Two-time Olympic track runner Leo Manzano is now training in maximalist shoes.
Hoka One One is serious about getting fast runners in its shoes. The brand that started the maximalist movement four years ago has made a push to sign middle-distance runners over the past few months. The latest addition to its athlete stable is 2012 Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.
Manzano, 29, was a five-time NCAA champion at the University of Texas, and has been ranked among the top three milers in the U.S. for the past seven years. Still, after the 2012 Olympics, he and Nike had a bit of a falling out and he spent much of last year in search of a new sponsor. Enter Hoka One One.
Although increasingly popular in the trail and ultrarunning communities in the past few years, Hoka One One was still a fledgling brand trying to establish itself at running retail stores. But after being acquired by Deckers Outdoor Corp. last year, Hoka has been able to gain considerable leverage with both retailers and athletes.
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The brand is now trying to make strides among road runners and middle-distance track runners as a way to show runners can run fast in Hoka shoes. In January, newly signed champion U.S. ultrarunner Sage Canaday, a 2:16 marathoner, promptly placed second in the Carlsbad Marathon in 2:22:14 wearing a new, lightweight pair of Hoka Huakas. Hoka also recently signed former Villanova middle-distance runner Nicole Schappert and former UConn runner Mike Rutt, who on Feb. 8 helped his New Jersey/New York Track Club surpass the previous world record in the 4×800-meter relay while finishing second to a team that set the new world record.
The buzz about Hoka at trade shows last winter was all about lighter training shoes, racing flats and even track spikes. The company says Manzano will play a key role in the development of those shoes.
“I’m honored to represent Hoka One One,” Manzano said in a release. “I feel blessed to have connected with such a game-changing and innovative company that is led by runners who understand the needs of runners. I hope to leverage this opportunity to showcase how Hoka’s brilliantly engineered products benefit runners of all distances.”
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Known for his finishing kick, Manzano was in sixth place coming off the final turn at the London Olympics before storming up the homestretch to earn the silver medal—the first Olympic medal of any kind for the U.S. at 1500 meters since Jim Ryun in 1968. He’s made every U.S. team for the Olympics or IAAF World Championships since 2007.
Certainly Manzano will help foster the speedy sensations Hoka is seeking.
“Adding Leo to the Hoka family elevates our brand visibility and is a testament to the momentum we are gaining in the highly competitive running industry,” said Hoka One One brand president Jim Van Dine. “Leo is not only an Olympian and track and field all-star, he’s also a person with great integrity and character. We look forward to closely collaborating with Leo on product development—specifically racing spikes and flats.”