Hoka shoes review: Are Clifton and Arahi ideal for heel and back pain?

If you haven’t heard of Hoka, you probably don’t hang out with many runners. For years, long-distance runners have raved about this brand for its ultra-cushy and supportive base and heel, but there’s another audience benefitting from these shoes—chronic pain sufferers. Those with foot pain—including heels and plantar fasciitis sufferers—those with crunchy and sore knees, and even those with hip and back problems can find some relief in cushioned shoes otherwise marketed for trail runs and Ironmans.

Podiatrist Dr. Asim Sayed in Overland Park, Kan. explains why Hoka makes great shoes for back pain and other forms of discomfort. “Hoka incorporates what is known as minimal heel drop. Most running shoes use a higher heel drop, which adds more cushioning to your heel while also taking stress off the Achilles and lower leg muscles, and in turn, this places more stress and shock-absorbing burden on the forefoot, knees, and hips,” he says.

“Hoka minimizes this heel-to-toe drop,” Sayed explains. “This puts your foot in a more neutral position and distributes that shock-absorbing burden and stress more evenly.”

He recommends these shoes to most of his patients, to promote a “nice, supportive neutral position.” “I find that people who frequently wear a tennis shoe with a higher heel-to-toe drop will get very uncomfortable when they are barefoot or need to wear a dress shoe or sandal,” Sayed says.

Here are a few Hokas to consider buying if you need some cross-training shoes, comfortable walking shoes, or want more pain-free moments in your day-to-day life.

Hoka Arahi 6

Reviewed / Hoka

The Hoka Challenger 7 is inspired by gravel tires. There are tightly spaced lugs in the center and larger, more aggressive lugs at the perimeter designed for improved traction on uneven terrain.

If you are missing your Nikes from your less painful days, these Hoka Arahi 6 shoes come shockingly close in style to those, but they have a whole lot more arch support. These everyday walking or casual running shoes are more lightweight than some of Hoka’s other, bulkier options.

Wearing shoes like these is exceptionally stabilizing if you have any weakness in your lower body that you need to account for. Finally, they are a balanced alternative to Hoka’s very plush options, so they aren’t too squishy or unsupportive, but they still have lots of give when your foot strikes the ground.

Product image of HOKA Arahi 6

HOKA Arahi 6

The Hoka Arahi 6 is a lightweight and stable shoe.

$140 at Hoka

Hoka Challenger 7

The Hoka Arahi 6 shoe in the color purple and orange on a teal background.

Reviewed / Hoka

The Hoka Arahi 6 is light, comfortable, and is a lively support shoe for a wide range of runners.

Hoka’s Challenger 7 shoes are said to be built to provide the benefits of a road shoe and trail shoe in one, and they perform as such. If you hope to take on some hikes or work balance exercises into your workout routine, these shoes can provide an easy run on pretty much any surface, eliminating pain along the way.

They have a plusher feel than other types of shoes, which mitigates literal bumps in the road, and won’t affect your joints as much. If pain is leading to an imbalance for you, or you sometimes don’t feel steady on your feet, these daily trainers will ground you.

Product image of Hoka Challenger 7

Hoka Challenger 7

The Hoka Challenger 7 is perfect for trail running and street wear.

$145 at Hoka

Hoka Clifton 8

The Hoka Clifton 8 shoe in the color light blue and red on a yellow background.

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The Hoka Clifton 8 features a streamlined silhouette and updated upper made from engineered mesh.

The longtime fan favorites at Hoka have been the Bondi and the Clifton 8. This shoe offers a balanced level of stability, similar to the Arahi, that isn’t overly plush nor is it too tough on your feet. Since they don’t have the same stability levels as the other two options, these are perfect for running to the zoo, the grocery, walking in the park, or other daily activities you might want the comfort of maximum cushioning for. They’re a perfect casual sneaker for back pain.

Also keep an eye out for sales—sometimes these are reduced to just over $100, which is a total steal in the sneaker world for such a pain-relieving product.

Whichever Hoka running shoe you choose for pain relief, keep in mind that all sneaker styles feature removable inserts, so you can tailor the feel and fit to your own size. This is especially helpful if you have orthotics, are using specific inserts for a high or low arch, or to accommodate another pain or structural issue. Happy—and pain-free—trails to you, in your fresh new sneakers!

Product image of Hoka Clifton 8

Hoka Clifton 8

The Hoka Clifton 8 is a great shoe for running and everyday walking.

$112 at Hoka

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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