Hoka Odyssey Review

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The Hoka Odyssey can be thought of as the mass market version of the Hoka Clifton, which is deservedly one of the best-selling running shoes. While the Odyssey is a great shoe, and is close to the wonderful Clifton, it falls slightly short and I prefer the Clifton (original or 2). However, the mass market availability of the Odyssey may make it easier to find. I've rated it as "Highly Recommended" (and it came close to my highest rating of "Best of the Best.") (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 Odyssey top
Hoka Odyssey bottom
Hoka Odyssey inside
Hoka Odyssey outside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Odyssey has a high level of cushioning, with the soft ride that Hoka is famous for. The only shoes with more cushioning that I've tested are the Clifton 2, Hoka Bondi, Hoka Stinson, and Hoka Mafate. The cushioning of the Odyssey is wonderful given its weight, and the only shoe that does better in this class is the Clifton 2, and then only slightly.
  • Drop. The Odyssey has about an 8mm drop unloaded, but when the shoe is worn this is reduced to 5mm, which is still a little more than I'd like. (The Clifton 2 is nearly zero drop.)
  • Structure. This shoe is made of a single type of foam, though it is colored to appear like there are two different foams in use. The Odyssey has a less abrupt taper at the very front of the shoe than the Hoka Bondi, even though both claim to have Hoka's "early meta-rocker." The rear of the shoe is also tapered, creating a rocker shape that's common to the Hoka range. The midsole wraps around the lower part of the foot to create additional stability. This helps overcome some of the problems you get with a thick sole creating a stilt like instability.
  • Flexibility. The Odyssey is reasonably flexible for shoe of this thickness, but is slightly less flexible than the Clifton.
  • Outsole. The Odyssey has some exposed midsole, with some durable rubber in high friction areas. The durable rubber is placed in much better positions than it is in the Bondi, improving the life of the shoe. In fact, the midsole that is in contact with the ground seems to be remarkably durable, probably because it is in not in the high impact areas.
  • Shape. The Odyssey has the typical Hoka shape, which includes a horribly constricted toe box. I've noticed at Ultras the Hoka toe box causes 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 reasonably thin, breathable, and inflexible, with reasonable padding around the ankle opening.
  • Tongue. The Odyssey has a classic tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper. The tongue is unpadded and a little stiffer than I'd like. While the tongue appears identical to the original Clifton, it's not so comfortable. (The Clifton 2 has a nicely padded tongue.)
  • Lacing. The Odyssey uses thin round laces that do not want to stay tied, and annoyed me immensely. The laces are not elasticated like the Clifton 2.
  • Heel Counter. The Odyssey has only a modest heel counter that is both useless and harmless.

2 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.

3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Hoka Odyssey

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

4 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

4.1 Odyssey and the Original Hoka Clifton

The Odyssey looks almost identical to the Hoka Clifton, but they are not the same shoe. On close inspection the Odyssey looks more like the original Clifton than the Clifton 2, with less ankle padding and an unpadded tongue. I had no problems with the original Clifton's tongue, but the Odyssey irritated my ankle on a couple of occasions. The Odyssey has a slightly thicker midsole, with slightly more drop, but the foam is also slightly firmer. The Clifton is also more than an ounce lighter, so while the Odyssey is a great shoe, the original Clifton is noticeably better.

Hoka Odyssey top
Hoka Odyssey bottom
Hoka Odyssey inside
Hoka Odyssey outside
Hoka Clifton 1 top
Hoka Clifton 1bottom
Hoka Clifton 1 inside
Hoka Clifton 1 outside
helping-hand.jpg

4.2 Odyssey and the Hoka Clifton 2

The differences between the Odyssey and the second Clifton are slightly greater. The Clifton 2 has a nicer upper, with more padding and slightly elasticated laces, which make the Clifton 2 noticeably more comfortable. The cushioning of the Clifton 2 is softer even though it's lighter. The weight difference between the Odyssey and Clifton 2 is less than between the Odyssey and the original Clifton (about a third of an ounce), but lighter is always better.

Hoka Odyssey top
Hoka Odyssey bottom
Hoka Odyssey inside
Hoka Odyssey outside
Hoka Clifton 2 top
Hoka Clifton 2 bottom
Hoka Clifton 2 inside
Hoka Clifton 2 outside
helping-hand.jpg

4.3 Odyssey and the Hoka Mafate

The Hoka Mafate is a much heavier, thicker shoe than the Odyssey, with greater cushioning in the heel. For use on roads or stony trails, I'd choose the Odyssey (or better the Clifton) every time as it's so much lighter. However, the Mafate has a wonderful outsole that gives enormous confidence on pretty much any surface. The Mafate will work on everything from road to mud to slick rock, so if you need a true trail shoe, go for the Mafate.

Hoka Odyssey top
Hoka Odyssey bottom
Hoka Odyssey inside
Hoka Odyssey outside
Hoka Mafate Speed top
Hoka Mafate Speed bottom
Hoka Mafate Speed inside
Hoka Mafate Speed outside
helping-hand.jpg

4.4 Odyssey and the Asics GT 2000

I like to compare shoes against the Asics GT 2000 as it represents the traditional running shoe. The GT 2000 is over engineered and includes many things I dislike in traditional running shoes. These excessive features go against The Science of Running Shoes and are more likely to cause problems than solve them. The GT 2000 is nearly 50% heavier than the Odyssey, but provides far less cushioning. I can think of no advantage the GT 2000 has over the Odyssey, and I'd choose the Odyssey every time.

Hoka Odyssey top
Hoka Odyssey bottom
Hoka Odyssey inside
Hoka Odyssey outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

trophy-winner.jpg

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 is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • 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. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • 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
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 8.3 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 7.2 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.