Gear Review: Hoka One One Evo Speedgoat Trail Shoes
The Speedgoat line from Hoka One One is named for Carl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, who not only holds the record for the most 100-mile trail race wins, but also set the then-speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2016, wearing a pair (many pairs) of Speedgoats while doing it. A few model upgrades later, Hoka One One this year released the Evo Speedgoat. Evo Speedgoat has the same midsoles and outsoles as the Speedgoat 3, but comes with a lighter upper, offering a weight reduction of 0.8 ounces for the pair. This shoe is built for racing on rugged trails, which makes it a pretty good candidate for a thru-hiking shoe.
Here in Arizona, we have rocky and rugged trails, so I took these shoes with me whenever I went to the mountains and canyons. I took them on and off-trail, through creek crossings, rock scrambles, rock hops, and just plain rocky trail. I also used them on urban hikes and runs, which are steep and at times gravelly, but mostly paved. After a few months and a couple hundred miles, I’ve gotten to know these shoes pretty well.
HOKA ONE ONE Evo Speedgoats At-a-Glance
Weight: 9.9 ounces
Midsole: CMEVA foam
Outsole: Vibram® Megagrip high-traction outsole with 5mm lugs
Upper: MATRYX® upper textile, featuring high-tensile synthetic fiber strands across the midfoot for lightweight strength and durability
Looking at gear specs can be confusing. What’s MATRYX or CMEVA? Does it matter or are these just marketing words? It’s a bit of both, but here’s a rough breakdown:
CMEVA is Compression Molded Ethylene Vinyl-Acetate. This is the technical jargon for the type of foam used in the midsole. EVA is used in the majority of trail runners today, and it is lightweight, cushioning, and stable. The Evo Speedgoat is different because it has more foam in the midsole than many other trail runners.
MATRYX fabric is a textile made of Kevlar and Polyamid fibers woven together. Kevlar is a strong fiber, first developed for use in racing tires, and is used for its lightweight durability. Polyamid is similar to nylon and is used for its tensile strength. So, MATRYX is a textile that has been engineered to be durable, lightweight, and breathable.
Vibram is a brand of rubber lug soles, known for providing excellent traction. Vibram soles are used on many hiking boots and shoes.
The Evo Speedgoats are designed for rugged trail races. Because they are engineered to be as lightweight as possible and also as durable as possible, they make a pretty good thru-hiking shoe. The lightweight and cushy midsole can really minimize fatigue when hiking 20+ miles day in and day out. The durable upper means these shoes can take a beating before they start to fall apart (as all trail runners eventually do).
Thru-hiking in trail runners has exploded in popularity, as hikers have realized the benefits of a lightweight, flexible shoe. However, wearing trail runners goes hand-in-hand with lightweight backpacking (base weight under 15 pounds) and is not appropriate for traditional backpacking. With a very heavy load, it’s best to stick with a more rigid shoe with ankle support. If your pack weight is light enough, I think you’ll find trail runners to be much more comfortable than traditional hiking shoes or boots.
HOKA ONE ONE Evo Speedgoat Pros
Wide Toe Box
There are not very many shoes that have a wide enough toe box for me. My poor pinky toe often gets smashed and blistered, even when every other aspect of the shoe fits and works great. This was not the case with the Speedgoats! The toe box is wide and boxy, giving all my toes the room they need to move around without any blisters or hot spots popping up.
One hiker I met on the AT told me that wearing his Hokas was like walking on pillows. I was skeptical at the time, but now I see that he was right. There is a lot of foam underfoot in these shoes, and it feels great. Typically, if I’m out hiking into the double-digits, my feet get pretty tired and I start to feel every rock and root. The added cushioning on the Speedgoats meant that even at the end of a long, rocky day of hiking, my feet were less sore and fatigued, as the extra foam absorbed impact. I also appreciated the cushioning while running on pavement. I’m a heavy heel striker, and this gives me a tendency to get shin splints. I have yet to experience any shin splint pain while wearing the Hokas.
The first thing I noticed when I picked these shoes up out of the box was how light they were—certainly noticeably lighter than my Altras. Turns out, each shoe is more than an ounce lighter than my Altras. A 2-ounce weight savings might not seem like much, but if, as they say, a pound of weight on your feet is equivalent to five on your back, then the weight savings here would be similar to reducing your base pack weight by over half a pound. Over the course of a long hike, it adds up to a lot of energy savings and reduced fatigue.
The traction on the Speedgoats has proven reliable on many surfaces. From pavement, to slickrock, to scree, I feel very confident in these shoes that I won’t slip.
HOKA ONE ONE Evo Speedgoat Cons
Durability in Question
While I’ve put a couple hundred miles on these shoes and they still look pretty great, I’m unable to say at what point the upper will start to show some serious wear and tear. Thus far, I am impressed with the durability of the upper and I’d venture to say I could get 500+ miles out of a pair. The part of the shoe that seems most susceptible to wear and tear is the foam, which is starting to get a bit shredded on my pair. The EVA foam is what makes the shoes so cushy and comfortable, but it is also prone to getting compressed with heavy use. Then again, it is the industry standard, so this problem applies to pretty much all trail runners.
I find the laces on these shoes to be a little flimsy. They’ve gotten pretty shredded hiking among the prickly plants of the desert, and I might consider swapping them out for a more durable pair. Wearing gaiters would alleviate this by protecting the laces.
The biggest drawback to these shoes is the cost. For $160, you could buy a more durable, long-lasting hiking boot rather than a trail runner only designed for a few hundred miles. Of course, that boot would be heavy and rigid and not as comfortable, but it would last longer.
Right now, there is only one color option. I hope they add some more choices in the future, because Hokas usually have a lot of fun colors.
I love this shoe, and I think you’ll love it too. I wish I was wearing these in Rocksylvania when I hiked the AT—the ankle and knee problems I experienced might not have been such a problem. Yes, they are expensive, as are many trail runners. Personally, I try to never pay full price for my hiking shoes, so if I saw these on sale somewhere, I’d snatch them up in a heartbeat.
Comparable Trail Runners (Max Cushion, Wide Toe Box)
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
Topo Athletic MTN Racer
This product was donated for purpose of review
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