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Everything You Need to Know About The Hoka One One Vanquish 3

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Fans of stability running shoes often lament the lack of cushioning in neutral runners. Most are built for speed with a focus on responsiveness and firm cushioning. Other neutral runners such as the Adidas Ultra Boost offers tremendous cushioning but at the cost of stability and ground feel.

As a result, Hoka One One introduced the Vanquish line as a daily trainer for those looking for the right amount of cushioning and responsiveness. Hoka One One has always been a popular brand among running enthusiasts, but with offerings such as the Vanquish 3, it also offers a solid option for daily comfort seekers and casual runners.

PROS

  • Upper is extremely breathable and lockdown is secure.
  • Carbon rubber traction is surprisingly lightweight and durable.
  • Dual layer cushioning system makes the Vanquish 3 both cushioned and semi-responsive.
  • Sufficiently neutral running shoe with correction tendencies.

CONS

  • Some may find the Vanquish 3 to be a bit narrow.
  • Initial pricing places the Vanquish 3 in the higher-end of running models though it is currently on sale.
  • Some may find the web design pointless and distracting.
  • Midsole unit can be oppressive for some.

Aesthetic

The Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is unmistakably a Hoka One One running shoe. While other companies continue to offer minimally branded and sleek shoes that can double as casual footwear, the Vanquish 3 is a running shoe through and through. From the aggressive stack height of the sole unit to the webbing design, the Vanquish 3 is undeniably a running shoe.

The Vanquish 3 features a visibly, breathable mesh upper with webbing overlays that look nothing like other shoes available on the market. The Vanquish 3 also features a branded heel counter and an aggressively sharp sole unit. Hoka One One seems to enjoy eschewing clean lines indicative of other running shoes for an aggressive nontraditional look. The Vanquish 3 is a very busy shoe and everything blends together rather nicely.

We found that fans of the brand continue to enjoy the aggressive branding from the logo on the lateral side of the shoe to the tongue and the heel counter. The silhouette of the Vanquish 3 is also noticeably forceful, particularly as a neutral running shoe. In this category, most brands tend to opt for sleek or minimal silhouettes focused on minimalism and speed. The Vanquish 3, instead, is a thick runner with impressive, yet highly visible tech specs.

We actually found the silhouette to be enjoyably different. If Hoka One One’s goal was to create an eye-catching shoe, we believe they achieved it with the Vanquish 3. In fact, we found that some runners would try on the shoe out of sheer curiosity only to end up buying them later.

However, the highly technical features of the Vanquish 3 limits its use a casual shoe or understated running shoe. While we found that runners enjoyed the ride of the Vanquish 3, some commented that wearing them casually proved difficult.

Lastly, the Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is offered in a number of equally aggressive colorways from an aqua blue to grenadine. The Vanquish 3 is offered in more muted colors such as navy and black, but the external webbing design of the shoe makes seemingly every colorway a flashy one.

Well trained runners or those looking to make a statement will appreciate the Vanquish 3. Additionally, the overly technical characteristics are only an issue for those looking for comfortable everyday shoes. At the price point of the Vanquish 3, we would recommend those looking for comfortable shoes look elsewhere.

Score: 8/10 – The Vanquish 3 looks nothing like any other shoe on the market which is an advantage. We loved the highly technical look and appreciate a dedicated running brand that aggressively makes a statement.

Upper

The Hoka One One Vanquish 3 utilizes a seamless mesh upper Hoka calls “Air Mesh.” The air mesh is simply an engineered mesh with a particular focus on breathability. Aside from keeping the runner cool during long runs, the air mesh also acts a quick drying system to wick sweat and moisture away from the shoe.

Security and lockdown in the Vanquish 3 are provided through Hoka One One’s External Web Design. The webbing on the outside of the Vanquish 3 allows Hoka One One to maintain a seamless upper throughout the inside of the shoe while ensuring the runner does not feel unstable. While some runners commented that they feared the webbing would tear or lack the strength necessary to hold up after many miles, we have yet to find that the web design contributed to a consistent point of failure. In fact, we found that many runners commented that the Vanquish 3 maintained its shape and integrity even after high-mileage use.

The only negative we found on the External Web Design of the Vanquish 3 is that despite appearances, parts of the Vanquish 3 were surprisingly stiff initially and required some break-in time. As a best practice, we recommend that runners always spend some non-running time with running shoes prior to running in them. This was particularly true on the Vanquish 3.

We found that runners appreciated the ultimate breathability of the Vanquish 3. Combined with a seamless upper, the Vanquish 3 could be worn with or without socks for a comfortable, breathable ride. We also found that runners experienced no irritation while running in the Vanquish 3 due to friction.

However, we found that the Vanquish 3 could tend to be a little more narrow than other offerings such as the Saucony Echelon 5. Some runners commented that the upper was narrow and tight. The latter could be alleviated with wear due to break-in time. However, for runners with wide-feet, we suggest reviewing other models before committing to the Vanquish 3.

We would also recommend that runners in love with the Vanquish 3 get properly sized prior to purchasing the Vanquish 3. Additionally, while the breathability of the Vanquish 3 was a strong point, some recommended wearing warmer socks during runs in colder climates. Additionally, running in damp or wet environments proved to be a challenge in the Vanquish 3 as it allowed water to easily penetrate the runner’s foot.

The Vanquish 3 also features a semi-padded tongue with a traditional lace-up structure. We found that runners were able to quickly pull the Vanquish 3 on and off without too much difficulty. We also found that runners did not feel constricted in the shoe and appreciated the adjustability with the traditional system as opposed to sock-like systems such as the Adidas Ultra Boost.

Score: 6/10 – The Vanquish 3 is extremely breathable and comfortable with its air mesh system. However, the overlays and web design could have been executed differently and the Vanquish 3 tends to be uncomfortable for wide-foot runners.

Traction

Hoka One One uses a carbon rubber compound for the outsole to provide traction on the Vanquish 3. The Vanquish 3 places the rubber in high-impact wear areas such as the forefoot and the heel. Hoka One One calls this system a full ground contact system, which it uses in other models such as the Clifton.

The carbon rubber outsoles are a popular choice for trail running shoes for their durability and stickiness. Hoka One One’s use of carbon rubber on the Vanquish 3 allows it to serve as a versatile running shoe for a variety of conditions. For instance, we found that runners had little traction issues running in both road and off-road environments. Additionally, for slightly wet conditions, we found that runners commented that the Vanquish 3 performed well.

We also found that runners commented that the traction on the Vanquish 3 was highly durable even after high-mileage use. Carbon rubber tends to be a highly durable compound and Hoka One One’s strategic placement of it in the forefoot in the Vanquish 3 allows it be effective in providing the runner a comfortable running experience.

We also found that despite the employment of carbon rubber, Hoka One One managed to employ it so that it does not completely weigh down the shoe or feel particularly bottom heavy. As a result, the overall weight is slightly decreased while still providing for a durable and reliable sole unit.

However, the strategic setup also tends to favor runners with proper forefoot striking form. Heel or midfoot strikers may find that the durability of the Vanquish 3 to be less than their forefoot striking counterparts. Some of this may be mediated by Hoka One One’s full ground contact and meta rocker that encourages toe-off positions while encouraging a normal gait pattern.

Score: 8/10 – The carbon rubber on the Vanquish 3 is a highly durable and surprisingly lightweight traction unit that is suitable for a variety of surfaces. Heel and midfoot strikers may wear out other parts of the traction faster, but not prohibitively so.

Cushioning

The highlight of the Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is easily their use of a dual-cushioning system. The Vanquish 3 is marketed as a plush cushioning neutral shoe and we feel that accurately describes the experience. The Vanquish 3 utilizes two separate EVA compounds in the midsole. The first layer is a softer EVA compound meant to provide the runner with a plush landing and comfortable standing position. We found that this layer of cushioning is tastefully employed and is reminiscent to the Saucony Guide’s use of Everun on top of a more traditional EVA compound. In fact, we found that runners commented that the softer cushioning of the Vanquish did not promote a sinking feeling.

Much of the unique combination of cushioning and responsiveness is due to the second layer of EVA that Hoka One One employed in the Vanquish 3. The second layer of the Vanquish 3 provides a firmer, responsive layer under the softer layer. This combination provides the runner both soft cushioning combined with excellent ground feel. Again, we found that the closest comparison of this cushioning system was the Saucony Guide 10, which is consistently one of the highest ranked shoes in its class.

We found that runners found this combination be extremely comfortable and versatile for numerous distances. While the Vanquish 3 is ideally a long-distance training shoe, we found that it could also handle shorter distances as well. The midsole provided surprisingly good road feel given the amount of soft cushioning along with the overall height of the Vanquish 3.

The only complaint we envision runners experiencing is that unlike the Saucony Everun, which is a TPU based cushioning system, the Vanquish 3 utilizes a standard EVA cushioning system. Standard EVA tends to compress over long periods of time. The use of a dual layer EVA system with a softer cushioning on top of a firm level may experience faster rates of compression. We fear that this may limit the Vanquish 3 as a high mileage shoe.

The dual cushioning system is encased in Hoka One One’s Meta Rocker technology. Meta Rocker is a low offset sole unit that mimics the movement of a rocking chair. Despite the aggressive sole unit and the dual-layer cushioning system, the Vanquish 3 still only has a 5 mm offset. As a result, the movement encourages the runner to maintain a consistent heel-to-toe running stride with minimal lateral movement. It also allows the shoe to maintain a cushioned ride with a decent amount of responsiveness.

We found that runners enjoyed the meta rocker in the Vanquish 3. While we found that some runners dismissed it as a gimmick, the majority of runners found the meta rocker to be assistive enough without being intrusive or dangerous. Rocking sensations employed in running shoes can jeopardize the runner’s knees through hyperextension. However, we found that the low offset along with the minimal “rocking” of the Vanquish 3 made it a comfortable ride.

Score: 7/10 – The dual-cushioning system is a revelation in the Vanquish 3. It is extremely comfortable and just responsive enough. However, we anticipate some compression over long periods but expect a comfortable ride until then.

Pricing

The Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is marketed in the vein of premium running shoes such as the Adidas Ultra Boost and the Asics Kayano 24. The Vanquish 3 retails at 170 dollars. For hardcore runners, we feel that this price point is reasonable given the amount of tech thrown into the shoe along with the fast-growing reputation of Hoka One One.

For casual runners, the initial price point of the Vanquish 3 may be a bit prohibitive. For those looking for neutral runners at lower price points, we would recommend the Nike Pegasus or the Mizuno Wave line. Both of these offer similar tech minus the rocker with more competitively priced models.

The carbon rubber outsole will prove durable for both audiences so these should last for a few hundred miles. Runners have also commented that the upper is extremely durable and the runners should experience little to no delamination or wear holes.

However, the time of writing, we found deals for the Vanquish 3 for as low as 66 dollars. At 66 dollars, we feel that the Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is a must-try for neutral runners looking for a cushioned, yet responsive running shoe by one of the most interesting running brands.

Score: 7/10 – The Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is a premium running shoe with a matching price tag. But for the tech included, we feel that this is fair level for hardcore runners. At sales, this is almost a must try model.

Target Audience

The Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is a neutral runner with plush cushioning for those looking for a bit of correction in their running shoe. The primary audience for the Vanquish 3 will most likely be hardcore distance runners looking for a bit more cushioning from their running shoes that typically tend to be available in comparable neutral trainers. The Vanquish 3 is also ideal for heel and midfoot strikers looking for more fluid gait assistance. Runners commented that the rocker is assistive without being gimmicky or dangerous.

The Vanquish 3 is also ideal for those looking to make a statement with their running shoes with the aggressive look and popping colors. The Vanquish 3 does a tremendous job of standing out from the crowd and those looking for a running shoe that does not look like a minimalist copy will sincerely enjoy the Vanquish 3.

At reduced prices, the other audience that may enjoy the Vanquish 3 would be workers looking for a comfortable, cushioned shoe for everyday wear with little consideration for looks. For instance, office or hospital administrators behind desks would find the comfort, breathability, and corrective assistance a major upgrade from comparable models. However, the Vanquish 3’s aggressive look may not fit in other professional environments.

Score: 7/10 – Hardcore runners will enjoy the new edition of the Vanquish. Casual runners may look elsewhere, but at a reduced price point, the Vanquish is perfect for a variety of audiences not concerned about the aggressive look.

Should you buy it?

Yes – For hardcore runners that log high double-digit miles weekly, the Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is a sound investment. Runners have commented that the Vanquish 3 is highly durable and will last most runners a few running seasons.

We have also found that the dual layer cushioning and the rocker technology are pieces of tech that are unique to the Vanquish 3. Therefore, the Vanquish 3 would be a good buy for most runners in the neutral market.

At lower prices, the Hoka One One Vanquish 3 is almost a no-brainer buy. The only apprehension we could envision would be the aggressive look of the Vanquish 3. But for dedicated runners, we feel the benefits outweigh an occasional eyebrow raise.

Total score: 43/60

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