In today’s hefty article, we’re going to review the 6 best Hoka trail shoes.
Hoka has always been known for their deeply cushioned lightweight trail models.
However, just like what Hoka did with the Mach, they have started incorporating low-profile models like the Torrent and Zinal into their current lineup.
- Do the new Hoka trail shoes bring enough to the table to take feet out of other offerings?
- Are the newer models better than the previous models?
- Are some of the shoes worth the hefty price tag?
- Is the new carbon technology in the Tecton X worth all the hype?
- Are the new road/trail hybrid models performing as advertised?
Let’s dive right into it…
Best Hoka Trail Shoes
In a hurry, these are this is a side-by-side comparison of the best 5.
Hoka Speedgoat 5
W: 8.5 oz 〉 M: 9.8 oz 〉 Drop: 4 mm 〉 Stack Height: Heel: 38 mm 〉 Forefoot: 34 mm 〉 5mm lugs
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 has come a long way since its abysmal first offering.
From a shoe that started as kind of a trash pile and has eventually evolved into this, I am happy that we’re here versus in a completely other direction that would have ultimately hurt this shoe’s lineage.
But knowing that Hoka has done away with their stellar Speedgoat Evo, I had high hopes and heavy concerns that the Speedgoat 5 would be a drastic change to a model that had clawed its way back to be an ultimate performer.
I’m happy to say that the Speedgoat 5 is a great update to a shoe that was already very popular. I think it will appease a lot of people who were concerned that the new version would be drastically changed so much that it’s no longer the shoe that we began to love.
The Speedgoat 5 brings the goods and delivers what Speedgoat fans were hoping for: familiarity and advancement.
So, if you like the Speedgoat 4, you’ll like the Speedgoat 5. If you like the Speedgoat Evo, you’ll like the Speedgoat 5.
I think this shoe is a really great trail performer that’s going to handle and adapt to all sorts of situations, trails, environments, and everything you can throw at it.
So, those of you who like to go fast, you’ll feel at home, and those of you who like to go nice and slow in the mountains, I think you will also find a comfortable place in the Speedgoat 5.
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is going to be a great option for anyone who’s:
- Running anything from a kilometer to a 100-mile endurance event
- Just getting into trail running and you’re thinking about running ultras or mountains
Let’s move to the things that I like about the Speedgoat 5…
Things I Like About Hoka Speedgoat 5
Same But Better
I think the Speedgoat 5:
- Brings what’s familiar from the Speedgoat 4
- Brings some of the advancements of the Speedgoat Evo
- Mushed those two together into one great package that still feels familiar
At first, I didn’t trust that the jacquard upper would really hold up. We saw it in the Tecton x and it’s actually doing pretty well in that shoe as well.
I was worried the upper wasn’t going to hold up as well as the matrix fabric upper from the Speedgoat Evo.
I never really had issues with the Speedgoat 4 upper, but I know many people that did complain it just sort of prematurely wore through.
But what I can tell you is it’s pretty comfortable, it’s lightweight, and it’s holding up much better than I anticipated.
I also want to touch on some of those carryovers from the Speedgoat Evo, especially in the upper. I’m talking about the stretchy vamp across the forefoot that really allows for a more accommodating fit through there.
Also, that redesigned thinner tongue and the thinner gusset are going to provide a bit more volume in the shoe. The upper sort of allows your foot to fill that void versus trying to conform your foot in any specific way.
Don’t get me wrong. While the upper material is improved, the Speedgoat 5 is still a narrow shoe and the upper does stretch out too much.
So, make sure you read what I dislike about this shoe below.
Hoka are advertising this as a new midsole, but I’ll say it feels very similar to the previous Speedgoat 4 and really similar to the Speedgoat Evo, which is kind of a surprise.
The midsole provides you with plenty of bounce and cushioning underfoot. It gets you that ground feel that you need especially out of a max cushion shoe, but it also has that springiness and that’s super fun and enjoyable from Hoka shoes.
As you begin to wear the shoe in, that does sort of flatten out and widen out, which gets you extra balance and the shoe doesn’t feel like it’s wearing through prematurely.
The midsole gets a thumbs-up for me.
Great Vibram Grip
I’m always a big fan of Vibram and I think it does really well in every shoe that I’ve tried.
Hoka slightly redesigned things on the outsole. It seems they have repositioned things and added a little bit more along the heel and some across the toe grip for durability.
Vibram outsoles always hold up really well for me and I love the grip that it provides in all sorts of conditions and environments.
Despite these lugs being big and kind of clunky, the Speedgoat 5 still runs on all types of surfaces well.
So, if you have like road connections between house and trail, the outsole:
- Doesn’t get in the way
- Still holds up really well
- Provides you with plenty of the grip that you need
- The Speedgoat 5 is built much better than anticipated
- The materials are great
- The Vibram Megagrip is great
- The jacquard upper is holding up better than I thought
Putting everything together, you have a lighter shoe, a fast shoe, and a bouncy shoe.
That being said, I think the Speedgoat 5 does have a couple of quirks that you need to know about…
Things I Dislike About Hoka Speedgoat 5
As far as fit is concerned, the Speedgoats are notorious for being narrow and that doesn’t change in the Speedgoat 5. But really where this shoe kind of runs into issue is also with this new upper.
As much as I like the new upper, after 30 or 40 miles in the shoe, I noticed that it was really beginning to stretch out.
It does provide you with more volume because of that, but unfortunately with that narrowness and the low ceiling height, the fabric doesn’t really have anywhere to go.
So, if you’re one to dislike a narrow shoe, perhaps the stretching upper will provide you more relief.
But for me, I ended up having to really lace this tightly down through the midfoot, which becomes a bit annoying going downhill when you have to pull off to the side and re-tie the shoe just to make sure that you got it fit on your foot right.
I never used to have to readjust a Speedgoat for being too loose before.
Hoka has been doing this on most of their road shoes lately and they’re incorporating it now into trail shoes.
They do that to relieve some pressure off the Achilles tendon. Also, it kind of replaces the pull tab when trying to get your foot into the shoe without forcing the heel counter down.
But where this becomes a problem is letting debris into the shoe. So, dirt, small pebbles, and debris can get into that heel, especially on dusty or dirty descents.
That’s annoying, especially in a race where you might have to take your shoes off and dump it out because little pebbles are going to cause blister issues.
Again, it’s really that upper stretching out that’s going to make it more difficult to get that precision fit that the Speedgoats have sort of been known for, especially the Speedgoat Evo.
Also, getting a good heel lock around the ankle collar specifically with the swallowtail ankle thing is a bit more challenging than previous versions.
I didn’t run into too many issues with it especially getting used to the shoe, but you’ll notice that it doesn’t have quite a grip around your ankle as the previous versions did.
I think the Speedgoat 5 is a bit on the steep end as far as price is concerned.
A lot of Hokas tend to be leaning in that direction and I wish it was $10-20 cheaper than that because I do think this is a really good shoe for everybody.
I hate that price could alienate a lot of people, which brings us to our conclusion…
I loved the Speedgoat 4 and I really loved the Speedgoat Evos and so this was probably the most anticipated shoe from Hoka in 2022.
I tilt my hat to the team for eventually getting the shoe to where it is today, which clearly is a great shoe.
The Speedgoat 5 still provides a soft springy ride that Speedgoat fans will feel right at home in while enjoying hours of trail fun.
Coming in a half ounce lighter than its predecessor, the Speedgoat 5 features:
- An entirely new jacquard mesh upper that brings the weight down and durability up
- A new yet familiar cushioned EVA midsole
- That delicious grippy Vibram
- A new stretchy vamp
- Lighter laces
- Readjusted tongue shape
- A thinner gusset
- Hoka’s swallowtail heel counter
- Less welded overlays
Hoka Mafate Speed 3
W: 9.8 oz 〉 M: 10.9 oz 〉 Drop: 4 mm 〉 Stack Height: Heel: 35 mm 〉 Forefoot: 31 mm 〉 5mm lugs
The Mafate Speed 3 is an interesting shoe in that the changes are small and subtle but necessary. The biggest of these comes in the upper materials, design, and implementation.
What we have is a trail beast designed to accommodate a wide array of feet, provide plenty of grip, and last you a long time.
But in terms of price, the Mafate is $25 more expensive than the Speedgoat and nearly $50 more expensive than the Torrent.
So, it kind of begins to beg the question: “Why would you spend this much on the Mafate Speed 3 when you have all these other trail offerings for either the same price or less?”
Ultimately, where the Mafate Speed sort of stands out amongst the other Hoka trail shoes is its fit.
The Mafate is utilizing different tech in the upper which will make it a better more accommodating fit than something like the Speedgoat.
The Speedgoat has always been a narrower shoe and it only works with some foot types. A lot of people have tried the Speedgoat and it just doesn’t work for them. It’s just too narrow and it can cause blisters along the pinky toe if it doesn’t fit right.
So, the Mafate Speed 3 now uses:
- A new stretchy vamp across the upper
- A better lacing system
- A better tongue system that’s just more accommodating.
That’s where the Mafate actually begins to take over.
The shoe is going to be the more accommodating of any of the trail choices from Hoka. So, if you have wider feet or just weirdly shaped feet, the Mafate is a more comfortable accommodating shoe that doesn’t require a lot of dialing in specifically to get that perfect fit.
Overall, if you’ve had fitment issues in other Hokas, the Mafate Speed 3 might be the answer.
If, however, you’ve tried the Speedgoat, the Torrent, or the Evo Mafate and you haven’t had issues, there may not be a reason to upgrade to the Mafate Speed 3.
Where The Mafate Shines
While the Mafate Speed works in a variety of conditions, those big lugs really come in handy in inclement weather and technical terrain.
It’ll be great for ultramarathons and long distances, but it may not be great for super precise precision running.
Here’s what I like about the Mafate…
Things I Like About Hoka Mafate Speed 3
This is a bit of a carryover from the Evo Mafate 2.
In my opinion, the Mafates have always been a very durable shoe that holds up really well.
I haven’t had much experience with previous Mafates breaking down or popping holes or anything like that, and the Mafate Speed 3 is no exception.
The Mafate 3 is well-built, rugged, and tough.
This combo of materials, especially with some of these new upper materials, are holding up very well and offering plenty of durability that’s going to last you through all sorts of inclement conditions, technical trails, and non-technical trails.
Again, the changes are subtle yet pretty important. The main change comes through the midfoot both in the lacing, the tongue, and the new stretchy vamp across the forefoot.
The new mesh is a nice recycled mesh which offers a bit more breathability and durability, especially in combination with the new KPU welded overlays.
These KPU overlays are pretty substantial in that they’re a bit thicker and they’re not super intrusive.
However, they’re going to hold up well and provide you with some good protection along the forefoot and through the toes.
The upper is more comfortable, it’s a better fit, and really is what’s going to allow this shoe to work with an array of foot shapes and foot styles.
It’s not going to be quite as precision fit as something like the Speedgoat 4 or the Torrent 2, but what you do get is an adaptive midfoot which is what’s going to set this shoe apart from other trail running shoes in the Hoka lineup.
Bottom line, it is just going to work for a wider variety of foot shapes in all sorts of conditions, and that is going to be a thumbs-up for a lot of people.
What Hoka is doing with Vibram Megagrip is so good.
You’re going to get the exact same outsole that you’re getting in the Evo Mafate and the 5mm lugs are just great.
The outsole holds up really well and it gets you through all sorts of conditions.
So, if the weather is sloppy or if there’s snow or mud or technical terrain, these big gnarly lugs are going to get you through there just fine.
However, they do take some adapting because they are so deep and big. Some of you might feel them underfoot, especially in more compact hard surfaces.
Last but not least, this outsole/lug combination is just not going to really work for road running at all. It’s the softer trails and the more technical trails where these will come in handy.
That being said, there are a couple of things that I dislike about the Mafate Speed 3…
Things I Dislike About Hoka Mafate Speed 3
As someone who has always been vocal about not liking break-ins in a shoe, that is why I’m classifying this as a big dislike.
The Evo Mafates did require quite a bit of break-in. But with the Mafate Speed 3, you’re going to have to spend 50-70 miles in the shoe to really begin to open up that midsole.
The Mafate will come alive once you get to that point. You’re going to get the full benefit of the shoe once you start to get it to adapt to your feet and you sort of learn the ins and outs of the shoe and what and how it works.
After that break-in, it just feels good. But it’s such a big commitment to a shoe that early on, the shoe will probably feel one way and it might fight against you, but once you sort of reign in the lion, it will obey.
I just wish the Mafate were more comfortable right out of the box and it didn’t require so many miles, so many different conditions, and wear tests to get it to work.
But it is what it is.
The Mafate Speed 3 are pretty dang heavy and almost an ounce heavier than the Evo Mafate.
Of course, the Evo was designed to be more of the race version and so it’s going to be a little bit lighter.
So, the Mafate Speed 3 is 6 grams heavier than the Speedgoat 5 which has a bit more midsole underfoot, which is quite surprising!
So, if you are a gram counter or if you’re going to be one that does get concerned about the weight of a shoe, this is a heavy tank.
It’s durable and it will last you a long time, but it’s certainly one of the more heavy trail shoes that Hoka offers, which also sort of brings us to our final dislike…
The Mafate Speed 3 is certainly one of the more expensive trail shoes from Hoka. Actually, it is the same price as the Evo Mafate 2 which is much lighter.
Again, it’s $25 more expensive than the Speedgoat 4 and nearly $50 more expensive than the Torrent 2.
I’m sad to say that the price point may just put it out of reach for a lot of people though the fit may work more.
There’s no denying that Hoka has a trail offering for just about every condition or distance these days and the Mafate is a great example.
The Mafate is going to give you plenty of protection as you break the shoe in and that’s when it becomes more comfortable.
It is a comfortable very cushioned shoe with a 4mm drop. It is not quite as cushioned as the Speedgoat and also not quite as precision fit as something like the Torrent 2.
The Speed 3 carries over:
- That bold Vibram Megagrip outsole with deep 5mm lugs
- A responsive compressed EVA midsole with ample stack height
- The bold durability the shoe is known for.
The addition of the:
- Recycled woven mesh
- Dynamic stretchy vamp across the forefoot
- KPU molded overlays
… make this a far more comfortable upper though not quite as precision as the discontinued Evo Mafate 2.
All in all, I like the Mafate Speed 3 for what it is and I think it’s a really good companion shoe to the Evo Mafate which has gotten me through a lot of ultra-distances over the years.
If you are looking for a trail shoe that has huge lugs, some responsive yet cushioned midsole, and plenty of upper to sort of be more accommodating and work for long runs out there on the trails, give this shoe a shot.
Hoka Tecton X
W: 7.4 oz 〉 M: 8.9 oz 〉 Drop: 4 mm 〉 Stack Height: Heel: 33 mm 〉 Forefoot: 29 mm 〉 4mm lugs
The new Tecton X is Hoka’s carbon-plated trail shoe.
This is a unique trail offering from the brand that’s become synonymous with cushioned, soft, and grippy trail shoes.
The dual parallel carbon plates, a first for Hoka’s trail line, are surprisingly forgiving. And when combined with the softer lower midsole make for a pleasant snappy protective ride that works across any trail that you can throw at them and in any conditions that you might find.
The woven upper is new and will be featured in many Hoka shoes but makes for an interesting fit, a deeper vamp, and the concern of durability.
The light Vibram outsole is notorious for grip. It works as one would expect and brings the shoe to the highest ranks and cost in the Hoka trail line.
If you have that money to spend on a trail shoe that will last you a while and provide you with a really unique ground feel and get you up and down a mountain in a very lightweight package quickly, I think the Tecton X is certainly worth your time.
Let’s talk about what I like…
Things I Like About Hoka Tecton X
This is not an adjective that I’ve used regularly when reviewing Hoka products except for the Mafate.
Right out of the box, the Tecton X has a more accommodating foot shape, especially compared to something like the Speedgoat Evo or the new Speedgoat 5 which tends to be on the narrower side.
This toe box tends to favor those who have a wider forefoot or like those toes to splay and have a bit more room up front.
So, for those ultra runners or trail ultra runners, you might like this as a shoe where your foot can continue to swell and fill the void.
I like Vibram outsoles because they tend to be very durable and provide plenty of grip in adverse conditions.
I don’t think this outsole is as tacky as the heavier-duty Vibram outsoles that we see on other trail shoes from Hoka and other shoes in general.
The outsole on the Texton X has more cutouts. It’s lighter, still quite durable, and a bit denser material.
Honestly, the lugs on this Litebase outsole are not wearing down nearly as much as I expected. So, it’s a more durable material than I expected.
There’s enough depth to the lugs to get the grip that you need whether it’s on super technical terrain or muddy or sloppier conditions. It’s a good kind of all-around outsole.
In fact, the Tecton X is sub 10 oz in size 11 (281 grams). That is an extremely light trail shoe that is holding up much better than other trail shoes that are in that lighter realm.
Although the Tecton X has a carbon plate and a woven upper, it’s lighter than the Evo Speedgoat which is over 10 oz (300 grams) in size 11.
Overall, the Tecton X is a lightweight shoe that packs a punch.
Hoka is doing something unique. They have two separate carbon plates that are side by side paralleling each other.
This setup does provide you with plenty of stiffness but not so much that the shoe becomes alienating and certainly for those who have perfect form.
What you get with the Tecton X is a snappy shoe that provides you with that propulsion while simultaneously providing you with protection underfoot.
This is a very similar feeling that I had underfoot from the North Face Vectiv Enduris which had that Pebax plate.
In the end, I was expecting the Tecton X to feel very stiff and hard to run in on multiple surfaces, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. It’s been a fun time.
I would say that the real hero is the Vibram Litebase outsole that’s holding up well and the carbon plates are super fun.
I also think that the mesh upper works better than I expected. While the shoe doesn’t offer much structure along the heel counter, the shoe’s holding up better than I expected right out of the box.
That being said, there are a couple of things that I dislike about the Tecton X…
Things I Dislike About Hoka Tecton X
Lacing & Tongue
The lacing comes down quite far into the vamp on the forefoot and half of the holes are pass-through holes so they actually take up more real estate.
The fact that the tongue is thin and beveled in at the top means that you could get that tightness or pain across the top of the foot, which might require re-lacing the shoes.
All of this in combination makes for an ill-fitting upper through the top of the foot. I think the weirdest part is the fact that the laces do come down so far into the vamp.
What ends up happening is you’d have to pull on the bottom laces and work your way up kind of tightening everything down. What that ends up causing is fabric overlay over the vamp area itself.
It worked for me as I broke the shoes in and just kind of dialed it in after a while, but it’s going to be something that you’ll notice right out of the box and it’s going to look weird on your feet as you look down.
The heel counter doesn’t have a ton of structure, especially compared to other Hokas. I get it they’re trying to make a light racing shoe that can go the distance, but there’s really not a lot of structure in the back.
And when you compare that to another Hoka like the Zinal, the structure in the Zinal’s heel counter allows you to dial in those laces and get that fit nice and tight on your foot.
And when you’re traversing technical terrain, you don’t want your heel sliding out and you don’t want a lot of that flexibility. You want to be able to lock things down.
So, I think losing all of that structure through the heel counter is a detriment to the overall performance of this shoe, especially if they’re designing this shoe as a performance shoe.
The Tecton X is a lot of money.
Any shoe with a carbon plate is going to be a high-priced shoe, but when you have shoes like the Speedgoat 5 or other shoes like the North Face Vectiv Enduris, which are a fraction of that, price becomes a part of the equation.
I understand that it’s because there’s a ton of new tech in the shoe that Hoka is experimenting with and it is the first carbon shoe from them for the trails.
I wish that price point was lower because I want more feet in this shoe, which means more feedback can be provided to Hoka from a wide range of athletes.
Overall, the Tecton X is an expensive shoe with no ifs, ands, or butts, which all ultimately brings us to our conclusion…
I think the Tecton X is super fun and comfortable and I think a lot of you will really enjoy it.
I was worried it was going to be too performance-based or too stiff and difficult to run on certain trails and technical terrain, but it turned out to be none of that.
So, the overall comfort is better than expected and quite nice.
When it comes to the fit, the upper needs a bit more dialing and finesse. I don’t think it fits perfectly through the midfoot and you’re going to have some interesting issues along the toe box with that extra lace hole plus the lack of structure in the heel counter.
Hoka Torrent 2
W: 8.0 oz 〉 M: 9.1 oz 〉 Drop: 5 mm 〉 Stack Height: Heel: 31 mm 〉 Forefoot: 26 mm 〉 5mm lugs
What I’ve always loved about the Torrents is that they are essentially a reduced platform, a responsive fast midsole, and super grippy trail running shoe.
It’s great for both race environments and those speed workout days or days when you really just want to shred.
I called the original Torrents the non-Hoka Hoka highlighting the fact that these shoes are lower profile giving you lots of ground feel versus a lot of Hokas where the emphasis is on mass stack height.
The good news about the Hoka Torrent is that it doesn’t change much. We actually have a very similar shoe to the first version, which is a good thing. Really the biggest change comes in the upper.
We still have:
- A responsive yet comfortable midsole
- Tons of outsole grip
- An upper that provides a bit more comfort, long-term fit, and overall durability.
And when you have an outsole with so many beautiful thick lugs, it’s going to provide you with plenty of confidence on all types of terrain from muddy to technical.
Overall, this is a great option especially if you’re looking to go fast and you’re looking for plenty of grip on technical trails with a little bit of protection but really good ground feel.
Let’s talk about what I like about the Torrent…
Things I Like About Hoka Torrent 2
Upper & Fit
The upper is really where this shoe is different because it is more durable than the original.
I remember actually getting a few little seam breakages on the instep of the original Torrent, but the new upper tends to hold up a lot better.
Everything is looking really good and the shoe still has that welded overlay along the perimeter of the midsole connection points.
It may not be as breathable or as soft on foot, but at the expense of those qualities, the new upper does provide plenty of durability.
I am enjoying the new upper and I think it is a proper change in the right direction.
In terms of fit, I think it is improved.
One thing I had a problem with in the first version was trying to get the lacing down. Once the shoe started to break in, that upper really did begin to stretch and so finding a good proper fit was the most difficult part of the shoe experience.
The Torrent 2 improves upon that with that new upper and so I’m getting a better fit out of it and much more precise precision fit.
Not That Different
The Torrent 2 is very similar to the Torrent 1 and so you’re going to get a lot of the same characteristics that we came to love in that first version.
Also, when it comes to the ground feel and overall shoe feel, it is just so similar. Plus, you’re getting the same ground feel and lower profile.
When you have such a good original shoe and the follow-up shoe doesn’t change much, that’s a huge plus.
Usually, the weight of the shoe is often mentioned with the cons, but the Torrent 2 has lost enough weight for me to truly notice.
The original weighed in just at about 308 grams and the new around 293, which equates to about a half an ounce change.
I think this is an improved build over the first version because I’m not getting as much wear through as I was in the first.
- The upper is holding up better than the original
- The welded overlays aren’t peeling away
- The midsole is holding up pretty well, too
Of course, the outsole rubber is doing quite well and I’m not noticing a ton of wear and tear on that.
I think the Torrent 2 is a pretty well-priced shoe. You’re going to get a lot of miles out of it and I think for that price point, it’s still pretty good.
If you can find the original on sale somewhere, good luck, but if you can’t, the Torrent 2 is a great follow up and I think the price is right on.
That being said, let me talk about what I dislike about the Torrent…
Things I Dislike About Hoka Torrent 2
Thicker & Warmer Upper Mesh
I mentioned how much I liked the upper and I do think it is an improvement. However, there are a couple of aspects of it that are a bit of a detriment and that comes in the thickness of the upper.
This new mesh upper is multi-layered and you can actually feel the thickness. The original was much more breathable, but this new stuff is thicker and therefore it’s hotter.
Also, the upper doesn’t quite disappear on your foot like the original did when you’re in a race environment or you’re out there for long days on the trails.
Comfort is not quite on par with version 1.
That midsole feels so similar, but it’s just the difference in comfort where the first version might be a little softer underfoot and maybe better for just those longer days in the saddle.
But the Torrent 2 works fantastic in a race or speed environment where going fast is the goal.
I think that the Torrent 2 is a fantastic follow-up to the original. I loved the original and I used it a lot in race environments and those fast training days where your goal is to try to pick up the pace.
From Hoka which is known for having thicker midsoles, bigger stack heights, and more protection underfoot, the Torrent 2 is sort of that anti Hoka Hoka, which is really nice to see from manufacturers.
Overall, the Hoka Torrent 2 is a great all-around workhorse shoe if you’re looking for something on that reduced platform.
W: 7.7 oz 〉 M: 8.6 oz 〉 Drop: 5 mm 〉 Stack Height: Heel: 32 mm 〉 Forefoot: 27 mm 〉 5mm lugs
The Hoka Zinal is a completely new trail shoe from the brand that brought us such interesting options like the Mafate, the Challenger, the Stinson, the Speedgoat, and the controversial TenNine.
Honestly, the Zinal is really reminiscent of the Rincon and a little bit of the Torrent. It really has those old homages to the Huaka which I loved from the early days of Hoka but with a more accommodating toe box up front, which is a huge get.
However, the Zinal is different in that it is a fun deviation from the mega stack Hoka is known for.
With 22mm in the heel and 18 mm in the front, the shoe packs a lot of responsiveness through that dependable ProFly midsole.
It’s a low-profile super grippy trail shoe that will work in a variety of scenarios.
The Zinal features a simple uninterrupted mesh upper with minimal overlays combined with a reduced layer of a ProFly midsole all piled on pods of a reputable Vibram Megagrip outsole.
This combo makes the Zinal a new favorite of mine for any distance under 20 miles. It’s fast, it’s comfortable, it’s light, and it’s easy to get along with.
Where The Zinal Shines
If you’re trying to break speed records or you’re trying to do an up-tempo type run, there might be better shoes suited for those type of workouts.
But when you’re looking for a shoe that kind of does it all in that distance range from road to trail, this is definitely a hit.
It’s really worked in a variety of situations for me and I found that it shines bright anywhere from 10 to 20 miles.
Let’s start with the things that I like…
Things I Like About Hoka Zinal
While some other Hoka shoes tend to be big and clunky, the Zinal is on the other end of the spectrum. At 272 grams in size 11, it is definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum as well.
The shoe just feels really fast because that ProFly midsole is a little bit thinner. The ProFly is a dual-density foam that we’ve seen in the Hoka Mach which is another fun-to-run-in offering from Hoka.
The midsole feels lower to the ground and more responsive. It is definitely catered to those faster efforts yet helps the Zinal to be a capable shoe for various distances and surfaces.
The Zinal is more towards the Torrent 2 but even lighter and more responsive than that since it has a lower stack.
This is something I really like about the Zinal.
It’s like Hoka went to the drawing board and looked at the shoes that are really successful, what makes them successful, and how they could take those elements and distill everything down into its rawest simplest form.
So, what you end up getting is:
- One-piece engineered mesh
- Very minimal welded overlays across the top
- A little bit of a toe guard
- A single-seam cover
- A gusseted tongue
- A ProFly midsole
- A Vibram outsole with 4mm lugs
It really is just a simple platform and I like that. It really is just about going fast, staying low, getting good grip, and being comfortable across the foot.
That simplicity knocks this one out of the park.
I didn’t know how comfortable this shoe would be, especially with the lower stack, but when it comes to Hoka shoes and the ProFly midsole, it is comfortable, responsive, and fast. It has just enough protection and cushioning and plenty of grip.
The gusseted tongue and the lacing system up top work for me.
For me, it is an accommodating shoe. It has a roomier toe box, which I’m always a fan of.
People talk a lot talk about door-to-trail type shoes.
These shoes are designed to be capable of running on harder surfaces like concrete pavement and gravel trails and then transition to the more rugged more technical trails or single track.
The Zinal is up there and it is a really good option if you’re looking for a shoe to kind of do it all.
There’s plenty of lugs which don’t get in the way. They don’t feel uncomfortable under the foot if you’re on concrete or asphalt, but they are long enough where you do get some good off-road grip.
It’s just a really accommodating shoe that will work for a variety of situations. When you’re talking about hybrid shoes, this is one of those that I am really digging.
I ran in the Zinal from the door to a trail and that is exactly the use case I find the most joy out of the shoe.
That being said, there are a couple of things that I dislike about this shoe…
Things I Dislike About Hoka Zinal
Obviously, the price point is my biggest dislike.
I have to point this out, the price point is a lot for a shoe that is reduced in every definition of the word not only in a stack but in the amount of upper materials.
I could shout from the rooftops how much I like this shoe and how much I think it’s a great Hoka trail shoe and great for distances under 20 miles, but when it’s expensive, it is expensive.
When the similarly designed yet maybe more stacked Torrent 2 is about $40 less, I just can’t justify the price tag for the Zinal. This is a bummer for me because I prefer the Zinal over the Torrent.
With the Zinal, you’re not going to be getting any of that precision fit that you’re getting from shoes like Salomon Sense Pro, Salomon Sense Ultra, or The North Face Vectiv shoes.
However, you are going to get a more accommodating and a little bit stretchier more comfortable shoe.
While I’m not experiencing major durability issues at 70 to 75 miles, I do foresee durability being the main issue that people will have with the Hoka Zinal the more miles they put on it.
So, if you get up to 200-300 miles on the shoe, I can see where and how it could potentially break down.
The simplicity that I talked about earlier could be this shoe’s Achilles heel. We don’t have a lot of welded overlays on the upper meaning the mesh could break down if you get it really dirty and that friction begins to build up.
On the outsole, you have a lot of the exposed ProFly material which tends to break down the more miles you put onto it.
And with the 22-18 mm of stack height, you don’t have a lot of ProFly underfoot and so you don’t have a lot of compensation for when that begins to flatten out.
Again, that is a really high price point for a shoe that I can imagine getting a couple of hundred miles out of and you’re going to be using for shorter distances with less materials and less mesh.
It was a surprise for me and it’s probably the biggest detriment, which brings us to our conclusion…
I love the Zinal and I think it’s a great shoe and I think it is built really great.
Right out of the box, you’re going to have a lot of fun and you’re going to enjoy those miles.
You’re getting everything that you want in a trail running package as well as a hybrid shoe package built up pretty well. It just might break down a little bit earlier than you’d hope.
Again, the biggest problem ultimately is going to come down to price and durability. I do foresee durability being an issue, but I do like the simplicity of this build.
I think it’s just a great combo of a good comfortable mesh and a comfortable platform with the ProFly and plenty of grip and minimal lugs on the outsole.
Hoka Challenger ATR 6
W: 8.8 oz 〉 M: 9.8 oz 〉 Drop: 5 mm 〉 Stack Height: Heel: 37 mm 〉 Forefoot: 32 mm 〉 5mm lugs
Over the years, the Challenger ATR has really become my workhorse trail running shoe that just provides all sorts of protection, durability, responsiveness, and adaptability.
It’s been a great all-around all-terrain shoe that a lot of people have come to enjoy. The great news is now the shoe comes in wider widths.
This means more feet are going to try it, and ultimately, Hoka are going to have more feedback to fix any issues in the next update.
But from what I can tell, the Challenger is now marketed as more of a trail/road hybrid shoe.
So, what we’re seeing more of is that the Challenger is being geared more towards a do-it-all multi-surface, multi-terrain capable shoe loaded with more durable and heavier materials.
But for those that have come to love recent versions of the Hoka Challenger, the new ATR 6 will delight you.
The shoe still sports:
- A stout amount of responsive Compression Molded EVA midsole
- A 5mm drop
- A thoroughly durable upper
- A thicker gusseted tongue for plenty of protection and comfort
- A podded zonal outsole featuring trail rubber
- Short 4mm lugs throughout for grip
Really, most of this shoe remains and feels identical to the previous version with the exception of:
- New Unifi Repreve recycled yarn in the upper and collar mesh
- Some slight outsole and overlay changes
- Different laces
- A 20-gram weight gain bringing the shoes in at 11.39 ounces in US size 11.
Let’s talk about what I like about the Challenger ATR 6…
Things I Like About Hoka Challenger ATR 6
When you compare the ATR 6 to the ATR 5, there are so many similarities. It just feels and runs the same.
So, those of you who are used to the Challenger ATR 5 and found this to be a really wonderful shoe, you’re going to love the Challenger ATR6.
The 6 does improve in a couple of areas over the 5 but they’re really slight and subtle changes that you may not even feel right off the bat.
Also, the shoe comes in widths. So, if you do have a wider foot, you might want to check out some of the wider options.
Still Very Durable
Durability was an issue that a lot of people had with very early versions of the Challenger. I’m happy to report that the last couple of versions have actually really exceeded my expectations in the durability department.
While the new Unifi Reprieve yarn is a recycled material, it actually works quite well as an upper material that is durable.
While a bit heavier and not super breathable, the overall benefit is that the shoe is going to hold up in a variety of conditions on a variety of surfaces, and it’s going to provide you with plenty of comfort.
Overall, the build of this is dynamite. I think both the Challenger ATR 5 and the ATR 6 have been built really well, but the 6 is built a little bit better. Even after including some of those recycled materials, it’s going to hold up really well.
What you’re certainly getting in the more recent versions that you weren’t necessarily getting in earlier versions is just that level of protection from underneath, the top, and the sides.
Your foot is going to feel like it is inside of a tank and it’s going to be protected from all angles.
The midsole density almost makes a rock plate obsolete in the shoe.
Actually, I was pretty surprised at the actual amount of protection underfoot on more technical terrain, sharp rocks, roots, and things like that.
The elements just don’t influence your foot strike as much in this shoe as you would expect. So, for a shoe that’s becoming more and more designed for a hybrid scenario, the amount of protection from it is great.
Again, the Challenger ATR 6 is being marketed more as a hybrid shoe, which is a surprise even to me as a die-hard Challenger fan.
So, the ATR 6 is going to be a great option for people who are running on gravel surfaces and road surfaces from door to trail and beyond. I think if you’re looking for one shoe that kind of does a lot of different things pretty good, this is a great option.
Of course, it hurts me a little bit to see the Challenger being marketed less as a trail shoe and more sort of an all-around terrain shoe, but I know that there are so many other offerings from Hoka that are very trail specific.
So, seeing it marketed more as a hybrid shoe, I think will open the door for more potential users of the shoe which is good because I don’t want to see it go anywhere.
The price point is right in there. I actually think it’s a pretty good price point compared to what we’re seeing these days, especially with carbon-plated road shoes.
It’s a decent price point for a shoe that is going to get you on multi-surface, multi-terrain, and multi-condition and provide you with plenty of durable protected miles.
That being said, there are a couple of things that I dislike about the Hoka Challenger ATR 6…
Things I Dislike About Hoka Challenger ATR 6
This is going to be a like for some people and a dislike for others. In this case, I’m calling it a dislike purely because we’re losing some of that wonderful cushion that Hoka is known for.
The midsole has just become a lot more responsive. While it provides that extra level of protection, you end up losing a lot of ground feel and a lot of that life that I found in earlier versions of the Challenger.
The overall comfort of the shoe has gone down from version to version. So, you’re going to get a lot of responsiveness, and in my book on this shoe, that is going to be a bit of a negative.
This is where the Challenger ATR 6 isn’t as lively as previous versions of the Challenger. I don’t think this midsole really does wonders for overall comfort underfoot.
It’s a bit harsher ride and more responsive while providing protection. So, it’s really going to come down to what you prefer.
As I mentioned, the Challenger ATR gained some weight from the previous version. From version 1, it’s a 40-gram weight gain to where we are in the 6th version.
I would hope that over time, the shoe would begin to lose weight, stay the same, and stay within a couple of grams, but from 5 to 6, we’ve gained 20, and from 1 to 6, we’ve gained 40 grams.
My final dislike is more nitpicky, but it’s certainly something I want to point out…
I think the new laces are also made of a new semi-recycled material.
The previous laces were super soft and had a little bit of stretch and give to them, but it’s easier to get a more dialed-in fit with the previous laces just because they’re more adaptable and they didn’t require a lot of breaking in.
After 70 or 80 miles in the Challenger ATR 6, these laces haven’t broken in at all. They’re very stiff, pretty harsh, and thick.
While it is easy to get a pretty dialed-in fit with this and the laces don’t move a lot, once you lock it in, you’re locked in.
Cool, isn’t it?
Not always. If your feet begin to swell over a long run, you’re going to have to readjust because these fat sausage laces just don’t want to budge or acclimate to your feet at all.
In conclusion, the Hoka Challenger ATR 6 is a near identical follow-up to the Challenger ATR 5.
Those of you who enjoyed that shoe will thoroughly enjoy this shoe
Version one served me so well in so many ultras at so many distances with thousands of miles. But with each new version, this shoe has changed, gotten heavier, less cushioned, and more durable but less Hoka flagship trail shoe.
And while I still love the Challenger despite it not being what I initially fell in love with, I do feel that there are better options specifically for trail running even in the Hoka lineup.
But if you’re looking for a shoe that is the jack of all trades master of none, the Challenger ATR 6 may be exactly what you’re looking for.
It’s going to come down to when and where and how you’re planning on using it.
Overall, if you have not tried the Challenger, it’s going to be a completely different shoe.
However, I do think it’s going to be one of those shoes that will adapt to a bunch of different situations and provide many of you who maybe don’t need a trail-specific pair of shoes but maybe run on some bike paths or gravel paths and something like that.
Again, it’s great if you need something a little bit more adaptable to different conditions: mud, weather, and stuff like that.
Best Hoka Trail Shoes – FAQs
Are Hoka trail running shoes good for hiking?
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is the best Hoka trail running shoe for hiking and backpacking. It’s super comfortable with a really good grip and it’s going to help keep your feet from getting tired on long days on the trail.
The Speedgoat features a Vibram Megagrip outsole which is by far the best outsole material that’s going to give you great grip on slick or wet rocks, wood, or ground. It’s just all around a really sticky and grippy outsole which makes the Speedgoat a great Hoka shoe for hiking.
Which Hokas are best for what?
While there are a lot of great Hoka shoes, every shoe seems to perform better in some situations. The:
- Speedgoat is best for trails and hiking
- Hoka Clifton is best for everyday training
- Bondi is best for cushioning
- Arahi and Gaviota are great for stability
- Rocket X is best for road racing
- Mach is great for speedwork
- Kawana is best for distance
- Solimar is best for running and gym purposes
Are Hoka Clifton Good for trails?
If you’re a beginner trail runner and transitioning from roads, you may not own a trail shoe and so the Clifton can get you through some light trail running activities on groomed and buffed-out trails.
If you’re going to be running on aggressive technical trails, the Clifton may not a good option. Hoka has the likes of the Speedgoat and the Torrent for that.
In terms of traction, the Clifton 8 has harder sticky rubber sections throughout the outsole, which is pretty good even on wet roads and on buffed-out trails.
Which Hoka Speedgoat is best?
The Speedgoat lineup is by far the number one trail shoe that Hoka has, and if they didn’t create any other trail shoes, you’ll be totally OK with that. If you liked the Speedgoat 4 and the Speedgoat Evo, you’ll definitely like the Speedgoat 5.
The upper on the 4 was more accommodating and had better lockdown, but the upper on the 5 is more stretchy, lighter, and more durable.
Both protect your feet equally, and both have fantastic grip, but the 4 has better lockdown in the heel and the 5 is more durable.
Can I wear the Hoka Speedgoat on the road?
The Hoka Speedgoat is a great road-to-trail crossover shoe. However, it should not be used exclusively for road running purposes. The Speedgoat is going to be great if you have road connections and you have to run quite a bit of road mileage to get to the trails.
Also, it has got really good potential where you’re going to come down into a valley or run stretches on road and tarmac because it does have a good commuter feel to it.
Again, the Hoka Speedgoat is a good trail shoe to go off-roading and the lugs won’t get in the way on roads.
What is the trail version of the Hoka Clifton?
The Hoka Challenger ATR 6 is considered to be the Clifton of the Trails. It’s really smooth on the foot. So, if you’re a fan of the Hoka Clifton, the Challenger ATR 6 is going to be a great option if you’re doing a bit of off-road stuff or just want that sort of hybrid shoe that’s going to cover everything.
Should I size up Hoka Speedgoat?
The Speedgoats are notorious for being narrow. For regular and narrow feet, the Speedgoat does fit true to size. However, if you have wider feet, it does size up a little bit short. So, I would suggest you half size up because your feet are going to swell and will need more space through the toe box.
Is the Hoka Bondi a trail shoe?
The Hoka Bondi is a road shoe and not a trail shoe. However, it does pretty well on some light well-groomed trails. If you run on gravel packed trails and gravel roads to avoid traffic and lots of people, the Bondi isn’t as responsive on this kind of surface.
Is the Hoka Speedgoat waterproof?
The Hoka Speedgoat GTX is the waterproof version of the Speedgoat. It features a water-resistant mesh and printed overlays to help lock down the midfoot. The internal waterproof Gore-tex lining keeps the Speedgota GTX protected against the elements from rainy summer runs or light snow in the winter. If you decide to go with the regular Speedgoat, this one also drains really well as shown in the video below.
How often should you replace your trail shoes?
Trail running shoes may last between 300 to 500 miles depending on the surface you run in, the weight of the runner, and whether or not you rotate your running shoes.
So there you have it. These were 6 best Hoka trail shoes that we think deliver what trail runners expect from their shoes.
As always, I hope you’re staying safe out there and see you in the next one 🙂