Hoka One One Zinal Review

Thought all Hoka One One shoes were soft and pilllow-like? The Hoka Zinal is different. It is fast, responsive and agile.  The current crop of Hoka trail shoes use very soft midsoles to absorb the lumps and bums of the trail in a similar way to fat chunky Mountain Bike Tyres. The Hoka Zinal is more like your Cyclo Cross bike. You can feel what you are standing on and your feet can then respond accordingly which makes you much lighter on your feet and more agile.

The shoes are named after the famous Swiss Mountain Race Sierre Zinal which is a 31km race with 2200 metres of ascent. It starts in Zinal and runs up to Sierre. The route takes in a variety of typical Alpine terrain. The initial climb is on steep rocky single tracks before the race opens out onto wide, smooth hard packed trails. There are a few rocky single tracks and a fast single track descent to the village of Zinal. The Hoka Zinal has been designed to cope with this variety of Alpine trails.

The Zinal still has a broad base to the midsole. Like all other Hoka shoes. This coupled with the low heel to forefoot drop of 5mm gives the shoe some stability. There is still a rocker in the shoe. Although this is further forward and wasn’t as noticeable as in other Hoka shoes. However, when combined with the Profly dual density midsole which has a firmer material on the top part of the midsole you do get a push from the shoes when you increase your pace.

The outsole lugs are made from Vibram’s Megabase Lite and are 4mm long. This rubber is light and flexible and grips well on wet surfaces. 4mm lugs give good grip on a variety of surfaces but, aren’t deep enough for mud or wet grass.

The fit is narrow and snug very similar to the Rincon 2 road shoe or the Torrent 2 trail shoe. The Zinal has a gusseted tongue to help reduce the chance of getting grit or dirt in the shoes. The shoes weigh in at 242 grams for a UK 8. Which adds to the light fast feel that the shoes have. The midsole is 19mm in the forefoot but, is very flexible and bends to the contours of the trail well.

The low stud depth and general racing shoe type feel of the shoes make than a good road to trail option. However, the Zinal is not an everyday training shoe. They are designed for running quickly in and so the cushioning won’t be as durable as in those shoes designed for putting in the base miles.

The nearest shoe in terms of feel in the Hoka trail range is the Torrent 2. By that I mean that these too has a slightly firmer ride. Less bounce and a bit more feel for the ground. If you are enjoying running in the Torrent 2 and are looking for a lighter faster shoe to compliment them then the Hoka Zinal would definitely be one to consider.

I prefer shoes that feel more natural and allow you to run a long without the feeling that the stiffness or rocker in the shoe is controlling your gait. The Zinal ticked all the boxes here and felt great to run in when running fast or slow!

Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle

Other Considerations
NVii Terra TT: These are a similarly narrow shoe. However, they come with two thicknesses of insoles so you can alter the volume. They are similarly flexible. Not as fast feeling on the firmer trails or road but, a bit more grippy in the mud. Here is our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/nvii-terra-tt-review-high-grip-trail-running-shoes/

VJ Maxx: Not quite as flexible or as fast on hard packed terrain. Studs are more grippy in the mud and there is a bit more underfoot protection from stones etc. Here is our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/vj-sports-vj-maxx-review-cushioned-trail-running-shoes/

Scott Kinabalu RC 2: The rocker in these is a bit more noticeable. These have better lugging which gives better traction in the mud. They also have a light fast feel. Here is our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/scott-kinabalu-rc-2-0-review/

La Sportiva Bushido II: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/la-sportiva-bushido-ii-review/

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