Jim Walmsley, probably one of the best American ultra-runners and a 3-time winner of the Western States 100, can attribute some of his winning runs to the Hoka Mafate v3. The EVO Mafate came into the trail running world as an absolute game changer. So, you can say that the Hoka Mafate range has some serious credentials in trail and ultra-running!
With the Hoka Mafate Speed 4, the brand has done a complete redesign – a new foam combination for the cushioning, a different style upper, and a new outsole. Hoka is claiming that this is the shoe for tough terrain – whether you’re looking for grip, durability, or comfort and cushioning.
Does the Hoka Mafate Speed 4 live up to expectations, and when should you buy it? Read our detailed review to find out!
The Key Facts
First, let’s have a look at the new Speed 4’s key features:
- Weight: 261 g in women’s size 9 US / 286 g in men’s size 9 US
- Drop: 4 mm
- Stack height: 33 mm heel, 29 mm toe
- Lugs: 5 mm
- Bolstered heel collar construction with a comfortable bucket seat design to keep your foot in place in all trail conditions, backed by PROFLY+ lightweight foam for bounce and Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole that sticks to all terrains
With a low drop, as we’re used to seeing from Hoka shoes, the Mafate Speed 4 adapts well to rugged terrain and is designed for a true off-road running experience.
Its stack height and overall weight are lower than the Speed 3, making it a bit more nimble and super comfortable thanks to the PROFLY+ foam midsole that absorbs shocks well and gives some energy return, too.
Benefiting from the Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole and 5 mm deep lugs, you won’t struggle in the mud or rain with these! Hoka manages to deliver a stable ride with a good comfort-to-weight ratio for the trails while giving you a good grip for all seasons at the same time.
From initial reviews, the new Mafate Speed seems to be a great alternative to the “queen of the trails” Speedgoats, especially if you’re looking for cushion and responsiveness on gritty trails.
Parts of a sneaker
One of the sources of weight saving between the two recent editions of Hoka’s Mafate Speed is the lightweight foam that makes up the midsole. The PROFLY+ claims to be both light and resilient while delivering good amounts of responsiveness on technical trails.
This is not a super plush design like you might expect from some of Hoka’s max-cushioned shoes – you’ll feel your way around rocks and roots, but you’ll be comfortable while you do it.
It’s worth noting that this midsole foam is the same as the one Hoka used in some speedy road shoes, like the Mach 5. Its dual density keeps it significantly lighter than the EVA-based one that you had in the Speed 3. And there’s an extra firmer layer (EVA-based) to give the shoes more resilience against the elements and more durability on longer runs.
Additionally, the Mafate Speed 4 features an early-stage meta rocker that helps propel the runner forward while staying somewhat flexible (unlike a full-on carbon-plated shoe such as the Tecton X).
Hoka has chosen to use a Vibram Megagrip outsole made from sticky rubber that gives great traction on any surface. Indeed, the Mafate Speed 4 seem to stick to rocks and trails, which makes them great for less experienced runners.
These shoes performed well on steep terrain doing hill sprints. This is great given that the shoes also stay comfortable when you’re pounding down at higher speed and will be a bonus for those running on muddy terrain and no longer being too concerned about slipping and falling over.
The only criticism is the recent tendency of Hoka to use the Litebase version of the Vibram outsole, which reduces the shoe’s weight but makes it less durable. Some runners report getting less than 200 miles out of the lighter-soled Hokas of recent editions, like the otherwise excellent Torrent 2. So, that is something to watch out for if you’re planning to run on tough trails!
Upper (comfort and ride)
The Mafate Speed 4 feature an upper constructed from jacquard mesh that’s breathable and fits well around your feet.
The gusseted tongue cradles the upper foot and protects from trail debris, while the wide-toe bumper gives you enhanced protection from hitting rocks. The upper makes these shoes very comfortable for long runs and has the added green credentials of being made from recycled materials, too.
The more secure fit and responsive yet soft cushioning in the midsole give the Mafate Speed 4 enough ammunition to provide a great off-road experience. These shoes give good protection from the elements, excellent traction on many terrains, and enough comfort for long miles.
If you have wide feet, you’ll want to pick this shoe over the Speedgoat 5, as overall, the lockdown appears to be softer and looser, easier to adapt to different foot sizes. This is a plus in favor of the Speed 4.
The other thing to note is that the toe box remains true to what you’d expect from a Hoka shoe: wide enough to let your toes splay to a more natural foot shape and allow your feet to breathe well, too.
This is a bonus for long runs when your feet tend to swell up: there’s room to accommodate that, while the upper keeps your midfoot tightly in place.
The Mafate Speed 4 features a bucket seat design for your heel and a heel counter that seems to have become a staple of Hoka shoes recently. These all combine to give great heel comfort and also some much-needed support for the Achilles tendon on tough or steep trails.
You don’t need to worry about heel slippage, and hopefully, your lower leg muscles will also thank you for running in these!
The Hoka Mafate Speed 4 presents lots of improvements from the previous version, making this a great long-distance trail shoe for ultra runners who want good protection and traction without sacrificing comfort or responsiveness.
In the Hoka portfolio, we’d place it somewhere above the Tecton X, thanks to its early-stage meta rocker that propels you forward quite effectively. It’s less cushioned than the Speedgoat 5 but has the same great grip.
And it’s a fair bit more comfortable than the lightweight racers presented by the Torrent 2.
Compared to previous versions, the Hoka Mafate Speed 4 is less protective and sturdy, in favor of a softer, more nimble feel overall. This has also allowed them to save weight, but they may not be a go-to shoe for those looking for maximum protection on trails.
All in all, the Mafate Speed 4 brings together many great features from other Hoka shoes, adding responsiveness and agility to the Mafate range while softening the ride for those who thought the previous iterations were a bit rigid and clunky.
They’ll make excellent long-distance running shoes for more rugged terrain, especially in muddy, mountainous environments or on mixed trails with rocks, roots, and debris. And they can pick up a little more speed, too!