Hoka Mafate Speed 4 Review

Looking for a lighter, nimbler Hoka trail shoe designed for moving quickly over mountain-like conditions? The Hoka Mafate Speed 4 review is worth a read! The Hoka Mafate Speed was designed originally as a 100-mile race shoe. The Hoka Stinson was a well cushioned 100-mile shoe but the outsole was designed more for firmer tracks and trails and the stack height made the shoe unsuitable for anything other than hard packed trails. As 100-mile races started to take place on more broken, challenging terrain, a shoe was required that would have the cushioning of the Stinson but be able to cope with some softer and more broken ground. Also the attitude to 100-mile events was changing. Competitors were moving from “can I complete the course” to “how fast can I complete the course?”. A shoe was required that moved away from the eternal ‘plod-along’ type feel and added a bit of responsiveness, whilst maintaining the great cushioning that Hoka had developed.

The Original

The original Mafate Speed had a good level of traction on wet tracks and trails but was still a bit of a plodding shoe. It meant they were a shoe that you reserved for ultramarathons or long training runs. When running up hill you sunk into the shoes, which made running uphill hard work in my experience. Downhill was the opposite. It was like wearing skis. The shoes just took over and you flew down the hill. You couldn’t run slowly. The cushioning was so absorbent that your legs didn’t feel at all battered.

New Mafate New Upper

The Hoka Mafate Speed 4 is a different shoe. Essentially it is designed for the same type of events but is much more versatile. The stack height is still 33mm (the same as the Hoka Speedgoat 5) and the drop is a low 4mm still. However, the fit has changed. The toe box is roomier and the upper is much softer. The heel and tongue are well padded, designed to reduce hot spots and give all-day comfort. The upper is made of the same materials as the Speedgoat 5. There is some webbing around the foot that reduces side to side movement, holding the foot in place on more broken ground so you don’t slip around inside the shoes. The toe box has the same vamp, which is a stretchy mesh that runs up the toe box. This is designed to expand if your feet expand and need more room in the shoes. This means that the upper can fit snugly to hold the foot on broken ground but when your feet expand you are less likely to get hot spots and numb feet. This was first used in the Evo Speedgoat before it was used in the Speedgoat 5 and has been proven to be an effective upper.

BROWSE THE RANGE

Quick Feeling Midsole

The midsole is made of Profly+, the same material as Hoka use in their faster more responsive road shoes like the Hoka Mach 5. This midsole offers a high degree of cushioning and has an initial soft feel, but the energy return is much higher than the previous Mafate Speed midsoles. This has got rid of the plod-along feel to the shoes and makes the Mafate 4 feel light, responsive and fast. The midsole doesn’t compress as much as the previous midsole so you can easily run up hill without feeling like you are sinking into soft sand. This is what I felt in the original Mafate Speed. On the downhills you can still fly along but the Mafate 4 isn’t as stiff so you have a lot more control.

Vibram Outsole

The outsole is made from Vibram Max Grip Lightbase. It’s a very sticky rubber designed to grip well on wet surfaces. The lugs are 5mm in length and well-spaced out. For a highly cushioned shoe like these that are generally poor on anything but hard packed trails the grip of the Mafate Speed 4 is exceptional. The 5mm lugs bite into soft ground very effectively and give much better grip than I thought they would. This isn’t saying that the Mafate Speed 4 is a cross country racing shoe. It isn’t. What it is, is a very versatile trail running shoe. They feel faster and more responsive than a Speedgoat 5 and the outsole sheds the mud better than a Speedgoat 5 outsole in my experience.

Summary

As we say often in our reviews, no single trail shoe can ‘do it all’ and the Hoka Mafate Speed 4 won’t be the shoe for everyone. However, you can use the Mafate Speed 4 for everyday trail sessions and even little parts on the pavement (sometimes unavoidable) and if you want to go on a longer adventure, all the way to an ultramarathon, the Mafate Speed 4 will thrive and continue to feel good after hours in it!

Newcastle Shop Manager Craig

“I couldn’t get on with the old models, they just felt so restricted. No toe box room and just too narrow. Not the type of shoe I’d want to run an ultra in. My first impression of the Hoka Mafate Speed 4 was that the upper has had a complete overhaul. The upper is made from a single layer jacquard mesh. This fits really comfortably, snug but not restricted. It hugs the foot whilst allowing it to flex naturally. The big toe seems a lot straighter in this version which means that I feel I can push off with more power. The old version felt as though it was pushing my big toe inwards. The tongue is padded so feels comfortable on the bridge of the foot.

The breathability of the mesh is great and not as flimsy as you’d expect. It seems quite durable.

The grip has a Vibram Megagrip with 5mm traction lugs. I ran on quite varied terrain and the grip gave me confidence to go for it. Grippy even in the deep sloppy mud. Up and down grassy, muddy hills. On the road sections it held the ground well with no slipping.

It’s much lighter than the previous version which gives it a racier feel and feels a lot less clumpy. The cushioning is amazing (as you’d expect from a Hoka shoe) soft but not sloppy, neutral and also stable. Running downhill on gravel tracks was a joy (much like the Tecton X) you can really put your weight through it without feeling the ground is sapping your energy. The return is impressive. Puts a spring in your step.

I could definitely run long distance in these. It’s amazing what a few tweaks can do to improve the fit and feel of a shoe without completely changing the way it works.”

Other Considerations

Brooks Caldera: A higher heel to forefoot height and softer feel to the cushioning. Fit and feel like a Brooks shoes. Here is a link to our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/brooks-caldera-6-review/

Altra Olympus 5: A broader more rounded toe box. Not as racier feel. Here is our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-olympus-5-review/

Scarpa Goldengate: A firmer feel but still very cushioned. Not as racey in feel but a shoe I really enjoyed racing in. Here is a link to our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/scarpa-golden-gate-atr-review/

Topo Ultraventure Pro Review: A broad rounded toe box. Different feel to the cushioning in that it gives you more feel for the ground while still offering a lot of cushioning and protection. Here is our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-ultraventure-pro-review/

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