Hello Spring! Hello Hokas!

Kelley Robertson is a dedicated runner and outdoorswoman. Originally from South Carolina, the high school teacher now lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. With her husband, Dillon, she spent over two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote village in Panama. In training for an upcoming half marathon, she reviews Hoka’s Zinal Trail Running Shoe.

Kelley writes:

I hate winter. I know this is terribly closed-minded of me, but in my book, winter is just for dreaming of summer. Skiing is too expensive, and let’s be honest: does anybody really snowshoe for fun? Since running outside is my preferred form of exercise, cold weather just makes it harder – my lungs wheeze, I feel slow, and the trails are often covered in mud, ice, or snow.

I live in the high desert city of Grand Junction, Colorado, which can feel like a landlocked world of extremes. In the summer, the heat blazes and all living things go still at midday as temps often climb over 100 degrees. In the winter, temps drop to single digits, and we experience the dreaded valley-induced “inversions,” where the warmer air rises and the cold air settles at the bottom of the valley.

There are certainly perks to living here. Thankfully, we don’t get dumped with snow like other surrounding communities, nor are we “the coldest town in the U.S.” as nearby Montrose has been dubbed after dipping to 50 degrees below zero one year.

A solid eight months out of the year, it is entirely possible to run on trails to my heart’s content. Three-quarters of the county is public land and packed with awesome trails. But, in those four other cold months from November to February, I survive by dreaming of summer. When the ground is covered in snow and ice, there’s nothing that seems more enticing than running on a dry desert trail, the soft sand under your shoes, the sun bronzing your skin, and your feet navigating around sandstone boulders and blooming cacti.

This is perhaps one reason why I signed up for a half marathon this May. When I signed up a few months ago, I was especially lethargic, letting every excuse in the world get in the way of me and regular exercise. To make matters worse, in January I came down with Covid. I recovered by February and started catching up on my running program to prepare for the half marathon, logging a few runs during the week, long runs on the weekend.

Hokas grip well on ice

I’m feeling better. I’ve been running more as the trails are drying out and the days are longer. It helps that I received my new Hoka Zinal Trail-Running Shoes in the mail not long ago.

I took these bright and joyful shoes for a short four-mile trail run yesterday, and I barely remembered I was wearing them.

That’s the marker of a good running shoe: you should forget they exist.

This lightweight and anonymous feeling is probably due to the mesh tops which provide breathability and reduce the overall weight of the shoe. The Vibram Megagrip outsole did its job beautifully as I toed uphill on the sandstone slickrock.

Another notable feature of this shoe is that the tongue is flat, not super plush like other running shoes I’ve had. On the surface, this appeals to my minimalist style, but probably serves another practical purpose that I haven’t yet noticed.

Finally, it could be my imagination, but the Zinals seem to promote proper form and stride. The heel feels slightly raised and the midfoot is padded just enough, encouraging me to strike on the ball of my foot, “toeing-off,” rather than striking with my heel. This is especially helpful when running downhill.

It is also important to note that these shoes are geared for shorter distances, so I’ll probably not be racing the half marathon in them, but rather using them for my sub-10 mile trail runs. All in all, these Hokas are one more great reason for me to get off the couch and go for a run. The bright orange and pink colors lift my mood every time.

Thank you, Hoka!

Posted in Gear, Reviews and Links.

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