We review a lot of running shoes here at Gearist but one brand that doesn’t show up very often – only once before, in fact – is Hoka One One. With that said, I should point out that Hoka is most definitely the most requested shoe for us to review and so it is my pleasure today to bring you my first ever review of the original maximalist shoe brand. Today, we’re getting down and dirty with the Hoka One One Speedgoat.
Named for and designed with heavy input from the “Speedgoat” Karl Meltzer, this shoe is meant to go long and hard on trails of all kinds. Whether they’re smooth and well-worn trails or technical and rocky slogs, the Speedgoat is meant to tackle them all so when Hoka sent these over I was definitely excited to see what all the hype is about and just how tough this shoe could be.
As always the first things we’ll get into with the Speedgoat is the outsole. Made from sticky and durable Vibram rubber, the outsole of this shoe is rather aggressive and sets itself up nicely for the wide variety of terrain it’s meant to tackle. The 4mm deep lugs are shaped like the Hoka logo (that kind of bird-looking thing) which just so happens to make for some solid traction. The material of the outsole is broken up by a series of flex grooves that do a good job of allowing for some flexibility through to the midsole.
The durability and grip of the Speedgoat’s outsole is impressive. While the lugs are not the deepest things in the world, the logo actually makes for a very good lug shape. On looser terrain they do well though if it’s very loose – as with anything else with a 4mm lug – it doesn’t dig in as well as something with longer lugs. On rocky terrain and groomed surfaces, the grip is on point and gave me a lot of underfoot confidence. As I’d expect from Vibram rubber, the sole also shows little wear after about 40 miles – something key as a long haul training shoe or a shoe designed with the influence of a 100 mile crusher like Karl Meltzer.
From its inception, the midsole has been the real crux of Hoka’s design with its super high stack heights and bouncy foam – the midsole of the Speedgoat is no different. Since it’s such a visual standout, let’s talk about the stack height of the midsole which comes in at 33mm in the heel and 28mm in the forefoot for a net drop of 5mm. With this much foam in place there is really no need for a rock plate for extra trail protection and I found that even on the rockiest of terrains I wasn’t getting sharp poke-through of rocks.
The material of the midsole itself is made of injection-molded EVA foam. To be honest I completely expected these to be marshmallow-esque and I didn’t get that feeling at all. The foam is very bouncy and resilient and I found that my foot stayed on top of the platform instead of sagging down on longer runs. The midsole also struck me in its flexibility. While I thought that much underfoot material would make for an unflexible unit, it actually has a good deal of give that allows for nice agility on the trail. With all that underfoot material there is always the concern (for me) of being a waiting time-bomb for an ankle roll. However, the midsole of the Hoka Speedgoat is wider than the upper which actually gives it a decent amount of stability. Now, with that in mind, it seems like the medial side of the midsole has generally more firmness/structure that the lateral side and while I never did roll and ankle or even really feel unstable, my supination was certainly in full-effect while running in this. I should also mention that I’m not the only person out there to notice this but hey, people are crushing races in this shoe al the time so who are we to judge?
One of the first things I noticed about the upper of the Hoka One One Speedgoat’s upper were the colors. With Red Bull being one of Karl Meltzer’s sponsors that brand’s colors are splashed all over the upper (in the colorway I have) and I love it. Moving on. The main body of the upper is made from a fairly open, single-layer mesh supported by welded overlays. This mesh is very breathable and also drains well though the bottom of the upper is fairly well wrapped, rand-style which adds durability and some lateral strength to the upper of the shoe. A down side to the mesh being as open as it is with no fine mesh backing that we see in many other shoes is that fine – and not so fine – debris can sneak its way in. This wasn’t a huge problem for me though on runs over about 1.5 hours I did pause to shake out my kicks. The upper is reasonably flexible though near the sides of the upper, where the overlay surrounds the upper/midsole transition, there was not much give – I’ll address this more in the FIT section below.
The tongue is a very interesting design that essentially starts in the traditional are but, rather than stopping and being sewn into the vamp at the bottom of the throat/laces, the tongue of the Speedgoat extends pretty much to the tip of the toes where it meets a toe bumper made from tough groundrubber. The tongue design worked well for me and kept the throat/laces very comfortable on all runs. Adding to that comfort is a microfiber interior which would make the shoe good for running sockless if there weren’t so much room in the mesh of the upper to let in dirt.
The heel counter of the Hoka Speedgoat is actually fairly flexible and is topped by a pull tab. Around the collar there is a bit more foam than there needs to be and though it is comfortable, it would be a good spot to slim down the shoe and potentially lose a fraction of an ounce. The upper of this shoe works well in concert with its midsole since that part of the shoe, especially on the lateral side, comes up the side of the shoe by at least a half an inch in some places. This frames out a quite well-defined heel cup and helps to offset some of the perceived instability due to the higher stack and lateral roll.
Before I get into talking about the fit of the Speedgoat I’d like to remind everyone that no two people’s feet are the same so what I experienced may (and probably will) be totally different for you. With that said, the fit of this shoe was not fantastic for me.
First, sizing; this shoe fit my size 11’s fine and I think most people should be fine with industry sizing though it wouldn’t surprise me if there are some who choose to go up a half size or so because of other fit factors (read on).
In the rearfoot of the Speedgoat I had no problems. Yes the foam around the collar could be quite a bit less but it was comfortable and as I mentioned above, the well-defined heel cup is a very nice addition. Moving to the midfoot of the shoe I didn’t have too much issue here though I do wish that the laces were wider, lay flat laces. The laces on this shoe are rather narrow and could potentially be uncomfortable for those who really tighten down a lot on the laces though I did not personally experience this (and you should really NOT tighten down so much on the laces!).
Now comes the forefoot. The heel of the Speedgoat is good in terms of width, the midfoot is also fine though it’s not hard to tell the shoe is trending toward narrowness at the forefoot and that is indeed what appears. This shoe is narrow – and I do not have wide feet. There was some vertical wiggle room but no room for splay to speak of. In all but one of the runs I did in these shoes I found myself getting hot spots on my pinky toes and once just behind the ball of the foot on my left side (though this felt like an odd buckling of the fabric in that area was causing it). The culmination of this was actually a small blister on my last run prior to writing this review on my right pinky toe. As I said above, I’m not saying that your experience will be the same as mine and I also think that this upper has some good pieces and design but the execution really needs some work.
Now that we’re past the odd uncomfortableness of that, let’s talk about the ride of the Hoka One One Speedgoat. I run in a lot of shoe (like, a LOT) and I’d always been under the impression that what I was going to experience in a Hoka was an über-soft and almost squishy ride which deadened all ground feel and killed any proprioception. This was not my experience at all in this shoe.
First, the ground feel, while certainly muted, is fairly decent. Rocks don’t stab your feet but you are aware that they’re there and you can react accordingly in most cases. Second, the midsole material of this is really very resilient and bouncy, making for a very active ride that kid of makes you want to bound through the forest. I truly enjoyed the feel of these shoes and while I’d be curious to see how they’d do over 20 miles (I took them up to 14 miles) I can’t imaging that they’d all of a sudden deflate on me.
The agility is also decent and is enhanced by the relatively light weight (especially for a shoe with so much material) which comes in at 9.7 ounces in a men’s size 9. Again, that wonkiness in the stability department is a wee bit unnerving but not so much that if you’re willing to indulge your feet that you aren’t going to have a good time bombing down some rather hairy trails – but watch that stability!
The Hoka One One Speedgoat is an interesting juxtaposition of features that could be great though the execution on some of them leaves the rest of the shoe hanging out the dry. I honestly think that simply firming up the lateral midsole and fixing the upper could do wonders for this shoe so I’m curious to see a version two and I hope some of those things are addressed. As for pricing, the Speedgoat comes in at $140 which, while not cheap, is at the top end of what I’d expect for a shoe like this.
The idea of this shoe intrigues me and I’m not the only person out there wishing there was a way to make this thing work better. Since most brands these days – especially those that are fairly young – pay attention to what people like us and their other customers are saying, I can’t imaging version 2 of this shoe not being a good improvement.
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Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).