‘You Belong’: HOKA Ambassador Pens Stirring Letter for Anyone Who Feels Outside the Outdoors

If thoughts of not being outdoorsy enough have crept into your head, we have a message for you.

Whatever doubts have made you hesitant to pursue more outdoor adventures, you aren’t alone. Erin McGrady is, in her own words, “a brown-skinned, queer, Asian woman who worries about fitting in as much as I worry about sticking out.” And despite whichever of those qualities could stand out among the outdoorsy crowds, she thinks it’s worth it.

Follow your desire to be outdoors, and you may discover more different freedom there.

We teamed with HOKA ONE ONE to share her open letter and reminder that we all belong outdoors. Fittingly, she’s been exploring Arches National Park and other wildlands in the brand’s latest hiking boots, the Anacapa Mid and Low GTX.

Shop the HOKA ONE ONE Anacapa Hiking Boots

Hoka One One Anacapa you belong outdoors
(Photo/Caroline Whatley, HOKA ONE ONE)

In 2015, Erin McGrady started running in HOKA shoes. After enduring a series of setbacks, her doctor recommended she try out different shoes. She settled on the Cliftons and has stuck with them for road running since, and she enjoys the Challenger ATRs as well.

McGrady recently completed a 6-month writing residency with The Outbound Collective. One of the program’s perks included a gear package from the shoe brand and a chance to test its newest hiking shoes, the Anacapa.

We Belong Outdoors

Dear you,

You, yes, you. You scrolling through Instagram, looking at photos of outdoorsy people and wondering if that looks like fun, if it actually is fun, or if it’s just a bunch of people in colorful clothing taking pictures and faking the smiles and the laid-backness. Are the fire-making and bike riding and laughing real? Are the people in those photos just pretending or is it legitimately enjoyable?

Dear you, the you that wonders if you belong outside or if it’s just a space for others who know how to tie gnarly knots, who own all the latest gear, who could probably make a fire with their bare hands.

Dear me!

(Because let me be honest, this letter is just as much for others as it is for me — a brown-skinned, queer, Asian woman who worries about fitting in as much as I worry about sticking out, the one who’s always trying to help others feel at ease, even at my own expense.)

Dear me, dear you, dear us.

Even when we don’t see anyone around that looks like us, we still have every right to be there, unapologetically, in the campground, at the overlook, trying on gear, moving along a trail. Pay no mind to the long stares and the unsolicited advice … we’ve got every right to be there. I see myself in you out there and my smile at your presence when we pass on some singletrack is genuine. I’m glad you’re there, that we’re there, away from the screens and dings of notifications, taking up space, and yeah, having fun. We belong outdoors. Whether we grew up having these experiences or not.

This letter is for those of us who think we’re too different, too thin, too overweight, too tall, too awkward, too new, too afraid, too … much. Not enough? We belong out there, living it up the best we can, while we can. Science and research tell us that getting outside is good for us, but can we trust it? Can we hurdle the barriers to participation that allow us to take part in activities that can seem both intimidating and scary to break into, not to mention maintain? Yeah, we can. We will. We owe it to ourselves to heed the call because in doing so we find community, confidence, compassion, renewal … and that’s just the beginning.

Follow your heart, follow your feet, and take that first step. Literally. That initial movement, as we all know, can set into motion a momentum that propels us forward … from one small adventure at a local park near home to a weekend car camping adventure to an overnight backpacking trip. Then again no one says you have to go bigger, farther, faster when it comes to how you experience the outdoors … you do you, in whatever way that means.

Hoka One One Anacapa crossing stream
(Photo/Caroline Whatley, HOKA ONE ONE)


“Journeys matter, both yours and mine, and these are the boots that have been helping me access those journeys this summer,” McGrady explained.

This summer, she’s been hiking in HOKA Anacapa Mid and Low GTX waterproof hiking boots. They share the cushioning and lighter-than-they-look construction of the brand’s running shoes.

“I laced up my new boots, and honestly, I kind of forgot about them as we raced around shooting photos,” McGrady said. “They were comfortable, super grippy on the gritty sandstone and dusty trails, and plush underfoot (which meant I didn’t have to be super specific about each foot placement). The Anacapa ate up the gnarliest rocks and kept my feet protected.”

HOKA also built the Anacapa with sustainability in mind. The leather used is certified by the Leather Working Group. The collar, mesh, and laces are made from recycled polyester. Even the sock liner is 50% soy-based.

Lastly, McGrady found that the Anacapa’s grip worked on a variety of surfaces, both wet and dry. “These boots also stand up to the test when carrying a pack weighted with gear. They’re a good fit for anyone who wants to take casual day hikes to weekend backpacking trips.”

(Photo/Caroline Whatley, HOKA ONE ONE)

Shop the HOKA ONE ONE Anacapa Hiking Boots

This post is sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE. Find out more about the range of Anacapa hiking boots here

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