Review: Hoka One One Zinal

Written by

Henry Howard

Ultra runner and certified running coach.

This expert review is written by

Henry Howard

Ultra runner and certified running coach.
Henry Howard has come a long way since a teacher called him "molasses" during a fifth-grade track and field event.


Now living and running in Indiana, he has completed more than a dozen marathons and is a regular age-grouper in shorter distances.

Weight

We usually consider 10 ounces a "medium" weight for a running shoe: less than 10 and we are entering the lightweight category and above 10 the shoes start to be heavy.

Heel-to-toe drop

Heel drop is the measurement in mm of the difference between the height of the heel and the toe of the sole.

A lower drop (0mm - 5mm) promotes running on mid-foot and fore-foot, while higher drops (8mm - 12mm) are more traditional and meant to support a heel-striking gait.
Expert score
8/10

Quick overview

Best for
Speedwork on flat surfaces, short trail races (up to half marathons)
Terrain
Best for moderate trails, technical trails, muddy areas
Grip
The Zinal provides good traction on most types of terrains and surfaces
Lack Traction
Average Traction
Provide Traction
Cushioning
The Zinal offers just the right amount of cushioning
Little cushioning
Medium cushioning
Highly cushioned
Weight

8.6

 oz
244 g
Heel to toe drop
Drop

5

 mm

Pros and cons according to our running expert

Pros and cons according to our running expert

  • Built for speed
  • Cushioning is ideal
  • Incredibly light
  • Very comfortable
  • Not recommended for technical terrain like snow and mud
  • Forefoot is narrow
  • Not ideal for distances longer than half marathon

Our verdict

The Hoka One One Zinal is a sleek, fast shoe designed for trail runners who want to zip down their favorite non-technical, non-rooty, dirt and grass pathways. The new shoe, launched in the summer of 2021, is light and cushioned, thanks to its combination of Vibram Megagrip Litebase and EVA foam rubber.

Introduction Hoka One One Zinal

The Hoka Zinal is a great solution for trail runners looking for a fast shoe. It is incredibly light at 8.5 ounces for men and 6.9 ounces for women.

Cushioning Type
The Zinal is more responsive than plush:... Read more provides energy return and some shock
Responsive
Plush
Cushioning Amount
The Zinal offers just the right amount of... Read more cushioning
Little cushioning
Highly cushioned
Flexibility
The Zinal is extremely flexible at the... Read more expense of some structure
Rigid
Flexible
Stability
The Zinal has some inherent stability and... Read more support
Not particularly stable
Very stable

Impressions Hoka One One Zinal

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal

While the lightness plays into the shoe’s calling card of being fast, I would not recommend wearing the shoe on anything considered more than a moderate trail. In my 50-plus miles of testing, I was able to hit my highest gears on flat sections of dirt trail and grassy areas like a cross-country course.

The 4mm lugs were able to handle easy to moderate terrain like dirt, small mud patches, puddles and grass sections. They also can handle a gravel or crushed rock surface.

It was a different story, however, when I ventured out to trails with rooty, muddy and rocky sections. The Zinals did not perform as well here. And I would not recommend them for a road-to-trail combination unless the road portion was only a mile or so.

I would also not recommend them for longer races or runs. Ideally, a runner will wear them for a midweek training run, perhaps a speed workout, and races up to a half marathon.

However, there are plenty of other options for those that deliver for those types of distances and conditions. As far as shoes built for speed on easy to moderate terrain, the Zinals are among the best I’ve tried.

Protection Hoka One One Zinal

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal

Despite a somewhat thin mesh, the Zinal provides good protection for the feet. The protection offered is sufficient for short and medium-distance runs without compromising the safety of the runners.

Its toe bumper does its job nicely. And in the back, there is enough padding around the heel to lock things in. Hoka used the super-thin tongue that is on the Mach 4.

This model is not waterproof. However, I took it through puddles when I could and found that its mesh dried relatively quickly.

Rockplate
The Zinal does not have a rock plate.
Not present
Solid protection
Lugs
The Zinal provides good traction on most... Read more types of terrains and surfaces
Lack Traction
Provide Traction
Water resistance
The Zinal provides a decent protection from... Read more splashes and puddles
Poor
Water Resistant

Durability Hoka One One Zinal

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal

Hoka uses Vibram’s Megagrip Litebase rubber on at least half of the Zinal’s surface. The rest consists of EVA foam rubber to reduce the weight, an excellent move to make the shoe lighter and, in turn, the runner faster.

The 4mm lugs consist of three longitudinal bands under the forefoot and a U-shape in the heel. This combination gives the midfoot a flexible feel and smoother ride.

After dozens of miles, the shoe still looks pretty good, with few signs of wear. However, I would caution Zinal owners to focus their runs on dirt and grass. I have concerns about how more challenging elements would wear down the structure of the shoe rapidly.

Responsiveness & Speed Hoka One One Zinal

As mentioned, the Zinals are built for speed. They have a responsive and energetic ride, thanks to a propulsive feel when toeing off, as well as the lightness and comfortable cushioning. Also, the ride is both stable and lively.

The Zinals have a soft upper midsole layer while a firmer lower layer balances rebound, protection and stability.

Comfort and Fit Hoka One One Zinal

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal

At first glance, I could see something looked different about the Zinals. The shape of the shoe was different, it fits slightly long. I would recommend trying these on to ensure you get the size that’s right for you.

Another issue is the Zinals lack the typical midfoot hug of most HOKA shoes. That was not a critical issue that I got used to, but for Hoka devotees, it’s worth noting.

The Zinals offer superior cushioning, using Vibram’s Megagrip Litebase rubber outside and ProFly cushioning inside. Its mesh upper features recycled materials and a gusseted tongue.

The mesh and integrated tongue hug nicely throughout so that your foot isn’t moving around inside.

Sizing
The Zinal fits a little small: buy half a... Read more size bigger than usual
Buy size smaller
Buy size bigger

Conclusion Hoka One One Zinal

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of HOKA ONE ONE Zinal

A fun fact that didn’t seem to fit elsewhere in this review: The breathable mesh in the upper is made out of 100 percent vegan materials.

Not only do I appreciate Hoka’s commitments to veganism and the environment, but I appreciate the innovative approaches they take in their line of shoes for trail runners.

Even with the Zinal’s reduced cushioning, the shoe absorbs shocks well and its mesh helps protect the feet, which is rare for such light shoes.

Make no mistake: Hoka’s Zinal is nothing like the Speedgoat. Two shoes, two totally different purposes.

The Zinals could be compared with Hoka’s Stinson, which also has a lower stack height than other Hokas. However, the Zinals are nearly half the weight of the Stinson.

If you are looking for a fast shoe for churning down mild to moderate trails, the Zinal is definitely one to consider. If your trail running focuses more on majestic mountains and rooty terrain, there are better options out there.

This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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