This Top Pick for Lightweight Performance bites down on technical trails through all terrain! As a lightweight shoe, it will have you floating up single track, whether you're running for two or twenty miles.
Our Top Pick for Lightweight Performance -- the HOKA ONE ONE Evo Jawz
With a minimalist, lightweight design in mind, the Evo Jawz is not the most protective shoe out there. It has one of the best continuous uppers that protects against fine particulates, but it lacks protection from sharp rocks and water. That said, many of our testers thought that its lightweight and flexible design allowed more agility on the trail, allowing them to avoid terrain features that are unfavorable for the feet more easily.
If you're in search of a shoe that provides stellar protection from stubborn particulates, you will appreciate the thin, continuous and breathable upper of this shoe. The rip-stop material kept out sand and dust during a 15-mile jaunt in the desert. We checked our shoe several times on the run and was surprised to find no particulate matter hanging out.
The continuous upper does not allow any particulates to weasel their way inside the shoe.
Protective features that the Evo Jawz do not sport include; a rock plate, enhanced toe cap, and ample cushioning underfoot. In addition, this shoe is by no means water resistant. While taking a morning stroll in some dewy grass, we noted the uppers becoming saturated within seconds. While the thin material is incredibly breathable and does dry out quickly, it is not an excellent option for those seeking a water-resistant shoe for runs that will be continuously wet and rainy. But we think it's fine for water-crossings.
Equipped with an aggressive Vibram trail-biting outsole, we are super impressed by the performance of the super sticky 6-mm long lugs that earned the Evo Jawz a high score in this category. The outsole is perfect for soft surfaces like mud or sand, providing unbeatable "bite" while heading up massive mountainsides. If you seek a bomber outsole that truly grabs the trail, this is a great option. That said, this outsole is not very durable.
What do we love? The spacing of the lugs provides excellent mud shed on wet days, while the multi-directional bit offers stability and traction while going up and down steep switchbacks. Over snow, we were impressed that we didn't slide out laterally, while the malleable rubber stiffened with the colder temperatures, providing better traction. Wet rocks? No problem. While we all know that different kinds of rocks are slipperier than others, we found that this shoe does an exceptional job at sticking to uncertain surfaces.
A look at the burly and aggressive outsole.
And, what don't we love? The only thing that we worry about with the outsole of this shoe is its durability. After just 30 miles on the trails (with some travel over pavement), we noticed one of the lugs had broken off. In fact, after 60 miles of wear and tear, lug length decreased by one millimeter overall. As a result…there might be some durability issues with the super moldable, yet sticky rubber outsole.
While the lugs are sticky and great for a plethora of surfaces, we weren't too impressed when then lug broke off after running on the pavement.
With an incredibly flexible design, this shoe is astonishingly stable! The outsole and upper allows your feet to find the best position on the trail while dodging rocks and roots. It is not a shoe with any serious stability features like shanks or even a plastic harness around the upper.
Nor is it designed to adjust for overpronation. It scores a high score for its super flexible design and low 3mm drop. The level of cushioning is minimal, keeping you close to the ground to avoid rolled ankles. A great shoe for technical terrain or soft surfaces.
As you can see, this shoe flexes over rocks (observed by the crinkles of the continuous upper). This provides good stability, but the shoe is not rigid and does change shape under pressure.
Comfort & Fit
The lightweight design of this shoe makes it's pretty comfortable, but sensitive on the trail. The cushioning underfoot is firm and stable, providing nice transitions for both midfoot and heel strikers. The extra cushion in the foot provides a little bit of protection, but not as much as other shoes tested. The upper is super thin and breathable, making it comfortable for warm days, but not so high performing for super cold winter mornings.
The lacing system provides ample opportunity to cinch down the upper to wrap everything from a narrow to wide foot. The forefoot offers a surprising amount of room with a nice tight fit around the heel and arch. There is a little bit of arch support, but overall, this shoe has a neutral fit. It has a medium to narrow fit. While tackling steep terrain, the Jawz didn't slip, nor did our foot slide around in the shoe. The heel cup is bomber, and overall, there is precision in fit with the lightweight materials.
The uppers are thin and comfortable, without too much bulk. No blisters or odd rubbing spots!
While it is comfortable, it's not our top recommendation for super long distances. Given the little cushion and protection overall, you will find your feet getting super sore over marathon or ultra-distances. That said, if you're seeking a shoe that is minimalist in style with an aggressive sole, this actually might be a great option.
The laces stay laced. In addition, there's enough space to tighten them down if your feet are a little narrow.
Are you ready to fly? As a super lightweight (6.95 ounces, size nine) we are so impressed with how good it felt to run…even up hills! Tackling steep switchbacks felt easier with the Evo Jawz; its lightweight construct features a super thin yet breathable upper in addition to minimal materials throughout the tongue and outsole. Not only that, but this shoe features few materials that absorb a lot of water. In our water tests, it only absorbed 3.2 ounces, making a shoe that doesn't absorb a whole lot of water. The continuous shell upper is also breathable and dries quickly.
This lightweight design of this shoe earns it our Top Pick for Performance. It's a fantastic option for your next trail race or spring course! If lightweight construction is what you seek, this is maybe your next trail running shoe.
With its lightweight design, this shoe is also highly sensitive.
The flexible outsole has minimal cushioning allowing you to feel most rocks and the trail underfoot. This shoe has no rock-plate nor is the cushioning ample. If you seek sensitive shoe, this is a fantastical option. Feel the trail and not your shoe!
Feel the trail every step of the way with this ultra-sensitive shoe!
Given the uber-awesome traction and lightweight design of the Evo Jawz it's a great option for technical trails and soft surfaces. Take it on your short trail race! Since this shoe is not water resistant, it's not great for wet climates, but does a good job for basic river crossings and puddles that you might encounter on your journey. It dries quickly and provides exceptional stability whether you're flying over flats or supercharging the steeps. The "Jawz" is true to its name…it will bite the trail, and you won't slide back or to the side. It also provides a comfortable ride for those with a narrow to regular width foot. We'd recommend that you avoid using it on the pavement, as we noticed some of the super malleable lugs actually ripped off when doing so.
Technical rocky trails? No problem. This shoe performs well over that and a plethora of other surfaces. Use them when the weather gets sloppy or while running over more technical terrain features.
Selling for a retail price of $130, this is one of the lower value shoes tested. While we love its performance, we fear for those with little money to spend on running shoes. In our testing period, the Evo Jawz provided to show wear and tear after the first five-mile run! The uppers began to shred away.
A look at the uppers after fifty miles of wear and tear. This started to break down at mile 5 into wearing them. In addition, a lug came off, and the dye from the shoe stains socks. While we really like the performance of this shoe, we aren't thrilled about potential durability issues.
After another twenty miles, we noticed the toe cap delaminating. After another ten miles, we saw the cushioning break down a touch. After running on a five-mile pavement stretch, one of the lugs broke off, with most of the lugs measuring one millimeter shorter under 100 miles. To top it off, the dye from the shoe bled onto our socks every time we wore them. Durability issue? We'll leave that up to you to decide. That said, buyer beware; we worry that the $130 may not get you far before your socks are stained and the material has broken down. That said, there weren't any huge failures of the design — just signs of durability problems.
A look at the author's stained socks after wearing the HOKA Evo Jawz. This was a regular occurrence, forcing her to choose her least favorite socks to run in.
This Top Pick for Lightweight Design is our favorite for training runs and race days. The uber-sticky lugs provide great traction while the lightweight design makes it feel like you're not running at all! Just beware of potential durability issues and don't expect these babies to be waterproof!
Enjoying an after-school jaunt in Ridgway, CO.