Choosing the right running shoes can be a daunting task, particularly if you are a beginner or if your current trainers have not been serving you well. Comparing different brands of running shoes can be a useful way to narrow down what can seem like an endless number of options to choose from.
HOKA and New Balance are two of the most popular running shoe brands.
Although there isn’t necessarily a definitive winner in a head-to-head comparison of Hoka vs New Balance that will universally apply to all runners, there are notable differences between the running shoes from these two brands that may make one better for you.
In this guide, we look at New Balance vs HOKA running shoes, pointing out how these brands compare.
HOKA vs New Balance: Main Differences
Although both brands now make a range of running shoes, HOKA is best known for making maximalist running shoes, whereas New Balance makes a range of running shoes with different amounts of cushioning.
Maximalist running shoes have a very thick sole and high stack height because there’s a lot of cushioning between the foot and the ground. Therefore, HOKA running shoes are higher and appear chunkier, and have a lot more foam cushioning in the sole than most New Balance running shoes.
With that said, New Balance does have a couple of maximalist running shoes in the lineup.
Another factor that gives HOKAs a rather unique appearance is that they are often brightly colored.
Largely due to the added cushioning, HOKA running shoes are often popular amongst Masters runners and injury-prone runners seeking more joint-impact forgiveness. They are also particularly popular amongst ultrarunners and trail runners because of their maximalist cushioning.
New Balance offers more traditional running shoes with distinct differences in the level of support and control they provide.
There are minimalist running shoes and racing flats for performance, neutral trainers, trail running shoes, and stability and motion control running shoes for runners who need extra pronation control.
Moreover, New Balance tends to be great for runners with wide feet because they offer a wide width and often even an extra-wide option for most of the running shoe models in the lineup.
If you have a bunion or wide feet, there will almost always be at least one type of New Balance running shoe that can accommodate your feet.
HOKA does also offer wide widths in some models.
See also: Hoka vs On Cloud Shoes
Additionally, compared to most traditional running shoes, aside from the maximalist style characteristic of HOKAs, New Balance running shoes have a thicker midsole, which can provide more stability, so if you are an overpronator, they have some great supportive running shoes.
There are also dedicated stability and motion-control running shoes for those who need extra support.
Although HOKA has more recently ventured into making hiking boots, occupational shoes, and a few other types of footwear, the bread and butter of the company is maximalist running shoes, while New Balance has long designed a wide range of sneakers, including many athleisure shoes.
Let’s jump into some more details in our HOKA vs New Balance comparison.
HOKA vs New Balance Running Shoes: Durability
The durability of any running shoes not only depends on the quality of the materials and construction used to make the shoes themselves but also on numerous other factors.
These factors include your body weight and size, the terrain you are running on, how often you run, your gait, whether you rotate your shoes (which gives the material more time to rebound between uses), and the climate and weather you run in.
Like most running shoes, both New Balance and HOKA running shoes are said to last anywhere from 300 to 500 miles (500-800 km), according to the recommendations from the respective companies.
However, HOKA running shoes often perform best on the trails, depending on the model, so the outsole can wear down quickly on the roads.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of road running in HOKA running shoes, make sure to buy road-specific models because the durometer of the rubber on the sole will better handle the friction and wear of the road.
HOKA vs New Balance Running Shoes: Cushioning
The main difference between New Balance vs HOKA shoes is the amount of cushioning.
HOKA running shoes use PROFLY technology and molded EVA foam with a very thick midsole to be maximally plush and provide “marshmallow softness.”
Although people usually associate HOKA with just the thickest maximalist running shoes, they actually offer three levels of cushioning. All of the shoes are surprisingly lightweight despite their generous amount of cushioning.
New Balance offers running shoes with a wide range in the amount of cushioning provided. In general, cushioning materials include light foams like Fresh Foam or FuelCell to provide a softness without adding much weight.
HOKA vs New Balance Running Shoes: Stability
If you need extra support and stability to prevent overpronation, New Balance is typically better than HOKA.
New Balance has many stability and motion control shoes for runners who need extra control for overpronation.
The stability and motion control shoes tend to be stiffer and have a wider base for more support, a heel flare for pronation control, and a gentle S shape to the shoe to provide lateral stability through the heel-to-toe transition.
The New Balance models that end in 40, such as the 840 and 1540, are “Optimal Control shoes” designed to enhance control, support, and stability for runners who overpronate or have flat feet.
Models that end in 60, like the 860, are “Stability” shoes that provide stability and cushioning together for runners who overpronate.
HOKA doesn’t offer quite as many stability shoes. There are a few models that are designed to provide some amount of support and pronation control
The stability elements include J-Frame technology and a firmer foam on the medial side of the foot to prevent excessive pronation (rolling inward).
HOKA vs New Balance Running Shoes: Fit and Feel
When you compare different running shoe brands, one of the biggest differences is usually in the way that the shoes fit and feel.
When it comes to the fit and feel of HOKA vs New Balance, there are quite a few differences.
HOKA shoes tend to run somewhat narrow, particularly with the standard-width running shoes (B for women and D for men).
The shape and feel can be ideal for runners with narrower feet, but if you have a “normal” foot, the standard width on some of the models might feel a bit snug. Therefore, even if you don’t have a traditionally “wide“ foot, it can be a good idea to choose a HOKA model that comes in a wide-width option, such as the Bondi models, because the shoes do run narrow.
In contrast, New Balance running shoes tend to be slightly wider overall, even for standard-width shoes.
Moreover, quite a few of the running shoes in the New Balance collection come in standard width (B for women, D for men) as well as wide (D for women, E for men), and often even extra-wide and narrow, with some shoes in 2A, EE, and more.
Therefore, if you have wide feet, in particular, New Balance is probably better than HOKA, but if you have narrow feet, HOKA may be better than New Balance.
New Balance has a user-friendly numbering system to name the running shoe models to help customers more easily identify the right type of running shoe for their needs. The last two digits in the shoe model correspond to the type of shoe that it is.
The other major difference is the feel of the shoes.
Because HOKA shoes have thick soles, they feel more plush and forgiving, whereas New Balance running shoes are responsive and have a traditional feel.
HOKA soles also have a lower heel-to-toe drop than New Balance running shoes, and they have a meta rocker or hubble heel, which is designed to help guide the transition from heel to toe (impact to push off) when you run.
HOKA vs New Balance Running Shoes: Price
In general, HOKA running shoes tend to have a slightly higher price point than New Balance running shoes.
The average price of HOKA running shoes is about $150-180, whereas New Balance shoes are closer to $130.
When it comes to New Balance vs HOKA running shoes, there isn’t a definitive better option for all runners, but if you need maximal cushioning, HOKA may be better and if you are looking for shoes with more pronation control and wide widths, check out New Balance shoes.
If you are doing your research before heading out and choosing your running shoes, you can take a look at our long list of running shoe comparisons to get you up to speed on the ins and outs of a variety of different brands: