Hoka Mafate Speed 2 Review
Cons: Expensive, lacking stability or sensitivity, pretty heavy
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hoka Mafate Speed 2 updates the previous Mafate Speed by redesigning the upper to be wider and more durable, with a different tongue as well. We did not test the first version, and so cannot comment on the changes that were made to the newest version. The Mafate Speed 2 is certainly unique, with some distinct advantages such as larger and far more aggressive lugs, a greater stack height with even more underfoot protection, and a highly protective upper. That said, it also has some distinct disadvantages as well, such as its relatively heavy weight, very high stack height that makes it prone to instability, uncomfortable lacing system, and stratospheric price tag. Read on as we discuss each of these factors below, but we cannot unconditionally call this the best Hoka trail runner, and suspect that individual preference will still dictate which Hoka is best for you.
This is easily among the most protective shoes that you can buy. The midsole is made up of an incredible 35mm of EVA foam in the heel, with a still gigantic 31mm in the forefoot. This amount of cushioning is pretty much unprecedented, even for a Hoka, and hearkens back to the early days of Hoka shoes where insane amounts of cushioning was the norm (it still is, but some models have less than before). When testing these shoes for underfoot protection on boulder fields of sharp rocks, we could honestly say that we felt close to nothing at all on the bottoms of our feet, even when standing on the sharpest of points and edges. Suffice to say that this midsole takes maximally cushioned to the next level.
The upper is also among the most protective and durable you can find. It is made with stretchy and highly breathable mesh generously overlayed with rubberized reinforcements. All of the highest wear areas, especially on the sides of the forefoot where the shoe creases, are effectively covered and protected, and the toe bumper, made of a heavier piece of fabric sewn on top, also does a decent job.
The lug pattern on the bottom of the Mafate Speed 2 is among the most aggressive that we have seen on a Hoka shoe. The 5mm deep, sharp cut lugs are rectangular shaped and spread throughout the entire sole of the foot. Under the arch, where the glued on Vibram rubber outsole is not present, lugs are even crafted out of the midsole foam that remains exposed. We found that these lugs grip fantastically on soft and slippery surfaces like mud and snow, and also on tundra and loose dirt. They were not as sticky as the Vibram found on the Speedgoat 4, and don't grip rock quite as well. Regardless, for the gnarliest of mountain terrain, this shoe has the traction to keep you on your feet.
Hoka shoes are known for their low stability, an obvious trade-off when you put so much cushioning between the foot and the ground. But the Mafate Speed 2 takes this lack of stability to another level and are more prone to causing an ankle roll than just about any shoe you can run in. We have robust ankles, and are also used to running in Hokas, and found these to be very prone to rolling over, especially while running downhill. We also find them to be uncomfortable while side-hilling, where the high stack height presents a less than optimal landing and pushing off-platform and a lot of stress on our ankle tissues. We appreciate that the low 4mm drop lends itself to a more natural stride, but these are simply shoes that you must be careful when running in and are not recommended for those who are especially prone to bad ankle rolls.
These shoes breathe impressively well, and we will point out that they are the best performer in our water test, meaning they absorb among the least amount of water, and are extremely effective at draining and drying quickly. However, we didn't find them to be overly comfortable. In particular, the metal grommets that the laces thread through rubbed our feet through the tongue, causing blisters. Numerous online reviewers mentioned this issue as a common area of discomfort. We also felt that the tongue was prone to slipping around and didn't offer enough padding from the laces. And while the width of the shoe might be ever so slightly increased compared to Hoka's famously narrow regular fit, we would not even consider describing these shoes as wide. They are narrow, that is a fact, especially in the mid- and forefoot. While we allow that plenty of people will find these shoes to be comfortable, our experience indicates that not all will, and so we encourage you to try them on before you buy, or at least be willing to send them back.
Our pair of size men's 11 US shoes weighed in at 23.2 ounces on our independent scale. Considering how much shoe we are talking about, this is impressive. However, they are a couple of ounces heavier than other Hoka shoes, which also feature tons of EVA underfoot. This weight ranks them in the lower tier of trail runners we have reviewed, and at least when comparing them directly to their competition, disqualifies them from being described as "lightweight."
Sensitivity in a trail running shoe often comes at the expense of foot protection, and vice versa. In the case of the Mafate Speed 2, the scale is tipped so far in the direction of underfoot protection that it is literally resting on the ground. These shoes will allow you pretty much no trail feel at all. But then again, maximally cushioned shoes are not meant to be super sensitive, they value shock absorption instead.
The retail price of these shoes ties them for the most expensive trail runners in our review. While they offer unrivaled protection, when considering overall performance, we can't justify this level of expense when other Hokas perform at least as well for significantly less cost, and other shoes that cost in the same ballpark perform better overall. While we didn't have the opportunity to run these shoes until they were falling apart, there is no indication that their longevity will be such an outlier as to justify the added cost.
The Hoka Mafate Speed 2 are among the priciest trail running shoes in Hoka's lineup, but in this case, you don't always get more for your money. While they have some interesting advantages over other Hokas, in particular even more cushioning and a greatly enhanced outsole lug pattern, other models we have tested are more affordable, more comfortable, and slightly more stable as well. Only personal preference can decide which Hoka is the best model for you, but if we were buying them for the first time, these would not be our first choice.
— Andy Wellman