REVIEW - Hoka Mafate Speed 4: Trail-Tested and Ultra-Worthy

The Mafate has always been a highly cushioned, rugged trail offering from Hoka, and while the shoe has been given a complete overhaul from top to bottom, its DNA is still very much the same. Hoka has finally looked to the future, parting ways from EVA for this update, and is now using ProFly construction in its midsole. This fancy schmancy midsole paired with new upper and Vibram Megagrip Litebase has all the makings of a shoe-of-the-year contender.
Now, I'm relatively new to the trail running scene; actually, my longest trail run to date was about 13 miles. BUT when I was told I would be getting to try out the Mafate, I just knew I had to put these bad boys through the ultimate test to see if these shoes live up to the hype. So, with very little preparation and the mindset of "it can't possibly be that hard," I took it point-to-point on the 31-mile Art Loeb Trail here in the Pisgah National Forest for my first ever 50K.
Now, while my body was in shambles, my spirit broken, and my pain threshold completely surpassed by the end, the shoes themselves held up quite nicely, and dare I say… I might be in love. The Mafate is my first Hoka trail shoe, and I have to say, it sets the bar incredibly high for the brand. However, I have some gripes with the relatively hefty price tag; so now the question is, is the shoe the price? Let's dig in.

  • Price- $185  
  • Weight- 10.40 oz men's size 9 | 8.5 oz women's size 7 
  • Drop- 4mm  
  • Midsole- Dual-density, with super critical ProFly+ top and ProFly base
  • Outsole- 5mm trail lugs, Vibram Megagrip Litebase
  • Upper- Jacquard mesh and fully gusseted tongue 
  • Cushion: Hoka is finally starting to move away from their traditional EVA foams, opting to use their all-new ProFly+ (same as what is found in the Mach 5 from their road lineup), which is lighter, softer, and tons more responsive than their traditional EVA, and boy does it make a difference. On top of that, it uses a dual-density midsole design to offer some structure to the incredibly soft top layer. Am I still going to complain that there should be a Hoka shoe with a giant slab of ProFly+? Yes. Is this still one of Hoka's best trail shoes to date, regardless of my not getting my way? Also yes. The shoe is bouncy and responsive while not feeling too firm for its own good. I was on my feet for nearly 10 hours of struggling bussing through a 50K, and despite all of that, I felt completely fine two days later. It has the cushion to go the distance and the bounce to push the pace. 
  • Grip: The real winner in this shoe is the grip. The Mafate uses Vibram's Megagrip Litebase, which provides the same fantastic grip for only a fraction of the weight. Now, I am not the most sure-footed trail runner in the world. I'm tall, lanky, and could slip on a strip of Velcro if not careful. And despite all that, I didn't slip or fall the entire time after putting this shoe through mud, slick rocks, and so…many… roots. I felt confident bombing the downhills and trusted the shoe to grip when needed. Now, the shoe does use a 5mm lug base, so as far as multifunctionality goes, while it still feels pretty decent on the roads (for a short amount of time), it's probably best to keep this bad boy on the trails for the majority of runs. 
  • Fit: This is going to be more subjective, but the shoe fits great! It reminds me a lot of the Mach 4 (which is still in my top 5 shoes of all time). The upper hugs your foot close without choking it, and after a few miles, the material seems to open up a little as your foot swells. It also has a fully gusseted tongue (which is now a must in all my shoes). I did need to lock down the shoe about halfway through the run, but after that, I had no more issues. The length is spot on - I am usually 11.5, and that size fits me perfectly, which again is very Mach 4-esque (I’ll never stop praising that shoe). As of now it’s still pretty new, so only time will tell if the upper starts to stretch and feel less secure, but with about 40 miles put on it, I have no complaints. 
  • Stability: While this isn't exactly what I meant when I wished for more stability in my life, it's not a bad starting point. With its wide base, insane grip, and dual-density construction, I never felt like I was in danger of rolling an ankle. This, considering the stack height, is VERY surprising. I mean, 33mm of stack is no joke. 
  • Price: The shoe is $185, which isn't TERRIBLE, but it's still a significant investment. And with the Speedgoat being $30 cheaper, it will make you think for a second before you buy. After putting it to the test, do I think it's worth the money? YES. But, do I also believe this shoe would sell out immediately if it were $15 cheaper? Absolutely. 
  • Weight: I know I'm probably being nit-picky here (I'm not sorry), but the shoe could be lighter. Hoka uses its lighter, bouncier ProFly+ foam and a Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole, giving the shoe all the tools to be a lightweight racer for ultra-distance; however, it gains all that weight back with its new upper - an incredibly padded tongue and thick jacquard mesh. I’m not saying it's terrible - the shoe still runs faster than its weight - but Hoka, if you are marketing it as a trail racer, I am sure you could have used a more racer-ready upper. I guess they had to give it some weakness. Honestly, a Speedgoat upper on that midsole would demolish. Hoka, have your people call my people . . . let's make this happen.  
Overall Thoughts:
In conclusion, this shoe has to be one of the best shoes - road or trail - that I have tried in a while. It's fun, secure, and in all honesty, it's good-looking. It's a great all-rounder and could be good for anything you do on the trails. While the price is a bit steep, I think it's a worthy investment, especially if long trail miles are up your alley.
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