The Hoka Speed Instinct was at the very top of my “10 More Exciting Lightweight Hiking Shoes for 2016” from last month. The Speed Instinct is finally available and I’m excited to share my first impressions. Hoka has been growing each and every year in popularity since their max-cushioned trainers debuted a few years ago. I’ve been a big fan of Hokas for road running, but always felt that the max stack heights in the Hoka midsoles caused way too much instability on trails, akin to being on stilts. Lately, Hoka has been releasing a number of models much more in tune to my running shoe preferences, still with great cushion, but much less of it. The Speed Instinct falls into this category with 26mm in the heel and 23mm in the forefoot.
Fit And Feel:
I ordered the Speed Instinct in a size 12.5 and it fits perfectly. The heel and midfoot is precise and snug, and the toe box is very comfortable. This is a nice change for me, as I’ve found Hokas to run a little narrow through the midfoot and toebox on other models. The shoe is pretty light, and listed at 8.4oz in a size 9. I’m not a big stickler for measured weight and care more about the feel. The Speed Instinct feels nice and nimble when laced up. I had problems with the blistering of my arches in the Hoka Clayton a few months ago due to some rough sandpaper like materials used on the inside of the shoe. The Speed Instinct is much different, with a very soft and friction free liner. The only downside with the feel of the Speed Instinct is the thickness of the upper which I’ll mention below. These shoes run pretty hot. It’s been close to 100F more days than not this month, so this is something I really notice. In a month or two, I’m sure the thicker uppers will be an afterthought. The Speed Instinct has a nice stable heel counter and a heel pocket that holds the foot nicely without creating friction or hot spots. Overall, the fit and feel of the Speed Instinct is top notch, and there isn’t much I would change.
The upper of the Speed Instinct is an air mesh with a weblike welded overlay. The welded overlay was a great design choice, and in my opinion looks really cool.I really like how Hoka inverted the colors of the overlay on the toe cap. The overlays also give a precise and stable feel that starts at the midsole and extends to the laces. I haven’t been able to put many miles on the Speed Instinct yet, but the overlay also looks to add some added durability. The combination of the overlay and mesh upper don’t breathe as well as I’d like on hot days. My feet felt a little swampy on my first run in these. I’m thinking this will go away as the temperatures start to dip in the Fall.
The Speed Instinct has a well padded tongue that is not gusseted. A shoe not having a gusseted tongue used to be a deal breaker for me, but I got over it with the Nike Wildhorse 3. A little more debris will get in without the gusset, but it’s not too difficult to deal with. The flat laces work well with nicely places grommets to keep my foot in place without any pinching or pressure points.
The midsole is one of my favorite parts of the Speed Instinct, where Hoka is using two separate compounds. Hoka calls this dual density midsole Pro2Lite, with a soft heel and a firmer and more responsive forefoot. This is a great combination for my trail running and hiking preferences, as I love a firm forefoot when pushing uphill, but a softer heel when heading downhill. The Speed Instinct also uses Hoka’s rocker geometry that makes for a smooth and fluid ride on trails. The stability of this midsole is what I’m really liking the most though. I tried to run in the Mafate a while back, and I almost left both ankles out on the trail. The Speed Instinct is a much better overall experience, similar to the Phylon and Zoom Air combination found in the Nike Wildhorse 3.
As I mentioned above, the Speed Instinct has a 3mm drop with 25mm in the heel and 22mm in the forefoot.
Hoka uses a single compound high abrasion carbon rubber for the outsole with trapezoidal lugs around the perimeter of the shoe, and H shaped lugs through the forefoot. The lugs have proved pretty dependable thus far, and the outsole shows not signs of wear. The problem I’m having with the outsole of the Speed Instinct is the lack of a rockplate and vulnerability of the outsole cutouts to exposed midsole. I’m sure the cutouts in the outsole lighten the overall weight of the shoe and increase the heel to toe flexibility, but after my first few outings, I think it was a bad choice. At the very least, Hoka should have added Profeel Film type of rock protection like Salomon. As is, I’ve been feeling stones and rocks push through from the heel and forefoot. This isn’t really an issue on shorter runs and hikes, but I can imagine my feet getting a little beat up if I chose this shoe for a long weekend outing.
I really love the fit and feel of the Speed Instinct and think it’s a great trail shoe for a variety of conditions. I wish the upper was a little more breathable, but that I can live with. Time will tell if the lack of rockplate protection will leave my feet wanting more on longer days. If you’re a fan of Hoka, but have been looking for a shoe a little more nimble and responsive, this is probably the model for you.