Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review Hoka One One Speed Instinct - Can It Rival The Huaka?

Article by Jeff Valliere

Hoka One One Speed Instinct

Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct

When I first saw a photo and specs for the Speed Instinct, I immediately flagged it for my wish list, in hopes it would rival or top my beloved Huaka.  Despite being a dedicated trail shoe and advertised as weighing a bit less, the upper looks more supportive with similar cushion and a more durable, luggy outsole.
OK, I'll confess, the Huaka has been my favorite Hoka and one of my favorite shoes of all time.  I have two pairs and keep them well guarded, only busting them out on race day or the odd PR attempt, whether it be a road 10k (rare for me) or a rock strewn technical trail on a 13,000 or 14,000 foot peak.

Speed Instinct Stats
9oz. US Mens Size 9
25mm heel/22mm forefoot
Available August 2016. $130

So how does the Speed Instinct measure up?

The Speed Instinct has a seamless Airmesh upper that comprises of a web like series of welded synthetic overlays that cover the forward 2/3rds of the shoe.  These overlays do a great job at holding the foot in place without any pressure points or discomfort.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
There is a toe bumper that generously wraps around the front of the shoe, but it is somewhat thin and flexible.  Though rare for me, I actually stubbed a rock with moderate force while testing the Speed Instinct and discovered that this toe "bumper" offers about zero protection.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
The heel counter is very flexible and the collar is well padded.  Despite it's flexibility, it offers great hold/support and is quite comfortable.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
Lacing is quite nice and I appreciate that they snug up securely on the first attempt with ease (unlike many Hokas I have used in the past).  Speed lacing is no longer an option, thus opening the door for "normal" lace/eyelet integration.  These laces are a little wider, have just the right give to them and do not come loose while running, as both the knot and secureness at the eyelets is spot on.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
 The non-gusseted tongue is of medium thickness.  Plush padding, but not overly bulky.  The insole is thicker and more like insoles you might see on the majority of shoes, as opposed to the very thin insoles on many previous Hoka models that were prone to sliding and bunching.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
When I first ran in the Speed Instinct, I found the upper to not be particularly well ventilated or airy.  To be fair, I am testing the Speed Instinct after testing 2 other shoes that were particularly well ventilated (Brooks Mazama and the Saucony Xodus ISO) and we are in the dog days of summer.  Though not as airy, I found venting to not really be as much of an issue as I first anticipated, even when running on a recent 98 degree noon time run.  I will ultimately say the Speed Instinct is average in this regard.

Hoka fit and comfort has been an issue with some people, depending on the model, foot shape and usage.  I have personally had mostly good luck with Hoka fit, with the only exception being the narrow and oddly curved last of the Speedgoat, which tore apart my toes and separately had major stability issues with.  I found the Speed Instinct to have the best fit yet, true to size, accurate and precise fit, while not feeling confining.  The toe box is not wide or generous by any means, but is a good blend of performance minded security with forgiveness and room for a bit of flex and expansion.

The new Pro2Lite midsole (the same as used in the Tracer and Clayton) is dual density, softer in the rear for protection and a bit more firm in the forefoot for response.  Though the Speed Instinct feels somewhat stiff when bending it in my hand, I was pleasantly surprised at how well cushioned and flexible it felt on the trail.  The cushion in the Speed Instinct feels ample given the relative low to the ground feel as compared to many other Hokas and offers maximum cushion in a slim and minimal package.  At slower speeds I did not feel much response or pop at toe off, but when pushed, I found that the Speed Instinct would respond well.  The late stage meta rocker geometry aided a bit in forward momentum, but was not as obvious as other Hokas I have run in (the Challenger and Bondi come to mind).
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
Though cushion is ample, I found that rock protection is a touch lacking in certain circumstances.  I often run on particularly rocky trails and on my first few runs, was surprised by a few good zingers in the heel of all places, when I would inadvertently land the triangular foam cutout onto a sharp/angular rock.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
At first I thought I had a one off bad landing, but over time noticed that it would happen several times over the course of a run.  Rock protection in the forefoot is slightly better, but there is quite a bit of lateral flex that I simultaneously appreciate for trail feel, but when pushing hard through rocky sections, I found myself dancing a bit more gingerly than I might in other shoes.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
The Speed Instinct has a high abrasion lightweight rubber outsole, which I found to be a step forward for Hoka, as it is light, durable and offers good traction. The multi-directional lugs are somewhat low profile, but offer adequate traction in most trail/off trail circumstances and the lower profile lugs also help increase the versatility of the Speed Instinct, as it performs exceptionally well on smoother trails and even roads, without the lugs being a hinderance in any way.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
Wet traction is borderline, as I did get caught in a rainstorm and ran just after rain several times and found myself slipping a bit more than expected on angled, slabby rocks.  To be fair, most shoes would likely have slipped equally, but I have gotten somewhat spoiled by shoes with advanced level sticky rubber (La Sportiva, adidas, TNF).
Dry traction on rock is great and especially so when warm, as the rubber compound grabs well, aided by the somewhat flexible and conforming nature of the shoe.
Durability seems to be average to above average, with just some typical/expected wear where I toe off, but not at all excessive.
I found the Speed Instinct to be a very smooth ride, but not quite as responsive as I had hoped.  The low weight and relative slim profile of this shoe help it to feel quick, nimble and race ready, but I was hoping to feel a bit more response at toe off.  It will perform when pushed, but it takes a bit of work to get to that point.  Performance on smoother singletrack is excellent, especially when pushing the downhill is when I found the Speed Instinct shined most.  It can definitely hold it's own on more technical terrain, up or down, but I'll admit requires a bit of finesse, especially if it is rocky.

Overall Conclusions/Recommendations:
The Speed Instinct is a very worthy lightweight, long distance trainer/racer, most at home on smoother trails, but can handle more difficult terrain when needed.  Despite the minor issues regarding protection and lesser response than I had hoped, this is still a very fast and capable shoe and a jump forward for Hoka.  Definitely a top level shoe that I would highly recommend.
Hoka ONE ONE Speed Instinct
Hoka Huaka (Sam's review here) vs. Speed Instinct:  Since I included the Huaka in the title, I had to compare.  Weight is comparable, but the Speed Instinct is more durable and trail worthy than the Huaka, with a more secure upper and more durable outsole.  For most training runs, I would pick the Speed Instinct. Despite that though, I'll still pick the Huaka on race day, as I find it to be more responsive, stable and even has a little better rock protection, despite the fact that it is not a dedicated trail shoe.  When I wear the Huaka, I can feel it begging to go fast, where the Speed Instinct needs a bit more coaxing.

Brooks Mazama (review here)  vs. Speed Instinct:  Similar weight and profile.  The Mazama is much more responsive, better ventilated and has better protection, where the Speed Instinct has better cushioning and a more durable outsole.

Saucony Peregrine 6 (review here) vs. Speed Instinct:  The Peregrine 6 is much more suited toward technical terrain, is a bit more responsive, has much better protection and superior traction.  The Speed Instinct has better cushion, better trail feel and would have the edge on smoother trails at faster speeds.

Jeff's Score 4.7 out of 5
-.1 for response
-.1 for lack of rock protection in heel
-.05 for inadequate toe bumper
-.05 for ventilation

All Photos Credit: Jeff Valliere
The Speed Instinct was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run, The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Jeff Valliere's Bio
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

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