Rebel with a cause: Breaking the rules with the Clifton 5

It’s a Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and the HOKA ONE ONE® office is empty. Instead of sending final emails or end of the day requests, the HOKA team is out enjoying the extended hours of sunlight, warm weather and fresh air for their weekly social run — a five-mile loop that follows the Santa Barbara, CA coastline.

The social run organizer is Zack Paris, an associate product line manager for HOKA. A devoted employee for over four years, Zack has been in the running industry for a decade and has been a runner for almost two.

What attracted Zack to HOKA was a shared desire to break the rules. When Zack first discovered HOKA while working in his local running store, he saw a maximalist shoe breaking into the scene during the minimalist running movement. That fiery spirit and bold move spoke to him both as a runner and a self-described rule-breaker. 

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“Rules are guidelines that someone else has given you. They can be helpful, but breaking away from those means you can set the goalposts and are free to make your own mistakes,” he says. “HOKA has always had its own goals and the more we break the mold, the more opportunities we have to make something we’re proud of. Rising to your own challenge is always exhilarating and much more self-satisfying.”

And for Zack, that means carving out his own path and the pitfalls that come with it. “I enjoy learning through doing. In high school and college, I liked having the framework of a coach’s advice, but then I can figure out what rules to break through there,” Zack says.

Breaking rules is what led to the creation of the new Clifton 5. It’s cushioned, but responsive. It’s supportive, but lightweight. The fifth iteration of one of their best-selling road models, the Clifton 5 defies all standards. It’s a running shoe that doesn’t do things by the books.

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“The Clifton has a surprising balance of features and qualities. You rarely, or never, find a combination like the Clifton. For a lot of people, it’s the shoe that changed the perception of what HOKA can be,” Zack says. “It’s got the cushioning you’d expect from HOKA, but the weight is always surprising for how much comfort is packed into the shoe. And the smooth ride just finishes it off to make it that go-to.”

So, what’s new with the Clifton 5? In its fifth edition, the Clifton still has that smooth ride you expect from the Clifton family, but it features an engineered mesh upper, fine-tuned design overlays and a sleek new design. Small adjustments to the rule-breaking award-winning Clifton line.

For Zack, being a part of designing the Clifton shoe he runs in, clocking miles with co-workers and getting paid to think outside the box is a dream come true.

 

“It’s a shoe that people, including myself, don’t just use, but are emotionally invested in. And that connection to the product is what athletes have,” Zack says. “You don’t have to be a peak athlete to be emotionally invested in the product — it’s for anyone who is trying to work toward a goal and that’s part of what we do.”

Check out the new Clifton 5 and experience how sweet it feels to break the rules.

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Why fear can yield your best results

Jim Walmsley once charged a mountain lion.

In the early darkness of the morning, he sprinted through the Grand Canyon during his pursuit of the fastest-known time on the Rim-to-rim-to-rim trail. What he didn’t expect was a pair of glowing eyes ahead of him.

“It was one of those instantaneous fight or flight moments. If we had been two people on the trail, we would’ve run into each other. Luckily, the mountain lion was a little more athletic than a human and it just got up a wall — I have no idea how.” Jim says. “I don’t think I broke stride at all. In that fight or flight moment, I had the fight instinct. It’s a cool moment when I reflect on it, but maybe I should’ve thought twice and had the flight instinct instead.”

HOKA Trail Athlete Jim Walmsley is known for pushing the limits and that applies to whatever gets in his path. While he might race fearlessly, Jim sometimes experiences fear just like the rest of us. Just living and training on the trails in Flagstaff, AZ means Jim is no stranger to the dangers of wildlife.

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Jim has learned to face fears by taking the advice of his college coach. “He always told us to learn to balance our overall stress levels. Even if your mileage isn’t going up or you go down in mileage, it might be appropriate because of what’s going on in your life,” he says.

And sometimes, he says, that means a bad day. And a bad day isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “A perfect day is easy to overlook because things went smoothly,” he says. “You’re able to learn a lot more from bad races than you are from a perfect day.”

He’s learned to transform fear and failure into opportunities for growth. It’s a mindset shift, he says. “When self doubt comes up, there’s a lot of positivity you need to reinforce and negative thoughts to deflect. If something isn’t going right, just worry about the next step forward and accomplish the small goals,” he says. “On race day, a lot of mental preparation is having confidence in the physical training you’ve done. The physical and the mental are tightly tied.”

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Perhaps the race he’s learned the most from is last year’s debut at Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc — a 166 kilometer race that spans France, Italy and Switzerland with over 30,000 feet of climbing. He came home with fifth, but it wasn’t easy.

“Getting ready for that race was an amazing learning curve, especially after Western States in 2017 when I didn’t finish. During UTMB, I got to a point where I was in the lowest of lows and I wasn’t sure if I was gonna finish. But I mentally told myself, ‘I’m gonna get there’ and things eventually turned around,” he says. “I even had some of my fastest splits toward the end of the race, even though I had a super huge lull in the middle of the race.”

Jim’s 2017 UTMB race and his 2016 and 2017 race at the Western States®️ 100-Mile Endurance Run have proved to be some of his greatest teachers. And while they’ve been some of his toughest, there’s something about these experiences that keeps him coming back.

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“I like to choose races that I connect with or inspire me to go train and get out the door, so it’s pretty easy to pick Western States. It’s the world’s oldest 100 miler and a lot of the best ultrarunners in the world have run it,” he says. “It’s kind of a way to backup and chase the ghosts of the past. Most everyone in our sport has tried their hand at Western States and it’s fun to continually try to perform on the big stage.”

This weekend Jim will face Western States for the third time. And with 100 miles, 18,000 feet of climbing, 23,000 feet of descent and temperatures that occasionally reach 100-plus degrees, he knows he will have a tough race ahead of him.

“It’s not easy to run that far. You have plenty of hard times in races, but that’s ultra running. There will be highs and lows and you have to know they’re coming,” he says. “A lot goes into preparation to make it look easy and I’ve spent years and years running. But nothing’s happened overnight.”

With many learnings behind him, months of training and the right mindset, Jim is ready for another big race ahead.

Follow @HOKAONEONE on Twitter and our Instagram Story to watch Jim at Western States 2018 and our other HOKA Athletes like Bob Shebest, Karl Meltzer, Kris Brown, Paul Terranova and Tim Freriks.

Jim trains in and races in the Speedgoat 2 and EVO Mafate.

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The simple trick to running fast downhill

Jumping out of helicopters and hot air balloons. That’s what’s next on HOKA Trail Athlete Dani Moreno’s bucket list. An accomplished trail runner and adventurer, Dani’s portfolio is chock-full of adrenaline sports, not limited to spearfishing, lobster diving, motorcycle riding, surfing, rock climbing, sea kayaking and paddleboarding.

“From a young age, I’ve always done a lot. You’re gonna laugh when I say this, but my mom said it was because I didn’t want to interact with people. I was really shy. I would get myself into so many things so I didn’t have to actually talk to people. And now you can’t get me to shut up,” Dani says.

A California native, Dani finds herself in the outdoors year-round. She’s a graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she ran track and cross country. Growing up, running came easily. But it was always more than just wanting to be the fastest.

“For me, running isn’t just to try and win races. It’s the way I prefer to see the world — by foot. It lets me test myself mentally and get to know other people and parts of the world,” Dani says.

Her running motivations are humble, but her accomplishments are not. The first of many accolades, Dani’s season already boasts a first place finish at the XTERRA World Trail Championships and another first place finish at the Ezakimak Challenge (a 5K race with around 2,000 feet of elevation gain).

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And her most recent achievement? An FKT, or fastest-known time, on a segment of Tunnel Trail in her home of Santa Barbara, CA. This specific section of trail is well-known for its technical terrain and steep grade. But for Dani, it holds another meaning.

“When I first found this section, it was by accident. I got lost and was trying to find my way back down. I was going downhill and was like, ‘What is this? There’s no way someone can run this.’ The whole thing just seemed unfathomable. So I just walked down,” she says. “I tried to run a few parts, but said to myself, ‘This is stupid. I could fall.’ After that, I realized I needed to be able to run it. And I told myself the day that I could run that section is the day that I would’ve really started getting trail running.”

Dani owned her FKT on the 2.54-mile loop with 1,114 feet of vertical gain. To put these numbers in perspective, the Empire State building stands at 1,250 feet tall, excluding the tip. She clocked in at 26:23 for the full loop and clocked under 10 minutes for the downhill section of the run.  

“To support the launch of the new Torrent trail shoe, we wanted to set an FKT somewhere really gnarly and crazy in Santa Barbara. I immediately thought of this section. I was stoked about it, so I went out to hike it the next day. Immediately I was like, ‘What did I do to myself? How can I run this?’ I was just cracking up,” she says. “But then I thought it would really force me to take this particular stretch to the next level. I’m really happy that we chose it. It definitely pushed me to understand a new potential for myself in terms of running fast downhill.”

As superhuman as she may seem, sometimes she’s just like the rest of us. And yes, sometimes she even falls. “Yes, I definitely fall sometimes. When you’re mountain running, you can’t get upset at the trail for tripping you — especially when it’s your own mistake,” she says. “But, I love falls. Without them, I’d never push myself to get better. Plus, who doesn’t love a good scar, cut or bruise for storytelling? Us mountain runners are warriors.”

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Dani’s worst fall happened during the 2017 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Italy. A few months before the race, she’d severely sprained her ankle — while rock climbing, no less.

“Literally on the first downhill, I rolled my bad ankle and I just freaked out. I was so mad. Girls were passing me and my ankle started blowing up. I gave myself a couple seconds and I then I pulled myself together,” she says. “I realized that sometimes you need to pep talk yourself really quickly. There wasn’t time for anything else. That was the big realization — that every time you get pushed down you need to get up immediately.”

One thing that’s given her an edge on the trails is something she’s had from day one — the ability to let go and trust her instincts.

“When you run a downhill, sometimes the best way to do it is to lose control. Not in your running form, but by swinging your arms. I don’t know if that’s just me, but that’s my body instinctively saying this is how we’re gonna balance.” Dani says. “Your body doesn’t want to fall as much as your mind. It’s instinct. Give credit to your body and mind because they’re gonna take care of you. And if you fall and hurt yourself, don’t blame me.”

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Excelling at so many different activities isn’t easy, but for Dani, balance is always the common denominator. She focuses on being well-rounded — a synonym for what she calls “circle-ness.”

“I’ve always been obsessed with circles and I see people as circles. As a circle, essentially your whole life is well-rounded. And if you’re well-rounded in what you do, then you’re well-rounded in how you treat people and portray yourself,” she says. “I think it makes you a more empathetic person. You get to have different experiences and that not only gives you different types of hard times, but also different types of rewards.”

Dani’s balanced bucket list is still growing. In addition to getting her skydiving license, she’d like to climb Denali or Everest, get another motorcycle and get better at surfing. But, she’s taking things slow in that realm for now. “You gotta keep it mild before the spicy hot,” she says.

Watch the film of her FKT below. 

Dani wore the Torrent in her fastest known-time of 26:23 on Tunnel Trail trail on April 9, 2018.

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To celebrate the release of the Torrent, we partnered with FitRankings. We’re giving away a pair of the Torrent and a HOKA trail hat to the five runners who log the most miles between 5/22 and 6/10. Enter here