By Gordy Megroz, Outside Magazine
In 2010, a French adventure racer named Nicolas Mermoud approached Karl Meltzer, the accomplished American ultrarunner, and asked him to try out a pair of running shoes he'd designed. They looked bizarre, like moon boots, and were wider, thicker, and softer than typical running shoes-two and a half times beefier and 30 percent cushier. Meltzer, who had been training with conventional running shoes, was skeptical, but he laced them up and cruised around his Sandy, Utah, neighborhood. He was shocked by how forgiving they were. Halfway through the run, he was sold.
Within three months, Meltzer dropped his sponsor, La Sportiva, which specializes in lightweight trail runners, and started competing in Mermoud's creation, the Hoka One One. The shoes gave Meltzer's career new life, and by April 2011, he'd won his first race in a year-a brutal 26.2-mile trail run in Utah. Three weeks later, he won a 100-miler in Virginia, followed by a victory at Alabama's Pinhoti 100 in November. "People thought they looked like clown shoes, but I didn't care," he says. "I could float over rocks and not feel anything."
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