"My name is Stephanie, and I am a Hoka Cutter."


Yes, I admit it.

And I know cutting is deemed unacceptable in mainstream society where it is considered a freakish, vile and disgusting mental illness.  But I just ask for judgment to be left aside for a few minutes so I can explain why I am okay with acting out in this manner.

And please keep in mind that I don't act out in the same fashion as say, an Emo attention cutter type kid.  In no way am I looking for publicity because I scratch myself with a needle.  I cut because I have wide Fred Flintstone feet and my moon bootie circus clown shoes that are supposed to make running more comfortable still do not fit my sausage toes.


You see?  My feet are awful, awful feet inherited from awful, awful people who gathered together to breed and make big-footed, awful, awful children.  Children with third nipples, eyes that go in different directions, a seventh toe, and a propensity to touch and eat their own poop.  But at least I have all my teeth. I am grateful for that every time I see old people cutting their corn off the cob.

Nevertheless, these drastic feet call for drastic action. Case in point:  I badly busted out of one pair of the earlier versions of this particular running shoe last summer during marathon training in NW Florida. 

I bought a pair of $170 Hoka One One Bondi's in an effort to cushion my legs for the super-hilly portion of the Pensacola Marathon. I figured these were unisex and since men wore them, maybe they were wide enough to accommodate my lady Vienna sausages. 


Yes, I look like I'm wearing sensible shoes that no self-respecting person would wear until they are at least sixty-five. However, they worked okay, but the fit wasn't ideal -- they pinched my pinky toes, causing sore feet and the biggest blood blister of my life to the side of my right big toe.  The side toe bust and ensuing blood blister was bad enough that I went to my primary care doc for a look-see. Dr. August Osage County (that’s code so you can’t guess my Doc’s name and call her up pretending to be me and find out how much I weigh) drew me a stick figure with a sad face and lots of arrows pointing to my foot and my bank account.  She confirmed that, despite the raw skin and blistering, I hadn't broken any toes or stretched a foot ligament.  As Doc cleared me to do any exercise that didn't hurt, I went back to walk/runs nearly every day in my barefoot shoes until my 50 miler on the beach in February.


Because these Vibram’s allow my toes to splay out in whatever natural direction they want to, they didn't hurt too much during the 50 mile sand run.  However, distance of any kind in Vibram’s makes the tops of my wide feet ache to the point that I think perhaps I might die right away. I am still not convinced that when I wear the toe finger shoes that I won't wake up dead in the morning. I hope not though because I won't have any make-up on.

I just don't feel like they give me the kind of comfortable long run Hoka One One shoes do.  With the reduction in mileage, I also felt like I was losing endurance every day, even as my toe blisters and calluses improved. So I set out to try to run again in a different pair of Hoka’s mainly because some runners I really respect rave about them.  They claim Hoka's help them recover from injuries and reduce the pounding of runs ranging from 20 miles to over 300 miles.

Marshall Ulrich is one famous Hoka wearer and ultra running guru who makes these claims.  He may in fact be the smartest man in the entire universe despite the fact that he had all his toenails removed (http://es.pn/1nG77dA). Wait. Maybe I should consider having the same toenail removal procedure since mine fall off on their own anyway after 20 miles.  So forget I implied the notion that removing one's toenails may not be considered smart.


via Road Runners Club of America
Marshall Ulrich, the man who ain't got time for toenails.


So this guy Marshall is allegedly so darn smart that if he wanted to, he could lift a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew using nothing but the power of his mind. He can also do long division - in French. If he were to have a Brain-Off with Einstein (providing Einstein was not on the other side of the dirt), Marshall would beat him so badly, we would all forever after make reference to the Theory of Marshalltivity.

This man is brilliant in the most literal sense of the word. He is well spoken, and an avid reader of the kinds of books most of us don't really think people read. Although I never knew what it was Marshall did before he made a career out of being a crazy ultra runner, I'm sure it was something that required lots of letters after his name on all his dinner invitations.

This man, who completed more than 120 ultramarathons averaging over 125 miles each plus about 425 miles in Death Valley during the most blistering summer month in U.S. history wearing Hoka’s, swears by them both for running on pavement and technical trails.  So I thought maybe I should stick with them for my foray into more advanced ultra running.  However, I was still concerned about the narrow toe-box. Ulrich says the latest models have a much roomier toe box like his favorite Hoka Mafate’s (pronounced true to form as "my fatties") but I didn't want to drop another $170 on another pair before figuring out whether they would really work.  So I decided to try a little experiment. Inspired by other ultra runners whose feet swell during long, hot races, I cut holes in my existing Hoka Bondi’s to give them more room for my toes. If I liked that, then I could try buying a new model.


As you can see, they are extra-thick, and the padding definitely helps. I tried walking the kids to the park for a few miles wearing them and I could really feel them doing their magic.  The forefoot and toes felt fine although I could still slightly feel the pressure starting to build on my toes.  However, when I cranked up to running speed, that sensation went away, and I just felt like I was running in nice, soft, roomy shoes.

So I soon began jonesing for another pair of trail-specific Hoka’s after learning a snooty running shoe store carried them in my new neighborhood.  I mention the snootiness of the particular store only because I seemingly appear to running store clerks like a lower income single mom with two hyper ADD kids under the age of 5.  In no form or fashion am I the hip, young $150+ running shoe shopping demo.  Based on appearance alone, I wonder if anyone anywhere even notices me anymore.  I've somehow managed to become so boring that I am now completely invisible to the naked eye and can fully expect to wait at least 15 minutes with display shoe in hand before anyone at the running store makes verbal contact with me.  This results in thoughts of my ending the shoe charade and stopping at a sensible orthopedic footwear outlet before I leave the DC area to leap into old mom age feet first.

In sad summary, the local running store isn't happening for me.  I dutifully put in my time waiting, patiently staring at each sales specialist really hard hoping that maybe I'm a little like Carrie and their head would explode leaving teeth, hair and eyeballs all over the place and since no one knows I've got the Carrie thing happening, they will never pin it on me and I'd totally get away with it.

Despite my passive aggressiveness and the lack of attention being sent my way, I still figured since I AM getting serious about running the trail ultras around these parts I needed to wait out my extended walk-in wait time and at the very least get fitted for a newer model of Hoka One One's.  This store had the Conquest and even though I feel this model is too hard in the soles compared to other Hoka's I was game to try it on just to get a feel for where my Flintstone feet are size-wise. 

So finally, after the third person who arrived 15 minutes after me got served their shoes, I got measured and fitted.  Afterward, I went home and promptly ordered from runningwearhouse.com. 

When my mail order of brand new Hoka Mafate's in size 8.5 men's were promptly delivered to my doorstep three days later, I proceeded to walk around in them to pinpoint where the toe box would require more "natural" flexibility. After I decided where my toes needed to stretch out of the shoes, I flicked open the box cutter and made two transverse cuts across what I would consider to be the torsion bar part of the sole of the shoe. The extra room from the new slits in the toe box made the shoes feel extra cushioned like a bouncy floatation device.


So I immediately ran out and put in 10 miles in the freshly cut Hoka's and only stopped running when I began feeling somewhat less effervescent. I only came down just a skosh from my euphoria. (Unfortunately the fact that I used the word "effervescent" has now made me giggle. Stupid thesaurus.)

Yeah, it was hard to shell out the 125 bucks on sale for shoes and cut them but it is beneficial for both my feet and time spent on my feet.  Cutting the Hoka's makes me feel good which makes me nervous, quite honestly. In my OCD world, I understand all the way down to my itsy-bitsy, microscopic cells that I have absolutely no right to feel good, crappy as my feet are. It's not logical.

And I am all about logical. (I could hardly type that with a straight face.)

Frankly, I'm happy with my customized Hoka's to the point of outright and flamboyant giddiness and the happier I get, the more convinced I am that something has completely shorted out in my brain. I should be spending my time today worrying, fretting and stewing, not skipping around the house in butchered Hoka's whistling the theme to the Jefferson's.

This cutting thing has worked out so well I picked up a different model for the trail and commenced to cutting it up also.  Here is one of the Stinson EVO Trail models on my foot, with cut-out in place:


These Hoka's are so magnificent and glorious that I will very likely be asked by the Smithsonian to donate a plaster cast of these, which of course I will do 'cause I'm nice like that.

With the freshly cut Stinson's I finished a decent 4th in a 50k (AG) and recovered well enough to run again the next day. 

So this is why I'm okay with cutting up my $170 retail running shoes.

I am also quite partial to the red color in these pair.  Even though red has been done to death in the Superhero wardrobe. It's a powerful color especially when it's complimented by white and blue. But, I don't think any Superhero ultra runner has dressed completely in red, white and blue from head to toe yet. Maybe I'll do that at my next race.


How about red leather short shorts and a red leather bustier with my Team RWB shirt? A long red sequined cape. Thigh high red boots. And naturally I'll need a red tiara with an "S" on it and a long, red leather whip.

Uh-oh. I think I just went from Super Freak ultra runner to Super Hooker. Better tone it down a little. I'll lose the whip.

I'll get dressed every morning and fly around town with my toddler and kindergartener in tow fighting injustice and battling evil villains.


'S' is for 'Super Hoka Mom' (not to be confused with 'Super Hooker Mom')


Once these big Bertha beauties reach 600 miles a piece, I plan to purchase another roomy model for more trail adventures in Virginia.  Even though Hoka is improving "My Fatties" into a 'speed' version this season, I'm quite sure the new models will also require some utility knife modification to give them a more comfortable ride.

Am I compromising the integrity of the support of the shoe when customizing it with a cut or two?  Maybe.

Shoes are designed with radii and such to alleviate/control/focus stresses when in use. By cutting them I am making new places for stress to concentrate and this will more drastically affect the mechanical and structural integrity of the shoe. In addition, I am opening the shoe to foreign particles and debris in areas in which it may not be able to withstand, i.e. dirt invading the spongy core of the sole as opposed to the toughened bottom of the sole. Or worse than dirt or mud, a snake! I've only had this happen once recently and the snake just looked at me and my toes peeping out from the toe box of the Hoka's. I looked at him and I did what all reasonable women do when faced with a serpent from Hell. I screamed and ran as fast as I could on my plump tiptoes, being sure to hike my knees as high as they could go. Snakes hate that. It gets them all confused. They don't know whether to chase you or applaud your Rockettes dance. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

Now back to the cutting, the question is how much does it shorten the lifespan of the shoe and is that short life outweighed by the improvements in comfort? Only the owner/cutter of the shoe can decide.

BTW, this same cutting technique is done with car tires and is called "siping". It’s supposed to improve their traction during launches, cornering, and even in wet conditions. Don't know if it’s a legit phenomenon or a psychosomatic response to a perceived "improvement", all I know is you won't find me doing it to the tires on my running stroller.

But alas, there are some side effects to Hoka cutting to be concerned about. I'm definitely feeling all these strung out emotions and experiencing this wicked insomnia as a direct result of the Hoka cutting. I'm gonna try to meditate or read or tap dance or something entirely calming so that I might forget and possibly even sleep at some point.

Or maybe I'll go dig out the kitchen shears and get rid of this pesky face fringe and make some Kim Kardashian bangs aka a forehead merkin.


Hoka cutting - There's a new blunt sliced toe box in town, and I don't mean the rude sales guy at the running store in my neighborhood. Apparently other ultra runners are "sporting" a new trend in thrashed footwear and some people are completely shaken up about it. Do we love it or hate it, kids??? We needs to know RIGHT THE HELL NOW! There is a POLL button on this blog site for God sake!

Praise be and pass the box cutter.

I really hope more wide feet, bunion and blister-laden runners will embrace this idea and commence to cutting for their own feet's sake.  If this idea takes off, men will love me. Women will want to be me. And those mean young sales kids at the running store that I'm sure said nasty things about me after I left with my hyperactive youngins will see me on Katie Couric talking about my Super Hoka self and be so envious of my Super Hoka-ness that they will swear by all that is holy that if ever I forgive them, they will never make fun of me again and will want to measure my feet and hand me Hoka's to try on immediately when they see me.

What a good plan. I have completely impressed myself with my ability to think outside the toe box when solving a problem. That's a very Super thing to do.

It's such a good idea that I should probably patent it. I mean, if I don't, every time someone gets their feelings hurt, they'll be running around in clown shoes and buying box cutters. And let's face it. We don't want everybody to be Super.

I've got to quit writing now. I'm going to go to Katie Couric's website and submit a couple ideas for her show.

What do you think of these?

"Superhero Hoka Wearers And The Mean Sales Clerks That Used To Laugh At Them"

"I Used To Be A Geek, But Now I'm A Super Ultra Freak"

"Superhero Extreme Make Overs: How Clown Shoes Can Take Ten Years Off Your Feet"

Watch your local listings!

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