Not the Long Haired Hippy Bondi I Used to Love

I’m writing about the HOKA One One Bondi 5. Today marks the 7th anniversary since I wrote about the Bondi B which was, for me, a revelation.

Memory may fail, but I do believe the evolution of this shoe started with the Bondi B to the Bondi 2, 3, 4 and now 5. The 2 was good; the fit changed a bit; the 3 was pretty much a disaster for me. I hoarded all the twos that I could find, and waited until the 3 was put out of its (and my) misery. The 4 was fine and now it’s the 5.

This shoe, the 5th Bondi, fits great, runs fine. But it’s not the original Bondi any longer. That ship sailed. Not to say the Bondi 5 is not a shoe that works. It’s just morphed, little by little, out from under whatever category it used to inhabit and into another. And I’m prepared to back this up with data.

I’ll compare three of the Bondi iterations, which I can do because I located these shoes deep in the catacombs of my shoe closet. First, did you read what I wrote about outsole width? I ask because you probably haven’t read or heard of what I’m hypothesizing about shoe outsoles affecting speed and I’m either right or I’m not. But if I’m right then this is one reason why the long haired hippy Bondi that I so loved 7 years ago has morphed into the buttoned-down Brooks Brothers executive I’m running in today.

Today’s Bondi 5 measures, as the heel, at the widest point where the shoe can touch the tarmac, 10.3cm. This compares to 9.8cm for the Bondi 4 and if you go all the way back to the Bondi B, that shoe measured only 9.5cm across at the rearfoot.

The Bondi I’m writing about today, the 5, measures 12.3cm at the widest part of the forefoot. The Bondi 4 measured 11.7cm and the Bondi B was 11.3cm across. This is a pretty big difference that you can absolutely feel. What I wrote yesterday is that shoes with narrower outsoles are faster for me than the new Bondi 5 even when they're heavier.

This is why, for me, the Bondi B of yesteryear, which I considered so fast (Here is my review of that shoe exactly 7 years ago to the day) is actually closer in some ways to the Vanquish and Conquest (neither of which, I think, are in the HOKA line) than it is to the Bondi 5.

Furthermore, that old Bondi B is about 11.3oz in size 11.5, whereas the Bondi 5 is 11.8oz (in my size 11.5, on my scale).

As you’d note if you read my original review, the Bondi B became my racing flat, not because there was no faster flat out there, but because – with my knees, and at my age – there was for me no faster flat (I’m racing in that original Bondi below, at age-54). The direct descendent of the shoe that I fell in love with is where? I don’t know.

HOKA has never understood, from that company’s rank beginning, how stable its original shoes are, calling them “neutral” when they’re actually extremely stable. It’s as if stability is a bad word. The Bondi was the second HOKA, after the Mafate, and I used to argue with one of the brand's cofounders – Nico Mermoud – about whether his shoe was “neutral" or not. Really, those terms are no longer even applicable according to shoe industry expert Dave Jewell and I and Dave wrote about this here in a 3-part series. But the Bondi was never neutral in the way an overpronater (like me) died a quick death running in “neutral” Nikes. What made the Bondi stable had not much to do with the width of the outsole. But if you want a shoe to be ultra stable, add outsole width.

Which is one thing HOKA did with the Bondi 5, and it is probably a better offroad (for the trails I run) shoe, more supportive, it almost certainly offers more longevity (we’ll see), with a more durable outsole, than the old Bondi B. The Bondi 5, as I typically use it, as a billy goat trail shoe, is probably better for this than the old Bondi B. But the old Bondi B was a better street shoe if speed, feel, and all of that, is what you measure a shoe by.

Where is that Bondi B in Hoka’s line? Where is that shoe that’s half an ounce lighter, but straight-lasted through the middle of the shoe, narrower in the outsole but not too narrow? Yes, users used to gripe about it, because it had no (heavy) strike or friction plate on the outsole inoculating the shoe from outsole abrasion. But it was light!

The Clifton is not the answer to the original Bondi B unless the current Clifton 4 also changed a bunch (the last Clifton I owned was the 2). The first two Cliftons were nowhere near as supportive in the heel cup and the arch as the original Bondi.

Is it the new Elevon? I haven't run in it. It appears to be a full ounce heavier than the old Bondi B. Maybe it’s the Arahi, with which I’m not yet acquainted. Or maybe that shoe is I loved is just gone out of the line. I don’t know. But when I find it you’ll be the first to know.

In the meantime, I’m quite happy with the Bondi 5 as my everyday mountain runner. Fits great. Very comfortable. And, to reiterate, there are benefits to the current Bondi over the original. More structure. An outsole that looks like it will last into the next century. So, I’m not down on the shoe.

You might wonder why I’m not running in an actual trail shoe from HOKA. I’ve got a review of one of those in the queue.