Think of the new - it's due out at the end of August - Speed Instinct as 'Hoka Lite' and you won't go far wrong. It's a sleeker, lighter, faster animal than the signature fat-soled Hoka beasties and that makes it an option for runners who dislike the 'running on marshmallows feel' of its predecessors.
It does have marshmallows, they're located in the heel section of the shoe which is designed to give plenty of cushioning, but not as many of them as, say, the Mafate Speed 2, which we've also been using, Meanwhile the forefoot has firmer foam to give a faster, more direct feel.
Light And Sleek
They're reasonably light at 264g per shoe and sleek in a way that bulkier Hokas can only dream of. The uppers are seamless Air Mesh with a 3D printed overlay reinforcement and toe protector and the fit is pleasantly cushioned and snug.
The other thing you notice straight away is the pronounced curved rocker of the toe and forefoot in particular, which is designed to propel you forward in an easy, fluid way. It seems to work too, we've found the shoe has a nice roll to it along with a quick, light, fast feel.
Where it really differs from fatter-soled Hoka One One models, is that you get far more feel for the trail from the forefoot and that gives a more confident feel on rough descents in particular where you need to get foot placements just right. There's decent grip on firm to medium surfaces too thanks to multi-directional 4mm lugs - it says here - and 'strategically placed high abrasion rubber'.
It's a stable shoe too, despite the not inconsiderable sole thickness - 24mm of padding at the back, 20mm up front - thanks in part, we think, to the flared sole unit being a fair bit wider than the base of the foot.Overall, we've found them a confident, reassuring ride even on rougher trails, but with more cushioning than most trail running shoes.
That makes them great on longer runs and also on the sort of outings that mix up, say, a bit of pavement from the front door, followed by rough, moorland trails and maybe taking in the odd stretch of stone flags along the way. Hoka says that the additional heel cushioning is designed to come into its own when tired runners revert to heel-striking, but it works equally well for just taking the sting out of harder surfaces all round.
The Speed Instinct has much of the cushioning and rolling stride of Hoka One One's signature shoes, but the firmer, more responsive forefoot gives much better trail feel and confidence, particularly descending on rougher ground.
It is, if you like, a Hoka One One for people who don't really like the way more typical Hokas trade trail feel and connection in exchange for ultimate cushioning, but still want more underfoot cush than most trail running shoes offer. All of which makes them equally good as door to trail shoes. And they feel fast too, proper fast for such a cushioned shoe
Last but not least, they look great too in a neon green and orange highlights sort of way, though you may need to upgrade the rest of your trail running wardrobe to suit.
The Hoka One One Speed Instinct is due out at the end of August with price tag of £120. See hokaoneone.eu.