We traveled hundreds of kilometers on roads and hiking trails to choose the most fabulous shoes from the King of Cushion.
- Our Top Picks: Hoka Running Shoes of the Year 2023
- Reviews: Best Hoka Running Shoes
- 1 . BEST DAILY TRAINER Clifton 8
- 2. MOST CUSHIONING Bondi 8
- 3. BEST FOR TEMPO RUNS Mach 4
- 4. BEST VALUE Rincon 3
- 5. MOST STABLE Arahi 6
- 6. BEST FOR RACING Carbon X 3
- 7. BEST FOR ROAD-TO-TRAIL Challenger ATR 6
- 8. MOST VERSATILE Kawana
- 9. Best for Long Trail Runs Speedgoat 5
- 10. BEST FOR TECHNICAL TRAILS Mafate Speed 3
- The Hoka Formula
- Several new components
- How We Test and Evaluate
Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard, two French trail runners, founded Hoka in 2009, right as the minimalist shoe trend was reaching its zenith. Hoka shoes provided the opposite of those barefoot models: maximalist cushioning that soothed runners’ feet, despite (or maybe because of) this trend. Mermoud and Diard aimed to give running a similar “floating sense,” drawing inspiration from the smooth ride of mountain bikes and snow skis. To begin with, they created prototypes by hand and collaborated with a scientist at a Chinese shoe manufacturer to create an entirely new type of EVA foam that was supple and surprisingly light—features that are now synonymous with Hoka sneakers.
The Specialist I started running in middle school and have written about running and outdoor gear for years as a freelancer and Runner’s World staff member. The type of gear I’ve written about the 10 Best Hoka Running Shoes, and I’ve used a variety of manufacturers’ products personally. I reference RW tester comments, brand representatives regarding the most recent shoes and technology, and my knowledge of the running shoe market when writing pieces like this. I compile all that data under the guidance of the RW editors and decide which shoes appear on this page.
The Mafate, Bondi, and Stinson ATR were early models that demonstrated the value of the Hoka design concept. These shoes were light enough for runners to move quickly while also providing adequate cushioning to ease uneven ground and restore energy. Since the shoes became popular, Hoka has seen remarkable growth. In case any brand aficionados were wondering, Hoka will formally remove the “One One” from its moniker in 2021.
Our Top Picks: Hoka Running Shoes of the Year 2023
|Mueller MistrMBEST DAILY TRAINER Clifton 8 Ultra
|MOST CUSHIONING Bondi 8||Check Price|
|BEST FOR TEMPO RUNS Hoka One One Mach 4||Check Price|
|BEST VALUE Hoka Rincon 3||Check Price|
|MOST STABLE Hoka Arahi 6||Check Price|
|BEST FOR RACING Hoka Carbon X 3||Check Price|
|BEST FOR ROAD-TO-TRAIL Hoka Challenger ATR 6||Check Price|
|MOST VERSATILE Hoka Kawana||Check Price|
|BEST FOR LONG TRAIL RUNS Hoka Speedgoat 5||Check Price|
|BEST FOR TECHNICAL TRAILS Hoka Mafate Speed 3||Check Price|
Reviews: Best Hoka Running Shoes
The Specialist I started running in middle school and have written about running and outdoor gear for years as a freelancer and Runner’s World staff member. The type of gear I’ve written about the most is running shoes, and I’ve used a variety of manufacturers’ products personally. I reference RW tester comments, brand representatives regarding the most recent shoes and technology, and my knowledge of the running shoe market when writing pieces like this. I compile all that data under the guidance of the RW editors and decide which shoes appear on this page.
1 . BEST DAILY TRAINER Clifton 8
Better ventilation and the Meta-Rocker sole encourages a fluid stride. For Hoka enthusiasts, the original Clifton is legendary. It was the brand’s turning point since it demonstrated that a shoe could offer the most cushioning without being bulky. The most recent model carries on that history and is intended to function as a daily training shoe. It has an enlarged heel to lessen impact forces and a new EVA midsole material that is designed for low weight and greater energy return for a bouncy sensation. The mesh top has been modified for
2. MOST CUSHIONING Bondi 8
The Bondi is Hoka’s most cushy road shoe and features a very thick midsole. The Bondi’s most recent iteration maintains the design philosophy that has earned it such a dedicated following: maximal cushioning for an ultra-plush ride. Compared to the Bondi 7, the midsole foam is lighter and much softer. A memory foam collar provides a better fit and feels around the ankle, and an open mesh upper enhances ventilation, much like in earlier iterations. A new pillowy tongue is also included in the eighth generation. Hoka stretches and reshapes the heel further down to improve stability and shock absorption. Consider the Bondi X for a quicker ride; it has a comparable cushioning sensation and has an inserted carbon fiber plate for a snappier, faster ride.
3. BEST FOR TEMPO RUNS Mach 4
Both our testers and the RW team were pleased with this new iteration of the Mach, which is on the lighter and faster end of Hoka’s portfolio. The 4 received great acclaim from Runner’s World Deputy Editor Jeff Dengate, who noted in his notes that it is “the finest Mach yet and arguably the best contemporary Hoka.” It was also given a position on our list of the top cushioned shoes. This iteration, like its predecessor, is still a fantastic training partner, but it now feels quick enough to approach the starting line entirely on its own. The key points include: A redesigned upper provides a more snug fit, while a dual-density ProFly midsole and early-stage Meta-Rocker shape for a soft, propulsion-inducing ride. The Mach 4 is ideal for anything from speedwork to longer-distance endeavors.
4. BEST VALUE Rincon 3
The Rincon made its debut in July 2019 as a comfortable, speed-oriented shoe with a good price. With a revised asymmetrical tongue, a bigger toe box, and a vented mesh top for a roomier, breezier feel, the third iteration solves the primary complaints about the prior version—a restricted fit and inadequate ventilation. The Rincon 3 continues to offer a flawless mix between low-weight and soft-but-supportive cushioning. Additional outsole rubber on the heel and forefoot improves durability and grip. It is the perfect option for speed training (and runners on a budget).
5. MOST STABLE Arahi 6
The Arahi combines stability and cushioning attributes similar to the Gaviota, but it ups the ante with a more responsive ride at a lower weight. As in prior iterations, the J-Frame incorporated in the sole of the shoe works to prevent overpronation and is partnered with resilient, springy CMEVA cushioning for a responsive ride. With the help of a new mesh top and additional padding in the tongue for a more comfortable fit, Hoka reduced the weight of the shoe.
6. BEST FOR RACING Carbon X 3
The Carbon X has transformed from an oddity to a capable endurance racer, even though it first looked to only function for runners who land at midfoot. For a smooth, snappy ride, the third edition maintains the combination of a Meta-Rocker sole shape and an inserted carbon-fiber plate. Additionally, dual-density CMEVA foam offers a strong base for effective toe-offs. It now has a new knit top with an enhanced fit, which is essential for runners who enter lengthier events.
7. BEST FOR ROAD-TO-TRAIL Challenger ATR 6
The Challenger ATR has a more balanced cushioning profile than the Zinal, making it a better choice for general training—especially if you exercise on both pavement and trails. Your feet will receive some support from the hard EVA midsole, but it also has enough flexibility to absorb impact pressures and uneven ground. Although the 4-millimeter lugs aren’t very large, they consistently offer traction on and off the road. Additionally, the testers praised the shoe for having a roomier fit in the toe box and midfoot. For even extra space, get it in broad widths.
8. MOST VERSATILE Kawana
For runners looking for a versatile pair of shoes, the Kawana is a fantastic option: It is a soft trainer that is suitable for wearing all day. Hoka’s early-stage Meta-Rocker sole design enables smooth strides, while the CMEVA foam absorbs impacts and provides good energy return. The shoe also supports your feet with Hoka’s Active Foot Frame design, and the new SwallowTail crash pad geometry in the heel encourages even, fluid landings with its broad, asymmetrical form and beveled edge. One of our testers said it “makes running on highways feel effortless,” which is why we named it one of our top cushioned sneakers of the year.
9. Best for Long Trail Runs Speedgoat 5
This is Hoka’s premier trail shoe and a tribute to ultrarunner Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer. It’s great for extended excursions off-road. This sexy trail shoe’s fifth iteration received a significant makeover from Hoka. The redesigned Vibram Megagrip lug pattern on the outsole gives better traction on slick surfaces, and a thicker double-layer jacquard mesh upper offers more protection from foreign objects. The Speedgoat 5 is nearly half an ounce lighter than the Speedgoat 4 thanks to Hoka’s use of innovative CMEVA foam in the midsole.
10. BEST FOR TECHNICAL TRAILS Mafate Speed 3
The Mafate Speed 3 is made to easily handle difficult tracks. The Vibram rubber outsole has 5-millimeter lugs for good traction on a variety of surfaces, and the dual-density midsole cushions impact pressures while offering a solid reaction at toe-off. It has molded thermoplastic overlays to shield your feet from debris and lend some support, and the mesh top provides good ventilation.
The Hoka Formula
Mermoud and Diard designed their shoes with a broad rocker midsole to maintain momentum and produce a smoother ride. They also used light materials and added extra cushioning. The company currently produces road shoes and even track spikes, however, the shoes were originally geared to trail runners.
While some businesses have completely abandoned EVA foam in favor of fresher formulations, Hoka has remained true to its own EVA compositions. The EVA-rubber combination used by the company is more elastic than typical EVA, providing superior support and energy return, and it is also more durable, according to our research from the RW Shoe Lab. In addition, Hoka employs several combinations of compression-molded EVA (CMEVA) foam in its footwear. While certain mixes are calibrated for excellent performance, others are designed for minimal weight return of vitality. The Arahi and Speedgoat are two shoes in the collection that now use CMEVA.
The Meta-Rocker design and the Active Foot Frame, both of which have been present in almost all of the company’s shoes since its inception, are further significant Hoka design elements. A low heel-toe drop and a rounded sole form, known as a meta-rocker, work together to support your natural stride and assist you to go ahead. For further support as you run, the Active Foot Frame cradles the foot deeper inside the midsole of the shoe. Hoka compares the layout to settling into a race car’s safe, low bucket seat.
Several new components
In addition to these fundamental aspects of shoe design, Hoka has recently introduced innovative technology. In 2016, the Tracer and Clayton shoes included ProFly, a dual-density cushioning technology that pairs softer foam in the heel with stronger foam in the forefoot. Hoka set new standards in the fall of 2020 when it unveiled the absurd-looking TenNine. This shoe’s enormous heel was particularly made for running down steep hills; the additional cushion absorbs stress, and the wide sole offers outstanding stability. Hoka has kept experimenting with long-heel styles: The asymmetrical SwallowTail heel, which made its premiere on the Kawana, is another contemporary innovation (an earlier version debuted on the TenNine Hike). It is essentially a larger crash pad with an Asymmetrical, outward-facing beveled heel on the back of the shoe. Smoother landings and a more fluid stride are encouraged by the geometry’s wide, flat surface.
Hoka has started using carbon fiber plates in its shoes, following the lead of many other manufacturers, to give them a more responsive feel that’s great for racing and quicker paces. That technology can be found in sneakers like the Carbon X 3 and Bondi X.
How We Test and Evaluate
Running enthusiasts of various ages and abilities who reside both locally, close to our Pennsylvania headquarters, and nationally make up our team of more than 300 wear-testers. Runner’s World staff members and I have run in almost all of the pairs of Hokas listed below. For more information on the stability of Hoka’s J-Frame support system, the softness of ProFly foam, and the energy return of rocker-style midsoles, we have reviewed data from mechanical testing conducted at our RW Shoe Lab. For in-depth assessments of the top road and trail shoes in Hoka’s current collection, scroll down.