Hoka and Brooks are two of the most popular running shoe brands on the market right now. Brooks has been a running staple for over 50+ years while Hoka is a newer upstart with a unique look and feel.
If you are shopping for new shoes or just curious about the differences between these two brands, we’ve got you covered.
Main Similarities & Differences
Hoka and Brooks are popular running shoe brands. But they make very different shoes!
Hoka is known for its maximalist, highly cushioned shoes. Their running shoes tend to have an unusually thick midsole and look somewhat bulky. They’re eye-catching—you can tell a Hoka shoe from a mile away!
Brooks, on the other hand, makes more traditional running shoes. They offer different levels of support for different feet and different pronation types. They also tend to have a wider toe box than Hokas.
Hoka shoes are more popular with older runners, trail runners, and runners with an injury history – especially knees, thanks to their max cushioning design.
Brooks shoes are popular among all types of runners from competitive to casual weekend warriors thanks to their tried-and-true effectiveness at support and overall comfort.
It’s also interesting to know that while Brooks mainly sticks to running and a few walking shoes, Hoka makes casual shoes, recovery sandals, and hiking boots.
Hoka began as Hoka One One in 2009. It was created by two trail runners, Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud. During their running careers, they’d both been searching for a shoe to help them run faster downhill without adding impact to their joints.
When they couldn’t find one, they did what any self-respecting runner would do—they created their own. They gave their original prototype a Māori name—Hoka One One—which means “fly over the earth.”
They immediately stood out. These chunky shoes were noticed and quickly gained popularity among casual and competitive runners. Over time, they expanded to add track spikes, racing shoes, trail shoes, and other types to their collection.
They were bought by Decker Brands in 2013. They also recently dropped the “One One,” most likely because people dropped the “One One” when they referred to the shoes anyway.
Brooks began almost a century before Hoka! In 1914, Brooks started making ballet shoes and footwear to protect your feet while bathing! They then moved on to baseball cleats, football shoes, roller skates, and kids’ shoes… Before finally getting into running shoes in 1972.
They came out the gates running with their first shoe, the Villanova. Their second, the Vantage, immediately hit the top spot in Runner’s World, and was even seen on the president at the time, Jimmy Carter.
In 1981, they created their first stability shoe. When they noticed that their running shoes were becoming extremely popular, they eventually stopped making anything else. In 2001, they became a running-shoe-only brand.
Hoka uppers are comfortable. They’re plush and luxurious like the midsole—these shoes have padding everywhere!
They come in either leather or engineered mesh, and some models feature synthetic overlays. The mesh uppers come in a wide range of colors, but you only have more basic options – usually just black or white – with the leather uppers.
Whether you choose leather or mesh, they feature perforations, giving it lots of breathability but not so much that your feet are likely to get cold. They use a traditional lacing system to get a good lockdown on your foot.
Hokas fit true to size, although they’re not tight. The plush ankle collar and tongue contribute to the fit, allowing you to cinch down.
An elf ear tab is common on the latest Hoka models, which helps to take pressure off the Achilles.
Brooks uppers are slightly stretchy but supportive. Every shoe features the Brooks logo in an overlay along the side of the shoe, which gives the shoe some additional structure.
All Brooks running shoes have mesh uppers. You’ll only find leather on their walking shoes. They also come in a variety of colors to suit everyone’s tastes.
They also use a traditional lacing system, and the flexibility in the upper ensures that you can cinch down but not feel restricted. Some of their models feature an unusually thin tongue, which can help you to get a tighter lockdown and reduces the shoes’ weight.
One thing about Brooks is their sustainable uppers. Since 2022, ⅔ of their shoes have uppers containing recycled material, and they plan to keep increasing that number.
The famous Hoka midsole. Depending on whether the shoe is soft or firm, Hoka uses various blends of compression-molded EVA foam in their midsoles to create their chunky midsoles.
Their proprietary blend is a rubber-EVA mix, with a range of different formulations, some lighter, some softer, and so on.
Hoka’s shoes come in three cushioning levels: responsive, balanced, and plush. They also have three types of support: neutral, moderate, and stable.
Their ProFly cushioning system pairs firmer foam in the forefoot with softer foam in the heel for easy landings and a propulsive toe-off.
The technology found in the midsole includes the J-Frame—support for overpronation and the Active Foot Frame—which is bucket-seat-like support. The Meta-Rocker shape, which adds stability, also helps you to move from heel to toe faster with less muscle fatigue.
A couple of their shoes feature a carbon plate. One interesting-looking shoe features a massive heel called the Hubble Heel, designed to improve landing on rough ground and help maintain stability when sprinting down hills.
Brooks uses a few different types of cushioning:
- DNA LOFT, which is soft and adapts to your unique stride to provide almost custom protection.
- BioMoGo DNA, which is a bit firmer and has a touch more spring to it.
- DNA AMP, which offers high energy return.
- DNA Flash, which is for racing shoes.
Their cushioning levels include cushion, speed, energize, and trail. Support levels are neutral, support, and max support.
In terms of support, Brooks uses GuideRails, an unobtrusive stability feature that can be worn by neutral runners, overpronators, and supinators.
Their Extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar (PDRB) offers the most stability for runners who need serious support.
The Hyperion Elite range features carbon plates in the midsole for a speed boost.
Hoka has a thick EVA-rubber midsole, of which much of it is exposed underneath the shoe. There are rubber bits on high-wear areas to protect it, but most of their shoes have a minimal outsole.
Trail running Hokas feature a more robust midsole, with lugs that provide extra grip on rough ground.
Brooks outsoles are much more robust than Hokas. Only tiny parts of the midsole are exposed, with most of the bottom of the shoe covered with a thick layer of rubber.
Energize shoes have an arrow-shaped tread to help guide your foot through the heel-to-toe transition.
Trail running Brooks shoes feature a sticky rubber called TrailTack, for better grip on rocks and uneven ground.
Hoka running shoes are less durable than other brands, as they only have a very small amount of rubber on the outsoles. That being said, their uppers are quite plush and durable.
And because the midsoles are so chunky, they tend to hold up longer than other midsoles.
You should be able to get around 400-600 miles out of a pair of Hokas before they need to be replaced.
Brooks outsoles will last a long time, thanks to their more robust outsole. The upper is more or less as durable as the Hoka.
Their midsoles last an average amount of time compared to other brands. Although the GuideRails do provide longer life relative to a traditional stability shoe.
Expect about 300-500 miles per pair depending on your body size and how often you run.
Overall Fit and Comfort
Hoka shoes run true to size, although those with wider feet may find them narrow. They do offer wide versions of most of their shoe models.
Some models are a little narrower than others, although most new models have a wider toe box, which is more similar to the Brooks.
In terms of comfort, it’s worth noting that although Hoka has a lot of cushioning, it’s not necessarily soft. It’s highly shock-absorbing, but some Hoka models are quite firm underfoot.
Brooks shoes have a wide toe box, which makes them an excellent choice for those with bunions or Morton’s neuroma. However, the brand recommends getting a half-size bigger than your regular size.
They’re very comfortable, from upper to the midsole. It’s worth noting that if you’re a first-time Brooks buyer, you may need to test a few different cushioning types before finding one that feels good to you.
Regarding road and trail shoes, Hoka’s prices range from $80 for track spikes to $260 for the thick-heeled Ten Nine trail shoe with Gore-Tex material. Average price is about $140 at the time of this writing.
Brooks’ track spikes start at $65; their most expensive shoe is the Hyperion Elite 3, which comes in at $250. Across the range, their shoes are fairly similar in price to Hokas with about $140 average.
Hoka vs. Brooks is not an easy choice unless you’re specifically looking for a certain type of shoe. They’re both great brands with loyal followings, so you can’t go wrong with either one.
That said, we recommend choosing the Hoka if you’re after a lot of shock-absorption. Keep in mind that they aren’t necessarily soft, but they provide excellent impact absorption and protection for the joints.
Long-distance runners favor Hokas for the significant cushioning that keeps their feet protected mile after mile.
If you’re looking for stability, Brooks is the better choice, between the rollbar and the GuideRails. They’re also more durable than Hokas, so if you’re after a long lifespan, Brooks are your better bet.
Ultimately, both brands are excellent options. It may just come to your style and preference, because the chunky style of Hokas is not for everyone!