There’s no one shoe that can tick all the boxes for every runner. We’re just too different. Hoka might be the way to go if speed is your priority. If support is more important, you might have to take a closer look at Brooks.
Runners are classified into forefoot, mid-foot, or heel strikers. And speed makes a difference. Most athletes will find they’re on their toes while sprinting but at normal training paces, about 80 percent of runners fall into the heel striking category. I split the other 20 percent between mid-foot and forefoot strikers.
There are a few exceptions and I’m one of them. I switch. While sprinting I’m a forefoot striker, but on slower training paces, I intentionally switch between forefoot and midfoot. It’s from that perspective that I’ll give you my insights on the differences between the Brooks and the Hoka as a brand.
Hoka One One
Hoka wants to get you moving, running, walking or hiking. They make a max cushioned shoe for every kind of terrain. All of their shoes, whether it’s the stability, the trail or the racing shoe, have more cushion than most other brands. The first time I took a Hoka for a run, I thought: I like it! Let’s do it again. The weight and the feel of the shoe impressed me.
Most of their shoes have a heel to toe drop of 4-6mm which makes them better for mid-foot and forefoot striking than Brooks. The Hoka’s upper is made of high quality fabric that holds well through quite a bit of abuse. I know because mine get scrubbed with a brush after every dusty or muddy run.
Brooks has a more specific approach to running. Their philosophy is that running makes the world a better place and while they had their beginnings in bath and ballet shoes more than a hundred years ago, they now specialize in running gear. Everything they make is aimed at improving your run.
My first run in the Glycerine (keep in mind this is their luxury model) had me going: That was not bad… but it wasn’t fantastic either… kind of meh…
It’s not that I didn’t like it, but it definitely didn’t wow me.
The drop on Brooks’ models varies between 10mm on the Glycerine to 12mm on the Ghost and Adrenaline. It’s not ideal for forefoot striking.
Brooks vs Hoka Key Differences
When you look at the upper of the Brooks, it says quality, luxury. It’s a good-looking shoe. I find it warmer (nice for winter) than the lightweight upper of the Hoka. The Brooks gives a more locked in feel than the Hoka, but it almost feels like it relaxes a little when you get going. The Hoka breathes better. While still extremely good quality, the Hoka doesn’t have the same luxury feel.
I find little difference in the midsole’s cushion, but the Hokas’ midsole is without a doubt more responsive while running.
I found the outer sole on the Brooks a little softer than I expected. It showed wear quickly, but it held up reasonably well over subsequent runs. The Hoka held up better than I expected because the sole is actually quite soft. My Hokas are showing the same amount of wear as my Brooks with about 200km more on them.
Both models have a reasonably good grip. When doing intervals and sprints, I prefer running in my Hokas because the soles handle the high impact better and show less wear.
Brooks vs Hoka Feature Comparison
The two brands compare really well in durability with Hokas’ outer sole doing better than Brooks. The upper on both brands is better quality than any of the other brands I’ve run in. Something else that I’ve found is that the fabric on the inside of the Brooks made little balls in the heel from rubbing against my socks. It didn’t take long for that to happen, either.
Fit and Comfort
It might be because I have wide feet, but something happened to my Hokas’ inner-sole after about 100km. I suddenly started getting blisters on the inside edge of my foot and it seemed like the inner sole was turning up inside the shoe right where the edge of the shoe and inner sole meet. I fixed it by removing my inner soles and shaving the inside edges off to flatten them out again. As I said, I fixed it, but it’s worth mentioning.
I don’t enjoy walking in the Hoka, but I love running in them. While I don’t love running in the Brooks, they are comfortable and reliable, and I find them extremely comfortable for walking.
The cushioning in the heel seems very similar in both shoes, but the biggest difference is in the mid-sole and the forefoot. The mid-sole cushioning on the Hoka feels alive and responsive while the Brooks feels just a little sluggish in comparison.
I developed Metatarsal pain while rotating between the Brooks Glycerine and Hoka Clifton, doing forefoot striking and high mileage. It’s important to note though, that the Glycerine is Brooks’ cushion model while the Clifton is not Hokas’ most cushioned shoe. I might have been better off in the Hoka Bondi.
Stability and Foot Support
Brooks shoes are traditional style shoes that offer good support in all their models. While some runners instantly fall in love with maximum cushion shoes like the Hoka, there are runners that find it hard to get used to the bulky soles and don’t feel stable in them. Especially with models like the Bondi and Gaviota that have a big stack height.
On their new models, they’ve added the SwallowTail™ extended-heel geometry, which gives you a smooth ride and it contributes to a more stable feel as well.
Both brands run true to size, but Brooks runs slightly wider than Hoka. Runners with really wide feet prefer Brooks for this specific reason.
To make a solid comparison, we have to compare apples with apples. So, let’s look at some specific models.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS vs Hoka Arahi
For years Brooks Adrenaline have been a favorite among athletes that need stability shoes, and the Adrenaline GTS offer moderate stability. Its GuideRail system cradles your foot and provides consistent stability over short and long runs. It’s heavier than the Arahi by almost 55g per shoe, but it’s one of the last remaining options for runners who prefer a higher drop height at 12mm. Some heavier runners complain that the cushioning isn’t quite enough.
The Arahi offers slightly less support, however it provides considerably more cushion throughout the entire shoe. It uses a J frame of firmer foam that wraps around the outside edge of the shoe. This helps reduce the weight and despite looking bulky, it is extremely light for a stability shoe at around 215g for a women’s size 7.5 US.
Brooks Glycerine vs Hoka Bondi
With the Glycerine we have a luxury model in terms of upper comfort, maximum cushion and a smooth transition. I call it my lazy shoe because as comfortable as it is, it’s not the most responsive, and that makes it great for long easy runs. They have a drop of 10mm and weigh the same as the Adrenaline, at around 258g for a women’s size 7.5 US, which explains the lazy feel.
For a max-cushioned trainer the Bondi is not quite soft enough, according to a lot of runners. It has a wide and stable midsole with Rocker geometry for more a more efficient ride.
It locks the heel in securely while providing ample arch support. Ideal for narrow feet, but runners with wide feet will find it uncomfortable. It has a 4mm drop and is pretty close to the Glycerine in weight at 252g.
Brooks Ghost vs Hoka Clifton
The Ghost is a high mileage, neutral everyday trainer that has an abundance of cushioning and a smooth ride. If steady paced, high mileage, is what you’re after, it’s a superb choice. It’s on the heavy side for a daily trainer at approximately 255g for a woman’s size 8 US and has a drop of 8mm. Where the Ghost excels, is its amazingly comfortable upper. It’s easily the most comfortable upper in the everyday trainer category.
Hoka’s Clifton is also a high mileage daily trainer although I find it better suited for medium distances (10-20km). Hoka hasn’t changed this model too much over the years, but it has become slightly stiffer and less cushioned than previous versions. The midsole is not as responsive as some of the competition, but it compares well to the Ghost. The lighter weight (215g for a woman’s 7.5US) and the lower drop (5mm) gives it a faster feel than the Ghost. The Clifton is not Hoka’s most exciting shoe, but it’s still a fun ride.
Overall, I feel Hoka has a bigger variety of models to choose from and in a world filled with quirky feet, it’s nice to have lots of options.
If you don’t enjoy taking risks and you need something that is predictable and stable run after run, then I’m going to suggest you steer toward Brooks. Whether you need a workhorse like the Ghost or luxurious comfort like the Glycerine, you won’t be disappointed. This traditional runner is dependable, run after run.
If you’re after fun and excitement and love chasing times, but need to feel you’re running on clouds while doing it, I think the Hoka might be for you. I don’t just run to be fit and healthy; I run because I enjoy it. The Hoka oozes fun, and it likes to go fast.