Vancouver Athletes Get the Full HOKA Experience
Road runners, trail runners, hikers and gym enthusiasts flocked to HOKA House in September
For five days in September, runners and outdoor enthusiasts embraced the chance to experience HOKA footwear at the firstever HOKA House, which took place in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood from Sept. 15 to 20. The days and nights were filled with runs, hiit workouts and hikes in the surrounding area, for committed HOKA fans as well as those who were new to the brand. “Vancouver is a beautiful place for our products to thrive,” says Chelsea Cardoso, brand manager for HOKA Canada, adding that the brand plans to roll out the popup concept in other markets across the country. “HOKA House was like a community hub for passionate fans and the HOKA-curious to come together. I felt strongly about Vancouver hosting the first brand-owned space in Canada, because of the landscape.”
The brand was introduced to Canada in early 2020, but the ensuing pandemic meant most special events of this type had to be put on hold. Cardoso explains that, with HOKA shoes being found mainly in running specialty stores, the brand has a very strong following among dedicated road and trail runners, but is not always seen as widely accessible by casual runners who also embrace other types of fitness, such as hiking or the gym. HOKA House presented the first opportunity, post-pandemic, to engage with and educate a wider audience. “HOKA’s bread and butter is the core runner,” Cardoso says, “but we see the possibility to be so much more to so many more people.”
The space at Kou Studios was divided into two rooms–one for participants to examine and try on shoes, and one for socializing and workouts. “That area [Mount Pleasant] is thriving with small businesses and lots of popup shops,” says Cardoso. “And the space was neutral enough that we could make it feel like HOKA, more than if we held it at a gym or a typical event space. Kou Studios were gracious enough to give us carte blanche.”
Mornings were for hiit workouts; during the evenings, local run clubs like the Fraser Street Run Club, East Van Run Crew and Mondays We Run were invited into the space to trial the shoes (focusing on models like the Carbon X, Bondi 8 and Mach 5), go for a short shakeout run and return for some social time. Gym enthusiasts were steered toward the Kawana, Clifton 8 and Mach 5; and for trail runners, the Speedgoat 5.
Runners can look forward to similar experiences as the brand rolls out the HOKA House concept in other cities across Canada. “Our goal with this first iteration of HOKA House was to connect with community leaders in the running, gym and hiking spaces, and we look forward to creating larger experiences for the public in the future,” says Cardoso. “We’re very happy with the group that came out.”