Hoka One One EVO Mafate Review

During the 2017 UTMB, I noticed that several Hoka One One-sponsored runners (Tim Tollefson and Jim Walmsley) were debuting a new model. Of course, this piqued my interest as a course like UTMB really throws everything at a runner in 100 miles. I was also confused by the name of the shoe as the original Mafate model was very heavy, and very maximal. This was followed by the equally heavy Mafate Speed, and both of these models had spent years in retirement. So, to clarify, the Hoka One One EVO Mafate ($170) is a 9.6-ounce, 4mm drop trail shoe really designed to take on all surfaces. We all recognize this shoe now as the shoe that won, and set the record, at the 2018 Western States 100.

Fellow gear editor Travis Liles and I both put the Evo Mafate through the paces during our summer ultramarathon training and long mountain adventures. We agreed on both the shoe’s strengths, and a few of its shortcomings. What follows are our combined thoughts on the model.

The Hoka One One Evo Mafate. All photos by iRunFar/Bryon Powell unless otherwise noted.

Hoka One One Evo Mafate Upper

Hoka does something completely different with this upper in employing their MATRYX technology, using strategically placed Kevlar to increase durability, lock down, and drainage. This certainly does feel like an airy mesh and I appreciated how quickly the Evo Mafate’s upper drained after creek crossings. While the MATRYX Kevlar provides durability, it did become well creased, and a bit coarse, after repeated use and grime. Both of us noticed a pronounced and static crease across the metatarsal area of the foot which produced some irritation on the medial side of the big toe. For Travis, this meant irritation and blistering, and for myself it meant the formation of a large callous which eventually developed some maceration underneath. Either way, despite the wider nature of the Evo Mafate, the toebox continues to be heavily tapered.

Now, before I take on a deluge of defensive feedback, let’s be clear about the toebox width here. While it certainly is of medium width, it tapers in on the medial side of the foot, forcing the big toe over a bit. This tapering, combined with a bit of a cambered midsole on the inside of the shoe, caused me some irritation in runs over 20 miles in length. This combination had me more than ready to get the Evo Mafate off of my feet after 32 mountain miles. However, Travis was able to wear the this shoe for 12 hours of highly technical mountain trail with minimal issues. I do feel like the Kevlar-laden fabric is a bit rougher than most other uppers, but it’s really durable. In comparison, the Speedgoat 2 has a more highly tapered toebox, but the upper material is softer and more flexible which didn’t seem to put as much pressure on my big toe.

I did try to mitigate some of the toebox issues using a shoe stretcher which is commonly used for men’s leather dress shoes. This process allowed me to further stretch the medial upper of the Evo Mafate to accommodate my feet, and this is a recommended treatment for any runner wanting to customize fit.

The rest of the upper functions fairly well. Some runners may be a bit annoyed by the higher-than-normal heel collar, and I did experience some rubbing from the heel collar when wearing very short ‘no-show’ socks. Longer socks completely mitigated the issue. However, the tongue of the Evo Mafate is an area of concern. The tongue is perforated and thin which both moved around and allowed a lot of dust and debris into the shoe. A gusseted tongue would really be appreciated in this shoe.

The Hoka One One Evo Mafate lateral upper.

Hoka One One Evo Mafate Midsole

Overall, Hoka has managed to create a midsole that feels fast and relatively stable for a shoe with 34mm stack height in the heel and 30mm in the forefoot. The feel is a bit less squishy than a typical Hoka, and noticeably firmer than the Speedgoat 2. This caused the Evo Mafate to feel a bit more stable on really technical sections of trail, such as picking your way across talus and off-camber trail. Hoka uses their EVA top layer for a nice, soft feel on top of a firmer-durometer R-BOUND midsole which is firmer and lighter weight. This combination is really the best combo of Hoka cushioning I’ve experienced for a trail shoe, and the Evo Mafate excelled on surfaces where I felt the Speedgoat 2 was too soft. Specifically, sandy or muddy trails that seem to suck the life out of a shoe.

Travis and I are both sitting at around 150 miles in this shoe, and we are seeing resilience in the midsole that does not lead me to believe it will feel dead any time soon. Hoka’s early-stage Meta-Rocker technology is in full effect on the Evo Mafate, and the transition of this shoe is very smooth at fast paces.

The Hoka One One Evo Mafate medial upper.

Hoka One One Evo Mafate Outsole

Hoka uses Vibram’s MegaGrip outsole which does a great job over a variety of surfaces, wet and dry. I didn’t notice a performance difference between the MegraGrip outsole on the Evo Mafate and the Speedgoat 2. This outsole rubber seemed like a great all-arounder and I didn’t find myself sliding around on loose, marble-y decomposed granite on technical downhills in my part of Colorado, or wet rock around drainages. The Evo Mafate does pick up some small pebbles in the outsole, specifically where the drainage holes are located, but this doesn’t affect function or add much weight. I don’t see this outsole rubber wearing down quickly, and a rock plate is not needed due to the model’s high stack height.

The Hoka One One Evo Mafate outsole.

Hoka One One Evo Mafate Overall Impressions

The Evo Mafate is a surprisingly stable and resilient, maximally cushioned shoe that never feels sloppy or labored on the foot. The firmness of the midsole does favor faster paces on both smooth trail and technical surfaces. The locked-down fit throughout the midfoot and forefoot inspire a lot of confidence on technical downhills and no sliding forward was experienced. This is the type of trail shoe that could be worn for 50k to 100 miles on really any type of terrain besides road. (The Vibram outsole is a bit too much to make this a hybrid shoe.)

Both Travis and I have very limited complaints about the shoe, and perhaps small changes to the tongue and softening of the upper would perfect this model. Either way, the Evo Mafate certainly has a permanent place in Hoka’s arsenal with a distinctly different feel from the Speedgoat 2 and beefier models in the line-up. The question is, as always: is this shoe worth its $170 price tag? For $30 more than the Speedgoat 2, runners needing a slightly wider fit will find the Evo Mafate more accommodating and more durable. Still, runners needing a truly wide shoe will have to look elsewhere as the Evo Mafate is yet to come in widths. Ultimately, this is another very solid release from Hoka and a shoe that most runners will enjoy a great deal and find to be a solid investment for their next ultramarathon.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you run in the Hoka One One Evo Mafate? What do you think of the shoe overall? And, can you talk about some of the details of the shoe that you’ve noticed?
  • What are your thoughts on the Evo Mafate’s upper and how it behaves on your foot?
  • What do you think of the two-compound midsole and its feel on the trails upon which you run?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Hoka One One Evo Mafate view from the top.
Photo shows how the author stretched the Evo Mafate’s upper using a shoe stretcher. Photo: iRunFar/Tom Caughlan
Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 27 comments

  1. Rich

    Overall I’m liking the Evo Mafate’s a lot. Whilst not massively different to the Mafate Speed 2’s it good Hoka has reduced the weight and made the upper more durable (if not the softest material). One negative is that on my first run I got a hotspot, leading to a small cut just above my big toe from where the stitching is (just below the laces). I could look inside my shoe and see loose stitching hanging down, which obviously irritated my foot. I’ve since run a 50 miler in them with no issues (after I trimmed the loose stitching inside) but hopefully Hoka can make this more seamless in it’s next update… talking of which, I gather Walmsley wore the next update (prototype) of this shoe for his big win at Western States. Will be interesting to see what they’ve altered for the next version.

  2. Andre Blumberg

    A good shoe that misses width to be great. Shame that HOKA continues to lack wider trail options. I really wanted to use this shoe at Hardrock 100 this year but it’s too narrow for anything over a few hours for me. Used the Altra Timp instead which worked a treat. Love my Clifton 4 in 2E width on the road and can only hope HOKA eventually listens to many, many runners that are asking for wider trail shoe options.

  3. Ellie

    I’m no shoe expert. I’m sponsor by HOKA. By my goodness, I love this shoe! Ideal for the technical, rooty, rocky and wet trails of North Van.

  4. Trevor

    would love to try another pair of Hokas but until i hear the toebox width is reasonable just steering clear. I don’t know how its possible a shoe company ignores so much feedback and just keeps on making shoes without accommodating all the market research sitting out there for free — Hoka, make the toebox wider. thanks

    1. Sam

      They’ve got 4 models available in a wide (2E) width: Clifton, Bondi, Gaviota, and Arahi. Plus, the Stinson ATR 4, while not technically a wide, will have a wider last than Altra!

  5. David Benoit

    I bought this shoe but had to return it. I had the same blister that you had over the big toe and didn’t see any way to alleviate it. I didn’t try a shoe stretcher and would like to now that you mentioned it. I absolutely loved this shoe outside of that and really wanted them to work.

    I did notice that the collar was too stiff and would bend in a way that would allow debris in. I didn’t notice that around the tongue as you mentioned.

    I agree, this is a step in the right direction for Hoka but I wish they had engaged some fit testers to get this feedback prior to releasing and fixed the area over the big toe. Honestly, and sadly, this has me wondering what to buy now as the speedgoats do have some durability issues. Most other trail shoes dont seem to be adequately cushioned for me.

    1. Lightning

      The Speedgoat 2 upper hole issues that I read about in the early reviews is not an issue with the newer ones. Those holes occurred at the thin notches in the overlay, which increased the stress on the fabric. The latest Speedgoat 2s no longer have those little notches. I have 450 miles in my Speedgoat 2s and the upper fabric show no hint of breakdown in forefoot flex areas. If you are talking about something else, I don’t know – I don’t see anything in my pair. Mine are just feeling broken in, since I thought it was too soft when new.

  6. Jim

    Honestly, the Hoka One One Torrent is the shoe that has me more intrigued. Perhaps its upper might be a bit more forgiving without being as narrow a fit or as soft a ride as the Speedgoat 2? Its tongue also seems to be held in place a bit better. Anyways, I’d love to see a review on the Torrent! :-D

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Jim-
      Its in process. I don’t quite have enough time in the Torrents yet, but they’re promising and so far the fit works better for me than the Evo Mafete.

  7. Lightning

    The description of the fit issues sound highly dependent on foot shape. “While it certainly is of medium width, it tapers in on the medial side of the foot, forcing the big toe over a bit.” Sounds perfect for my wide feet. My feet are wide due to bunions, though my big toes have separation/air space from the next toe over. When the toebox doesn’t taper in, like on Altras, I have 1-1.5 cm of free space on the inside of the big toes, so that’s why a wide foot person like me favors the Speedgoat 2 fit (with a thinner or no insole), for example, over Altra fit. I haven’t tried on the Evo Mafate yet (will wait for it to go on sale in a year), so I’m making some assumptions.

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Lightning –
      Your feet sound like my feet. I also have bunions, more pronounced on my left foot from years of tight fitting track spikes and running curves is my best guess. I don’t have the separation that you have, and my foot feels hemmed in without much ability to wiggle my toes in these shoes. I also prefer to wear a medium thickness sock (Stance, Drymax) but in the Evo Mafete I did best wearing super thin Swiftwicks to have that wiggle ability.
      Even with the extra space on the medial side of Altras it doesn’t bother me and I don’t slide around. I just can’t put too much pressure for too long on that big toe joint.

  8. darkcloud

    I’m very interesting in possibly buying a pair of running shoes for $170.00 that I have to modify. Where can I buy these?

  9. Great Shoe

    I grabbed a pair and they’re a great shoe. The fit is extremely wide, so I am not sure why folks are complaining about them being narrow (they certainly are not). Below is my quick review

    My quick review:

    Pros: extremely lightweight for maximalist shoe, built for rugged terrain nice breathable upper, works wonderful on downhills, great cushioning

    Cons: too wide of a fit in the forefoot, takes a while to get a “locked in” fit, bad laces, a little unstable on windy/rocky singletrack

    Conclusions: best shoe out there for long haul racing (100K – 100M) – I wish Hoka would go back to their old narrow style fit though, as these felt sloppy in the forefoot (similar to an Altra).

  10. david

    I’m getting weird blisters on the top knuckles of my 4th toe. Both feet – very odd! Anyone else?

    I do remove the insoles and replace them with Spenco’s so perhaps they’re taking up just enough volume to cause the irritation. Other than that I’m really impressed – they remind me of the first Stinson Evos (just slightly less rockered).

  11. ManOVision

    David, yes, I got the blisters on my 4th toes too. The crease line goes right on top of that toe on both feet. Our toe bending joints must be at odd angles. I’m going to tape my toes and get some more miles in. Hopefully it’ll loosen up that crease on the toe box. I only have 8 miles on them so far, but it left my left toe bloody.

  12. Tyler

    Just ran the Bigfoot 40 in these. The shies themselves did quite well for the harshness of the terrain. My only complaint is some irritation late on over the base of my toes. Shoe stretcher or a different lacing technique may be in order.

  13. Tyler

    Just ran the Bigfoot 40 in these. The shoes themselves did quite well for the harshness of the terrain. My only complaint is some irritation late on over the base of my toes. Shoe stretcher or a different lacing technique may be in order.

  14. Ryan

    I’m surprised there’s no mention of the separation of the toe cap. I know three buddies running in this shoe in recent weeks and it’s happened to all of them. Agreed, the tongue is terrible, too thin and short, doesn’t really seem like rocket science here. I’ve run in them two days so far and am already seeing deterioration. The sole is grippy and performed great on the granite in the Colorado high country.

  15. Steve

    Thanks for the review, Tom.

    Re the shoe stretcher, I have never thought of doing this.

    My small toe is constantly getting smashed in trail shoes. I like the fit of Altra shoes but zero drop doesn’t do it for me.

    Roughly how much extra room does the stretcher create?

    1. MtnTYPE

      sometimes a hairdryer on high with some internal pressure on the spot where you need it from something like the butt of a magic marker will help stretch a spot to make it wider.

    2. Tom Caughlan

      Hey Steve,
      This is something that I have been doing in the last couple of years after I initially review a shoe to make them fit better for me. The shoe stretchers are available on Amazon, or at stores like Nordstrom’s Rack where men’s dress shoes are sold. They typically have little metal bunion markers that you can pop around different holes on the stretchers to stretch a particular area.
      On a shoe with a thinner, more pliable upper, I can get quite a bit of permanent stretch. Sometimes I will wet the area of the shoe down first, or just put the stretcher in immediately post-run. It is definitely worth trying, especially for the pinky toe area. The hair dryer trick works as well and when cobblers traditionally stretch leather dress shoes they apply heat.
      With the Evo Mafete upper being so durable I didn’t get as much stretch as I’d wanted, but that is a tribute to its durability.

  16. Ben

    Excellent shoe. I have not got on with Hokas in the past, finding them too narrow in the toe, squishy and clumsy. These are a different beast altogether.
    Good:
    Fit much wider than SG2 in the toe – I have a fairly average foot and find them to be spot on. I haven’t had a problem with the thickness of the tongue – in fact, I quite like it, although I agree it could be 5mm longer.
    Midsole is responsive and surprisingly stable for such a high stack.
    Outsole grips well in most conditions.
    Bad:
    Outsole looks like it is going to wear quickly – I’m not sure how many miles I’ll get out of these things.
    As per other comments above, I am getting some rubbing on the tops of my toes where the tongue attaches to the upper. Thicker socks seem to eliminate this.

  17. Abbie

    I had purchased the Evo Mafate on August 15th. I have only put 70 miles on it.
    Af first, the Evo looked promising unlike the Stinson ATR 4 (which didn’t last but 3.5 weeks). I didn’t get the cushion feel like everyone says the EVO has. The tongue absolutely was a nightmare because after several miles, the laces tend to put lots of pressure on your upper foot. Between 60-70 miles, the upper mesh started to come apart from the sideing. The black color from the rear side started to come off and the yellow bled through.
    Vary painful blisters on both big toes, although the shoe was wide enough for my feet. The outsoles are halfway depleted already. It does have a monster grip (nothing compared to Salomon SpeedCross4 thou) but I noticed on damp dirt, I slid several times. The toe box is wide enough, however, it’s very narrow around the pinky toe all the way straight across.
    Unfortunately I’ll be sending it back to HOKA ONE ONE. For $170, the shoe should not be falling apart this soon. I think I’ll be going back to Salomon SpeedCross 4 and just getting a custom orthotics insole made from my podiatrist that will eliminate the worry of not having enough cusion for my heel which I tend to fracture every year.

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