Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 Review by Matthew Imberman
Hoka seems to have finally designed a shoe that I’d want to take on technical trails–and hey, I can even get my foot into them! I’m going to abbreviate their name because I can’t remember if they’re pronouncing it “Hoka Won Won” or “Hoka Oné Oné this week”. If someone finds out, please let me know. In any case, these burly raver shoes are pretty shit-kicking out on the trail. The Vibram Megagrip rubber on the outsole is no joke. Wet rocks, mud, urine-slicked Porto potty floors—it really works as advertised. The first big mountain day in them was in high humidity and then rain, and they kept me well upright, despite every attempt I made to go ass over elbow while dancing down the rocks. The lug pattern works effectively on climbs and descents, and shed mud pretty capable, and didn’t cause any issues on groomed trails or long stretches of paved road.
The midsole is all day comfortable, which I’d hope it’d be for so much cushion. It’s bouncy and ever so slightly spongy, but it’s still pretty stable on aggressive and even off-camber terrain. An impressive feat considering the 32/27 stack height! The rocker geometry helps all that cushion transition quickly, so they feel nimbler than the stats would have you believe. The rockered midsole design also helped with foot fatigue in longer outings, and I could definitely imagine the midsole staying comfortable for any amount of distance or time. There’s no rock plate, but with that amount of cushion you certainly don’t need one, and I was never bothered by any poke through on any of my runs.
The close-fitting, engineered mesh upper stretched enough to accommodate my Flintstone-esque feet but still held tightly enough to provide supreme confidence on descents (maybe a little too tightly in some spots). The welded overlays wrapping the mid foot help to further dial in the fit and did a decent job of protecting from trail obstacles scraping my feet. Random pleasure: the laces are a good length, didn’t lose much tension over time, and look pretty sweet against the black/gray of the upper. The fit was true to size, which is a first for me in any Hoka. The construction of the upper is first rate and I don’t see any delaminating and I haven’t been easy on them at all.
Look, I know the Speedgoat 2 was designed with input from and extensively tested by Karl Meltzer. I also know he’s the winningest 100-mile racer, and a better trail runner than I’ll ever hope to be, but does the dude have slender ballerina feet or what? If your parents were really into foot binding when you were a kid, then these are probably super wide on you. If you have standard ‘Murican feet like me, these are snug in the forefoot. The height of the toe box also leaves a bit to be desired, and I worry about how it would feel in the later stages of a very long ultra as my feet swell. A simple fix for me, instead of sizing up, was to swap out the very thick insoles for thinner ones from a different shoe. For the next version, though, I’d recommend they either shave the insole down or give a little more height around the toes, starting at the base of the toes where the first eyelets are.
Another is of concern is the lack of breathability of the upper. On longer outings, they haven’t demonstrated a great ability to shed moisture. Granted, most of my runs in them have been in high temps or high humidity; however, for a shoe to work well over long distances on the trails it also has to be able to handle draining water well, and so far that’s not exactly been the case with the Speedgoat 2’s. The outsole is a thing of beauty, but I do have concerns about lugs shearing off over time, especially on the medial side where I’m starting to see some wear at points where exposed EVA meets rubber.
The tongue isn’t gusseted, which is surprising considering it seems pretty standard for flagship models these days. Aesthetics are a personal matter, so I’ll just leave it at this: if you are a sinister clown or really miss wearing Jnco jeans, twirling glow sticks, and listening to drum and bass, then you’re gonna love how these look!
Speedgoat 2 Conclusion
The first version of the Speedgoats was ill-fitting trash. Sorry, it needs to be said. Version 2 is essentially a totally new shoe, and it has A LOT going for it: admirable handling on technical terrain, all day comfort, solid performance at any pace, and smooth sailing on all types of surfaces. I’d love Hoka to add a bit more height in the toe box and an upper that breathes and drains a bit better, but the Speedgoat 2’s are a well-designed max cushion shoe that can still churn and burn in the mountains. The Speedgoat 2 retails for $140.