the gamut in terms of their fit. While they feature a normal toe box shape, they do provide some products that have a wider toe box to accommodate runners with wider feet. And while their engineered mesh uppers are lightweight and breathable, many Hoka shoes include some synthetic overlay material that keeps the upper feeling snug.


In this day and age, there are few running shoe companies that are lacking in terms of cushioning. EVA foam technology has evolved to the point where all name brand manufacturers will be able to add enough cushion without creating excess weight.

With that said, the typical Hoka shoe will provide more cushion than an Altra. Ample midsole stacks and the Meta-Rocker concept give Hoka running shoes the ultimate in comfort.

As mentioned, Altra is known for its zero-drop midsole concept. While there is still a good amount of EGO foam cushioning in Altra midsoles, the company banks heavily on runners keeping their natural stride as the concept that largely promotes comfort.  

Stability and Support

Altra takes an innovative approach to stability and support. By giving the toes more room to splay and eliminating the drop from the midsole, the company feels like the foot will follow its more natural course of motion and not be forced into awkward positions.

With that said, they do have some shoes that offer a medial midsole block for a little extra overpronation support.

Hoka is not known as an elite stability brand. In fact, their ample midsole stacks can create a bit of a “falling off the table” scare for those who have pronation issues.

However, Hoka does offer a wide selection of shoes, with some of their products offering additional stability features. Hoka shoes that feature J-Frame technology will offer the best stability. 


Altra is definitely the choice for runners on a budget. Most of their shoes will range between $75 and $125, with even their most premium offerings rarely eclipsing $150.

Hoka, on the other hand, is one of the pricier brands on the market. They are an easily recognizable shoe that has a rabid following in the running community. It is rare to find any Hoka for less than $150, with many products easily surpassing $200. 

The good news with Hokas is that they tend to hold value very well. If you get a pair of Hokas and your needs change shortly after the purchase, it is not uncommon for lightly used Hokas to still command over $100, so that is definitely something to keep in mind as you shop the brand. 

Altra vs Hoka Top Shoes

With both companies offering dozens of shoes, speaking in generalities is not always enough. Therefore, we’ve broken down how the best Altra and Hoka shoes in specific performance categories stack up against one another. 

Everyday Trainer: Altra Rivera 3 vs Hoka Clifton 9

Like any great everyday trainer, what makes the Altra Rivera 3 stand out is its versatility. It is light enough to handle speedwork but cushioned enough to keep the foot comfortable once the miles start adding up. 

Although the Rivera 3 is a nifty looking shoe, it still has Altra’s signature characteristics. The FootShaped toe box gives the forefoot freedom. And even though there is a little extra EGO foam in the midsole, it still provides zero-drop cushioning to help keep the foot properly aligned. 

A durable outsole is an important characteristic in an everyday trainer, and the Rivera 3 also stacks up well in this regard. It features an innovative FootPod outsole that helps map the bones and tendon of your foot to encourage natural movement underfoot, but there is enough outsole rubber in the high impact areas of the heel and  forefoot to help it bear up.

When looking at Hoka, the Clifton is arguably the most recognizable line in its product catalog, and the Clifton 9 retains the line’s reputation as a go-to everyday trainer. Lightweight yet highly cushioned, it provides the perfect environment for racking up a lot of miles.

Hoka has added a little extra cushioning to the Clifton 9 over previous iterations, resulting in a slightly higher stack height. While this adds comfort to landings, runners don’t feel like the extra padding comes at the expense of performance, noting that the additional foam is firm enough to provide adequate pushback. The Meta-Rocker design also allows the runner to roll easily through strides.

Runners feel like the outsole durability of the Clifton 9 is adequate for everyday training purposes. It has diagonal rubber grooves in the forefoot that add responsiveness and enough overall rubber to handle wear and tear.

Winner: Hoka Clifton 9

Altra vs Hoka

Performance: Altra Vanish Carbon vs Hoka Rocket X 2

The Altra Vanish Carbon is marketed as a “high-performance, carbon-plated super shoe designed for long-distance racing.”

It has many features that back up this claim.

The three-pronged carbon-fiber plate that runs the length of the midsole provides elite responsiveness without sacrificing comfort in the process. This is because Altra surrounds the plate with EGO PRO midsole foam, the most-high tech midsole foam development from the company to date.

As an Altra, the FootShaped toe box and zero-drop midsole help make it unique from any other racing shoe on the market.

The Hoka Rocket X 2 is the company’s latest offering of its top-line racer. 

Like the Vanish Carbon, it also features a carbon-fiber midsole plate for a snappy ride. However, the plate in the Rocket X 2 has the distinction of being “scooped,” which the company says is the latest propulsive geometry technology on the market.

The scooped carbon-fiber plate is sandwiched between two layers of PEBA midsole foam, providing the cushioning and ample stack for which Hoka products are famous. 

The upper is similarly high-tech, with lightweight and breathable mesh upper, gusseted tongue, and midfoot cage to add a degree of stability. 

The Rocket X 2 also has the distinction of being a unisex shoe, so be sure to double-check on sizing before making a purchase to make sure you are getting the correct fit.

Winner: Hoka Rocket X 2

Altra vs Hoka

Stability: Altra Provision 7 vs Hoka Arahi 6

Many running shoe companies design stability shoes specifically for overpronators via some form of medial post, commonly referred to as a “guide rail.” This firmer, more durable piece of foam or plastic blocks the feet from rolling inward during strides, keeping runners along a correct stride and vastly reducing pronation issues.

This is what you get with the Alta Provision 7.

Despite being equipped with Altra’s patented zero-drop midsole and EGO foam for comfort, the Provision 7 also features a medial guide rail to provide some overpronation support. 

As an extremely lightweight shoe that uses Altra’s FootShape toe box, many runners feel like this shoe offers the ideal balance of support and freedom to ensure easy-flowing, technically correct strides. 

The Hoka Arahi 6 is a bit more experimental in its stability features.

Rather than a standard medial post, the Arahi 6 uses what Hoka calls J-Frame stability technology. This uses more dense, supportive foam around the back of the shoe.

The J-Frame foam extends from the medial aspect of the midsole and runs around the heel to the lateral side of the shoe to provide stability from all angles. 

Even with the addition of the denser J-Frame foam, the Arahi 6 remains surprisingly lightweight, checking in at a mere 7.6oz for women and 9.3oz for men. This further increases stability by ensuring that the foot doesn’t have to strain to power through strides. 

Winner: Altra Provision 7   

Altra vs Hoka

Cushioning: Altra Via Olympus vs Hoka Bondi 8

It almost feels like the running shoe industry is in an arm’s race to see who can develop the premier max-cushion shoe. How much midsole foam can you pack into a shoe without increasing weight and zapping performance?

Altra’s attempt to take top honors comes in the form of the Via Olympus. 

The company packs generous amounts of EGO Max into the midsole. This results in a 33mm stack–the largest of any Altra product on the market. As an Altra, this 33mm spans from heel to toe. 

Due to this increased cushioning, many runners agree that this is Altra’s best shoe for recovery runs and fast-paced walks.

While the Via Olympus is definitely a solid option for a max-cushion shoe, it is hard to top a Hoka in this regard.

In a company known for its ample midsoles, the Bondi 8 takes the cake as the most cushioned product in the catalog. In fact, some running enthusiasts venture to say that the Bondi 8 is the most cushioned shoe of all time.

Designed for softness over performance, the Bondi 8 packs as much of Hoka’s latest EVA foam compound into its “chunky” midsole, resulting in a 33mm heel stack. There is also a large amount of exposed outsole foam between strategically placed carbon rubber crash pads for as much comfort as possible.

Using Hoka’s low energy Meta-Rocker design, this is an ideal shoe for logging low-impact, easy miles when nursing an injury or performing a recovery session. 

Winner: Hoka Bondi 8

Altra vs Hoka

Altra vs Hoka: The Final Verdict

Two major running shoe brands, each with distinct calling cards.

The “natural” design of Altra shoes are best for runners who want limited intervention from their shoes, thanks to the FootShape toe box and zero-drop midsole.

Hoka is the better brand for runners who need that extra boost from their shoe, specifically in the area of comfort. Their impressive midsole stacks and Meta-Rocker design make Hoka arguably the top name on the market for logging easy miles.

Make the decision about what best suits your needs, peruse the catalogs, and get to running today!

Photo of author


Tucker Lane

Tucker Lane is a freelance content creator. He is a former Academic All-American wrestler at the University of Nebraska. Following his competitive career, he coached at The Citadel for three years, followed by another three-year stint at the University of Northern Colorado. Upon retirement from wrestling, Tucker has adopted running as way to fill his passion for competition and exercise.

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