Shoe ReviewsTrail

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 Performance Review

Matt: I did a pretty in-depth review of the Speedgoat 2 last year and found lots to like about them, plus a few areas for improvement. I put a good amount of mileage in the SG2’s and the only reason they didn’t end up on my feet at the Mogollon Monster 100 was due to my only major concern: the dreaded toe-box squeeze. Going a half-size up fixed the toebox issue, but meant my heel was less secure.

I’m pleased to report that HOKA has taken an already great shoe and fixed any and all issues I had with it. Is it the “perfect” shoe? Almost.  For me, max cushion shoes are never going to feel as inherently stable as lower to the ground shoes on the most technical terrain. Still, for the vast majority of the trails I encounter, even out on the Beast Coast, they are a fuck ton of fun.

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The Good

Matt: The things I loved about the SG2 are true for the SG3, so read my SG2 review for further specifics. The Vibram MegaGrip rubber and lug pattern is unchanged, which is good, and the weight is basically the same (very light for so much cushioning). What has changed—and much for the better— is the width of the midfoot and toe box. Some say that the midfoot and toe box are physically bigger than the SG2, while others attribute it to a variety of overall changes (i.e. type of mesh used on the upper, flexible vamp by the base of the toes, added height in the toe box). Either way, this shoe now perfectly fits my foot, and I get a totally precise lockdown without having to crank too hard on the laces. The fit is truly confidence-inspiring for technical trails, and I no longer have cramped toes. Well done HOKA!

They also addressed some places I saw wear in the upper, and since the outsole and midsole of my SG2s are still going strong, this should make the SG3 a really durable shoe all around, and something that will give a lot of bang for the buck.

Erin: I’ve tended to stay away from HOKA’s trail offerings, mostly because Altra seems to make trail shoes that just work for me, and while I liked the Challenger ATR 4, the toe box was a tad narrow and I just didn’t feel like my foot had enough room to breathe.

That said, I was really surprised by the Speedgoat 3. It looks like a lot of shoe, and I guess it is, but I love pretty much everything about it. Somehow, it manages to have both the perfect amount of cushion and responsiveness. I really did not expect a trail shoe with a 30/26 mm stack height and a weight of 9.1 ounces to fit into my rotation, but this one is here to stay.

The Speedgoat 3, like previous versions, employs HOKA’s MetaRocker technology, which you’ll either love or hate: I don’t think there’s much middle ground here, because the rocker either works with your stride or it doesn’t. I couldn’t wait to run in these after trying them on and walking around the house. My first few outings in these were actually on the roads, because we’ve had a lot of snow and ice melting and refreezing and I felt more comfortable in something with some traction, and these were a great choice. The Vibram Megagrip outsole provides great grip.

The upper is made of an open mesh with 3D puff print and TPU overlays to provide stability in the midfoot region. I know durability has been an issue in the past (this seems to be really common among most trail shoes now, TBH), and it’s a little too early to tell, but I think the upper has been improved in the 3 from a durability standpoint. The tongue is integrated and well-padded, as is the heel collar.

I wore the Speedgoat 3 this weekend for a 50K in objectively terrible conditions (rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, and then progressing through each again back to rain; shoe-sucking mud with a lot of sliding around and some standing water) and they were probably the only thing I wore that was appropriate for these conditions (seriously I was so underdressed and so cold it took me 30 minutes to be able to unclip my vest after the race). I felt sure-footed on the downhills and generally stable given the state of the trails, and I think the shoes drained pretty well (although at a certain point my feet were frozen solid and I couldn’t tell if they were wet or even attached to my body).

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The Bad

Erin: The isn’t so much a complaint because it’s made to be a max-cushioned shoe; but because the stack height is so high, you can’t get a good feel for the trail, which is something I like. I have the laziest running form in the world and don’t pick up my feet, especially when I start to get tired, so I end up tripping a lot. Again, this is on me.

Matt: It’s not hot enough to know if the shoe breathes any better than the SG2 in the heat (another drawback I found with that model) but after using it in some slushy runs, I can say that it absorbs basically the same amount of water as the SG2. Not a dealbreaker, and better than some other shoes (I’m looking at you, Saucony Peregrine) but maybe something to watch as it warms up, and I’ll try to report back when it gets humid AF, as is the way in the Northeast.

The looks are improved over the “raver boot” aesthetics of the SG2, but juuuuust barely. In general, aesthetics is one area I think HOKA is still a bit behind, and it’d be nice for them to offer some simpler colorways than fruitpunch suicide or laser-disco starwars.

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HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 Conclusion

Matt: It’s rare that a company manages to change only the bad parts of a shoe without fucking up something you like. I’m so happy HOKA listened to me (clearly their changes are a result of my original review) and made a great shoe even better. This is a shoe I’d wear for all distances from 50 miles up (and maybe for certain 50ks) and on terrain barring the most insanely technical, only because my ankles are bendy sonsabitches. Even if you’re a max-cushion skeptic, I think it’s worth it to try this shoe out! Something really amazing is gonna have to come along to replace these on my feet for my summer races.

Erin: From what I’ve heard, the Speedgoat 3 is largely unchanged from the 2, aside from some extra room in the toe box and a little reinforcement of the weak parts of the upper. Speedgoat 2 fans won’t be disappointed. I really don’t think you can go wrong with this shoe, especially for a hundred miler, though it really feels lively and responsive enough to perform as a shorter distance shoe as well. Put simply, this shoe excels on most any surface.

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Matt is an ultra-runner who lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter. He is the founder of Brooklyn Distance Running, a coaching practice to help runners become fitter, faster, and more focused. When he’s not tearing up Prospect Park, he’s out in the Catskills getting dirty on the trails.

Erin enjoys running ultras all over the East Coast, in addition to her hometown of Baltimore. Check out her gnarly review of the Georgia Death Race here.

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