Running brand Hoka is releasing the biggest shoe in the marketplace on Thursday. The shoe is so big you can't even drive in it.
The Hoka One One (pronounced: o-nay o-nay) Tennine (pronounced: ten nine) is designed to make downhill running easier and faster. The Hoka One One Tennine will be available in select stores and online beginning on Thursday at a cost of $250.
"It has a really unique ride," Hoka President Wendy Yang told CNBC. "The Tennine provides greater ground contact area, it improves stability and grip, and the geometry is designed to manage the impact differently."
Hoka, a French company created in 2009, was bought by Decker's in 2013. Since then, the brand has gained popularity by runners and today is the third best-selling running shoe brand, behind Brooks and New Balance, according to NPD Group.
The Tennine weights 12.7 ounces, with a heal height of 33 millimeters. Hoka says the shoe is "the biggest on the marketplace," designed as specialized equipment for running. It compares the shoe to ski boots or cycling shoes and says using the product for anything other than running may impair balance and dexterity. The shoes even come with a warning label when you buy them, advising customers not to drive or climb stairs in them.
Hoka has seen rapid growth in physical locations and online. In the last year, brand net sales for Hoka's One One grew more than 60% to $93.1 million. The brand has gained credibility within running circuits, with many of the elite runners wearing them, including Aliphine Tuliamuk, U.S. marathon trials champion.
The brand is also gaining in popularity among younger shoppers, largely because it has signed partnerships with trendy, up-and-coming retailers like Engineered Garments and Outdoor Voices to get its products in front of millennials.
Kanye West gave the brand some high-profile buzz in the spring. The Adidas-sponsored singer and songwriter was seen wearing a pair of the $230 Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi 2 waterproof boots.
"I believe the future for Hoka is bright as they extend themselves beyond pure running," said Matt Powell, a senior industry adviser at NPD group.
Yang said Hoka continues to push the envelope to improve the running experience. "We're creating a new playbook each and everyday. The consumer is responding," she said.
Analysts say while the Tennine shoe may be appealing to some runners, it is aimed at a very narrow niche.
"Downhill running is a legitimate activity, but it is very narrow in comparison to the larger road-running activity," said Powell.
Hoka has also gained popularity for its comfort. Many runners claim the shoes have helped their knees, hips and ankles feel less pain while running.
"We have a growing base of consumer who are wearing Hoka for medical and basic wellness because they experience great results and they share that with their friends," said Yang.
"It's a very strong comfort brand," said Sam Poser, an analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.
Poser said he thinks the buzz from the Tennine could help attract attention for the brand.
"The new item is a very specific item that will do well with existing Hoka customers and help introduce Hoka to a broader audience," he said.
Susquehanna analysts have a buy rating on Deckers in their latest note.
"Hoka sales blew through expectations, and the brand momentum should continue for the foreseeable future," the note says. "We share management's confidence that Hoka sales will exceed $500 [million] by 2025, and based on the current trends and strict brand management, we expect Hoka will surpass $500 [million] in annual revenue by FY23."
Boston-based marathoner Kathryn Price said Hoka's are becoming more common on the running circuit.
"Runners who run in Hokas love them," she said. While Price said she has worn her Asics Kayanos religiously for two decades, she likes that Hoka is trying to innovate and has really taken into account the perspective of the runner.
"I think they take a risk here from aesthetics," she said. "I think runners who love being different and trying new things would probably love this shoe, but I'm not sure that runners who are not risk takers — aesthetically or habitually — would gravitate toward this shoe."