As an experienced runner and running shoe reviewer, I am committed to helping our readers find the best footwear for their specific needs and budgets. In this post I share my expertise on one of the most innovative and performance-driven brands in the running shoe industry: HOKA ONE ONE, or as they prefer to be known nowadays, just simply HOKA.
In this Best HOKA Running Shoes Buyer’s Guide, I will provide an introduction to the brand and discuss the various factors to consider when selecting the perfect HOKA running shoe, as well as listing my favorite ones in ranked order accompanied with my review summaries, taken from my in-depth review of each shoe.
HOKA is a French brand (now headquartered in Goleta, CA) that was established in 2009, with the aim of designing running shoes that provide the ideal balance of cushioning, support, and a responsive ride.
One of the key reasons I recommend HOKA running shoes nowadays is their exceptional cushioning, a relatively low average drop from heel to toe, and innovative design that promotes a more natural running form, an efficient cadence, and more importantly, fast running performance.
This combination results in reduced impact on the joints, allowing runners to enjoy running longer distances and recover more quickly.
HOKA’s running shoes are also widely regarded for their durability and versatility, making them a worthwhile investment for any runner.
Finding HOKA’s best running shoes that are well suited to your requirements, foot shape, and budget can be a daunting task, given the numerous options available – and that is exactly why I wanted to create this guide.
I’ve meticulously tested every one of their running shoes so it made sense that my next HOKA post be this one, sharing all that information in a concise list of HOKA shoes in ranked order based on how they performed in my reviews.
In this guide, I share summarized reviews of standout models in the HOKA running shoe lineup, highlighting their best features, and also drawbacks – because no shoe is perfect and even if there’s only one downside to a shoe, that may well be the very reason for you to choose an alternative instead.
I will also provide recommendations based on different running styles and preferences, drawing on insights and examples from my in-depth HOKA shoe reviews published here on trailandkale.com.
Whether you are a long-time HOKA enthusiast or a newcomer to the brand, this comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision when choosing your next pair of HOKA running shoes.
The best HOKA running shoes if you’re short on time
In case you’re short on time; here are my top recommendations at a glance, for the road and trails – read on for my reviews and full list of HOKA running shoes:
- BEST HOKA RUNNING SHOES FOR ROADS is the Rocket X 2. It’s an ultra-fast, lightweight running shoe ideal for achieving personal bests, offering both comfort and impressive performance. Its innovative combination of ProFly, rocker midsole, and carbon fiber plate ensures a responsive, and enjoyable ride especially when running a marathon.
- BEST HOKA TRAIL RUNNING SHOES right now are the Speedgoat 5. These all-rounders excel on technical trails, offering exceptional traction, comfort, and durability with a lightweight design. The Speedgoat 5, which features a breathable mesh and cushioned yet responsive midsole, is my top pick in their trail lineup and earns the coveted Trail & Kale Editor’s Choice award.
Scroll down to read each HOKA shoes review to work out which HOKAs are the best choice for you, and to learn more about HOKA’s proprietary technologies and terms, jump to the bottom of the guide where I explain them all in layman’s terms.
Table of Contents
The best HOKA running shoes
1. HOKA Rocket X 2 ($250)
“Fastest Hoka shoes for racing”
Read my in-depth HOKA Rocket X 2 review to learn more.
The HOKA Rocket X 2 is, in my opinion, one of the best HOKA running shoes that money can buy. It’s a game-changer for anyone seeking an ultra-fast running shoe that is capable of also maintaining a comfortable ride.
The Rocket X 2 ranks among the fastest shoes I have ever reviewed, making it an ideal choice for runners aiming to achieve personal bests in 5k, marathon races, or anything in between.
This shoe’s exceptionally lightweight design (7.6oz for US Men’s size 9) will help you stay efficient when running longer distances either, and the breathable upper ensures your feet stay cool and comfortable throughout your run.
The Rocket X 2’s responsive ride comes from the innovative combination of ProFly (definition explained later in this post), rocker midsole, and carbon fiber plate, resulting in a really enjoyable running experience.
Aesthetically, the shoe is also a winner, sporting a bold design that turns heads (or could that have been a string of toilet paper attached to the bottom of my shoes? No, definitely my beautiful Rocket X 2’s! 😉
There are a couple of minor drawbacks which I go into more detail on in my in-depth Rocket X 2 review. They can be somewhat tricky to put on; significantly loosening the laces helps with this issue, however.
The price point is on the higher end, but this is to be expected with premium carbon fiber-plated running shoes.
Overall, based on my in-depth review testing, the HOKA Rocket X 2’s impressive performance and benefits make it an excellent investment for runners seeking a premium, race-ready shoe that’s the best HOKA for marathon racing.
These are my favorite HOKA running shoes right now for speedwork and racing.
2. HOKA Mach 5 ($140)
“Best HOKA shoes for speed training + overall top pick for the price”
Read my in-depth HOKA Mach 5 review to learn more.
The HOKA Mach 5 is a fantastic option for runners seeking a balance of performance, comfort, and affordability. Priced at $140, this shoe offers excellent value for money without compromising on quality or comfort.
The midsole is firm and responsive, though it may lack some of the plush HOKA feel you’re used to, it only weighs in at a mere 8.2oz.
The Mach 5 boasts a lightweight and breathable upper that is both durable and soft on the inside and the outsole provides impressive grip, even in wet conditions when running at top speed.
With a relatively low stack and a 5mm drop, the Mach 5 delivers a great road feel that many runners will appreciate, myself included. The shoe’s design and silhouette are visually appealing, and with several attractive colorways to choose from, you’re sure to find one that suits your style.
There’s only one minor downside I’ve encountered with the Mach 5: the lack of a tongue loop to hold the tongue in place.
Despite this small drawback, the HOKA Mach 5’s combination of value, performance, and style makes it a top contender for anyone considering a new pair of running shoes.
3. HOKA Clifton 9 ($145)
“Best for everyday training and long-distance running”
Read my in-depth HOKA Clifton 9 review to learn more.
The HOKA Clifton 9 running shoes strike an ideal balance between cushioning and stability, making them a top choice for a wide range of runners, from beginners to marathon trainees.
Like most HOKA running shoes, the Clifton’s compression molded EVA foam midsole offers excellent cushioning without compromising the stable platform that is crucial for a smooth running experience which is improved over the Clifton 8.
If I were to compare them to another excellent marathon training shoe right now, it would be the On Cloudsurfer 7 (one of my favorite On running shoes right now)
The upper is not only breathable and comfortable but also provides ample cushioning around your feet.
The 5mm drop combined with the articulated heel design ensures a comforting ride throughout your short OR long runs. Despite its plush features, the Clifton 9 remains impressively lightweight – a feature that really stood out to me when testing them.
Another bonus is the gusseted tongue, which stays in place while running and adds to the overall comfort. Priced reasonably at $145, the Clifton 9 is accessible to a wide variety of running enthusiasts.
The only minor drawback is that, while the cushioning is plush, the shoe lacks the level of bounce found in competitors like the Nike Invincible 3, On Cloudsurfer, and On Cloudmonster.
The Clifton 9, however, manages to outperform most of them in terms of stability, making it an excellent overall choice.
This running shoe offers a winning combination of comfort, stability, and value, making it a fantastic option for both new and experienced runners, and they’re also the best HOKA long distance running shoes in my opinion, and a popular favorite HOKA shoe for walking too.
If you’re looking for an alternative cushioned, and supportive running shoe to the Clifton but from a different brand, you have to check out the On Cloudsurfer, it’s one of my favorite daily training shoes for getting in base miles. It’s one of my favorite On Running shoes ever.
4. HOKA Bondi 8 ($165)
“Most cushioned Hoka running shoes”
The HOKA Bondi 8, one of the hardest working shoes in HOKA’s lineup, and famous for being one of the most cushioned HOKA shoes for a smoother ride, makes a bold leap forward this season with reworked, softer, lighter foams and an innovative extended heel geometry.
The redesigned rear crash pad in question features a billowed effect, providing an incredibly soft and balanced ride from heel strike to forefoot transition.
This upgrade further enhances the smooth and stable running experience, making it an even more compelling option if you like to run with maximum cushioning.
The Bondi 8 offers a smooth gliding ride that many runners have come to appreciate from the Bondi range over the years.
Additionally, they are well-priced, making them an attractive option if you want a cushioned and reliable running shoe without breaking the bank.
However, they are on the heavier side when compared to the Clifton 9, for example, which might be a concern for runners who prioritize a lightweight feel.
While they may not be the lightest or widest shoes on the market, the overall performance and value make the Bondi a solid option for many runners looking for support to go the distance.
5. HOKA Carbon X 3 ($200)
“Best-priced carbon fiber plate running shoes”
Read my in-depth HOKA Carbon X 3 review to learn more.
The HOKA Carbon X 3 is a top choice for anyone seeking a shoe that enhances speed and efficiency without sacrificing too much comfort.
Its carbon fiber plate and ProFly X midsole work in harmony to provide a perfect balance of cushioning and responsive ride, propelling you forward almost effortlessly.
The extended heel tab not only makes it easy to put on and take off the shoe but also offers valuable Achilles tendon support. It also has a breathable, lightweight performance knit upper, ensuring your feet stay comfortable during your runs.
Aesthetically, this shoe’s geometry is a winner for me, on top of that there are various color options available to suit your personal style. Furthermore, the competitive price point makes it an appealing choice compared to other carbon-plated shoes on the market.
However, there are a couple of minor drawbacks with the Carbon X 3 that some may find annoying. If you have very narrow feet, the upper may wrinkle when the laces are overtightened when locking your feet into the shoes.
Additionally, less experienced runners or those with a less efficient cadence may find the shoe too firm over long distances.
Overall, the HOKA Carbon X 3 is a great option for experienced runners seeking a stylish, performance-enhancing shoe at a competitive price. If you’re ready to take your runs to the next level and step into the carbon-plated running shoe arena, the Carbon X 3 is definitely worth considering.
6. HOKA Bondi X ($215)
“An improved Bondi but the high price puts it below the non-carbon version”
Read my in-depth HOKA Bondi X review to learn more.
The HOKA Bondi X running shoes take the brand’s signature cushioning to the next level, providing a softer and more cushioned experience compared to the regular Bondi.
It is surprisingly stable too which I put down to the carbon fiber plate that runs through the midsole, it also offers a secure and comfortable ride despite its apparent low upper walls.
The fit is slightly wider than many of the other HOKA running shoes, accommodating a variety of foot shapes, and the Bondi X is only 0.2 oz heavier than the less expensive, non-carbon-plated Bondi 8, making it even more appealing to runners seeking a fast, yet well-cushioned shoe without the additional weight.
However, there are a few minor drawbacks to consider; the tongue itself is strangely short, which some may find less comfortable, and it is a bit annoying not being able to easily pull on it to find a better fit – a strange oversight on HOKA’s part but not a huge deal breaker for all the other benefits of these shoes.
The Bondi X also comes with a higher price tag, which could be a concern for budget-conscious shoppers but that’s why there’s a standard Bondi shoe, and a Clifton 9. 🙂
The look of the Bondi X will appeal to some but others may be put off by its oversized-looking midsole stack height, and low-walled upper – It’s an acquired taste for sure.
Overall the HOKA Bondi X offers a great blend of plush cushioning and carbon plate stability and speed, making it an excellent choice for runners seeking a fast, comfortable, and secure ride.
7. HOKA Arahi 6 ($140)
The HOKA Arahi 6 provides a combination of maximal cushioning and minimal weight in a stability shoe.
This light shoe features the stabilizing J-Frame technology and an Early-Stage Meta-Rocker for a lively support experience with a great transition feel. The Arahi 6 also has a pull tab and breathable mesh upper with zoned ventilation for comfort and durability.
The Arahi 6 is a lightweight, cushioned stability running shoe suitable for a wide range of runners, and while it may provide a little less stability than some competing shoes and have a slightly heavier mesh upper, the overall performance and comfort make it a worthy option for those seeking a supportive and comfortable running experience ar a great price.
The best HOKA trail running shoes
1. HOKA Speedgoat 5 ($155)
“Overall Winner Best Hoka Trail Running Shoes”
Read my in-depth HOKA Speedgoat 5 review to learn more.
The HOKA Speedgoat 5 trail running shoes are designed for technical trails and any distance, and the latest version does it with less weight and more traction than before.
The Speedgoat 5 has earned itself a Trail & Kale Editor’s Choice Award for its excellence in performance and comfort, and is in my opinion, the best HOKA trail running shoe.
The Speedgoat 5 is revamped from the outsole to laces, featuring Vibram Megagrip (WHICH I LOVE) with Traction Lug for enhanced grip on loose soil.
They excel as a descender, providing a secure and stable ride on technical downhill trails, and as for the shoe’s comfort when you step into them, it’s classic HOKA, whereby it feels like you’re stepping into a cloud.
The HOKA Speedgoat 5 is a great technically proficient, comfy shoe option for runners seeking lightweight comfort and exceptional traction on technical trails at an affordable price, and so for those reasons, they are the overall winner of this Best HOKA trail running shoe list.
It’s also available in a wide toe box (EE) version if you have wider than average feet and require a roomy toe box when running.
2. HOKA Mafate Speed 4 ($185)
“Overall Runner Up Best Hoka Trail Running Shoes”
Read my in-depth HOKA Mafate Speed 4 review to learn more.
The HOKA Mafate Speed 4 trail running shoes are the second-best overall running shoes for tackling technical trails.
Building upon the success of the EVO Mafate and Mafate Speed, this latest version features updated textiles and construction, including a breathable, single-layer jacquard mesh and a two-part PROFLY midsole with HOKA’s lightest, most responsive foam.
The outsole traction of the Mafate Speed 4 is outstanding, providing a secure grip on a variety of running trails, even in wet conditions – they really are one of the best trail runners on the market right now and as such rank very highly on my Best Trail Running Shoes Buyer’s Guide.
The midsole is impressively cushioned and responsive, feeling almost like a road running shoe. Despite the ample cushioning and padding in the upper, the shoe remains lightweight and controllable.
The heel support’s shape significantly reduces pressure on the Achilles, while the durable upper and outsole ensure longevity. The lacing system is efficient, and the padded tongue adds to the overall comfort.
The HOKA Mafate Speed 4 delivers exceptional traction, comfort, and durability for runners tackling technical trails at a reasonable price for what you get. They blow much of the competition away right now.
They were awarded the Trail & Kale Editor’s Choice award for their excellence and are also great Hoka shoes for women as Helen also chooses these as her trail favorites.
3. HOKA Zinal 2 ($160)
“Best Lightweight Responsive Hoka Trail Running Shoes”
Read my in-depth HOKA Zinal 2 review to learn more.
The HOKA Zinal 2 stands out as a reliable pair of trail running shoes that are extremely lightweight, responsive, and versatile. True to HOKA’s usual sizing, these shoes fit like a glove right off the bat.
A notable feature is the new knit stretch around the upper collar, designed to keep trail debris out and make them a cinch to slip on (and stay on). Weighing in at a mere 7.1 ounces, these shoes aid in reducing leg fatigue, giving you that much-desired connection with the trail over longer distances, and increased speed over shorter runs.
They are also surprisingly cushioned, proving that minimal shoes don’t have to sacrifice comfort – they’re highly responsive, making them an ideal choice for racers too.
The newly designed (and vastly improved over V1) outsole featuring deeper lugs enhances traction considerably, especially during steep downhill runs. Plus, they tackle a range of terrains very well, from asphalt to hard rocky surfaces, forest trails, and loose scree.
The reduced stack height also contributes to a better trail feel and control.
There are, however, a few quirks to consider, the upper material of the shoe, while sturdy, lacks flexibility and can make a popping noise when moving – nothing that will bother you mid-run, but it’s worth noting.
The breathability in the upper’s rigid section is not as good as its predecessor, so you may notice this during long runs on very hot days, and while the shoe grips well on steep trails, the absence of deep lugs at the front may limit steep climbing efficiency.
Despite these minor setbacks, the HOKA Zinal 2 is an impressive performer that offers plenty of PROS for the trail-running enthusiast. It’s a shoe that’s ready to accompany you across varied terrains, helping you run with both comfort and confidence.
4. HOKA Tecton X 2 ($225)
“The Best HOKA Trail Racing Shoes”
Read my in-depth HOKA Tecton X 2 review to learn more.
The HOKA Tecton X 2 trail racing shoes have been re-engineered to maximize weight savings with a brand-new Matryx upper mesh. This light, breathable, and hydrophobic high-contrast upper is paired with a lay-flat gusseted tongue to help keep trail debris out of the shoes.
This carbon-plated trail runner is designed for varied terrain, utilizing the same parallel carbon fiber plates that made its predecessor popular among trail running enthusiasts.
The PROFLY-X dual-layer midsole, carbon fiber plate, and early-stage meta rocker provide a fast, responsive, and controlled ride on the trails; the Tecton X 2 is a fun and fast trail running shoe that’s 100% race-ready – best demonstrated in my video review above.
These trail running shoes are fairly expensive, however, but that’s expected for carbon fiber racing shoes, and they do help you run faster.
The tread could also be more aggressive, with deeper lugs and tread on the midsection of the outsole. I’d stick the Mafate Speed 4 MegaGrip on this trail shoe; then you would have a trail racing shoe that is completely unbeatable in all areas.
Overall, the HOKA Tecton X 2 is a lightweight, fast, and race-ready trail running shoe perfect for those looking to push their limits on the trails. Despite the minor price and outsole drawbacks, its performance, durability, and comfort make it a top choice for trail racing enthusiasts.
5. HOKA Challenger ATR 7 ($160)
“Best Hybrid Running Shoe That Masters Both Road And Trail”
Read my in-depth HOKA Challenger ATR 7 review to learn more.
The HOKA Challenger ATR 7 is a versatile shoe that expertly blends road and trail performance and the latest version comes with new design tweaks, including a simplified mesh upper, soft new foam, and a higher stack height for a plusher feel.
The midsole is impressively cushioned and responsive, making it feel almost like a road running shoe hence why they perform so well both on and off the trails – it also makes running to trailheads a more enjoyable experience.
The extended heel pull offers Achilles support and makes the shoe easy to put on, while the durable engineered mesh upper and outsole ensure long-lasting performance.
The lacing system is efficient, and the padded tongue adds to the overall comfort while the geometry and colorways of these hybrid running shoes ensure you’re noticed on the trails – in a good way!
The only minor drawback is that the outsole traction, while very good, could be more aggressive for steep inclines and declines.
However, this may compromise its performance on roads, so it could be the best possible balance for a hybrid shoe. If traction is paramount for you on the trails, check out the Mafate Speed or Speedgoat instead.
Overall, the Challenger ATR 7 is a fantastic option for trail runners seeking a shoe that seamlessly transitions between road and trail. Its comfort, durability, and style make it an excellent choice for those who want the best of both worlds.
6. HOKA Zinal ($160)
“Best Lightweight, Minimal Trail Running Shoes”
Read my in-depth HOKA Zinal review to learn more.
The HOKA Zinal is a responsive trail running shoe designed for shorter distances and trails that don’t throw too many challenges your way. This nimble trainer offers the perfect blend of speed and agility, featuring a stripped-back mesh upper made from recycled yarn and a gusseted tongue to keep debris out.
The PROFLY dual-density midsole, with cushioned foam on top and rubberized EVA on the bottom, is paired with a Vibram Megagrip outsole with Litebase construction for good traction and minimal weight.
The breathable upper keeps your feet cool, and the shoe drains well after water submersion as noted during my trail testing. Furthermore, the Zinal is reasonably priced, making it a great choice for budget-conscious runners.
The Zinal does have a few limitations, however; I don’t recommend them for technical terrain as the traction on the midsection of the outsole is lacking. It’s also not ideal for distances longer than a half marathon unless you’re running on soft ground like forest trails. On hard, rocky trails, the shoes can feel a bit too minimal.
Overall, the HOKA Zinal is a lightweight, speedy trail running shoe that excels in shorter distances. While it’s not ideal for technical terrain or longer distances on hard surfaces, its comfort, breathability, and performance make it an excellent option if you’re after a nimble and agile trail shoe.
Understanding Key HOKA Technologies and Terminology
As an experienced runner and passionate reviewer of running shoes, I’ve spent over a decade exploring the ins and outs of different footwear technologies.
While I’m not a certified running coach, I probably have more real-world running experience than most coaches – and because I’m so passionate about running and have a curious mind, I like to constantly ask questions and learn the science behind the sport.
I’m also a big believer in valuing experience over certificates when it comes to expertise and knowledge in a topic.
HOKA, a brand I hold in high regard because of all their great running shoes that scored so highly in my reviews, has developed several unique features and terms that set its shoes apart from the competition.
One such technology is ProFly, which significantly contributes to the brand’s success in the running community, and in my HOKA running shoe reviews. Let’s dive deeper into this and other key HOKA technologies and terminology.
HOKA ProFly Midsole Technology: Delivering a Responsive, Cushioned Ride
HOKA’s ProFly midsole technology is designed to provide runners with a highly responsive and cushioned ride. This dual-density midsole features softer foam in the heel for superior shock absorption upon impact, and firmer foam in the forefoot to increase propulsion during toe-off.
As a result, runners experience a smooth and efficient running experience, whether they’re tackling long distances or focusing on speed work.
HOKA goes one step further in their carbon-plated running shoes with their ProFly X midsole, a combination of dual-density foam and that propulsive carbon plate – exquisite! 🙂
Early-Stage Meta-Rocker: Enhancing the Natural Running Gait
Another great feature in many HOKA shoes is the Early-Stage Meta-Rocker, a geometric design that promotes a smooth, rolling motion during the running gait cycle.
By combining a low heel-to-toe drop with a unique rocker shape, HOKA encourages a more efficient, natural running form.
I’ve personally found this technology to be incredibly beneficial, especially during longer runs when maintaining proper form is crucial.
Active Foot Frame: Providing Lightweight Stability and Support
For runners seeking additional stability without sacrificing comfort, the Active Foot Frame technology is HOKA’s answer.
The Active Foot Frame cradles your foot and secures your heel in place so that your foot can become part of the shoe, instead of just resting on top.
People describe it as feeling like their feet are being hugged by the shoe. The result is the ultimate support and confidence—regardless of what’s underfoot.
I know that choosing the best Hokas from the HOKA lineup can feel overwhelming (as there’s so many) but now you should be armed with all the information you need to ensure you get the right ones for you.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this guide to the best HOKA running shoes, and that I was able to help you find the perfect ones for you. Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask me anything HOKA related in the comments below.