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Hoka secures bid to become title sponsor for UTMB; Walmsley set to return

 Hoka Zinal 2 running shoes.
Hoka Zinal 2 running shoes.

In 2023, Jim Walmsley didn't just win the UTMB – he obliterated the previous record by a full 12 minutes, and he did so wearing Hoka trail running shoes. It makes sense then that the French running brand has just taken over as the title sponsor for the world's most iconic trail running event.

Last year was marked by controversy around the UTMB's sponsorship, which saw the race partner with automobile brand Dascia. Top runners like 2022 winner Kilian Jornet publicly called out the race organizers for partnering with a polluter. This year's announcement is unlikely to draw heavy criticism from runners, even if they don't personally love a chunky midsole.

Any trail running footwear brand would make more sense for the race around Mont Blanc than a car brand, but Hoka is especially well positioned as a UTMB sponsor as it was founded near Chamonix, the same town in the French Alps where the race begins and ends. Hoka was already the race's footwear and apparel sponsor, but the new five-year deal will see the brand, launched in 2009, further cement its place as a force to be reckoned with in the trail running community.

Though details have yet to be announced, the deal will mean that the races will be updated with the Hoka name, and that barring any injuries, Walmsley will be running once again. For now, however, it appears as though Dascia will also remain a premier-level sponsor, so not all runners are likely to be totally satisfied with the news, but let's hope it's a step in the right direction.