The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 wins our Top Pick as the Best Maximum Cushioning trail running shoe in large part because of its superior traction, increased stability, and comfortable fit. With a fat stack of supportive EVA foam underfoot, this shoe offers optimum underfoot protection against all types of terrain, while also working to absorb a large chunk of the repetitive strain of long-distance trail running. The Vibram Megagrip outsole combined with 5mm lugs is very grippy, and with a slightly widened toe box, and an EE wide version, the fit is more accommodating to a wider range of foot shapes. For ultra-distance runners, or anyone looking to reduce the repetitive strain on tired or achy joints, maximally cushioned shoes are a solid choice, and the Speedgoat 4 is the one we recommend first.
HOKA Speedgoat 4 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Maximum cushioning, great foot protection, excellent grippy traction
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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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 the midsole of this shoe 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 as our favorite for trail running 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 one is 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. 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 helping to minimize the frequency of kicking rocks. The upper material is a thinner but seemingly more durable version of reinforced mesh that has 3D print overlays in the most critical wear areas, but doesn't do a ton to protect the actual sides of the feet. We find we need this protection less in these shoes riding so 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 really 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 that is hard to describe, check out the photo. These pronounced lugs are pretty durable and not overly prone to ripping off, although as you would expect, they do begin to wear down over time.
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, suggesting that they could still 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, Hokas are not exactly the most stable shoes. This is understandable when you take a look at them, as their underfoot platform is 32mm tall! Any time you are moving your foot height that far above the ground, stability is going to be compromised, and this is the essential trade-off that one must choose to pay when looking for the absolute most cushioning they can find.
That said, we think this shoe 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. We've also realized over time 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 running 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 that they were 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 had in previous versions. Overall, we think the fit is excellent, and also point out that those with wider feet can order a wide version. There is no need to intentionally size up or down.
The quality of the upper construction is excellent, with a seamless interior to 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 despite 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 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.
This version 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 was so much. It's now one of the heavier choices that we have featured here, 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 comes severely dampened.
There is no rock plate sandwiched into the layers of foam, but the foam itself is so deep and plush that there doesn't need to be in order 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 ones are not cheap. However, all shoes seem to be getting more expensive these days, and so the price you pay 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, and so degradation of the upper or sole is likely the point of failure. Despite the price, we feel that they present good value because of their longevity and solid performance.
The Hoka Speedgoat 4 wins our Top Pick for Maximum Cushioning because it's the most comfortable, performance fitting, and grippiest 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