While I’ve enjoyed running in various Hoka models over the years I’ve tended to stray from their more maximal offerings fearing that the combination of high stack heights and weight would lead to a very clunky and labored experience.
For runners who have never tried Hokas, the experience is singular, and at the end of a one hundred mile ultra race nothing feels better on your feet.
In my first two hundred milers I believe that the protection of Hokas helped me get through the last sixty miles of the race without battered feet.
Now this isn’t to imply that they don’t have their other purposes outside of the ultra distances.
Many runners employ Hokas to improve recovery by using the maximal cushioning as both a buffer for tired legs as well as a visceral reminder to take it easy.
Hoka OneOne Mafate 4 Review General Info
The mafate is Hoka’s most maximal and supportive trail shoe, and the protection here on all fronts is formidable. With a price tag of $170, the purchase of the mafate 4 becomes a careful consideration for most.
It replaces the previously lauded mafate 3 which is the type of shoe you’ll see worn by Hardrock 100 finishers as they kiss the rock.
With an outstanding stack height of 37 mm in the heel, one could ascertain that the sole purpose of the mafate is to place as much EVA foam between the wearer and the trail as possible.
However, in maximal Hokas the foot sits low, cradled in midsole foam, and this allayed any initial feelings of instability I was experiencing.
Initially, I was deterred by the stiffness of the shoe on my foot as well as the publicized weight, yet my first runs in the shoe found it to be surprisingly nimble and foot-hugging.
Hoka OneOne Mafate 4 Review Sole Unit
Hoka has progressed towards creating more durable and well-lugged outsoles for their trail shoes over the past several years.
High abrasion rubber is placed in areas of high wear on the heel and forefoot, and the rest of the outsole, with exposed EVA, has substantial lugging that grips well.
Again, this is a shoe designed to tackle the toughest of courses, and i had no problems with traction on most surfaces.
The close proximity of the lugging on the mafate 4 does make it difficult to shed mud in sloppy conditions, but on dry and rocky surfaces this shoe excels.
The midsole features Hoka’s patented EVA which is 30% softer than most foams out there. If you haven’t tried it, it really is a pillow for the feet.
When mature runners in their sixties and seventies try on a Hoka, its no wonder that they feel an absolute revelation in comfort.
Hoka OneOne Mafate 4 Review Upper Info
The upper of the mafate 4 is where I feel the greatest improvements have been made.
I’ve had a problem with Hoka uppers feeling that they were made with a very narrow last, especially in the forefoot, and the rest of the upper feeling voluminous and sloppy.
Simply put, the mafate 4 features the absolute best upper that Hoka has made so far with welded overlays in all the right places, an accommodating and wide, but not pointy toe box, and a plush heel collar.
The heel cup is highly reinforced which seems warranted given the supportive nature of the shoe, and the rand of the shoe is comprised of EVA providing additional comfort.
Hoka OneOne Mafate 4 Review Conclusions
I consider the mafate 4 to be the type of trail shoe sought out for specific reasons. Runners needing maximal cushioning with added support for the end of a long ultra can benefit from such a shoe.
However, this shoe is not intended for the hobby jogger who will be offended by the price without understanding the benefits therein.
I recently had a conversation with my neighbor, a 70 year old man who trained regularly during the road running boom of the 1980s in shoes that gave him a great deal of foot and lower leg pain, leading to his eventual exit from the sport.
I gave him the mafate 4s to try on as he had expressed an interest into some light trail running.
The emotional response from this man was enough for me to understand that maximal shoes have a place and purpose in the running shoe repertoire.
For him, it simply meant the ability to hope to run again without the pain that he’d experienced for years.
Many runners will overlook this shoe, be it because of the outstanding weight, or the mindset that this type of Hoka is for middle-of-the-packers.
However, with incredible ground protection and a svelte and well-fitting upper, what really is to dismiss in this long distance trail shoe?
The Hoka One One mafate 4 is the best possible, fully realized, version of a maximal support shoe for ultra distance trail running in existence.
We thank the nice people at Hoka OneOne for sending us a pair of Mafate 4 to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.