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Now, all that said, Hoka makes, and Hoka misses. In my opinion the original Conquest was a miss. Too much RMAT
(great as an outsole, great as a strike plate, needs to be used sparingly in midsoles). The ride of the Conquest was too hard for my taste. To me, it ran contrary to the theme of the brand.
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The Bondi 3 was a miss. Too wide. And this hurt, because I'm a Bondi devotee. The Huaka I thought it was a miss. Others like that shoe. It's a great selling shoe, especially in Europe. Not my cup of tea.
What I'm saying is, like Democracy, like Capitalism, I'm devoted to the idea of Hoka One One, but I don't always like the execution.
When I first saw the Vanquish 2 I was predisposed against it for a number of reasons. It has the same midsole motif as the Clifton and the Conquest rather than the solid midsole in the Bondi. Danger, Will Robinson. I like the Clifton, but not for training (for me, it's race-only in this shoe). And as I noted I didn't like the original Conquest (I have not run in the subsequent version).
Second, the seamless upper looked great for triathlon, for sockless usage, but I was afeared that, by the lack of strapping, I would be running in galoshes. I need structure in my life; and I really need structure in my shoe; and not just in the midsole. My feet need a kind of freedom, and a kind of bondage, all at the same time. The Bondi gives it to me. Would this shoe? I doubted it.
Finally, for all that I adore about Hoka consistency in how its shoes fit, model to model, is not Hoka's strong suit. The Vanquish just looked smaller than my Bondi.
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Nevertheless, I pulled out the sock liner in the Vanquish 2 and – lo – my orthotic fit. Hmm. Then I stuck my foot in there and it fit too. Then I went on a run. Then I went on another run. And a third. Waiting to not like it. Waiting for it to fail to provide the structure I need in a shoe not especially designed to be structural. Waiting for my orthotic to break this shoe down on the medial side. None of those things happened.
The Vanquish 2 sits in between the Bondi and the Conquest weightwise, at well under 10 ounces for a size-9. Its lack of straps and stitching make this a good sockless shoe, though the traditional tongue design is probably not what you would choose if your goal was to make a sockless racer. The shoe fits my foot perfectly. The fit is snug. Not tight, but appropriately snug.
What I hear from a lot of runners is that Hoka's shoes are too narrow for them. I don't find this, and never have. I can only say that my pretty average feet (widthwise) slot into these nicely, but I like my feet to feel papoosed in my run shoes. You may not like this. The Vanquish 2 is a papoose.
This shoe has a 5mm offset, with a 30mm heel and 25mm forefoot, and the Vanquish 2 has about 3mm less total shoe height than the Bondi. But I didn't feel that the shoe was harder. It was appropriately cushioned, and the suspension did not bottom out. The Clifton has almost as much mid- and outsole height as this shoe, but I think the Clifton achieves its lightness in the lack of cradling midsole creeping up the sides of the shoe. I need a creepy midsole (the one case where I find creepy charming). I can live with the Clifton in a race, up to 10k, maybe up to a standalone half, but anything else and I need more shoe, both to hold up my (over)pronating feet and to support my orthotic which holds up my pronating feet. For me, leg soreness late in a run more than offsets the lack of support in a lighter shoe.