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The HOKA EVO Mafate is the best ultra trail shoe for 2018/19. Find out why.

Posted by John Ellis on

Along with Jim Walmsley and Tim Tollefson, who nailed 1st and CR at Western States and 3rd UTMB respectively in their EVO Mafates, I was lucky enough to be part of the global beta testing team. While nowhere near the standard of these trail gods, I have so far clocked up 660km of mostly hard racing on these bad boys, on a good mix of rocky or hard packed trails, single track, stairs and road, and nabbed the odd podium here and there.

Photo credit: Taylor Ng, GreenRace HK, Viola Shum, Patrick Cheung, John Ellis

The Mafate was HOKA’s first release back in 2009 and was designed as an ultra trail shoe with maximum cushioning. It was great on downhills but rather stiff and clumpy, even later releases like the Mafate Speed 2. The Speedgoat 2 was an excellent long distance workhorse but never felt truly agile and the large footprint area could be clumsy when navigating tricky rocky sections.

This is where the EVO excels. Despite the monster stack height of 33mm / 29mm, which provides excellent cushioning and is a little taller than the Speedgoat 2, it is surprisingly nimble over technical terrain. I could feel a little torsioning when racing around corners at speed, but otherwise, stability is excellent on all surfaces, whether bombing down mud, steep descents or even stairs.

I’m a big fan of EVO’s Vibram Megagrip outsole. It’s super durable and provides excellent grip over wet slick rocks, which are the major slip risk here in Hong Kong. The 5mm lugs also work well in the mud but are also surprisingly smooth and responsive on the road. The Megagrip covers the key ground contact areas, are glued into inlays within the outsole, and I had no problems with separation, which can be an issue with the Challenger ATR series.

The new MATRYX upper is also a winner. While other brands can add heavy overlays, HOKA has woven Kevlar thread into a single piece of engineered mesh. It’s lighter and very durable. No more issues with little toe poke throughs, especially with the wider HOKA last, which is better for Asian runners. Even after 660km, the upper is almost good as new.

What’s not to like about the EVO? It’s really hard to say. It’s lighter and more agile than the Speedgoat 2, while grippier and more durable than the Challenger ATR 4. I’m just as happy doing a 10km road session as a trail miler in the EVOs, though would probably opt for a lighter, more minimal trail shoe for sub-30km races.

There’s always a trade-off between cushioning, responsiveness, weight and durability, but I think HOKA have nailed it with the EVOs, which weigh in at only 272g for US9M size. After almost 700km of running on mostly very hard surfaces underfoot in Hong Kong, I’ve managed to wear down the heel lugs, but the rest of the shoe is still in great condition.

The Men's HOKA EVO Mafate is HK$1,480 and available at Gone Running online here, or come into the shop for expert advice and fitting.


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3 comments

  • I would just ike to follow up on Christopher comment on the crease in the flex zone (in the front of the shoe). I have the the same problem with the Evo Mafates. The upper is simply to stiff and bends like cardboard, causing both chafing and mechanical pressure on the toe joints. After a 100 km in this shoes I am giving them up as I fear they will cause permanent damage. For a 190 euro shoe, this is simply not good enough.

    Erik on
  • Good review John. I love my speedgoat 2s and was really looking forward to trying the EVO Mafates. However, after my first long 25km run in them, I had serious chafing on the top of one of my toes of my left shoe. Unfortunately, when the shoe flexes, there is a crease in the new top which digs into the toe. Wearing a blister pad in the affected area solves the problem but it is not ideal. The shoe size is correct so I think this model just doesn’t work with the shape of my foot.

    Christopher Huang on
  • Thanks for the useful review John. I’ve been using a pair of Speedgoats 2 for the last few months and wondering if my next shoe could be the new Mafate? My feet are wide and I wonder what your thoughts are comparing these two shoes with respect to fitting?

    Guillermo Rocco on

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