I have always been skeptical about HOKA shoes, primarily because of their bulky appearance, but the HOKA ONE ONE Evo Mafate made me feel like I’ve been missing out.
The Evo Mafate was comfortable out of the box, durable and protective for runs of various lengths and terrain types, and lightweight for how bulky they initially appeared. Grippy, strategically-placed lugs made every step feel strong and secure on the uphill and generous midsole cushioning and a sculpted midsole design made me feel like I was speeding down clouds on the downhill.
This shoe was built to run long distance trails. Patented MATRYX® fabric upper is lightweight and strong (you might consider it nearly bulletproof) to ensure foot stability, durability, and protection. This HOKA ONE ONE-signature design elements – Meta-Rocker geometry and super cushioned midsole – make for a fast and comfortable run.
The Mafate’s Vibram Megagrip outsoles were grippy enough to handle most rocky, trail, dirt, gravel, mud, and other types of terrain. As someone who likes control on the trail, these shoes were adequately responsive except for on very narrow, rocky terrain.
The high cushioning of this shoe (34mm heel stack, 30mm midfoot) offers protection from rocks, roots, and other hazards on the trail. This shoe’s mesh woven upper is made of patented MATRYX® technology infused with Kevlar for durability and added protection (Kevlar is the primary material used in bulletproof vests).
This material is effective at preventing tearing and puncturing from abrasive elements on the trail. However, the lightweight material is thin; so you’ll still experience an impact from any direct contact with a rock or hard object on the top of your foot.
After 50 miles on this shoe as someone who is tough on shoes, there is little evidence of wear anywhere on these shoes. The upper shows no signs of tearing or fraying even at the tip of my big toe, which is the first place I see holes on my running shoes.
I’ve found Vibram Megagrip material to be durable on many products that I own. This was also the case with the outsoles of the Mafate, which show minimal signs of wear.
Responsiveness & Speed
These shoes were responsive and quick on dirt and gravel, especially on a downhill. Meta-Rocker midsole geometry, designed to create a “rocking chair”-like effect in transitioning from initial impact at the heel to the toe, felt smooth and fast on flats and downhill sections. The R-BOUND™ midsole is made of a lighter and improved version of earlier R-MAT material used in HOKA running shoes, which was designed to provide cushion and responsiveness. These features made every step in these shoes feel natural and springy.
The 5mm lugs maintained efficient traction on rocks, mud, and dirt trails, and multidirectional lug placement ensured that traction on the up or downhill. The Mafate transitioned well in short sections of road between trail or back to my car, making them a viable race shoe for a race with sections of road. On very rocky terrain (such as cliffs and ridges), there were a few times that I felt slightly off-balance because of the high stack.
Comfort and Fit
These shoes were comfortable right out of the box. I wear a size 7.5 to 8 depending on the brand, and a 7.5 was a great fit. The thin upper material allows for a large toebox, suggesting that these shoes would allow room for foot swelling comfortable over the course of long distances (50-100 miles).
The semi-flat shoelaces allow for quick tightening and loosening and tie notably securely and easily. The microfiber tongue is thinly padded and perforated, making the shoe more breathable. I did experience some blistering when I first began breaking these shoes in (on the tip of my big toe on medial fourth), but this hasn’t happened in the last 25 miles.
These shoes were a joy to run in. While I felt occasionally slowed down on rockier terrain because of the higher stack on this shoe, its lighter weight and effective traction inspired confidence on most uphill and flat trails; and the shape and cushion of the midsole made me feel unbeatable on the downhill.
These shoes were built for varied terrain, and they performed on the varied terrain encountered on Colorado’s front range (from afternoon mud to most rocky up and down hills and even on short segments of road). At $170, this is an expensive pair of shoes; but their durability and performance, especially for longer distance runners, may be worth the price.
We purchased a pair of Hoka One One EVO Mafate from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.