Born in an age of minimalist running shoes in the 2000s, Hoka went against the proverbial grain, creating ultra-cushioned running shoes. Nowadays, as a managing editor focused on running gear, I don’t think I get asked more about any other brand than Hoka. So we decided to pool iRunFar’s collective knowledge and experience with the brand to create a guide to help you decide on the best Hoka running shoes for you.
We made sure to include running shoes suited best for trails, paved, and gravel roads. Our testing included thousands of collective miles. And we’re sure these are the best available Hoka shoes currently on the market. Our favorite overall trail running shoe is the Hoka Speedgoat 5, while our favorite overall road running shoe is the Hoka Clifton 9. But that’s just the beginning. Be sure to peruse the rest of our picks of the best Hoka shoes currently available.
Best Hoka Running Shoes
- Best Overall, Trail: Hoka Speedgoat 5 for men and Hoka Speedgoat 5 for women
- Best Overall, Road: Hoka Clifton 9 for men and Hoka Clifton 9 for women
- Best Trail Racing: Hoka Tecton X 2 for men and Hoka Tecton X 2 for women
- Best Road Racing: Hoka Rocket X 2 (all gender)
- Best Road-to-Trail Hybrid: Hoka Challenger 7 for men and Hoka Challenger 7 for women
- Best for Tempo Workouts (Road): Hoka Mach X for men and Hoka Mach X for women
- Best for Stability (Road): Hoka Arahi 6 for men and Hoka Arahi 6 for women
- Best for Max Cushion (Road): Hoka Bondi 8 for men and Hoka Bondi 8 for women
- Best for Technical Terrain (Trail): Hoka Mafate Speed 4 for men and Hoka Mafate Speed 4 for women
Best Overall, Trail: Hoka Speedgoat 5 for men and Hoka Speedgoat 5 for women
- Excellent traction and lug pattern
- Softer midsole
- Improved upper
- Can be a bit too much shoe for some
- Narrow feet could have fit issues
- The midsole may be too over-cushioned to maintain control when running fast on technical and steep descents
The Speedgoat is a classic and Hoka’s best all-around trail running shoe. Hoka’s fifth iteration of the staple shoe is probably its best. Why? Let’s start with the outsole. Hoka employs Vibram’s Megagrip, which is an all-around cruiser for most conditions and trail surface types. But this model also includes textured Traction Lugs, which provide more surface area and traction.
Next, they’ve increased the softness of the midsole without making it overly soft. And while there’s no rock plate, the extra cushioning in the midsole helps protect against long, sharp debris. Lastly, more engineered mesh in the upper creates an incredibly comfortable surface that is noticeably better than the previous version. As a bonus, Hoka made all these upgrades while decreasing the shoe’s weight by a few ounces.
All this adds up to make the Speedgoat 5 our favorite all-around Hoka trail shoe and our favorite trail shoe overall in 2023. If you run primarily on trails, this is the pick for you.
Claimed Heel Stack Height: 33 millimeters | Claimed Forefoot Stack Height: 29 millimeters | Claimed Drop: 4 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 11.8 ounces
Best Overall, Road: Hoka Clifton 9 for men and Hoka Clifton 9 for women
- Great all-around training shoes for road and gravel
- The nice cushion that Hoka and the Clifton are infamous for
- Lightweight construction
- Truly neutral
- Might be too wide for narrow feet
Like the Speedgoat, Hoka’s Clifton is one of — if not the — most popular and best-selling road shoes in its lineup. And also like the Speedgoat, the latest version of the Clifton is probably the best. The reason? More cushion and less weight. Hoka added three millimeters of stack height while eliminating a few ounces. “They remind me of a road version of the Speedgoat,” one tester reported after logging a 13-mile run right out of the box.
Other improvements include a lighter and more breathable engineered mesh upper, new compression-molded EVA foam at the midsole, and an early-stage meta-rocker. Is this the shoe to set Strava course records or a PR at your local road race? No. But they are ideal for everyday training, especially if your training stays primarily on pavement. These could also work fine as gravel shoes. Also note that the Clifton 9 is truly a neutral shoe, which some will prefer. It also happens to be one of our favorite road running shoes.
Claimed Heel Stack Height: 32 millimeters | Claimed Forefoot Stack Height: 27 millimeters | Claimed Drop: 5 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 8.9 ounces
Best Trail Racing: Hoka Tecton X 2 for men and Hoka Tecton X 2 for women
- Speedy and smooth shoe for shorter to mid-distance trail races (think up to a 25k or so)
- The new Matryx upper is more flexible, durable, and comfortable than the previous version
- Good enough traction for most terrain
- Carbon plate offers incredible uphill propulsion
- The previous pair started falling apart for those with wider feet at around 300 miles
- Running hard down steep, technical descents can feel overly wild with the aid of the carbon plate
The first time I ran in the original version of Hoka’s Tecton X, I literally couldn’t stop smiling. Hoka’s first trail shoe with carbon plates, the Tecton X, is responsive, fast, and a helluva lot of fun. My only complaint with the original model is after 300 miles, the upper started ripping from the midsole, creating a gap for the outside portion of my foot. I’m guessing Hoka received this feedback from others because the significant upgrade to this year’s model is a new upper material called Matryx, which Hoka says is hydrophobic and will help repel water and trail debris. At the time of publication, we’ve put over 200 miles on the Tecton X 2, and so far, they seem sturdier than the previous version.
The Vibram Megagrip with Litebase outsoles is solid for most terrain and trail surfaces, but there are better options for super loose or technical terrain. The upshot? The Tecton X 2 are your ideal shoes for trail races of up to 25 kilometers, speed workouts, and speedy long runs.
Check out our full review of the Hoka Tecton X 2 here.
Claimed Heel Stack Height: 30 millimeters | Claimed Forefoot Stack Height: 25 millimeters | Claimed Drop: 5 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 9.1 ounces
Best Road Racing: Hoka Rocket X 2 (all gender)
- Performs like a “super shoe”
- Rocker and carbon plate are incredibly responsive
- Lightweight and good fit
- Almost feels like too much bounce — like it’ll catapult you from the road
- Upper started flaking paint after one run (see photo and notes below)
If the Clifton is the road version of the Speedgoat, the Rocket X 2 is the road version of the Tecton X 2. This teched-out racing super shoe is a ton of fun and pairs nicely with the Clifton in a shoe quiver. It’s an ideal racing and speed workout shoe that perfectly complements the Clifton’s steady everyday training style. The meat of the Rocket X 2 design is its propulsive carbon plate between two layers of PEBA foam, resulting in a fast shoe that actually feels more comfortable as the pace increases.
This has been my go-to shoe this winter and spring for speed workouts and long runs when I know I’ll want to throw in some pickups or alternating miles. They have bounce and handled well for at least 18 miles. While I haven’t personally taken them past that distance, I could for sure see them as ideal marathon shoes. As a bonus, the synthetic mesh upper does an excellent job of form-fitting around the foot for a secure ride even as you sprint. Our one qualm is that the stack height of 36 millimeters is almost too much. Almost.
Claimed Heel Stack Height: 36 millimeters | Claimed Forefoot Stack Height: 31 millimeters | Claimed Drop: 5 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 7.7 ouncesShop the Hoka Rocket X 2 (all gender)
Best Road-to-Trail Hybrid: Hoka Challenger 7 for men and Hoka Challenger 7 for women
- Increased stack height and new foam have boosted the cushion and comfort
- Outsoles were inspired by gravel tires and handle multiple types of terrain well
- Some reviewers claim they wear down quickly, but we haven’t had that problem yet
Brands can change models of shoes at a frustrating rate, especially if you really love a specific model and they mess up the upgrades. But occasionally, brands will nail the updated model. That’s what happened with the Challenger ATR 7. Living near a trail system, I often run a mile or two of roads to and from the trailhead near my house, so I love a solid road-to-trail hybrid shoe. The Challenger ATR 6 was not that. It felt heavy, and rigid, and didn’t have the cushion I’ve learned to love Hokas for. It’s a relief that they’ve made big improvements for this version.
Hoka has simplified its upper while adding a new foam and increasing the stack height of the Challenger ATR 7 to 31 millimeters at the heel to create a much more comfortable and pleasant ride. The brand also changed its outsole, including mild four-millimeter lugs. Some commenters on sites like REI claim the rubber outsole has durability issues. I have nearly 300 miles on mine with basically no issues (see picture below) but figured we should mention it.
Claimed Heel Stack Height: 31 millimeters | Claimed Forefoot Stack Height: 26 millimeters | Claimed Drop: 5 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 9.0 ounces
Best for Tempo Workouts (Road): Hoka Mach X for men and Hoka Mach X for women
- They can also double as everyday trainers
- Very comfy and responsive
- Not great for recovery runs
Hoka took its Mach series and gave it a significant upgrade with the Mach X. If you’ve been paying attention at all to technological improvements in road running and racing shoes, the most significant upgrade of this shoe will not be a surprise. Hoka added a carbon plate to make a snappier version of previous Mach models, creating a shoe suited more for faster workouts and runs. Hoka employs the same ProFlyX construction in the midsole that’s found in the Tecton X 2 and Rocket X 2, while also adding its early stage Metarocker.
The creel jacquard upper is comfy, and we also appreciate the extra padding on the shoe’s tongue, which helps prevent any soreness from lacing them up securely. If you’re looking to add one road Hoka shoe to your rotation, this one is probably the most versatile, although we did find it difficult for recovery runs as it is too easy to speed up your turnover in these. But, if you’re looking for the ultimate Hoka road trifecta of shoes, the Clifton 9 or Bondi 8 would be your recovery shoe, the Mach X your tempo and workout shoe, and the Rocket X 2 your race shoe.
Heel Stack Height: 39 (men’s)/37 (women’s) millimeters | Forefoot Stack Height: 34 (men’s)/32 (women’s) millimeters | Drop: 5 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 9.1 ounces
Best for Stability (Road): Hoka Arahi 6 for men and Hoka Arahi 6 for women
- Lightweight and responsive during faster efforts
- Comfort right out of the box — no break-in period
- Could be a bit overly stiff and tough to fit for wider feet — we suggest getting the wide version
The Arahi is Hoka’s main stability road shoes that our testers also took on flat dirt and gravel roads. Hoka’s J-Frame construction will help prevent overpronation, and while the brand claims the build doesn’t add much stiffness, we felt it did add some stiffness to the shoe, especially compared to the Clifton. But that’s something you’ll likely need to compromise on when opting for an ultra-stable shoe.
At 9.2 ounces, the shoe is a bit heavier than the Clifton and the Rocket X 2, but it is lighter than the Bondi 8 (below). The early-stage meta-rocker helps provide a smooth and fun ride.
Heel Stack Height: Not listed | Forefoot Stack Height: Not listed | Drop: 5 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 9.2 ounces
Best for Max Cushion (Road): Hoka Bondi 8 for men and Hoka Bondi 8 for women
- Very plush ride
- Excellent for easy and recovery runs
- A lot of shoe and heavier than others on the list
Looking for a recovery run shoe? The Bondi 8 has you covered. This maximal cushion shoe features new ultralight foam, a memory foam collar, and a heel crash pad. The result is a feeling that you’re truly wrapping your feet in … well, memory foam. This shoe is a bit too much for me and is heavier than almost every other shoe on the list, but they serve a purpose. If you’re looking for a neutral shoe that is comfortable, durable, and has some extra cushion, it’s a good one. Put another way, the Bondi 8 was key for getting my 63-year-old father through his first half-marathon training and across the finish line.
Heel Stack Height: 31 millimeters | Forefoot Stack Height: 27 millimeters | Drop: 4 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 10.8 ounces
Best for Technical Terrain (Trail): Hoka Mafate Speed 4 for men and Hoka Mafate Speed 4 for women
- Rugged shoes that can handle a lot of terrains and trail types
- Excellent grip
- High stack height and lots of cushion make them on the heavy side
We still recommend the Speedgoat 5 as Hoka’s best overall trail running shoe, the Challenger 7 for spending time on roads and trails or for a gravel or dirt road shoe, and the Tecton X 2 as a trail racing shoe. But if you’re looking for a shoe for super technical terrain, we recommend the Mafate Speed 4.
The Mafate’s newest version features a jacquard mesh upper, Hoka’s ProFly+ midsole, and a toe bumper — all features aimed at providing a comfortable and protected ride. But what sets this shoe apart even more from others on this list is the combination of the ProFly+ midsole, which is usually found on Hoka’s road shoes, and Vibram Megagrip outsole with Litebase and traction lugs. You’re basically getting the comfort and responsiveness of the Rocket X 2, Zinal 2, Tecton X 2, or Mach 5 with the traction of the Speedgoat 5 and some bonus rock protection — all good things.
Heel Stack Height: 33 millimeters | Forefoot Stack Height: 29 millimeters | Drop: 4 millimeters | Actual Weight (men’s 9): 10.1 ounces
Comparing the Best Hoka Running Shoes
|Hoka Speedgoat 5
|Hoka Clifton 9
|Hoka Tecton X 2
|Hoka Rocket X 2
|Hoka Challenger 7
|Hoka Mach X
|Hoka Arahi 6
|Hoka Bondi 8
|Hoka Mafate Speed 4
Glossary of Running Shoe Terms
While we tried to be non-technical and avoid jargon in describing the shoes in this guide, there are some terms common to the road running and trail running world that those new to it might not know.
- Heel-to-Toe Drop (or just Drop) — Heel-to-toe drop refers to the difference in height from the heel to the toe of a shoe. Currently, heel-to-toe drop in trail shoes varies from none to 12 millimeters. Some runners prefer the natural movement of no drop, while the same can irritate the lower legs of long-time runners used to traditional running shoes with drops of 8 to 12 millimeters. Plenty of trail shoe models offer moderate drops of 4 to 8 millimeters.
- Lugs — Lugs refer to the protrusions of material on the bottom of an outsole. While road running shoes often have minimal lugs, trail shoes generally have lugs that are three- to six-millimeters deep. Some trail shoes designed specifically for muddy conditions can have lugs as deep as eight to 12 millimeters! Take a look at our full best trail running shoes for mud guide for the luggiest of trail shoes.
- Midsole — This is the spongy component between an outsole and your foot. These days, midsoles are made from a wide variety of “foams” and range from minimal thickness to nearly three centimeters of material.
- Outsole — This is the bottom-most layer of a shoe that contacts the ground. It’s generally a rubber or rubber-like compound.
- Rock Plate — The rock plate is a layer of deformation-resistant material, whether a plastic sheet, carbon plate, or other, that sits somewhere between the outsole and the sock liner. The rock plate’s purpose is to prevent injury to the bottom of the foot as rocks or roots push through the shoe from below. Rock plates vary in length from the full length of a shoe to the forefoot only.
- Toebox — The toebox is the forward cavity of a shoe where your toes go. Toe boxes tend to be narrower in trail shoes aimed at faster or more technical running, while many runners prefer roomier toe boxes as the length of their runs increases to multiple hours. For wider-than-usual toeboxes, check out the Altra Lone Peak 7, Altra Olympus 5, or Topo Ultraventure Pro.
How to Choose: A Buyer’s Guide for Hoka Running Shoes
Road Versus Trail Shoes
We provided both road and trail shoe options in this roundup, so the first thing to consider and decide is if you’ll spend most of your time on or off the pavement. If the answer is on pavement, we recommend going with the Clifton 9 as an all-around solid trainer for roads. If trails are your jam, opt for the Speedgoat 5 or Mafate Speed 4. Swapping between roads and trails? The Challenger 7 is an excellent hybrid.
What’s the difference between road and trail shoes? Think of it like bike tires. Road bike tires are smooth and designed for quicker movement over smooth surfaces. Mountain bike tires, however, feature lugs that help them grip on dirt, rocks, and mud. Likewise, trail running shoes will have lugs for grip and sometimes rock plates for extra protection from sharp objects like rocks. They’ll be overkill for the road but necessary for the dirt.
Born as an antithesis to the minimalist movement, Hoka’s ethos is in its maximal cushion. But not surprisingly, not all of Hoka’s shoes feature the same amount or even type of cushion. Some, like the Speedgoat 5, feature compression-molded EVA foam, while others, like the Rocket X 2 and Mafate Speed 4, include the ProFly material.
If you’re looking for a road shoe with maximum cushion, opt for the Bondi 8. For moderate cushioning, go for the Clifton 9 or Arahi 6. And if you’re looking for less cushion but more responsiveness, the Rocket X 2 is for you. The Speedgoat 5 and Challenger 7 offer moderate cushioning for trail shoes, while the Mafate Speed 4 is a comparatively lower-cushioned shoe.
Stack Height and Drop
Measured at the heel and toe, stack height is simply the distance between your foot and the ground, or the amount of material between the bottom of your foot and the ground. The difference between the heel’s stack height and the toe’s stack height is the drop. So if a shoe has a 33-millimeter heel height and a 28-millimeter toe height, the drop is 5 millimeters.
Not surprisingly, Hoka’s shoes generally have higher stack heights, with the heel stack heights on this list ranging between 30 and 36 millimeters, but they generally have mid-range drops — mainly 4 or 5 millimeters. Drops typically range between 0 and 12 millimeters in running shoes.
Running shoes — Hokas included — generally have three different materials: rubber outsoles, foam midsoles, and mesh uppers. Different materials work for different types of running. For example, you’ll probably see tougher and stickier rubber used on trail running outsoles than road running outsoles. The foam will often be the same between road and trail shoes, but the uppers of trail shoes might have tougher or thicker mesh to protect from debris compared to road running shoes, which are more minimalistic.
Price and Durability
Running shoes are expensive these days, and Hokas are no different. The shoes on this list range from $140 for the Arahi 6 to $250 for the Rocket X 2, which is standard for any high-quality running shoe. Still, shoes go on sale often, especially when a brand phases out a previous model. If budget is a significant factor, keep your eyes peeled for deals when shoes begin getting phased out. If you know you really like a specific model and it goes on sale, stock up.
Overall, the durability of Hokas is strong, which improves their value. I have no problem reaching the 500-mile range, which is probably too much, on most pairs of Hokas. One way to increase your shoe’s longevity is to rotate between a few pairs. You can also remove the insole after running and wipe it down with a cloth to remove dirt, grime, and other debris that could wear them down quicker.
Lugs are the protrusions you find on the bottom of your shoes and are often between three to six millimeters tall on trail shoes. You generally won’t be measuring lugs in millimeters on road shoes. Shoes designed for mud, ice, and slush might have lugs up to 10 millimeters. But lugs in the three- to six-millimeter range will work for most conditions.
Why You Should Trust Us
The iRunFar team includes road, trail, and ultrarunners with collectively 150-plus years of running experience. We drew upon their expertise and experience with Hoka running shoes to put this buyer’s guide together. Author Nathan Allen is a former collegiate track and cross-country athlete who can’t seem to let the running dream die. He consistently logs miles and has run in different models of Hokas for a decade. His current rotation includes the Clifton 9 and Rocket X 2 for roads and the Mafate Speed 4, Challenger 7, and Tecton X 2 for trails. He’s put at least 100 miles on each shoe in this guide, and some of them nearly 500 miles.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hoka Running Shoes
What is the best Hoka to run a marathon in?
For a road marathon, we highly recommend the Rocket X 2. They’re the closest thing you’ll find to a super shoe from Hoka but are not to the level of Nike’s Vaporfly, Asics’ Metaspeed Sky, or Saucony’s Endorphin Elite. Still, if you want to run a fast road marathon and want to wear Hoka’s, the Rocket X 2 is probably the best option.
The other option is the Clifton 9. If you value comfort over time in a road marathon, opt for the Clifton 9. And if a trail marathon is in your plans, the Speedgoat 5 is an excellent choice. The Tecton X 2 could also work, but that’d be the upper limits of its distance capabilities.
What’s the deal with Hoka shoes? Why are they so popular?
Hoka shoes have gained popularity for their maximum cushion construction. Aging, and some younger, runners have gravitated toward the brand for shoes that make the ground a little softer, thanks to all that extra cushion. They’ve gained even more popularity among people who spend a lot of time working on their feet, like nurses and others in the medical field. Many Hokas, including the Clifton 9, have earned the American Podiatrist Medical Association Seal of Acceptance, which is given to shoes that promote good foot health.
What are Hoka shoes good for?
Hoka shoes are good for running! Depending on the model, they can be good for running either on roads and trails, or both. Hoka also makes hiking shoes and boots. And the brand’s running shoes will also be good options for people that spend a lot of time on their feet in their daily lives.
Do I need a Hoka road shoe or a trail shoe?
Why not both? Unless you run exclusively on roads or trails, having a few road- and trail-specific shoes in your rotation is good. If you primarily run on trails, opt for a trail shoe. And if you primarily run on roads, opt for a road shoe. The other option is to use the Challenger 7, which is Hoka’s best road and trail hybrid shoe.
Call for Comments
- What are your favorite Hoka running shoes?
- Which Hoka running shoes should’ve been included on this list?