It’s hard to believe that this is my first review of a Hoka shoe given how popular the lineup of Hoka trail shoes has been over the past few years. The first few early models of Hokas I tried on just didn’t seem stable enough for my intended use. The tall stack heights combined with soft cushioning had me feeling fearful of turning an ankle. My opinions have changed dramatically in the last year, due to the number of miles I’ve logged in the Speedgoat 2/3 and the EVO Mafate. The EVO Mafate has turned out to be my favorite and most used trail shoe over the past few months, and I’ll be sharing my detailed experience in this review.
The Hoka EVO Mafate is a max cushion trail shoe with 34mm of cushion in the heel and 30mm of cushion in the forefoot. Although the midsole is plush, it maintains impressive stability and responsiveness on rugged trails. For the outsole of the EVO Mafate, Hoka combines Vibram MegaGrip with a thoughtful lug pattern that will handle any trail conditions you’re likely to encounter.
Size, Weight, and Fit
The Hoka EVO Mafate fits true to size for my size 12 US foot, and comes in right around 12 ounces (10.4oz for 9 US). When you see a picture of the EVO Mafate, it’d be easy to assume that the shoe will feel heavy and clunky underfoot. My experience has been the exact opposite. This shoe disappears on my feet and is a real joy to wear on tough and steep runs and hikes.
The heel of the EVO Mafate is snug and precise. The heel collar is a little tall and stiff, but breaks in nicely after 20 or so miles. This high and stiff counter helps offset the instability of a higher heel stack height, and is a part of what has made this shoe so impressive for me on technical trails.
The midfoot of the EVO Mafate is a standard D width with an average amount of volume. The EVO Mafate provides a snug and secure fit through the entire midfoot without any hot spots or unwanted pressure points. I also find my foot stays locked down on all but the most off-kilter trails.
The toebox on the EVO Mafate is a mixed bag for me. The fit and last are spot on, with a slightly more spacious and anatomical fit than the Speedgoat. The toebox on the EVO Mafate is more akin to the Challenger lineup. The downside is that the MATRYX upper fabric caused me to have a few hotspots on my toes before fully breaking in.
The upper is constructed of a fabric Hoka is calling MATRYX, which uses strands of Kevlar to provide stability, protection, and durability. As I alluded to above, this material is slightly rough to the touch, and can cause hotspots until the shoe fully breaks in. Once broken in, the MATRYX is nothing short of phenomenal. It allows the EVO Mafate to go fully immersed in water with virtually no absorption and has very quick drainage. I’ve been going hard on this pair of EVO Mafates for a few months now, and the upper still looks really good.
The EVO Mafate uses a non-gusseted microfiber tongue that is really comfortable and stays put. The tongue is a little too short though, and if I use a lace lock technique with the top eyelets, the knot will rest right at the top of the tongue fabric. Hopefully the next version of the EVO Mafate adds a little bit of length here.
As you can see, there isn’t much in the way of a toe guard on this shoe, but the high stack height and toe spring seem to keep my toes out of harm’s way. I’ve yet to have a bad stub so far, but that could just be me being lucky.
The arch of the stock insole of the EVO mafate was a little too high for my foot, and was rubbing a bit on longer runs. It wasn’t a huge concern, but I swapped it out after about 50 miles.
The midsole of the Hoka Evo Mafate is built on a 4mm drop with 34mm in the heel and 30mm in the forefoot. The midsole is built with a rocker geometry which really helps provide a smooth ride on long descents. The top gradient colored layer of the midsole is made of EVA, and the thin bottom blue layer is made of Hoka’s R-Bound (EVA/rubber blend) for an increase in responsiveness and stability.
What I love most about Hoka shoes is the way they absorb the shock and impact of running and hiking on terrain that used to leave my legs feeling shot. I can hit a 12 mile run in these Hoka’s, and my legs will feel like I only went out for a 5k. This is true of other Hoka models as well, but the firm R-Bound layer on the EVO Mafate also makes it suitable for wear on more technical trails. I can hit rooted, rocky, and rutted tracks with full confidence that my ankles will still be in one piece at the bottom of the trail.
For the outsole of the EVO Mafate, Hoka uses a combination of exposed R-Bound midsole and strategically placed Vibram Mega-Grip. The outsole pattern consists of a combination of chevron, trapezoid, and L-shaped lugs. As much as I’ve enjoyed the midsole of the EVO Mafate, the outsole is the shoe feature that really won me over. My only long term Hoka experience in the past was with a pair of Challengers, and they left me very underwhelmed. I’ve since done a lot of running and hiking on rocky trails with deep ruts and techinical stretches in the EVO Mafate, and have yet to lose my footing due to the shoe.
We’ve had an unusually wet winter here in California, which has made for muddy and slick trails. The EVO Mafates have been really impressive in these conditions with their ability to shed mud and bite into loose terrain.
The Hoka EVO Mafate has been a workhorse for me and has made me a Hoka convert. The energy savings on-trail and recovery claims, post-run, are very real from my experience. The Kevlar laced MATRYX upper sheds water, dries quickly, and is very durable. The only downside is that the materials can feel a little rough until broken in. The EVA and R-Bound midsole feels great underfoot, but still provides the stability required for more technical terrain. The Vibram MegaGrip outsole works on just about any trail you can imagine, and has kept me on my feet on some really slick trail outings. If you’re looking for a max cushion shoe with a stable, but forging ride, make sure to give the EVO Mafates a try. At $170, they don’t come cheap. The durability and performance make up for the steep asking price though, so I give them my full recommendation.
If you’re looking for a max cushion shoe that is similar to the EVO Mafate, but has a softer underfoot ride, the Speedgoat 3 is a great option. It has the same great Vibram MegaGrip outsole, a slightly narrower fit, and a more comfortable upper.