The RW Takeaway: A new, more breathable upper paired with a familiar cushioned feel makes the Arahi 4 a race-ready favorite for all types of runners.
- More mesh means more ventilation
- J-Frame midsole for stability
- Flat-waisted geometric last for an accommodating overall fit
Drop: 10.5mm (M), 7.0mm (W)
Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 8.0 oz (W)
I had regarded the Arahi 4’s predecessor as a recovery shoe; a hardy, steadfast stability trainer that’s just a little too heavy for speedwork, but generously cushioned to give my beaten body a “rest” on easy, non-tempo days. A couple of our wear-testers, however, were game to lace up in the shoe for races, from 5Ks to 26.2s.
“The big test for this shoe was the marathon I ran,” said one. “The shoe was comfortable and stable. The cushion was great, and the material breathed pretty well.”
This touches on two of this updated model’s strengths: its consistently plush, supportive midsole—characteristic of the Arahi line and Hoka in general—and the 4’s new stripped down, lightweight upper that makes for a more streamlined, race-ready feel.
A “Bucket Seat” Stabilizer
According to our shoe lab, the midsole is significantly softer in the forefoot compared to the heel. The source of this firmer feel is the J-Frame, Hoka’s denser J-shaped EVA that runs along the heel and lateral side of the sole, which provides a “bucket seat” for a more stabilizing ride.
A firm cushioning measurement doesn’t necessarily yield a rock-hard heel, however; one of the biggest draws with the Arahi 4 is how it buffers and absorbs shock on landings, especially for bigger runners.
“The amount of cushion in this shoe allows a runner of my size to not have any joint pain, while not adding too much weight,” said a tester. “I also liked the cushion because I didn’t feel like it slowed my response time down. I still felt light on my feet.”
Runners prone to injury were also fond of the Arahi because they found it lessened impact causing the constant pounding on their runs to not be as taxing on their bodies.
Said one, “That cushion helps my training because I tend to have less back pain during and after a run which allows me to recover and stretch properly. My goal is to keep moving in spite of being in pain and this shoe definitely allows for that.”
Indeed, I found the Arahi’s cushioning softened the strain on my knees and lower back as I bounded down steep hills while testing.
The shoe has an accommodating fit for wide feet thanks to what Hoka calls “flat-waisted geometry.” Its last is not as curvy as your average trainer, resulting in a roomier, non-restrictive overall fit. My only issue with the Arahi is its stiffness. Perhaps my petite stature didn’t provide enough force to flex the shoe (our lab results showed the Arahi to be moderately flexible). I wasn’t alone in my inability to make the shoe yield.
“The overall fit and feel of the shoe is good, it’s just way more stiff than I like in a shoe when running,” said a tester. “It almost felt like I was slapping the ground because there was no give in the transition from heel to forefoot.”
The most notable update for the Arahi is its new and improved upper, which has more mesh for breathability and an overlay that curves around the entire heel, doubly serving as a stability component and overall structural support for the shoe. One of our testers, who raved about the shoe’s new upper, said if the Arahi 3 and Cavu had a baby, this would be it. “[It has] the breathable material of the Cavu, with the more durable tread and cushioning of the Arahi.”
Her experience running a race—in a climate some runners, including me, would be miserable running in—is testament to the comfort level of this shoe.
“My toes had plenty of room to move around and didn’t get overheated,” she said. “I ran a marathon in these in 80-degree weather and my feet never got too hot.”
More Wear Tester Feedback
Jeff K., tester since 2017
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Forefoot
“I weigh 220 so cushion is key to my comfort in running. I’ve worn shoes in the past that my feet are fatigued within a mile. These shoes kept my feet feeling fresh after a 5-mile run on the treadmill. So overall comfort is the highlight of the shoe.”
Terry B., tester since 2012
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Heel
“I wear custom orthotics and this Arahi fit them well. The width of the shoe allows my entire foot to breath and move without pain or discomfort. It is wider than many other running shoes and my feet need that. The same thing goes for the length. I had no hot spots and both my pinkie toes and bunion were comfortable. The collar holds my foot (low ankle) gently and I do not have to compensate for anything. I can just run or walk with no additional concentration on moving my body to fit the shoe; the shoe fits my body.”