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HOKA Trail Running Shoes

In this article, we're going to look at how HOKA's trail running shoes improve your performance. Then we'll help you narrow down the best model for you based on your preferences and running style.

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HOKA Trail Running Shoes

womens and mens mafate speed 3 trail running shoes on white background

In this article, we're going to look at how HOKA's trail running shoes improve your performance. Then we'll help you narrow down the best model for you based on your preferences and running style.

How HOKA trail running technology improves your performance

TenNine Drizzle/Lunar Rock – HOKA's most cushioned trail running shoe

The TenNine is a heavily cushioned shoe designed to shield your heel from impact when running downhill.

At first glance, you’ll notice the pronounced heel, which is massively cushioned to make it almost impossible to land on your toes. And although the shoe has no rock plate, the foam is thick enough to protect your feet when running on rocky terrain.

The TenNine has a lightly padded tongue with a bootie design that holds your feet in place. And it has sufficient room in the toe area to accommodate various foot shapes.

One possible downside, the traction of the shoe is decent but not great for muddy terrain. This is because the shoe doesn’t have very deep lugs. So, if you’re looking to run on muddy terrain, the Evo JAWZ might be a better choice because it has deeper lugs.

The TenNine is for runners looking for a massively cushioned shoe for speedy descents. And, at $249 a pair, this shoe is for people who are willing to invest in a premium model.

Note: the TenNine is a tad on the heavier side. So, if you want a lighter shoe, the Torrent might be a better fit for you.

What you'll notice:

  • Smooth and stable ride

The heel is nice and wide, making it hard for you to lose balance or roll an ankle.

  • Speedy descents

The stacked heel is designed to ease the transition from the heel to the forefoot and propel you forward when running downhill.

Speedgoat 4 – HOKA's flagship, speedy trail shoe

The Speedgoat is HOKA’s speedier trail shoe, and the shoe of choice for pro athlete Karl Meltzer.

It’s great for regular training and long-runs. But, it shines best during 50+ mile races.

Being the flagship shoe, it offers a little bit of everything – decent cushioning, comfort, and durability. And, it has big lugs that offer excellent grip in the mud. Plus, the outsole rubber sticks well when running on slippery surfaces.

One thing to note, the tongue is on the thinner side, which means your feet might feel pressure from the laces. So, try not to cinch them too tight.


The Speedgoat is a speedy shoe designed to tackle long-distance races. If you’re looking for a cushioned shoe for casual running, this may not be an ideal option.

Also, some people may find the shoe a bit heavy. So if you’d prefer a lighter and more flexible shoe, you might appreciate the Challenger ATR.

What you'll notice:

  • Soft and cushioned ultra trail runs

The midsole foam is soft with a plush feel, allowing you to run ultra-distance races comfortably.

  • Secure fit

The upper is dense and less stretchy, which makes the shoe hold its form, securing your foot in place.

Evo Mafate 2 – HOKA's rugged shoe for technical terrain

The Evo Mafate 2 is designed for aggressive running on technical terrain.

It has a rugged outsole with deep and widely spaced lugs, which offer excellent grip.

While the Evo Mafate is great for technical runs, if you’ll typically be running on flatter surfaces, you may want to check out the Challenger ATR. Its lugs aren’t as defined, and the tread is designed for more even surfaces.

What you'll notice:

  • Roomy

Unlike most of the HOKA trail running shoes, the Evo Mafate has a roomy toe box. It’s important to note that this shoe also has a wider heel area which may cause some foot shapes to slip out during more intense runs.

Torrent 2 – HOKA's minimalist shoe

The Torrent 2 was built to be a minimalist shoe. HOKA reduced the amount of plush cushioning they’re known for (but not all of it) to give you a low-profile shoe with ground feel. But it still has enough to shield you from hard impact.

The Torrent is very light and is great for speed. It’s best on flatter surfaces, but they also hold up decently on moderate and rocky terrain.

Though it’s a minimalist shoe, the Torrent provides a little bit of soft cushioning in the heel – something heel strikers may appreciate.

The Torrent is for runners looking for less cushioning and ground contact. So, if you want a heavily cushioned shoe, the HOKA Stinson might be an ideal option.

Also, this shoe has shallow lugs, and may not be best for technical terrain where you need grip. If you’re looking for a specialized trail shoe with excellent traction, the Evo Mafate might be a better choice.

What you'll notice:

  • Ground feel.

HOKA is known for thick cushioning, but for runners who want to ride a tad closer to the ground, they’ll appreciate the Torrent.

What to look for in a trail running shoe?

For trail running you’ll need shoes with:

  • Tread for traction on uneven surfaces
  • A well-built upper for protection
  • A bit of cushioning to protect from debris
  • Stability and support to prevent rolling ankles

How do I choose the best HOKA trail running shoe for me?

To find the best trail running shoe for you, you'll want to factor in a number of things. Your running goals, the type of trail you’ll be running on, and the distance you'll be covering are all important.

Casual runs

Casual running is great for staying in shape, burning calories, or just getting some fresh air. For these more laid back types of runs, you won’t need a shoe packed with the most premium features. But you’ll want one that has a decent amount of all the features like the Stinson ATR 6.

The Stinson has solid stability and great comfort. And it has a moderate 4mm lug, which makes it a great all-terrain shoe.

If you want a less expensive option, the Challenger ATR 5 would be a good choice. Just know: it isn’t quite as cushioned as the Stinson, for longer runs.

Tempo/Fartlek training

Tempo training is for runners looking to get into great shape and boost their aerobic system. This is a dynamic style of running – intervals, sprinting, jogging, side-to-side movements.

The Evo Mafate 2 was built for this type of run. This shoe excels on technical terrain and has a grippy outsole. Just note, the heel can run a bit wide for some foot shapes, so if you’ve got slimmer feet you may want to go down half a size.

If you’ll be running on more downhill terrain, you’ll definitely want to look into the TenNine Drizzle. This shoe has super squishy cushioning which many people love. And it has a massive heel that almost forces you to land on the back part of your foot.

And for extremely sloppy, muddy terrain, you might prefer a shoe with talon-like lugs Evo JAWZ.

Racing/speed (5k - half marathon)

If you’re going to be running in races such as a 5k or a marathon, then you’ll need a light, speedy shoe like the Torrent 2. This shoe has a low-to-the-ground ride, and shallow lugs. But, it’s a minimalist shoe so there isn’t a ton of cushioning.

If you prefer a shoe with just a tad more cushion that won’t slow you down, then another option might be the Speedgoat 4.

Long-distance (ultramarathon)

If you’re going for really long runs – 30, 50, 100+ miles – then you’ll need a comfy shoe that can handle the distance.

The Stinson ATR 6 would be a great shoe for longer runs. It has a 37mm stack height under the heel which is a ton of cushioning between you and the trail.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use HOKA trail shoes for road running?

Some trail shoes have bigger, deeper lugs to offer better traction. Some have non-aggressive lugs that make them versatile for hard running surfaces.

How often should I replace my HOKA trail running shoes?

The general rule of thumb is to replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

Some key signs to look out for include:

  • If the cushioning feels less effective than it used to
  • Worn down tread
  • If the upper has more give than it once did, allowing your feet to move around too much
  • Achy joints after running – a sign that the protective tech in your shoes is no longer doing its job

How do I make my trail runners last longer?

Although the technology will tend to wear out over time, there are a few ways you can make them last longer:

  • If you can, rotate the shoes every other run to give the midsole time to reset
  • Let your shoes air dry, but not in direct sunlight
  • Don’t clean them via the washing machine – this can damage the various technologies

Which would be the best HOKA trail shoe for a beginner?

If you’re new to trail running, you'll probably want an entry-level shoe as you’re adjusting to the new terrain. You’ll also want a decent amount of cushioning since you won’t be used to stepping on rocks and roots.

The HOKA Stinson ATR 6 is great for beginners. It's protective, and it's heavily cushioned, but it's light enough to not weigh you down.

Once you get used to running off-road, then you can upgrade if needed. Once you learn your trail preferences and running style, then you can invest in a specialty shoe.

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