10 Best Hoka Running Shoes for the Road, Trail & More (2024)

Best Hoka Running Shoes

Published on: September 15, 2023

The best Hoka running shoes that will cover all bases for your running needs: from city pavements to trail terrain.

Admittedly, I’ve always wanted to get more into running. I love hiking and being physically active. 

But with running, I’ve felt…well, heavy and slow. 

Then I started investigating the role of shoes in running.

Running is a total body exercise, but it requires your feet in particular to have the optimal setup for success. The best thing for that? Quality running shoes. 

Enter: Hoka sneakers. 

This brand has grown significantly in the running shoe industry. A Hoka shoe is often identifiable by its thick, boosted sole.

Hoka’s give your foot maximum cushioning while still creating a responsive ride. This makes them great running shoes for a variety of terrains and running styles.

Whether you need trail running shoes with reliable traction, or a stable and softer ride for long-distance running, a Hoka running shoe will be one of the best running shoes you can choose.  

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

Mimi looking at the skyline from a hiking lookout point above Berkeley, California while she wears her best Hoka running shoes.

Overview of Hoka Shoes 

Mimi jogging in her Hoka sneakers on a quiet road lined with cacti, juniper, and palms.

When two Frenchmen Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard founded Hoka, they had a common goal: to create a running shoe with a smooth ride while running down a mountain.

Specifically, Hoka founders wanted a running shoe to feel like they were flying.

The meaning behind the full name of this popular shoe brand actually originates with the desire to fly down a mountain. 

Hoka One One (pronounced “Hoka Oh-nay Oh-nay”) means “fly above the earth” in the Eastern Polynesian language Maori.

The weightless feeling of flight drove a focus on extensive cushioning and a large outsole. 

Now, Hoka’s are known as a go-to athletic shoe for avoiding foot pain.

Sustainability

Hoka One One is a Californian company, though the production of their shoes mainly takes place in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Currently, many Hoka shoes use recycled materials like recycled polyester or recycled nylon.

They’re not as far along with their sustainability efforts as, say, Allbirds. But they are making efforts to become more environmentally friendly.

Signature Features

Some of Hoka’s signature features include their compression molded EVA foam midsole, J-Frame, and Early Stage MetaRocker. 

Let’s break these features down!

EVA Foam

EVA foam stands for the chemical compound its composed of: ethylene-vinyl acetate. It’s great as a shock absorber, which causes it to be commonly used in padding for sports equipment and sports shoes. 

J-Frame

The J-Frame (or in some cases H-frame) is all about stability. The name comes from the J-shape of foam which runs through the middle of the shoe and hooks around the heel. 

The foam is a bit firmer than the other parts of the shoe, which is what helps keep your foot in place and stable.

Meta-Rocker

Having an “early” or “late” stage Meta-Rocker determines how much a Hoka shoe propels you forward.

Early Stage Meta-Rocker

The Early Stage Meta-Rocker is designed to move you along. The sole of the shoe is curved to tip you forward, encouraging that next step. 

You’ll especially notice this type of rocker in running and racing shoes. 

Late Stage Meta-Rocker

In the case of a Late Stage Meta-Rocker, the break-over point is closer to the toe. It doesn’t utilize as much step momentum to propel you forward. 

Shoes with Late Stage Meta-Rocker transitions are less common. They can offer more stability and balance, which is why some people prefer a late rocker. 

Understanding Key Terms

Before we look at the different options and help you determine your favorite Hoka running shoes, it’s going to be helpful to understand some terms to pay attention to when looking for running shoes in general.

Strike

The position of your foot when it hits the ground determines whether you have a forefront, midfoot, or heel strike.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

You’ll notice HOKA lists the heel-to-toe drop of each shoe. That heel-to-toe drop is the height difference between your heel and forefoot. 

Think about it this way: when your foot is flat on the ground, the drop is 0. 

The angle, or slope, of a heel-to-toe drop can propel you forward or help you feel neutral.

Weight

Materials are important to pay attention to because they determine the breathability and weight of the shoe. 

A lightweight shoe will help you travel faster by not weighing down your steps.

It’s also easier to pack lightweight sneakers if you plan to use them as travel shoes.

Arch Support

Arch support is best for people who experience frequent pain from having flat feet or conditions like plantar fasciitis. 

Shoes with arch support have a built-up midsole or ample cushioning to fill in the arch area. Most Hoka running shoes do this. 

While some people say that arch support is more important for flat feet (to aid in lifting the arch), I have friends with high arches who want the extra support so their arches don’t get sore.

Clifton 9

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Bad Knees

Hoka Clifton 9 shoes in black with light green trim and colorful insoles.

Weight: 7.30 oz
Drop: 5.00 mm
Materials: Knit upper, recycled nylon, recycled polyester, foam, rubber outsole

The Hoka Clifton shoe style is a classic. Cliftons continue to improve with each version. Hoka’s currently on its ninth iteration at the time of writing this article. 

Cliftons work for a lot of people, whether they’re putting in the miles walking or running. The versatility makes Hoka Clifton sneakers are one of the most popular choices. 

Hoka lists the Clifton 9 as neutral and balanced: it’s a stability shoe that will help you achieve a smoother ride without sacrificing comfort. 

People enjoy signature Hoka features like the large heel-to-toe drop, EVA midsole foam, and early-stage meta rocker, which helps with shock absorption. 

If you want an all-around, go-to walking and running shoe, the Hoka Clifton might be your new best friend.

And there’s good news for anyone who has a wide foot or needs a wide toe box. The Clifton comes in both regular and wide models. 

Who are Clifton 9 for?

Clifton 9 is notorious as an all-around supportive and balanced shoe, which makes it excellent for anyone with bad knees.

Mimi wearing her Clifton 9 shoes on a hike overlooking Berkeley, California at sunset.

Bondi 8

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis

The Hoka Bondi 8 in black with light green trim and multi-color insoles.

Weight: 8.90 oz
Drop: 4.00 mm
Materials: Mesh, regular and recycled polyester, foam, rubber

The Hoka Bondi is the epitome of a well-cushioned shoe. Looks don’t lie, and you can tell how cushy these are just by looking at them. 

As Hoka explains, this shoe provides a responsive and balanced ride. The Hoka Bondi 8 includes lightweight foam and recycled materials for the upper construction. 

Many of the shoe styles are colorful, but there are fully black and fully white versions. Choosing Bondis gives you a lot of style options. 

Whichever color you go for, all of them have a sleek swoop created by the layered outsole. I like the chunky look of these and my-oh-my, all of that cushion! 

The Holka name is also branded on the mesh upper, and the stitching has a forward-pointing pattern.

There are fully black and fully white versions, so choosing one of these gives you a more versatile shoe. 

The choice between regular and wide shoe options means you’ll have space for a roomy toe box if your foot needs it.

Similar to the Hoka Clifton, the Hoka Bondi shoes are often a contender for the best Hoka shoes overall. 

It’s really hard to beat the stable ride they provide in combination with maximum comfort.

Who are Bondi 8 for?

Bondi are my top pick for anyone with plantar fasciitis because of the maximum cushioning.

Mach 5

Best Hoka Running Shoes for a Marathon

Hoka Mach 5 shoes in peach parfait with light blue laces

Weight: 6.80 oz
Drop: 5.00 mm
Materials: Mesh upper, foam, rubber outsole, recycled polyester, recycled nylon

Hoka calls the Mach 5 the pavement pounder. As you may guess from that title, this is a great running shoe for everyday runs or races on primarily flat surfaces. 

The lightweight, breathable, and recycled but durable materials make this shoe a good choice for quick takeoffs and fast runs. 

Forget using these as a trail running shoe – you’ll want to use these on more flat and standard surfaces. 

Because the shoe is lower to the ground than some other Hoka models, they’ve made sure to include sufficient midsole and underfoot support.

Who are Mach 5 for?

Designed for speed, Mach 5s are optimal for flat-surface running and racing. They don’t have significant lugs for trails or cross country, but they do have the necessary cushion for pavement.

Ahari 6

Best Hoka Running Shoes for High Arches

Hoka Arahi 6 in light blue

Weight: 7.60 oz
Drop: 5.00 mm
Materials: Breathable mesh upper, foam midsole, rubber outsole, recycled polyester laces and sockliner

The Ahari style combines cushioning with lightweight materials. Available in regular and wide options, it’s listed as a stability-focused shoe. 

An extended heel tab makes these shoes easy to slip on. I don’t know about you, but I grew up pinching my finger in the back of a shoe to pull it on.

Notable features are the classic Hoka EVA foam midsole with and J-frame midsole support. 

With so much attention to support in the middle of the shoe, it’s good for those who have high arches.

Ahari 6s are available in regular and wide options. Plus, this shoe is Vegan! 

Who are Ahari 6 for?

The mid-sole support makes Ahari 6 sneakers optimal for people with high arches. Sometimes the weight of a full day puts strain on unsupported arches. Adding that extra lift helps prevent soreness.

Rincon 3

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Flat Feet

Hoka Rincon 3 with bright pink outsoles and heel, and lavender top half

Weight: 7.20 oz
Drop: 5.00 mm
Materials: Mesh upper, foam, rubber 

The Rincon 3 is best for walking and everyday running.

Hoka included their Early Stage Meta-Rocker and J-Frame technology in this shoe, which means your foot is supported from toe box to heel. 

In addition to the specially engineered mesh upper, Hoka designed the sole of this shoe to be incredibly lightweight. 

The asymmetrical tongue is thin, and while they kept the supportive EVA midsole in the shoe, Rincon3s use only extra lightweight foam. 

It’s available in regular and wide options, comfortable, lightweight, and stable – this shoe has it all.

Who are Rincon 3 for?

Comfort is super important for flat feet. The responsive cushioning and support from heel to toe make Rincon 3 sneakers stand out.

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SHOP MEN’S:

Gaviota 5

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Beginners

Hoka Gaviota 5 in light blue with purple and mint green trim.

Weight: 9.10 oz
Drop: 6.00 mm
Materials: Mesh upper, foam, some recycled materials

Hoka’s Gaviota 5 is your go-to stability shoe. 

A step beyond their J-Frame, Gaviota 5s have H-Frame technology. The H-Frame is tailored to specifically prevent inward rolling or overpronation of the foot. 

With Gaviota 5 sneakers, you also don’t lose out on a high bed of soft cushion and an ultra-plush collar (similar to a memory foam collar). 

And while it’s not specifically used in the shoe’s midsole, it does still contain the great Hoka EVA foam. 

Who are Gaviota 5 for?

Gaviota 5 stability shoes are here to help any new runner find their footing (literally).

Mafate Speed

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Women

Hoka Mafate Speed 4 in Camellia / Peach Parfait

Weight: 8.50 oz
Drop: 4.00 mm
Materials: Recycled polyester upper mesh, recycled polyester tongue mesh, heel webbing and sockliner top cloth, foam midsole, rubber toe cap

The Mafate Speed shoe is made of a super breathable upper and supportive foam, making it a lightweight running shoe. 

The bottom of the shoes, however, are what make them a great option as hiking shoes, trail running shoes, or even trail racing shoes. 

Mafate Speed shoes were designed as a neutral and responsive trail running shoe that incorporates features to help navigate diverse ground – like a bolstered heel and protective toe cap. 

You can tell just by looking at these trail racing shoes, the bottom is ready to tackle terrain. 

It’s also easy to see that these trail runners are firmer overall, compared to the more common and cushioned Hoka running shoe.

The color options are exciting – no neutrals or black and white shoes here. 

Who are Mafate Speed for?

Mafate Speeds are designed for trail runners and hikers who need the 5mm traction lugs.

This is your ultimate trail running shoe. It’s more versatile than the Speedgoat 5 (described next), but with plenty of features to get the job done.

Speedgoat 5 

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Men

Hoka Speedgoat 5 in Festival Fuchsia / Camellia colors

Weight: 8.50 oz
Drop: 4.00 mm
Materials: Jacquard engineered mesh, recycled polyester upper mesh, sockliner, and laces, molded foam midsole

Unlike the Mafate Speed, Hoka’s Speedgoat 5 comes in regular and wide sizes. 

The Speedgoat also has special tred, but size availability is a basic distinction worth mentioning up front (in case you need wide shoes).

Designated as the best shoe for trail running and hiking, you can choose from different styles of the shoe: Low, Low GTX, GTX Mid, and GTX Spike.

While the Mafate Speed had default 5mm lugs with Vibram traction, the different variations of traction that Speedgoat 5s come in, fit the terrain. 

Hoka calls these a workhorse for technical trails. The term “technical trails” refers to the difficulty of the terrain you’re running on or trail debris you may come across – rocky terrain vs. dirt road, for example. 

As a neutral and balanced shoe, they have a responsive toe-off, which also makes them especially fit for technical terrain like the rocks of a mountain.

Essentially, you can tailor this trail shoe for the type of run you’re headed on.

A bolstered heel, sock liner, toe rand, lay-flat gusseted tongue, and a foam midsole are features that keep you comfortable regardless. 

Who are Speedgoat 5 for?

The Speedgoat 5 is clearly the best trail shoe and can even replace a hiking boot treadwise. It’s also my top pick for men who need a wider option.

SHOP WOMEN’S:

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Rocket X 2

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Racing

Hoka Rocket X 2 in Ceramic / Evening Primrose

Weight: 8.30 oz
Drop: 5.00 mm
Materials: Synthetic mesh upper, foam, carbon fiber plate, rubber, recycled polyester, recycled nylon

The Hoka Rocket X 2 are known as speedy shoes – they’re named Rocket for a reason.

These are the best Hoka’s for anyone planning on racing…or rather, looking to win a race! 

The Rocket X 2 was designed with Hoka’s Pro-Fly X technology, which creates propulsive toe-offs. Essentially, this shoe is all about velocity.

The shoe uses high rebound foam (PEBA instead of the common EVA you’ve read about so far). 

I picture PEBA foam as a bouncy house and EVA foam as plush pillows.

Incorporating a carbon fiber plate into this shoe also adds to it’s agility.  

Currently, they only come in two color options: Multi or Evening Primrose. 

They’re also a unisex shoe – no individual men’s or women’s sizes. 

Fit won’t be too much of an issue because the materials used (like a synthetic mesh upper) allow the shoe to hug the foot.

Who are Rocket X 2 for?

Rocket X 2 is built for racing. It’s definitely not a trail racing shoe, but it’s built with an active foot frame, ready to run. And the hugging fit also makes it the best Hoka running shoes for narrow feet.

Cielo X 2 MD 

Best Hoka Running Shoes for Track Racing

Hoka Cielo X 2 MD in White / Ceramic with turqoise trim.

Weight: 4.00 oz
Drop: 4.00 mm
Materials: Lace knit upper, carbon-plated spikes

The Cielo X 2 MD are different from most of Hoka’s running shoes…

They are the token carbon-plated shoes, designed specifically for tracks. 

What does that mean? 

The carbon fiber plate propels you forward and spikes dig in for optimal push-off.

This style differs from the trail runner or everyday running shoe styles previously mentioned in this article. 

Unlike the others, Cielo X 2 MD spikes aren’t rubber, so don’t use them on a treadmill!

They’re unisex shoes and come with options for middle-distance or long-distance races. 

The specificity of Cielo X 2 MDs are a good example of the options that Hoka offers for a large variety of runners.

Who are Cielo X 2 MD for?

Because of their specific design and spikes, Hoka Cielo X2 MDs are best for use in track competitions.

FAQs about Hoka Running Shoes

Mimi walking up stairs in a forest with her back to the camera, wearing her favorite hoka sneakers.

Are Hoka shoes healthy for your feet?

Many of Hoka’s shoe styles are certified by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). 

This means podiatrists have determined that the degree of comfort combined with features like shock absorption and support make them a healthy shoe choice for your feet.

What’s so great about Hoka shoes?

Hoka’s best quality is the combination of support and reliability.

They have something for everybody. 

In this article, I focused on shoes that will serve different needs and types of running activities. 

But, if you’re looking for a specific feature – like an extended heel, or a shoe with a particularly responsive ride – Hoka probably has something for you. 

Also, they’re a company working towards more environmentally sustainable practices, which we are always in favor of. 

How long do Hokas last?

Similar to cars, Hoka gives an estimated mileage for their shoes. They state that their running shoes will last you anywhere in the 200-500 mile range. 

But Hoka stresses that this range in mileage is broad, and due to a variety of factors: body weight, biomechanics, running surface, weather, storage, and maintenance. 

Are you a trail runner, flying down mountains? Or do you wear your Hoka shoes around flat city blocks? The answers to those questions are going to affect the wear and tear of your shoe. 

Ultimately, you will be the judge. Hoka’s are designed to be a comfy shoe. When you start to feel discomfort while running or see any visual wear on your shoes, it could be time to replace them. 

Can you run in Hokas on a treadmill?

Yes, Hoka shoes are made for all kinds of runners and varied terrain. 

That said, for running on a treadmill, opt for a sneaker without specific features that would damage the treadmill. In particular, avoid the Cielo X MD 2 with the spikes. 

Additionally, selecting trail runners made to handle tricky terrain like rocks are not going to benefit you on a treadmill.

I go with any of the standard Hoka running or stability shoes for running on a treadmill (ex: the Bondi, Clifton, Ahari, etc).

Conclusion: Which Hoka Shoe is Best for You?

Mimi with her back to the camera, looking out at the Berkeley skyline after sunset, when the horizon is still orange.

So, after considering all of the pros and cons, which Hoka Shoe is best for running?

The Mafate Speed is my top pick for a versatile shoe that allows you to run comfortably on the trail, street, or treadmill.

It’s designed more as an outdoor shoe, providing traction thanks to rubber lugs that grip like hiking shoes.

The traction isn’t so extreme that you’ll be uncomfortable indoors, though. And rubber soles won’t damage treadmills like versions of the Speedgoat 5 or Cielo X 2.

Clifton 9 sneakers are the closest runner-up because they’re super comfortable and also very versatile.

Test out the Clifton 9 if you’re only wearing these shoes to the gym. . .

But go with the Mafate Speed if you want something with a little more “umf” for outdoor adventures.

SHOP WOMEN’S:

SHOP MEN’S:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Monroe Dziersk smiling as she poses high up above the skyline

Monroe Dziersk

Monroe Dziersk is a twenty-something American who has lived in the USA, Italy, and Czechia. A self-proclaimed Europhile, she has a passion for international education, traveling, and becoming a global citizen, having visited more than twenty countries. You can often find her accompanied by a good book and her calico cat.


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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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