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HOKA ONE ONE Arahi 3 Review



If you've been following the development of running shoes over the last few years, you've likely noticed some changes in the world of stability. If you're new to the running world or don't dive into shoe technology that much, you've entered in during a fun time. There is a lot of change, particularly in the way that "controlling pronation" is thought of. You can check out our injury prevention article on that HERE if you're dying to know more. Enter the Arahi 3, HOKA ONE ONE's take on lightweight stability. This shoe is incredibly pleasant for so many reasons, both as a runner and for my physical therapist brain. Let's check it out.

Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 9.5oz (men's size 9)
Stack Height: 32mm (heel), 27mm (forefoot)
Drop: 5 mm
Classification: Light Stability Trainer



HIGHLIGHTS

The HOKA Arahi 3 packs a versatile and stable trainer in a lightweight package that can handle slow runs to tempo workouts. This shoe features a biomechanically sound stability system that is built to last and avoids common wear patterns that can occur with other stability mechanisms. A smooth ride and quick midsole is topped with a secure and comfortable upper. Suit up for my most comfortable ride of the year so far.



FIT

The Arahi 3 fit true to size for me. The length was great and I had ample room in the toe box. I wouldn't call it a wide toe box, but for those with moderate to narrow feet it will work well. Everything above the midsole hit the sweet spot for me. The heel cup had just enough padding, the tongue wasn't too thick or thin, and the upper was a great combination of secure and adaptable (a big improvement from previous versions). I never had any issues with rubbing or hot spots anywhere in the shoe. The mesh upper kept my feet cool on hot days and my feet felt secure on every run. I want to emphasize again how comfortable this shoe was. For me, possibly the best "out of box" feel of any shoe I've trialed this year.


RIDE

I was surprised by the ride of the Arahi 3...in a good way. Compared to many other HOKA shoes, it is on the firmer end, yet still felt like a floating sensation with each stride. It was a bizarre, but wonderful, combination. With the combination the ride felt effortless and fast, which is unique for a stability shoe. Despite the higher stack height of the shoe, it felt much more stable because of how firm it was (I'll get into stability more later). The 5mm drop didn't feel aggressive in either direction and worked just fine for heel striking and mid/forefoot striking. The transition between heel to forefoot is smooth thanks to the classic metarocker design, which helps keep the shoe nimble. Compared to many other support systems, the J-Frame technology (which I'll get into later) is not invasive during each stride, a big part of what makes the Arahi 3 so smooth.


STABILITY

The J Frame stability system that HOKA uses spans almost the entire length of the medial side (inside) of the shoe with a tapered thickness. It is made of a denser foam that in theory controls the pronation of the foot in an "as needed" fashion. This felt true during the ride. I appreciated the denser foam assist beyond just the midfoot as it spanned to the forefoot and made for a very stable toe off.  Unlike some other dense foams, I did not feel the J Frame pressing into my foot, which kept it very comfortable while running. The unique part of the J Frame is the section that spans laterally to the outside of the heel. I'm going to dig into why this helps with longevity and integrity of the shoe in my "Thoughts as a DPT" section. I typically run in neutral shoes and have never gotten comfortable in a stability shoe.  In fact, I have actually developed pain in previous stability shoes. The Arahi 3 changed that. It has a non-invasive mechanism that can assist people who run more comfortably with some support built in. A high stack height always has inherent instability, but it doesn't make this shoe an unstable one.


SPEED

This shoe carries a remarkable ability to pick up the pace, and I'm not comparing it only to other stability shoes. The slightly firmer ride, secure upper, and lighter weight allowed for successful tempo runs. Given that the shoe doesn't have a ton of responsiveness, it did take more effort towards the end of longer tempo runs. At the same time, the shoe felt great for recovery days and racking up mileage. This shoe would do great for half and full marathon distances and would allow you to complete them quickly.


DURABILITY

The outsole of the shoe has strategically placed rubber with exposed EVA in other areas. As expected the exposed foam is showing some wear, but does not impact the ride at all. The rubber is holding up great and will be appropriate for any type of striker. The J Frame helps this stability shoe hold its integrity, and I have not had any issues with deadening of the foam or stability system.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

The J Frame technology may be simple, but it serves an enormous purpose. I work with up to 40-60 people per week as a physical therapist, and many of the people walking into my doors come in wearing shoes with some sort of stability. One piece of my examination (on top of video motion analysis, detailed strength testing, muscle length assessments, surface EMG assessments, etc.) for people who come in with pain during walking or running is a footwear assessment. For most with a stability shoe, it has some firmer density foam along the medial aspect of the midfoot...in theory to control pronation. However, once we assess their shoe, we find that the foam on the lateral portion of the shoe (which is normal density) is completely worn and compressed while the medial portion is unchanged. This ultimately puts the rearfoot into a state of constant inversion (part of supination of the rest of the foot) while walking or running. The difference in density of foam between the inner portion of the shoe and outer portion of the shoe leads to varying speeds of wearing of the foam...meaning that the lateral portion of the shoe wears out far before the medial does. This leads to abnormal loading through the bones of the foot and up the kinetic chain...and a lot of times is a piece of why the person is having pain. The J Frame extends the denser foam to the lateral rearfoot, which effectively stops this exact problem that we see all too often in our clinic. The denser lateral foam is not invasive, but it prevents early flattening of foam that can lead to the abnormal wear patterns discussed above. A simple yet effective solution to a common problem. I'm a fan. Keep in mind this abnormal wear can occur in neutral shoes as well, so take a look at your shoes from behind and make sure they are vertical to make sure you don't have a worn out rearfoot.

Example of asymmetrical wear

Another example of asymmetrical wear

RECOMMENDATIONS 


For what this shoe is made for, I am hard pressed to find any changes that need to be imminent. The best update to this shoe is the more accommodating upper that is extremely breathable. I would love to see this shoe keep its light weight, firmer ride, and secure heel. Way to go, HOKA.


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

For someone who finds more comfort in a shoe with some built in stability, this would be a great choice. Given the secure fit and levity of the shoe, it will serve you well for your daily runs, tempo workouts, and longer running events/races. Its floating yet firm ride is uniquely comfortable and will be a great choice for those who don't want to feel connected to the running surface.





GRADING

Fit                     10/10 (most comfortable shoe of the year for me)
Ride                  9/10 (-1 for lack of responsiveness)
Stability            9/10 (-1 for high stack height)
Speed                8/10 (High marks for versatility, -2 for lack of responsiveness at fastest paces)
Durability          8.5/10 (-1.5 for wear of exposed EVA)

Total Score: 89%

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at HOKA ONE ONE for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 35-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.


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