Hoka Mach 4 Review | Light & Fast Road Running Shoes
Intro & Weight
The Hoka Mach 4 is, in effect, a Hoka Carbon X without the Carbon plate. The stack height, curvature of the rockers and composition of the midsole is all the same. It has been designed as a training shoe for those that enjoyed running in the Carbon X, which was really designed for the fastest sessions and racing.
The shoes are incredibly light when you pick them up (Men’s UK 8 230grams). The rocker in the shoe and the soft initial feel to the cushioning makes them feel just as light when they are on your feet. They feel like they are almost not there.
Carbon plated shoes are great at increasing your cadence and maintaining it, holding a good posture whilst running faster for longer. The only problem with this is that the shoes are doing a lot of the ‘work’, so your body doesn’t get stronger. The Mach 4 has the same rocker to encourage a quick cadence, but more flexibility in the forefoot without the carbon plate. This allows your feet to function a bit more in the shoes and your calves, hamstrings and glutes are working a bit more too.
Fit & Width
The tab at the back of the heel is curved outwards. This pulls the heel cup in, making it more elastic, which improves the fit of the shoes around the heel, whether you have a narrow or broad heel.
The fit is broader than the standard width in Hoka shoes, which is great as I find their standard width to be too narrow for my feet. This is the same fit as the Carbon X. As with the majority of Hoka One One road running shoes, the cushioning is initially soft. However, it isn’t that inefficient ‘bottomless’ feeling cushioning. This coupled with the rocker makes it easy to get into a good rhythm in the shoes. That said it really is a very versatile shoe. The top layer of foam in the midsole is soft to give an initial feel of cushioning and comfort and the lower layer is firmer and stiffer to maintain the curve required for the rocker and to make the shoe more responsive. You can comfortably do your easy recovery runs in the Mach 4 but also run quickly too. The cushioning is also, in my opinion, good enough for longer runs. If you want one Hoka road shoe to ‘do it all’ then the Mach 4 is worth considering.
When running at pace it’s noticeable that the rocker in the shoe encourages you to pull back. This helps maintain a quicker cadence that keeps your hips high and your posture more upright. However, it’s not as noticeable as in the Carbon X, where the increased stiffness from the carbon plate almost forces your cadence to increase! I found it difficult to run slowly in the Carbon X for this reason and therefore feel a lot more in control in the Hoka Mach 4.
The outsole of the Mach 4 doesn’t have any durable rubber on it. The bottom layer of foam is mixed with rubber to make it durable enough to not need the additional rubber layer. This makes the shoes lighter, less stiff and gives you more feel for the floor. After a few hundred miles of running in these shoes there is evidence of wear. I’m sure I will get over 400 miles before the wear is ‘excessive’. I am quite light on my feet, so others may get less. There has been no change to the feeling of the cushioning. It is still lovely and soft at impact with a little bit of spring at lift off.
A lot of my running routes are on country roads that have a more broken surface. It was noticeable that you can feel the odd stone through the forefoot of the shoe, but that was to be expected from a nimble, pure road shoe.
My favourite run in these shoes, which demonstrates the versatility, is to run out along the riverbank, which is dry firm trail, up to the edge of the moors on tarmac covered back roads and then descend back down on a well surfaced disused railway line. I put a few pickups in on the way back along the railway line. The slight downhill gradient and the rocker in the Mach 4 helps me up the pace when my legs are tired and maintain that good posture and form. This coupled with the slight downhill gradient makes me feel like I am flying along! Regardless of how fast I might be going, it’s that feeling of speed that feels great.
In summary the Mach 4 is a great ‘do it all’ shoe. For the purest recovery runs you’d pick a Clifton 7 and for the purest fast runs you’d go for the Rocket X. I felt comfortable and fast at times in the Mach 4, so that’s pretty impressive.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
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