Hoka One One Speed Instinct Review Facts
The Speed Instinct does not look like the traditional thick soled maximalist style shoe Hoka One One is known for. With the name Speed Instinct, it makes sense that they are less bulky in order to be a faster trail runner. And from experience, I can tell you that they are. I got a chance to try out these shoes and was pleasantly surprised. The word “nimble” comes to mind when using these shoes on a variety of trail – from rooty and rocky technical trails to buffed out smooth trails. And as a Hoka One One fan, I was happy to know despite their look they still maintained that marshmallow cushioning Hoka One One-lovers know and love. There are many great features in this shoe, including their excellent responsiveness and traction. Let’s take a closer look at the great and the not-so of the Hoka One One Speed Instinct.
Out of the box, I immediately notice that the stack height was a lot shorter than most other Hoka One One shoes. They are definitely lower to the ground and yet, still had that soft cushioning that you would expect from a Hoka One One shoe. The strategic hi-abrasion rubber zones on the outsole are very durable and provide excellent protection. The multi-directional lugs provide great grip on a variety of trail, from smooth, buffed out trails to technical, rocky ones. Hoka One One utilizes their Meta-Rocker Geometry, which is a rocking chair design of the outsole that guides your foot during the gait cycle, giving you a smooth movement from impact to toe off. I have put about 40+ miles into this shoe so far, and the outsole shows no noticeable wear.
Hoka One One is known for their comfortable midsole, and by looking at this shoe, Hoka One One-lovers might be worried that these shoes do not have that marshmallow soft cushioning
they know and love. I am happy to say that they are extremely comfortable and provide great cushioning. The PRO2Lite midsole provides, as the Hoka One One website states, “a Unique balance of PROpulsion and PROtection” and they are right. The PRO2Lite provides cushioning in the heel with a firmer forefoot making this shoe very responsive while also softening the shock of impact.
The upper is made of a seamless air mesh with Zonal 3D printing that is for “breathability” and support
. I put breathability in a quote because unfortunately, this shoe definitely lacks it. Though the upper does not provide good breathability, it does provide excellent support. The mesh held my foot in place, quite comfortably actually, without being too restrictive. Aesthetically, the criss-cross web like overlays on top of the mesh looks great, but I was really disappointed that it did not allow much in the way of airflow.
For a shoe called "Speed Instinct," you would expect the shoe to be light in order to be fast. And it definitely is. For a women’s size 7, they come in at 7.5 oz, making these an incredibly lightweight shoe. The men's version is equally light, coming in at 8.4 oz based on a size 9. Hoka One One's midsole technology allows these shoes optimal cushioning without weighing down the shoe like many well-cushioned shoes tend to be. Just for comparison sake, the Hoka One One SpeedGoat weighs in at about an ounce more. That might not sound like a lot, but every ounce counts when racing, and the Speed Instinct is intended just for that - to be a fast, nimble trail shoe.
This is the biggest problem with the Hoka One One Speed Instinct: its breathability. It may look like a breathable shoe with its air mesh upper, but in reality, the air flow is below average. Shortly into my first run, I could tell that the breathability was not there. Currently, it is winter where I am at, so hot feet have not been much of an issue. However, I suspect in the summer, this will be a different story. Hot feet equals sweaty feet which can cause blisters
. It is unfortunate that the overlay on top of the mesh is a killer when it comes to the breathability of the shoe. And while it looks cool and provides stability, breathability suffers.
Hoka One One is great at making a comfortable shoe and these are no different. From the first moment I tried them on, I could feel the great Hoka One One cushioning, especially in the heel section. The padded tongue offered some solid comfort as well. I was also happy that the toe box, which sometimes can be narrow in Hoka One One shoes, was wider than usual. My toes spread out comfortably and were not squished which was especially beneficial on long runs. And while some consider this more of a racing trail shoe
, because of its lightweight, it did great on a number of long runs, including a 16 miler. My feet still felt good. As far as sizing goes, sometimes I go a half step up in order to give my toes some extra space, but for this shoe, that was not needed - it runs true to size.
The Speed Instinct doesn’t look like a regular Hoka One One mainly because of the outsole of the shoe is not as thick as other Hoka One One shoes. It feels like a Hoka One One, but it doesn’t per say look like one. If it wasn’t for the giant HOKA logo on the heel, you may confuse it with another shoe. Loud or subtle, this shoe has both color options. I got to try (and liked) the subtle Persian Jewel/Spring Bud color combo, which is a combination of soft, muted blue, purple and light green. However, for those wanting to make more of a statement
, check out the Neon Coral/Plum or Virtual Pink/Neon Fuchsia color combo. The same can be said of the men’s version. They come in a brilliant yellow, dark gray and red combo called Nightshade/Acid and a more neutral but sleek color option such as the Metallic Silver/Cayenne. It’s good to know Hoka One One tries to make a color option to suit everyone’s desires.
As I said before, I have put in about 40 miles in these shoes and I am happy to say that I have not run into any durability issues. The durable rubber outsole including the multidirectional lugs has been put to the test as I have used them on a variety trails, including snowy trails, rocky trails, and some muddy trails. There has not been any noticeable wear or tear. However, it is worth mentioning that some reviewers have said that the shoe begins to break down around 200 miles, especially in the mesh area.
There is a toe guard in the front of the shoe, but honestly, it doesn’t guard much. It’s as soft as the rest of the overlay. The outsole, though thinner than most Hoka One One shoes, does provide cushioning as well as protection from the elements. Even the PRO2Lite midsole provides solid protection from the shock of impact. The shoe provides good protection which is especially important in a trail shoe
Responsiveness is definitely an important feature in a trail shoe and thanks to Hoka One One's PRO2Lite midsole technology as well as the meta-rocker design of the bottom, this is definitely a responsive shoe. The firmer forefoot makes for an explosive toe-off while the overall thinner midsole and outsole give you more ground feel than most Hoka One One shoes
. The early stage meta-rocker also gives the shoe a smooth transition between the heel strike and the toe off. When they say "speed", they mean it. These shoes get you on your toes as fast as it possibly can.
For runners looking for additional arch support or extra stability
, this is not the shoe for you. The Speed Instinct is a neutral shoe and although it does not provide specific support for overpronation or the like, it does provide great support for what it's intended for. The upper is flexible but provides a nice, secure fit around your foot. The meta-rocker geometry of the outsole provides support by guiding your foot through the gait cycle. Though there was plenty of room in the toe box, I did not slip around in the shoe. Overall, the support for the Speed Instinct was solid.
All trails, all the time. The lugs on the bottom provide great traction for technical trails
. I did briefly run on the road (to get to a trail), but I would not recommend road running for extended periods of time in these shoes. Plainly put, it felt weird to run on pavement as the lugs are not meant for road. Also the pavement will make the lugs wear down quicker. They did well on buffed out trails, rocky and rooty trails, some mud and even snow. But beware, the lugs are not aggressive enough for deep mud.
The Hoka One One Speed Instinct retail for $130. Not the most expensive shoe, but certainly no small price tag. They run on average to most other Hoka One One shoes.
It’s all about the lugs. They are aggressive enough to get you climbing up a rocky trail or comfortably gliding on a less technical one. I even had a chance to take them out in the rain and they provided great traction in wet conditions. That being said, they did not do well in super muddy conditions. Light mud, sure. Deep mud, not so much.
The Speed Instinct is a flexible shoe thanks to the thinner rubber outsole and the PRO2Lite midsole. The mesh upper gives your foot a secure fit while moving with the foot, rather than stabilizing it. Because of their thick outsole, Hoka One One shoes tend to be a less flexible shoe, but luckily, this was a sweet surprise that made this a rather special Hoka One One shoe. I was happy with the flexibility of this shoe as it allowed the shoe to be very responsive.
If you are looking for a stability shoe, look elsewhere. As I said before, this is a neutral running shoe. However, that does not mean they do not provide sufficient stability. The stiff heel and firm forefoot, as well as the webbed overlay upper, do keep your foot right where it needs to be. My foot tends to overpronate slightly, and this shoe worked just fine for me. If you do suffer from moderate to extreme over pronation
, you might want to consider another shoe.
This is not a zero drop shoe
but it comes pretty close with a drop of 3mm for both the men’s and women’s version. If you are used to a shoe with more of a standard drop (somewhere along 10mm) definitely make sure you take time to adjust to this drop.
Key Features of the Hoka One One Speed Instinct
Key Features of the Hoka One One Speed Instinct
• Seamless air mesh upper with Zonal 3D printing
• Early Stage Meta-Rocker
• PRO2Lite midsole
• Hi-Abrasion Rubber Zones
• Multidirectional Lugs
This was a fun shoe. Hoka One One took some of their best technology including their signature cushioning and made a really great lightweight, responsive trail running shoe. I felt faster and was able to maneuver over some pretty technical terrain in these shoes. However, I was disappointed about the below average breathability. While these shoes are not the most expensive, they are certainly not cheap and as I mentioned before, some reviewers stated that the shoe started to break down around 200 miles and before which is another unfortunate downside. However, overall, the positives outweighed the negatives, and this proved to be a great trail shoe.
I look forward to seeing what they have in store for their second version because this shoe has the potential to be pretty amazing.