Hoka Mafate Speed Review

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Previous versions of the Mafate have been the most cushioned shoe in the Hoka range, as well as including an aggressive outsole for grip on soft trails. With the latest iteration of the Hoka range the cushioning of the Mafate, Stinson, and Bondi has become closer. The Mafate still has the most heel cushioning, but it's so close to the Bondi that it's hard to tell, even when wearing one on each foot. The forefoot cushioning of the Stinson Lite is slightly greater than the Mafate, but again it's close. Before, you might select the Mafate to get the Hoka with the most cushioning possible, but now the Mafate is best selected if you need the aggressive outsole. Update: I rated the original Mafate Speed reviewed here as "The Best of the Best", but it's been replaced by the Mafate Speed 2, which lacks the RMAT outsole. I've not tested the Mafate Speed 2, and probably won't. Cutting open the toe box of a trail shoe works in many conditions, but is less than ideal, so I'm tending to run trails in Altra shoes. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you'd buy it. You're after a Maximalist shoe with an aggressive outsole.
  • Cushioning. The Mafate has the high level of cushioning that made Hoka popular. The cushioning is similar to the latest versions of the Hoka Bondi and the Hoka Stinson.
  • Drop. Hoka claim the Mafate is a 4mm drop, but I measured it as only 1mm. I also measured the midsole as thicker than Hoka claim, so maybe they don't include the lugs in their measurements. The Mafate has a less abrupt taper at the very front of the shoe than the Bondi, but not as gentle as the Altra Olympus. The very rear of the shoe is cut away slightly to create a rocker shape that's almost identical to the Bondi. The midsole wraps around the lower part of the foot for additional stability, offsetting some of the problems of a thick sole creating a stilt like instability, which is especially a problem with a sole as thick as this.
  • Structure. This shoe is made of a single type of foam. (There is mention of using RMAT foam in the midsole, but I think that the RMAT is mostly limited to the outsole.)
  • Flexibility. The Mafate has no real flexibility, but it's so thick it deforms a little. It's the least flexible shoe I've come across, and similar to a hiking boot.
  • Outsole. The Mafate has aggressive lugs for grip on soft surfaces, and some of these are made of hard, durable rubber. However, most of the outsole is made of the softer RMAT foam, and I'm not sure how well this will wear. In the pictures above, the hard rubber is black and the RMAT is red. You can see that Hoka were concerned about the RMAT wearing as they added the harder rubber in the highest abrasion areas. The Mafate outsole is reasonably happy on roads, and the softness of the RMAT lugs is sticky, so it has great grip on most surfaces.
  • Shape. The Mafate has the typical Hoka shape, which includes a horribly constricted toe box. In fact, the Mafate seems a little worse than most Hokas. The Hoka toe box tends to cause a distinctive pattern of blisters, so it's critical to cut open the toe box of any Hokas. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is inflexible and has a little padding. It's not quite as breathable as I'd like, but it's not terrible. There are a few seams, but they should not cause problems. I found there is not enough padding around the ankle opening, which can dig in painfully if you start to twist your ankle (a common issue with Maximalist shoes on trails.)
  • Tongue. The Mafate has a tongue-less sock style of upper, but getting into the shoe is not as difficult as many shoes that use this approach. The tongue is quite thin and unpadded. The narrow speed laces didn't cause me a problem with the thin tongue, but it's something to be aware of when you try them.
  • Lacing. The Mafate uses their speed lacing system, but you can replace it with normal laces. These speed laces are thin, with a plastic locking mechanism rather than being tied. This can make it quicker to lace up the shoes, but I generally find it harder to get the tension right.
  • Heel counter. The Mafate has a moderate heel counter that's softer than I expected for such a large shoe. It's an external 'exoskeleton' approach that doesn't cause problems.

2 Mafate as a Trail Shoe

The Mafate is one of the best shoes I've come across for multiple surfaces.

  • It's quite at home when running on roads, as the lugs are soft enough that you're not really aware they are there.
  • On the soft stuff, the lugs provide good grip for mud or grass. By the time things are soft enough that I start to doubt the lugs I was sinking far enough to worry more about having the mud suck the shoes off my feet (which happened once.)
  • Over cobbles, the thick sole of the Mafate allow you to land on sharp points with impunity. On terrain where you'd have to pick your footing in thinner shoes you can hammer though with abandon.
  • Where the Mafate really shines is on flat rock surfaces that so often prove treacherous. The RMAT outsole provides more grip than any other shoe I've tried, even on wet rocks.

I've been surprised by just how much confidence the Mafate gives you on pretty much any surface. Hoka are planning on introducing a hiking boot version of the Mafate, which I'm looking forward to in a big way if they can design one with a toe box for humans.

3 Compared with the Earlier Mafate

Hoka has made a number of changes between the original Mafate and the Mafate Speed. The update is rather mixed, with some improvements and some declines. Initially I preferred the original version, but this update has really grown on me.

  • A large portion of the outsole is now made from the softer RMAT foam. The softness of the RMAT lugs does make them surprisingly sticky, so the new version has great grip on a wide variety of surfaces including even wet rock. They are also soft enough that the shoe works well on the road.
  • The upper is thinner and has far fewer seams, but is less padded.
  • The laces are now the Hoka "speed laces", which is probably why they added the "speed" suffix. You can use standard laces instead.
  • The toe box seems slightly worse, as it's even narrower.
  • The tongue is now attached to the upper, in a sock-style arrangement. This works a little better than the original.
  • The latest version includes an optional thinner insole that reduces the cushioning by 3-4mm, but increases the internal room. This is a nice way of tweaking the fit of the shoe, rather like a Replacement Insole.
Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside
Hoka Mafate 2 Low top
Hoka Mafate 2 Low bottom
Hoka Mafate 2 Low inside
Hoka Mafate 2 Low outside

4 Compared with the Hoka Clifton

While the Mafate has more cushioning, the Hoka Clifton is much lighter, and the weight difference translates to reduced effort for running. The Clifton will work quite well on rocky trails, but the Mafate is a far superior trail shoe. If you're running on asphalt, then chose the Clifton, but for trails or mixed use, the Mafate is better.

Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside
Hoka Clifton 2 top
Hoka Clifton 2 bottom
Hoka Clifton 2 inside
Hoka Clifton 2 outside

5 Compared with Altra Olympus

The Altra Olympus is much thinner, lighter, and more flexible than the Mafate. The Altra toe box is shaped for the human foot, and it's zero drop, which makes it better shoe. However the Olympus has nothing like the cushioning of the Mafate.

Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside
Altra Olympus top
Altra Olympus bottom
Altra Olympus inside
Altra Olympus outside

6 Compared with the Hoka Bondi/Stinson Lite

The Hoka Bondi and Hoka Stinson Lite have nearly as much cushioning as the Mafate, but are a little lighter. If you want more cushioning than the Clifton, I'd suggest either the Hoka Bondi or the Hoka Stinson Lite.

Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside
Hoka Bondi 4 top
Hoka Bondi 4 bottom
Hoka Bondi 4 inside
Hoka Bondi 4 outside
Hoka Stinson Lite top
Hoka Stinson Lite bottom
Hoka Stinson Lite outside

7 Compared with the Asics GT 2000

I like to compare shoes against the Asics GT 2000 as it represents the traditional running shoe, and the comparison may be useful if you're considering the Mafate instead of a more conventional shoe. Like many shoes, the GT 2000 is over engineered and includes many things that go against The Science of Running Shoes and are more likely to cause problems than solve them. The Mafate is thicker than the GT 2000, but the difference is mostly in the forefoot, as the Mafate is 10mm thicker there, but only 5mm thicker at the rear. However, the Mafate is much better cushioned, with a soft feeling that is a core part of a Maximalist shoe. The two shoes weigh nearly the same, so they'll slow you down by about the same amount. The Mafate has a far more aggressive outsole than the GT 2000. The Mafate has less drop than the GT 2000, but this is less noticeable when your weight is in the shoe.

Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

8 Dissection Gallery

Here are some images of the dissection of the earlier version of the Mafate.

The Mafate dissected.
Mafate and Hoka Bondi.
Mafate and Altra Olympus.
Mafate and Hoka Stinson.
Mafate and Hoka Clifton.
Hoka, like most shoe makers, does not seem to have ever seen a human foot.

9 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

10 Visualizing the Attributes of the Hoka Mafate

How Hoka Mafate compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Hoka Mafate compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Hoka Mafate compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Hoka Mafate compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

11 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes


If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 was my top pick, but the latest version (LT 4) falls short of it's predecessor. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills, but all have their weak spots. Probably the best option at the moment is the Altra Vanish-R, which offers great cushioning for just over 5oz/150g.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. For trail running, I've become a fan of Altra, and I think their best shoe is the the Altra Timp, though the Altra Lone Peak is really close.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
Benefit Weight
Loaded Drop
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Review Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X Review On Cloud CloudX Review Pending $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Altra King MT 1.5 Review Altra King MT Review Pending $140 4.1 10.7 20.8 19 21 -1 4.4 5
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Review Altra Lone Peak Highly Recommended $120 4.9 11.4 17.7 23 25 -2 5.6 4
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike LT3 Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Nike Zoom Streak LT 4 Review Nike LT4 Recommended $90 9.2 5.5 8.5 15 21 5 5.0 7
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Highly Recommended $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra Olympus 2.5 Review Altra Olympus Review Pending $150 6.9 11.8 18.4 34 34 2 8.2 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 9.5 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.0 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 5.7 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.5 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.5 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.2 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.3 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.6 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 13.4 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.4 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.6 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 4.7 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 7.6 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.0 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 4.9 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 3.9 8
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 8.0 10.0 15.6 24 29 3 8.0 4
Altra Solstice Review Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 6.6 8.1 12.5 23 25 1 5.3 6
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.7 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.7 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 6.9 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.0 0
Altra Superior 3.5 Review Altra Superior Review Pending $110 5.4 9.9 15.5 23 25 0 5.4 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.3 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 4.8 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Best of the Best $130 5.4 11.6 18.1 28 31 2 6.2 3
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.4 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.2 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 6.8 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.0 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.2 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.7 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.6 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.1 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.1 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.1 9
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.7 5.3 8.2 19 21 0 5.1 8
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.0 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.2 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 9.8 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.1 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 5.6 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 4.9 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.4 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.4 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.0 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 7.8 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 6.8 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.