What You Need To Know
- Weighs 8.2 oz. (232 g) for a US M9.0 / 6.8 oz. (192 g) for a US W8
- Stack height of 29 mm heel, 24 mm forefoot for a 5 mm drop
- Lightweight yet well-cushioned, great for daily mileage
- One iteration away from matching Speed Racer’s badass Mach 5
JEREMY: Back when I was in school, we learned about Mach numbers, which are simply a ratio of one’s speed to the speed of sound. To skip beyond the hours of boring physics and aerodynamics talk, none of us will be running faster than the speed of sound, so this ratio is basically an irrelevant intro line to HOKA ONE ONE’s Mach 4.
But maybe, just maybe, with the HOKA Mach 4, we can feel like the hypersonic runners of our dreams. The Mach has been one of the most overlooked shoes in HOKA’s arsenal for some time, with much more attention given to the Clifton, Rincon, and Carbon X. That might be changing after this newest iteration, as the Mach 4 comes out with a new and improved design that has added additional underfoot cushioning, as well as an updated upper.
THOMAS: I wasn’t sure I wanted to review the Mach 4. In the past, the Mach felt firm and clunky, and – warning, incoming dad joke coming – more like the HOKA mock series. Ooof, that was bad, I am reaching a little. All that to say, I’m happy I did not sit this one out because this shoe has legend-potential.
JEREMY: Let’s start from the top down. The upper is an engineered mesh that fits like a glove; it’s slightly less narrow than other HOKA shoes like the Clifton 7 and is thin and breathable while keeping enough rigidity. The lacing system is comfortable and keeps the foot locked in well. The ‘elf ear’ heel designed to keep your Achilles comfortable does the job perfectly, and the gusseted tongue stays in place.
Moving on to the midsole, the PROFLY cushioning is quite soft and provides plenty of cushion in such a light package (9.2 ounces for US M11.5). It’s easy to get into a rhythm with this shoe as the combination of the light midsole and classic HOKA early stage meta rocker offer a smooth ride through each stride. The dovetail heel works to enhance that rocking action while minimizing forces to the heel upon foot strike, especially when running downhill. A rubberized EVA foam outsole contributes to what is a pretty durable shoe. After nearly 100 miles, there is almost no sign of wear. Typically I get around 450-500 miles in Cliftons and I expect a similar life from the Mach 4.
AUSTIN: Back in August, I dubbed the Topo Athletic Phantom my favorite shoe of 2020. I’ve been pondering that assessment since I started running in the HOKA ONE ONE Mach 4. Brace yourself. I still love the Phantom, but it’s dropping to number two as the Mach 4 now reigns. Step-in comfort is solid. The Mach 4 is true to size and I encountered no slippage in the heel. Speaking of which, my wife has dubbed the new heel design a “hoof heel.” I’m going with split heel. The official terminology, according to HOKA, is “dovetail heel,” a term Thomas referenced in the Carbon X 2 review. It’s clear the Mach 4 has taken some design cues from the HOKA TenNine and Clifton Edge, which were more of an extreme introduction to the extendo-heel movement. I foresee more models in 2021 following this design pattern. It actually looks cool too.
I should note that I have no experience with the Mach’s predecessors, but I like what version four delivers. The Mach 4 looked bulky and overweight out of the box, but it’s light in hand. To describe the ride, I’ve coined a new term: “coiled marshmallow” (trademark pending). Runners love HOKA for that wondrous marshmallow feel, but I shy away from models like the Bondi as the cushioning makes for a challenging foot turnover. The Mach 4, in contrast, is surprisingly responsive in light of the soft feeling underfoot. The ride never turned to mush or gave way even at longer distances. Outsole wear is minimal at 40 miles.
MEAGHAN: I’ll get straight to it. The Mach 4 has been a delight to run in. From the comfortable step-in feel to its smooth, responsive ride out on the roads, this shoe quickly made it to the top of my rotation. The upper is designed with heat pressed TPU embroidered yarns (sounds fancy, but it’s quite simple in design) and offers plenty of structure and support. There’s nice padding around the collar, and the flared-out heel design does its job of avoiding any Achilles rubbing, while also doubling as a pull tab.
Beneath the foot is a nice blend of foams — the soft, lightweight PROFLY™ midsole on top with rubberized foam directly beneath. It gives the shoe a light, bouncy ride without weighing you down. My W7.5 came in right at 7 oz. Pretty amazing for all that cush and a 27 mm stack height.
THOMAS: To avoid re-hashing the previous reviewers, I will stick to what I like about the shoe. First, the upper fits well, the kinda well where you don’t notice it at all. The “elf”-like heel on the back has grown on me. I like the way it functions while running and it is useful as a pull tab when putting your shoes on. The tongue is attached and you know I love that. Finding the proper tongue height has got to be a lost art. This one is okay, maybe a little short, but the thickness and padding work. While the standard laces are very functional, I switched them out for Lock Laces and it is amazing how well the upper fits with the snug stretchiness the laces provide.
Moving on down to the dual-density midsole, HOKA nailed the elusive “not too firm, not too soft” challenge. Closest to the foot you have a nice soft bed of Profly foam, then you have a layer (about 1/3 of the midsole) of firmer rubberized foam that does two things. First, it is more durable, making it ideal for ground contact. Second, the rigidity of the firmer foam gives the Mach 4 a more responsive ride. Take a look at the makeup of the Carbon X 2 plated shoe vs the Mach 4. The Carbon X 2 has a softer Profly foam and less firm ground contact foam than the Mach. The Carbon X 2 gets its punch from the plate. The Mach 4 with no plate relies more on the firm foam. This feature makes these two shoes a great training tandem. Probably the most cohesive daily trainer/tempo race shoe out there.
JEREMY: Maybe a bit nit-picky, but the shoelaces are incredibly long and flop around a bit. I understand there’s an extra eyelet for extra heel lockdown but it feels odd.
My major complaint is that the Mach 4, while providing a soft and comfortable ride, sacrifices a little responsiveness and does not feel quite as bouncy as daily trainers from other brands.
AUSTIN: My critique of the Mach 4 is minor, but I’d be remiss not to mention it. First, the laces. I’m not sure why some models are prone to such lengthy shoe laces, but I had to stuff all the excess under the midfoot saddle (after some extra knots first to make the process easier). I should note that with narrow feet, I needed to cinch the midfoot down a bit, which added to the lace surplus. Still, shorten them next year.
MEAGHAN: I have to agree with Jeremy on the laces. While they’re nice and stretchy, they are entirely too long. Other than that, I really got nothing.
THOMAS: I put in Lock Laces, problem solved. My critique of the shoe would be more on the positioning. I’d put the Mach 4 in the easy day trainer category, maybe the name should be sub-supersonic. While I feel comfortable picking up the pace in these, the effort feels even easier in the Carbon X 2 and the Rocket X.
HOKA ONE ONE Mach 4 Conclusion
JEREMY: The HOKA Mach 4 lands in the daily trainer category. Great for any distance, including long runs, but I wouldn’t be reaching for it on workout or speed days. It reminds me of the Saucony Ride 13, just slightly softer and more cushioned. Comparing it to other brand’s daily trainers, this is a good option to eat up big mileage and wear on easier days when your feet could use some extra cushion.
AUSTIN: The Mach 4 is an outstanding shoe for easy runs and recovery runs. Though the ride is fairly responsive at faster paces, I still felt like I had to press into the asphalt a little harder for quick turnover. I don’t see anyone breaking the sound barrier like Chuck Yeager, but with excellent training and HOKA’s impressive Mach update, you can certainly achieve some new personal records if you’re hesitant about plated shoes or simply want to save some green.
MEAGHAN: The HOKA ONE ONE Mach 4 has quickly become one of my favorite daily trainers. It’s light, responsive, and with all that cushioning, can handle plenty of miles. Put this one on your list.
THOMAS: If you like HOKA, you will love the Mach 4; it may even take the place of the Clifton for my easy effort days. One shoe I felt matched up with it well is the ASICS GEL-Nimbus Lite 2. Both are really good choices for stacking miles in comfort. As I mentioned above, pair the Mach 4 with the Carbon X 2 and you have a dynamic duo for all your running needs. Unless you hit the trails, then you need yet another Hoka. For Meg’s and my thoughts in video format, check out our YouTube review below.
The HOKA ONE ONE Mach 4 releases on March 1, 2021.