Unless you’ve been avoiding the trail running boom then you will no doubt be familiar with the sight of Hoka One One shoes. Hoka One One was founded in France in 2009 by Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard who previously worked with Salomon. They wanted to develop a shoe that allowed them to run downhill faster – so developed a shoe with maximum cushioning and a wide base for stability. The result took the ultra running world by storm at a time when ‘minimalist’ shoes seemed to be the ‘next big thing’. I was curious about the Hoka concept when they appeared but had to forego any trial as they were just too narrow for me. With the arrival of the first lockdown in the UK in March 2020 my trail running mileage went up somewhat and I started to experience some forefoot discomfort (probably as my old trail runners were loosing their resilience) and I noticed that Hoka had started to do a wide fit version of a number of models. I purchased a pair of the ATR5s and was immediately impressed – quickly adapting to the slightly odd feel and surprised at the stability considering how high off the ground they seemed. However their tread was not really up to the wetter conditions typical of my local Yorkshire trails so I jumped at the chance to try the Speedgoat 4 in a wide fit with their more aggressive Vibram sole unit.
Prior to the Speedgoats I’d been using the Inov8’s Terraultras which are a zero drop shoe and I was a little concerned about switching to the ATRs with a 5mm drop but there were no issues and the Speedgoats were only a 4mm drop. The major innovation with Hoka as you no doubt know is the thickness of the sole unit so while it is a 4mm drop that is a drop from 32mm to 22mm – that’s 10mm more cushioning at the forefoot and 20mm more at the heel compared to my Inov8 Terraultras. The Speedgoats were stiffer and had a noticeably more pronounced ‘rocker’ than the ATRs. In fact on first donning the Speedgoats it felt like you were hanging your toes off the edge of a cliff – it definitely felt a little weird! Once out running this sensation soon disappeared and the rocker along with a gradual softening of the shoe after a few runs led to a beautifully cushioned ride. The Speedgoat 4s are a little heavier compared to previous versions and my size 9s weigh in at 323g each however they don’t feel heavy or clumpy in the slightest. The uppers of the Speedgoat 4 have been updated to improve durability with a different mesh and some minimal overlays. The tongue is now very minimalist – looking almost like a vinyl tongue from an 80’s Walsh but in reality it has some very thin but resiliant foam in a grid pattern which works very well and I have experienced no discomfort at all from the laces.
From my backyard to the local trails there is around a kilometre of road/pavement and it always feels a bit wearing, especially on the return leg, but with the Speedgoats it floats by. Now I wouldn’t go as far as to say I now like a bit of road running but there is no longer the intense dislike I used to experience. This cushioning transfers well to rocky trail descents and especially the horror (for me) of the ‘slabbed and stepped’ erosion control paths so common in the popular UK mountain areas. Great though these may be from an environmental and usage perspective they are a horrible way to descend at the end of the day with fatigued legs! Stability wise the Speedgoats are pretty decent – I’ve not experienced any turned ankles though on tussocks or very technical rocky ground I probably slow down a little compared to a more minimalist shoe that rides closer to the ground. On more open trails typical of the type of alpine trail terrain you find around Chamonix (and the inspiration for Hoka One One) the wide cushioned platform really does let you fly down. Although the sole is massive in height you do not feel ‘perched’ on top of it as there is a slight ‘bucket seat’ like effect so some of that foam wraps your foot to the sides, certainly in the heel area. Grip wise the Vibram sole unit is up there with the best of the trail runners I have used, it’s not a fell running sole and will be outfaced by deep mud and extremely loose surfaces but it is certainly more than a match for any ‘on trail’ conditions within reason and with a 5mm lug depth will pass kit requirements for events such as the Skyline Scotland, UTMB etc.
I’ve used the Speedgoat 4s since the autumn and they’ve coped admirably with everything that’s been thrown at them from typically muddy moorland through to snow and hard frozen trails. To be honest I can’t fault them and they’ve become my default trail shoe. None of my initial concerns about their bulk or stack height/stability have materialised and writing this in February my forefoot issues have disappeared entirely though there is no way to attribute that to the Hokas they certainly haven’t hindered the healing! From friends who have used Speedgoats going back to the version 2 and 3 models I know there have been durability issues with the upper and I can see some minimal indications of wear but nothing beyond what I would expect from any trail shoe after nearly 5 months of regular wear. Even using Kahtoola Exo Spikes during the recent ice and snow has not caused any noticeable damage to the uppers or soles so durability does seem to have improved.
Overall they have proved an excellent shoe and if like me you’ve been suffering a bit on hard descents or having issues underfoot the Hoka One One approach of extreme cushioning may offer a solution – obviously get yourself checked out by a competent medical professional – gear reviews are not a substitute for proper fitness/medical advice! If you were put off by the extreme stack height or the narrow fit issues then I’d urge you to give them a shot.
- Super comfortable
- Excellent cushioning
- Decent grip
- Upper durability may still be an issue
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!