By Scott Dickey
SLRC Staff Member

Every now and then a shoe will come out that completely breaks the mold of a typical running shoe.  Recently Hoka has done exactly that. The  Mafate Trail Shoe is unlike any other trail shoe I have ever seen or used.

When Nicolas Mermoud first brought these shoes into our store, I really thought the shoes were a joke.  He had me try them on and take them for a short jog… I was stunned.  They felt great.  I immediately wanted to take them on the trails to give them a go.  I was also surprised how light they were because they look so bulky and heavy.

The first time I ran on the trails with these shoes, I was a bit unsure of myself.  The shoe made the trails feel completely different compared to what I am used to.  I learned how tentative I really am on the trails with regular trail shoes.  These shoes just made the rocks disappear from under me and it was a bit weird getting used to how soft they are.   I found myself running straighter lines down through the rougher areas.  I was able to just run through and over the rocks instead of having to go around them or walk over them.

Running down hill was actually a bit scary because I was going much faster than I would normally be comfortable doing.  It was hard to keep up with the shoes!  I could see in my mind, myself smashing my ankle if I hit the wrong spot.  However, this really isn’t a problem because the shoes absorb the terrain much better and the wide base really gives the shoe superior stability.

The traction is almost too good with these shoes.  Going around tight corners can be a bit of a challenge because the shoes stick to the trail so well.  You just have to adjust how you take the corners by slowing down just a bit.

With all these changes the shoes makes for you, there seems to be an adjustment period.  When I finished my  first run in them, I felt quite worked (from not being used to them), but I didn’t feel as pounded from the downhills like I normally would be either.

I would liken the adjustment similar to using minimalist shoes. They make you use your muscles in different ways so you will need to strengthen your legs a bit before you go out and run a long 20 mile run in them (if you want to do that.) But once you get used to the changes, they are really fun to run in.

After having the shoe for a couple months, I can honestly say I can’t use another trail shoe, even if I wanted to, nothing feels as good or performs as these do.

The only gripes I have about the shoes are that the upper is rather beefy and doesn’t breathe well.  It is rather hot which can cause some problems if you have sweaty feet.  I also find the shoes to be a touch on the small side.  I had to go up half a size because my toes were getting pinched on the sides.  They also don’t make anything bigger than a men’s size 12 yet. (which doesn’t come out until mid July)

If anything, it’s worth the time to at least try this shoe on, like they say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, this shoe definitely fits that very well.  Don’t let it fool you.

Here is some technical info on the shoe from Hoka’s Website.

“By using an EVA 30% softer and increasing its total volume to 2.5 times that of a typical trail running shoe, this shoe will allow for more cushioning than any other shoe on the market today, dissipating up to 80% of the shock associated with heal striking when running. Allowing for as much as 20mm of compression in the heal, with a low ramp angle allows for tremendous confidence running downhill, as runners can now engage their gluteus and lower back as opposed to isolating their quads, relaxing the body and making running downhill fun and comfortable.”

“40mm high sole design enabled to design a 13cm rockering profile , representing 50% of the sole length. This design allows for fluid and natural stride transitions, lessening the movement of the knee by as much as 20%, increasing efficiency.”

“15% lighter than reference trail running shoes. At 320 grams size 8UK per pair, they’ll make running uphill as much fun as they make running downhill.”

“With 50% more surface area than the typical trail running shoe, and 35% more rubber crampons, you’ve never run as confidently as you will in a pair of Hoka’s.”

“With a foot recessed into the midsole, you’ve never run as confidently as you will in a pair of Hoka’s.”

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