Hoka Mach 5 Review
This week on the Northern Runner blog; the light and nimble HOKA Mach 5 gets a review. A lot of runners want one shoe that will work well for all types of running. This is very hard to achieve, as the feel and level of protection needed, in a road running shoe in this instance, is different at different paces. It’s also tricky when you consider that a lot of running shoes are designed to ‘help you run quicker’, which isn’t what you want on your easy recovery runs or long, easy distance runs because you won’t recover or build up a good aerobic base that will help you go faster over time. The Mach 5 offers a level of versatility in terms of the cushioning and propulsion that could allow the disciplined runner to use them comfortably for every run.
Originally the Hoka Mach was a running shoe designed as a quicker training shoe for the neutral runner. It has the same curve to the midsole and fit as the Hoka Carbon X and was designed as the training buddy of the Carbon X. Carbon plated shoes reduce how much your feet and calf muscles function. The carbon plate does some of the work that your feet and lower legs would do, helping you run faster. If you use them too frequently your feet and lower legs can get weaker, which can cause injuries. The Hoka Mach had the same feel and rocker, so it promoted the same quick cadence and upright running posture that makes you light on your feet. The lack of a carbon or Pebax/plastic plate allows your feet to function more in the shoes and therefore get stronger from training. So, the Mach could be used as an everyday training shoe.
Over the five generations running up to this Hoka Mach 5 review, it has evolved into a gradually more and more versatile shoe. This is mainly due to the construction of the midsole foam. The Mach 5 now has a midsole made of Pro Fly+. This midsole foam has two layers. A soft layer on the top and a firmer layer underneath. This gives the Mach 5 a gentle initial impact and a very positive, responsive push-off. The push-off is further enhanced by the curvature of the midsole. The rocker is the same geometry as the Carbon X and is designed to keep your feet moving up and back when they touch the floor. This encourages the runner to use their hamstrings and glutes and increases their cadence. This reduces how much the runner leans forward at the waist when they get tired keeping them more upright and lighter on their feet. I find that when I am running in running shoes like the Mach 5 they feel a lot lighter and a lot softer-cushioned than I think they should be, for such a minimal shoe in comparison to a lot of other everyday training shoes with much thicker midsoles.
The midsole stack height in the Mach 5 is 29mm in the heel and 24.5mm in the forefoot. Giving the Hoka Mach 5 a 5mm heel to forefoot drop. The low heel to forefoot drop helps to reduce heel strike and the breaking forces associated with it. This reduces the wear and tear on the runner and the shoes as well as contributing to more efficient and quicker running style.
The Hoka Mach 5 comes in regular and wide fit.
Lightweight ‘Barely There’ Feel
At 232g and 192g for men and women respectively it’s fantastically lightweight. This could imply that something has been ‘taken out’ but that isn’t the case. The upper is a lot thinner and the heel cuff and tongue are less padded than other everyday trainers, but during this review it wasn’t noticeable. The upper is still very comfortable and locks the feet securely into the shoes, so combined with the low weight, you get that “I didn’t even know they were there” feel when moving along. The midsole being upgraded from ProFly to ProFly+ has a softer initial feel on impact without losing propulsion. In comparison to the original ProFly midsole. The upper of the Hoka Mach 5 has also been improved via a lighter, softer and more breathable engineered mesh. The Mach 5 has the same secure locked in feel as the Hoka Mach 4.
The outsole is made of a rubberised EVA that adds to the softness of the initial impact, as well as providing great grip and being very light. Naturally, when prioritising a light weight compared with shoes that use extra rubber in higher wear areas, they aren’t quite as durable. Plus, how long the outsole will last will depend on how heavy you are on your feet after all and the Mach 5 is not designed to do endless high mileage runs. I have a pair of Mach 4’s that has a similar outsole to the Mach 5 and these are still going strong with 400 plus miles on them and nothing during the Mach 5 review gave me the impression the outsole is falling apart.
Although the Hoka Mach 5 feels cushioned enough to use on slow recovery runs I find that it’s difficult to keep running slowly in the shoes! The moment I start to daydream, my pace picks up and I find that I am running too quickly for a recovery run! So although the Hoka Mach 5 is a very versatile shoe, I would personally run a combination of everyday milage, steady runs, tempos, track sessions, hills reps and road races in the Mach 5. After all, for the regular slower runs, HOKA have fantastic options like the Clifton 9 and Bondi 8.
The type of running that I really enjoy in the Hoka Mach 5 is fartleks or runs with pick-ups in them. The Mach 5 is soft enough to be comfortable in the warmup. When you start to pick the pace up, the Mach 5 smoothly ramps up and feels great. I feel more upright, with a quicker cadence than in other shoes. Then when I slow it down between the efforts, they still feel cushioned and comfortable. A lot of faster shoes, particularly carbon-plated and Pebax-plated running shoes feel great at speed and then too uncomfortable and difficult to run in at slow paces.
Hoka Rincon 3: The Hoka Mach 5 and Rincon 3 are designed for a similar use. The difference is that the Rincon has a compression moulded midsole and the Mach an injection moulded midsole. A compression moulded midsole feels more pillows like on impact with more compression and a softer perceived feel. A compression moulded midsole isn’t as fatigue resistant as an injection moulded midsole. The Rincon is available in two width Men’s and two widths Women’s. Here is a link to our review for more information: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/hoka-rincon-3-review/
Altra Escalante 3: These are zero drop with a broad rounded toe box. Here is a link to our review for more information: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-escalante-3-review/
Topo Specter: These have a broad rounded toe box. They use a pebax foam within and EVA cage to give some propulsion. They are softer than the Mach 5 more suited to longer runs but, not quite a light and nimble in feel. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-specter-review/
Brooks Launch and Brooks Launch GTS: 10mm heel to forefoot. These are essentially a firmer more responsive version of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS (for those who require a shoe that offers some anti pronation support ) or Brooks Ghost. They don’t have the same propulsion elements of the Hoka Mach 5 but, would be versatile enough for slow recovery runs and long slow runs: https://www.northernrunner.com/search/launch
Scott Pursuit Ride: 8mm heel to forefoot with a good rocker that aids propulsion and posture. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/scott-pursuit-ride-review/
New Balance Tempo 2: Quite minimal and very flexible. Probably not the best options for long slow runs. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/new-balance-fresh-foam-x-tempo-v2/