Celebrity running shoe brand opens stores in Manila

US WEEKLY lists Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, and Kylie Jenner as fans of running shoe brand Hoka (other publications list more celebrities; Harry Styles and Gisele Bündchen have both been spotted wearing them). While already available in the Philippines when its initial stores opened in February last year (in Ayala Malls by the Bay and SM Aura), it held a grand launch and simultaneous store openings in Greenhills and One Ayala on March 14.

BusinessWorld took a tour of the store in One Ayala, which was small at just about 100 sqm. While the heavily cushioned shoes were on display, the store’s highlight was the foot scanner, which creates a 3D model of the customer’s foot. A tablet held by a store associate interprets the resulting data, then gives a recommendation for the ideal shoe from their store. Their offerings cost between P7,000 to P9,500. We were also told that a lot of the stores’ employees are athletic themselves, which really helps for them to understand a customer’s needs. Finally, the store is equipped with a treadmill, so a customer can have a (literal) test run in the shoes.

Prasanna Bhaskar, General Manager of Asia Pacific for Deckers Brands (which acquired Hoka in 2013, joining other brands such as UGG, Teva, and Sanuk) talked about the brand’s origins in 2009:

“He was experimenting with a shoe that could help runners run fast downhill,” she said of Hoka founder Jean-Luc Diard. “It was a shoe designed to help marathoners and trailrunners,” she said, and the shoes were tested by athletes running in the Alps.

About the shoes’ comfort, Ms. Bhaskar said, “I think it’s about the safety of running in Hoka. I don’t think every cushion shoe will deliver the same comfort.”

After we listed down the celebrities we read about who were spotted wearing Hoka, she said, “Running is a thing. A lot of celebrities have taken to running, especially post-pandemic. The few names that you mentioned have been great advocates of an active lifestyle. We’re an inclusive brand, and I think it’s important that at the very soul of this brand, we… include everyone who’s willing to move, who’s engaging in a sport.”

Having been founded by a French person, we had to ask about their involvement in the Paris Olympics this year, to be held beginning in July, with the torch relay beginning in April. Ms. Bhaskar said that they’d be opening their Paris store soon. “Definitely a destination store to celebrate the Olympics,” she said.

The brand’s name, Hoka, means “Time to Fly” in Maori. “To fly is joy. Just think about the word in itself,” she said when asked about the significance of flight to the brand.

“For us, it’s about bringing joy to anyone who is active, irrespective of the sport you’re doing.”

The two new stores are on the 2nd level of One Ayala Mall, located at the corner of Ayala Ave. and EDSA in Makati, and the other at is at the GH Mall in the Greenhills Shopping Complex along Ortigas Ave. in San Juan. — Joseph L. Garcia