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(The Gear Loop) - Those keeping apace with the trail-running shoe scene will know the Speedgoat is arguably Hoka’s most well-known trail shoe. Now enjoying its fifth generation, Hoka has tweaked the formula to create a comfortable and grippy trail beast, but it’s not the only off-road shoe in the line-up.

The Mafate Speed is a member of its off-road collection that’s built for runners who want to run or race bigger distances, over technical terrain, without eschewing superior grip, foot protection and the sort of responsive cushioning that gets you there in relative comfort.

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The Mafate Speed 4 seeks to make some useful changes over previous Mafate iterations, dropping on a new upper to provide a more secure fit, a new midsole to deliver a responsive ride and a tweaked outsole to make sure it can grip on all terrain.

In terms of price, it’s more expensive than the Speedgoat 5 and sits just below Hoka’s carbon fibre-packing Tecton X, adopting a neat middle ground between all-out speed and additional comfort for all-day trail mastery.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 8
Our quick take

The Hoka Mafate Speed 4 goes big on protection and grip and adds in a new midsole that makes getting from A to B a smooth and stable experience. It’s still one for long distance trail runners that like to tackle technical trails, and while we’d say the Speedgoat 5 feels like a more enjoyable all-round shoe, the Mafate Speed 4 has plenty going for it, especially if lacing up for a long stint running into the wilderness.

Hoka Mafate Speed 4 review: substantial tweaks make this a great choice for covering serious off-road miles

Hoka Mafate Speed 4

4.0 stars
For
  • Comfortable upper
  • Grippy outsole
  • Soft ProFly+ midsole foam
Against
  • Could be a touch lighter
  • Best suited to longer distances

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In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Hoka Mafate Speed 4 in short:

  • ProFly+ dual-density midsole
  • Vibram Megagrip outsole 
  • 5mm lugs
  • Woven jacquard upper
  • 241g in a UK size 9
  • Available in half sizes up to UK 13

Features

Like the previous Mafate shoes, the Speed 4 is designed for running and racing over tough, technical terrain and Hoka has made some tweaks and changes that are designed to boost things in the comfort, traction and ride departments.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 2

It essentially sits between Hoka’s Speedgoat 5 and speedier Tecton X, offering elements of both shoes, such as the early stage meta rocker you’ll find on the Tecton X and the Vibram Megagrip outsole found on the Speedgoat.

Hoka has chosen to leave a few elements alone, such as the 4mm drop that is just like the Speed 3, although it weighs in at 295g, which does mean it’s lighter than previous Mafate Speed shoes.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 5

The marque has switched things up in the upper department, introducing a woven jacquard fabric that’s designed to offer a more dynamic fit, which essentially means a more secure fit. That upper also seeks to protect with a rubber toe cap up front, a bolstered heel collar at the back and a gusseted tongue to help keep debris from the trails out.

The most dramatic changes lie in the midsole, where Hoka now uses a version of the ProFly+ midsole, which has already featured on its Mach 5 and Mach Supersonic road shoes. It’s a dual-density midsole that’s lighter than the EVA-based midsole used on the Speed 3.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 7

There’s now a softer top layer with firmer EVA foam underneath. Along with an early stage meta rocker, it is slated to deliver a more responsive ride with a bit more flex, yet still offers good protection for the legs over long distances.

Completing the shoe and keeping you on your feet is a Vibram Megagrip outsole with 5mm chevron-shaped lugs. These are positioned in a multidirectional manner, with thicker, blockier lugs joining them at the forefoot. 

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 6

While they don’t look like the longest lugs out there (some rivals offer 8mm), they will help keep you from slipping around surfaces with loose rocks, stones and even hold up in the rain.

Performance

We tested the Mafate Speed 4 in the scenic trail surroundings of Chamonix and also on terrain much closer to home in the UK, tackling local, hilly runs in South London with a mix of rocky and woody terrain, as well as running in dry and torrential wet conditions. The overriding feeling of running in the Speed 4 is that it feels like an amalgamation of a number of Hoka shoes.

The first is the Speedgoat 5, which offers something similar, particularly in terms of the grip you experience from the Speed 4’s outsole. It held strong on all of the terrain we put it up against and worked well navigating through and past big loose rocks and stones. We felt nimble on softer mud too, without any sort of slipping and sliding. 

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 3

Although the lugs don’t look particularly lengthy, they worked well moving from flatter to more bumpy, unpredictable surfaces, compressing nicely to stop them feeling hard under foot when you hit a smoother patch of your trail. Alas, you will feel their presence when you venture back onto the road.

Ultimately, It’s an outsole that feels like it is fit to last a good many miles and a big part why it’s so well suited to long distance runners.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 4

Unlike the Speedgoat, the dual-density make-up of the Speed 4’s midsole reminded us of the Mach 5. It’s soft without feeling plush underfoot and that meta rocker helps to provide a smooth ride, giving you the capability to pick up the pace.

That extra firm layer in the midsole means it provides great protection when spending hours pounding the trails. On a longer two-hour run, our legs felt as refreshed at the end as they did in the beginning and this is thanks, in part, to the constant feel of the shoe.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 9

We’d say the Speedgoat 5’s ride feels more enjoyable and feels a touch lighter to run in, but it’s arguably a less protected shoe compared to the Speed 4, which makes it better suited to more technical trails.

While you can pick up the pace in this shoe, we think it would be even nicer if it was a tad lighter. Shaving a bit more weight might make it feel a bit more of a nimble shoe to run in, though that might come at the expense of the protective elements.

The Gear LoopHoka Mafate Speed 4 review photo 10

The upper is definitely a highlight here and has elements of the Speedgoat 5 and the Tecton X in terms of how it feels on the foot.

There isn’t a wide fit option like there is on the Speedgoat, but our UK size 8 worked well on our narrow feet, offering a good amount of space in the toe box, a nice hold at the midfoot, while the padded tongue and laces offered a nice locked-down feel, without putting any pressure on the top of the foot. 

The swallow tail at the rear isn’t a feature we absolutely understand, but it looks like a hallmark of Hoka’s shoes that’s here to stay.

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To recap

The Hoka Mafate is definitely a trail shoe that you could turn to if planning to run or race over long distances. The outsole is built to last over big mileage and works well in looser, more technical terrain. The upper sits snug and now that Hoka has added in its ProFly+ midsole foam, it’s a shoe that can offer a softer ride than the previous Mafate Speed shoes, but also offer a good level of cushioned protection when you need it most. If strong protection, grip and comfort are priorities, this is a Hoka trail shoe that can deliver that.

Writing by Michael Sawh. Editing by Leon Poultney.