Hoka Speedgoat 4 Review
Cons: Heavier than previous versions, less stable than traditional trail runners, fit is still on the narrow side
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
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Hoka Speedgoat 4
|Price||$144.95 at Backcountry||$179.95 at Backcountry|
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|$160.00 at Amazon||$136.66 at Amazon||$130 List|
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|Pros||Maximum cushioning, great foot protection, excellent grippy traction||Unbeatable fit, very comfortable, fantastic underfoot protection, doesn’t absorb much water, ankle collar keeps out debris, very stable||Excellent traction, protective and sensitive, light, comfortable, durable||Precise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debris||Comfortable, low to the ground stability, lightweight, drains water well|
|Cons||Heavier than previous versions, less stable than traditional trail runners, fit is still on the narrow side||Expensive, hard to get on foot, must wear above the ankle height socks, hard to stuff laces into garage||Expensive, tongue comfort affects some||Narrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightest||Traction not the best on slick surfaces, light on underfoot protection|
|Bottom Line||A burly shoe that combines comfortable and supportive cushioning and foot protection with optimal traction||A perfectly fitting, comfortable, and very protective shoe that just begs to be worn on long run days||The best zero-drop trail runner demands no compromises, and has all the features for any type of terrain or distance||A precise fitting shoe that translates well into high performance, as long as your feet aren’t too wide||Our favorite lightweight trail runner is capable of tackling any terrain|
|Rating Categories||Hoka Speedgoat 4||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||Inov-8 Terraultra G 270||La Sportiva Kaptiva||Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 6|
|Foot Protection (30%)|
|Specs||Hoka Speedgoat 4||Salomon S/Lab...||Inov-8 Terraultra...||La Sportiva Kaptiva||Nike Air Zoom...|
|Weight (per pair, size 11)||23.6 oz||22.4 oz||20.9 oz||22.3 oz||21.5 oz|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||4 mm||8 mm||0 mm||6 mm||4 mm|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||32 mm, 28 mm||26 mm, 18 mm||22 mm, 22 mm||17 mm, 11 mm||14.5 mm, 10.5 mm|
|Upper||Mesh with 3D printed overlay||Anti-Debris Mesh with sockliner||Breathable Mesh||Sock-Like knit||Mesh|
|Midsole||EVA||Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection||Powerflow Max||Duel-density EV||React foam, Zoom Air heel unit|
|Outsole||Vibram MegaGrip||Contagrip MA Rubber||Graphene Grip||FriXion XF 2.0||Rubber|
|Lacing style||Traditional||Quicklace with garage||Traditional||Traditional||Traditional|
|Wide version available?||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Sizes Available||7 - 15||4 - 13||7 - 15||38 - 47.5||6 - 15|
Our Analysis and Test Results
All HOKA shoes have a ton of underfoot cushioning in the form of EVA foam, and the Speedgoat 4 is no different. With a 32mm stack height under the heel, suffice to say that this shoe's midsole gets the job done plenty well without the need for even more foam, as is found in some other HOKA shoes. It has a 4mm heel-toe drop, which is 1mm less than most other HOKA trail runners. What really sets this shoe apart, however, is the Vibram Megagrip outsole. This rubber compound is very sticky and grips exceedingly well to either wet or dry rock. The deep lugs ensure that it also grips well on slippery and loose terrain. While it's fairly similar in most important aspects to other beefy HOKA shoes, the traction is the reason we think this is one of the best.
The Speedgoat 4 updates the previous 3 in small and subtle ways. Generally speaking, the design remains mostly unchanged, with the same stack height, heel-toe drop, and outsole pattern. The upper is made of thinner and more breathable material, and the shape is ever so slightly wider but still trends toward a narrow fit in the forefoot and toe box especially. It comes in EE wide sizes now for those with wide feet. The midsole foam compound has been changed slightly, although comparing the two versions on different feet, it was nearly impossible for us to tell the difference. The tongue is now a thin piece of fabric without padding. Most notably, the weight has increased to the tune of roughly 0.5 ounces per shoe. Still, we think those who loved the previous version will also be happy with this one.
This shoe is one of the most protective you can buy, especially for the undersides of the feet. Its 32mm of EVA foam under the heel does an incredible job of dampening the effect of stepping on sharp or uncomfortable protrusions such as rocks and scree, although the slightest sensation can still be felt. To sum it up, you can feel you are stepping on things in these shoes, but you won't be able to tell that they are sharp. While HOKA claims to have tweaked the recipe for the EVA foam to make it more responsive, the fact is that we have a hard time telling the difference between it and older versions in side-by-side testing.
There is very little toe bumper on this shoe besides a simple 3D print overlay, although the rockered geometry of all HOKA shoes does a pretty decent job of minimizing the frequency of kicking rocks. The upper material is a thinner but seemingly more durable version of reinforced mesh with 3D print overlays in the most critical wear areas, but it doesn't do a ton to protect the actual sides of the feet. We find we need this protection less in these shoes riding as high off the ground as they do. While not the absolute most protective, foot protection is nevertheless these shoes' strongest attribute.
We like the Vibram Megagrip outsole rubber found on this shoe better than any other HOKA shoe. The main reason is that it's very sticky, which helps it grip to rock, either dry or wet. Since we love to run where it's rocky, we appreciate a soft and sticky rubber that isn't too hard and grips well. The outsole is littered with 5mm deep lugs that have their own unique shape — these pronounced lugs are pretty durable and not overly prone to ripping off, although they do begin to wear down over time, as you would expect.
The sharp-edged lugs do an excellent job biting into soft and loose surfaces such as loose dirt, grass, and snow. We also think they grip nicely on mud but still experienced some pretty epic caking on one mid-winter trail run where we encountered persistent mud. This suggests that they could stand to be spread out slightly more. Minor complaints aside, traction is not something you will complain about while wearing this shoe.
Compared to low riding, zero-drop alternatives, HOKA shoes are not exactly the most stable. This is understandable when you look at them, as their underfoot platform is 32mm tall! Any time you are moving your foot that far above the ground, stability will be compromised, and this is the essential trade-off that one must choose to pay when looking for the maximum cushioning.
That said, we think the Speedgoat 4* is quite possibly the most stable HOKA we have worn. It grips the foot very securely to avoid any slipping around on the inside and combines a wide landing platform with a low heel-toe drop. Over time, we've also realized that it becomes possible to adapt to anything you use frequently, and we don't find that most HOKA users have too big a problem with stability. We notice it the most when on steep, uneven terrain such as grass hummocks off-trail or when running in a washed out trail that has eroded into a v-groove without a flat landing spot in the bottom. On normal trails, even rocky ones, where we find a relatively flat landing spot, the added stack height isn't generally a big deal.
We find this shoe to be very comfortable. HOKA claims that they made the toe box slightly wider than previous versions, as many people complained it was too narrow. There is no doubt that this toe box is still on the narrow side and tapers to a point in the front that isn't really shaped like a foot. However, the heel also seems to fit a bit narrower, which helps grip the foot better, an issue we noticed with previous versions. Overall, we think the fit on the Speedgoat 4 is excellent, and those with wider feet can order a wide version. There is no need to intentionally size up or down.
The upper construction quality is excellent on this shoe, with a seamless interior on the upper that has no obvious rub points. The tongue is now a thin piece of material that does less to pad against the pressure of the laces, but we never felt any discomfort from this. The only downside is that in our water bucket test, we noticed that the shoe absorbs more water than the previous version, despite being made of thinner material. It also doesn't shed that water as quickly. So if you want a shoe for the very wettest of daily runs, this may not be the top choice, but regardless it is quite comfortable.
Our pair of size men's 11 weighed in at 23.6 ounces on our independent scale. For reference, the older Speedgoat 3 weighed 22.5 ounces, so we logged an increase in weight of roughly half an ounce per shoe.
The Speedgoat 4 saw adjustments to both the midsole foam and the upper, which combined make up the majority of the shoe. Any changes this drastic are sure to have repercussions on the weight, but we are, of course, a bit bummed that the increase is so much. This is now one of the heavier choices that we have featured in our review, and yet, considering the size of the shoes themselves, we are still impressed that they aren't heavier.
No matter what type of terrain you are running over, there is very little trail feel to be experienced with these shoes. We found that on the very roughest of trails, where we were constantly stepping on rocks and scree, we experienced some sensation in our feet, but by and large, this sensation is severely dampened.
There is no rock plate sandwiched into the layers of foam, but the foam itself is so deep and plush that it's not necessary to effectively insulate the foot from the ground. Runners who value sensitivity over foot protection are barking up the wrong tree if they are considering this shoe.
Like most HOKA shoes, these are not cheap. However, all shoes seem to be getting more expensive these days, and so the price you will pay for these is not totally out of line considering their performance. We've found that the thick foam in these shoes tends to last for many hundreds of miles without becoming too played out. Degradation of the upper or sole will likely be the point of failure. Despite the price, we feel that the Speedgoat 4 presents good value because of its longevity and solid performance.
The Speedgoat 4 is a great choice because it's comfortable, performance fitting, and has some of the grippiest traction of any maximally cushioned shoe we have worn. Despite adding a little bit of weight over the previous version, we feel the fit is enhanced to provide even better performance. If you are in the market for super thick, absorptive cushioning, this is where we recommend you begin your search.
— Andy Wellman