The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is a trail running shoe built for covering long distances comfortably while giving you confidence with each step, no matter the terrain. The Speedgoat’s most impressive feature is its Vibram MegaGrip rubber outsole with 5mm lugs that grip any surface, no matter how wet or loose. That, paired with Hoka’s signature midsole padding, makes it an ideal shoe for long runs over rugged trails.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 9.2 oz (women’s), 10.8 oz (men’s)
- Heel Drop: 4 mm
- Midsole: EVA
- Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip w/ 5 mm lugs
- Rock Plate: No
- Width: Regular & Wide
- Variations: GTX (Gore-Tex)
- Weight (pair): 1 lb 5.6 oz
The Speedgoat 4’s are a very active shoe that is quite literally shaped to keep you on your toes, with a sloped forefoot that seems to propel the foot forward as weight is shifted from heel to toe. When running, this creates the feeling of having a little extra spring in each step.
The next thing that you’ll notice is how tall the platform feels. With 32mm below the heel and 28mm under the toe, the Speedgoat 4’s are quite different from more minimal shoes. I, myself, prefer a more responsive and lightweight runner that keeps my feet closer to the ground, so I was skeptical of the Speedgoats at first. However, 100+ miles later and I have to say that Hoka has really lived up to their reputation for producing trail runners that defy the long-held standards of shoe design.
Due to my long history of running in more minimalist footwear, transitioning to a higher platform has taken some getting used to. Because this shoe stands so tall, I’ve found that they were not quite as stable as I would have liked. Especially running on more technical trails where I normally rock hop to avoid awkward footing in the troughs, it is more challenging to get solid footing on those placements that require a bit more ‘precision’.
Also because of the taller platform, and large 5mm lugs, I find myself catching the heel on roots and rocks more often, particularly on the downhills. This is a bit unnerving, particularly because a bad fall could lead to any number of problems, and also leed to the concern that I might be destroying the lugs on the heels. Though to the Hoka’s credit, the Vibram MegaGrip outsoles have held up incredibly well for how many times I’ve dragged them over rocks and roots over the last few weeks.
Both of these issues are easily remedied by taking it slower and being more intentional with each step, and it helps to emphasize that this shoe is better suited to longer and more sustained efforts.
One final challenge that I had with the Speedsgoat 4’s, is that they are sized just a tad large. I was unable to try these shoes on before purchasing them, so I defaulted to the size that usually works best for me when ordering online. They ended up being a touch roomy for my taste. Though I was able to fix this for the most part by using a “heel lock” lacing pattern with the extra eyelets, the large toe box left just enough room to allow a number of blisters to form on the tips of my toes. If you are going to buy these shoes without trying them on, it might be worth bumping down a half size.
Other than these concerns, I have to give Hoka a lot of credit. I have been putting about 30-40 miles on them each week, and even after longer runs of 10-15 miles, my legs are tired, but my feet feel phenomenal (aside from the initial blisters). Typically after 10 miles, I will start to feel it in my arches and on the balls of my feet, but with the extra padding from Hoka’s specialized midsoles, my feet are ready to go out day after day, dramatically increasing my comfortable training capacity, and probably reducing my chances of foot injury.
Last spring I developed stress fractures in my metatarsals as I was upping my mileage, right around the time I was hitting 30 miles per week. This year, I have blown past that mark with no discomfort or pain in my feet. Granted, this could be attributed to a smarter training plan, though I am sure that these shoes have played their part.
As a trail runner, it is important to have a shoe that is going to not only protect the bottoms of your feet from what lies underfoot, but also a breathable upper that allows your feet ventilate well, while also keeping out particulates of mud, sand, and grit that will wreak havoc on your socks and the sensitive skin of your feet.
The Speedgoat 4 does both. Trying out these shoes through April and early May when the trails in New Hampshire are a mixture of sloppy mud and snow, I was thoroughly impressed by how clean my feet and socks were after each run. Even when my foot would get completely submerged in a black pool of muck, my socks were mostly just ending up wet. Even after inevitably stepping in a puddle or five, the water drained well, and my feet were relatively dry again within 15 minutes.
Another benefit of the Speedgoat 4’s is that they come in Gore-Tex (Speedgoat 4 GTX) for those of you who truly despise wet feet. Though this version weighs about 1.5 oz more than the standard option, with a pair of lightweight gators, these shoes would be a great option for hikers who prefer lighter and more responsive footwear for their day hikes.
This is where the Speedgoat 4 truly shines. Vibram’s MegaGrip outsoles, and the multi-directional 5mm lugs, provide an incredible level of confidence with each step. Again, doing my testing for these shoes in April, when many of the trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountains are still covered by feet of snow, there were very few times when I felt that I needed to get my spikes out, aside from full-on ice, or on steeper more technical trails.
When running over dirt, mud, and even wet stone, these trail runners know just how to perform in keeping your feet planted firmly in place. The only spots where I had any issues were a few tight corners of packed mud where my foot might slip a few inches before catching, and of course on wet, debarked logs. Even on a rainy day when I had to traverse a number of bog bridges, my footing was solid, and I barely felt the need to slow down.
One aspect of these outsoles that I think is key to their success, is how soft the rubber is. Just using one or two fingers, I can flex the lugs around with barely any effort. This soft rubber is key to providing traction, particularly on wet surfaces, similar to the softer rubber used in snow and all-weather car tires.
What I didn’t expect is that after 100+ miles on these shoes, despite the soft rubber, the lugs have barely worn down at all. Even after all of my clumsy foot-dragging!
The Speedgoats are designed to run far and over the toughest trails that you can throw at them and to hold up despite a constant beating. I have been pretty impressed with the shoe’s durability. The outsole is absolutely unbelievable for how well it has held and I have also seen very little wear and tear to the upper after many miles of flexing and bending that will usually create creases (which lead to tears) in the fabric.
One thing that I have noticed, which is not uncommon for many of the trail runners I have used, is that the foam around where the outsole meets the upper, has started to fray and chunk up after repeatedly glancing off rocks and roots. This isn’t a huge problem, though it is certainly going to affect the longevity of the shoe, and may mean that you have to retire them before the rest of the shoe has been used to its full capacity.
Hoka One One’s Speedgoat 4 Trail Runners are perfect if you are someone who is looking to run long miles on technical terrain and want to feel confident in your footing mile after mile. Tons of midsole padding, a tight weaved upper that keeps the grit out, and an outsole that would make Spider-Man proud, make these shoes a significant contender in the world of long-distance hiking and trail running.
They might be a bit overkill for running on rail trails or other graded paths, and are not ideal for nimble rock hopping or sprinting through the woods, they will certainly keep your feet happy over a long rugged day in the mountains. Plus, having a Gore-Tex option allows them to cross the aisle from a high-performance ultra-running trainer to a lightweight, every day hiking shoe.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product.
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