Review: The HOKA Mafate Speed 4 Make Getting Back Into Trail Running a Whole Lot More Fun

As my amount of available time radically shrinks into a singularity with two kids under the age of 5 running around my house, my outdoor pursuits must also take on a quickened, compressed form. Take hiking, for instance. Once a favorite pastime of mine, the idea of a leisurely afternoon jaunt through the hills is laughable. Instead, I'm trail running more. Same trail experience, just faster and more painful. What's not to love?

Okay, full disclosure, I used to trail run quite a bit in years past, but balky knees and an awareness that frankly I prefer hiking, and hiking in boots, meant I shelved my trail runners. I had my fave shoes back then, usually Montrails before they were subsumed into Columbia, and Brooks. I'd had a pair of HOKAs toward the end of my trail running and rather liked them, so when I decided to get back on the trail running program, it was back to HOKA I went. 

Over the past few months, I've tested a few different pairs, and they all work, (duh), but the best, by far, are the Mafate Speed 4.

These are meant for more technical running, or hiking I suppose, featuring a Vibram Megagrip outsole with deep 5mm lugs. The drop is minimal-ish, at about 4 mms. They have an engineered mesh upper that provides more support and security than you might think, my feet always feel locked in.

The midsole is dual density foam, HOKA's Profly+, with a softer layer above and an extra firm layer just above the outsole. You feel the squish when you plant, and then get a nice little bounce from the stiffer foam. They're springy, in other words, which makes you feel faster which makes running more fun which makes you more likely to do it. At least, for me. They're pretty light too, at a claimed 10.4 ounces for a men's 9. 

The lugs, at least when they're new, almost feel like cleats on pavement and rock. But they're pliant enough to offer tons of grip, even when on wet, hard surfaces. In the dirt, they're like AT tires. Solid traction, even when running downhill. I can confidently run through a gauntlet of wet, greasy roots, squishy mud, then slick granite without slowing or bracing for a fall. Just what you want in a trail runner. 

They're spendy, at about $185, but a terrific trail running option. 

Get 'em here:

HOKA

Backcountry - Men's

Backcountry - Women's 

 Words by Justin Housman

 

 

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