Monday, November 13, 2017

Hoka One One Mach Review: Much More Than a Clayton Name Change

Article by Dominick Layfield and Sam Winebaum

Stats
Weight:
  Sam: 7.9 oz/224 sample size US M9
  Dom: 8.2 oz/ 244g US M10
Stack Height: 24mm heel/ 19mm forefoot stack, 5mm drop
$130. Available February 2018
 
Introduction
Sam: The Mach is the direct successor to the Clayton and shares many similarities with it. It is part of Hoka new Fly performance line which includes a similar weight and stack performance trainer the Cavu (RTR review) and a renamed and re thought Vanquish now called the Evelon. All feature Hoka’s ProFly dual density midsole (softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot)  and engineered mesh uppers. At first I was skeptical that this "renaming" of the Clayton was just that, but there are enough changes to make Mach an almost "new" shoe, worthy of consideration for those who had issues with the Clayton's upper and especially where it met sockliner and midsole with its tendency to cause arch blisters as well as those who felt Clayton transitioned a bit stiffly as I did.


Dom: Hoka could have gone either way calling this the Clayton 3 or using a new name.  Ultimately I think this is the right call: personally, I always got confused between similar-sounding Clayton and Clifton names.  Additionally, I think they wanted to distance themselves from the legacy of instep blisters from two iterations of the Clayton.  


First Impressions Sizing

Sam: The many thin overlays and bright colors of the Clayton 2 were a bit over the top. The modern sleek look here is classy and best of all the engineered knit upper is highly functional in how it distributes support without any overlays and is for me a big improvement over the Clayton’s plasticky and somewhat stiff upper.

My sample size 9 was half size up from my true to size and I could have easily stayed at true to size, especially with thinner socks. I find the Mach slightly pointier than the Clayton, worn side by side, but in no way was this an issue for me, or likely for most as the Mach upper is a softer if dense mesh but more open and foot shapes friendly than Clayton with no overlays and with very decent overall foot hold.


Dom: I really like the look of the Mach.  In my opinion many Hoka shoes have looked unduly busy, with many different color fades, overlays, conspicuous logos etc.  

Perhaps due to the change to the variable-weave upper, the Mach is more understated, with a cleaner more contemporary look similar to the Nike Flyknit line.  The review shoes I received were in a light blue/yellow color scheme that matches Hoka team clothing.


My sample pair were the ‘correct’ size, and felt exactly true to size.  Compared to the Clayton 2, the shoe seems to have got very slightly longer and narrower.  (I compared by putting same size Clayton 2 and Mach back-to-back: shape differences were clear, and persisted after running ~130 miles in Mach.)


I was initially slightly disappointed that Hoka made the Mach a couple of millimeters narrower than Clayton, but in testing I was surprised to discover that the change didn’t bother me.  The tweaked shape of the Mach is more consistent with other shoes in Hoka’s line-up.
Upper
Dom:  I was highly impressed with the Mach’s upper.  
My initial concern was that the shoe would feel too narrow for my (slightly wide) foot, but the upper had enough stretch that my feet didn’t feel uncomfortable.  The flip side of stretchy upper fabrics can be that the shoe then feels insecure, allowing the foot to slide sideways when running on off-camber surfaces.  Similarly on steep descents a stretchy upper can allow the foot to slide forward, resulting in toe bang. 
Dom running to 3d place at the Rio Del Lago 100 in the Mach
Photo Credit: Facchino Photography
I wore the Machs for a 100-mile trail race, over highly-varied terrain, and in wet conditions: my feet felt secure throughout and I didn’t experience any slippage, rubbing, or blistering.  That’s quite remarkable for a lightweight road shoe.
Breathability of the upper is excellent.  Much of the fabric has a weave that is open enough to allow daylight through. The only downside to this is that sand and fine dirt gets into the shoe.  However, for its intended on-road use, this seems like it would be a very minor issue.  I also found that the upper absorbed little water and dried out very quickly.


Evaluating shoe durability during a brief review period is always difficult.  I wore the Mach for a few training runs on and off-road, and then for the Rio Del Lago 100-mile race (mostly trail) in muddy conditions.  This is a punishing test of wear-and-tear, and the Machs survived entirely intact: no visible abrasion or herniation through upper, excessive sole wear etc.  So the prognosis looks excellent.


Sam: All of my running in the Mach has been on roads but I would not hesitate to take them out on smoother western single track. The upper has wonderfully consistent foothold with no tight spots and also no sloppiness. This is a tribute to the variable density of the knitting of the engineered mesh.

Behind the rubber bumper the rest of the toe box bumper is soft knit material  woven more densely than the rest of the upper to provide some overhead structure and is slightly softer and higher than Clayton 2's.

Gone are all the awkward thin overlays of the Clayton 2.


The support upfront and overall is very effective, and unlike Clayton, feels all of a piece with none of the sense of an awkward flex of the toe area upfront I felt in Clayton with all its overlays and stiffer less stretchy upper.

The engineered mesh is of differing densities throughout the shoe to serve different purposes. On the medial side (top) in the photo below it is denser to provide more support. On the lateral side (below) it is more open to provide greater breathability.
Interestingly, the mesh is woven of two separate materials with a softer yellow "liner" mesh which as the outer blue becomes more dense  on the medial side this inner mesh follows suit creating a soft supportive lining which is all of a piece with the rest of the upper.

Seen from the inside in the photo the lateral more open mesh is to the left, the denser more supportive dual layer is to the right, This is a very neat approach which I am sure saves weight as we are no longer dealing with layers to attach to provide mid foot support with the upper and all its layers unitary and one piece with density varying as needed for both layers together as precisely as a single link in the knitting. No need to laser cut holes, attach different densities together, or glue in support straps inside or out.


Midsole
Sam: The Mach has a new dual density ProFly midsole, softer in the heel firmer in the forefoot, for protection and propulsion.  ProFly is an evolution of the similar Pro2Lite midsole makeup found in the Clayton 1 and 2 (RTR review), Tracer (RTR review), and Speed Instinct 2 (RTR review) but with a new foam. This new midsole material is designed to be more resilient and energetic/energy efficient and attenuate shock better. I found it slightly more energetic but only slightly more so. It is more responsive and less bouncy than the Hupana (RTR review) with its single slab of RMAT for both outsole and midsole.

Heel stability is enhanced by the Active Foot Frame "bucket seat" feature of many Hoka wherein the heel and rear of the foot sits down into midsole side walls.
Sam: The key difference between the Clayton and Mach in terms of road feel and ride for me comes from a combination of a longer hollowing out of the midsole and a new design for the outsole
The Mach with its longer hollowed out center section and more continuous cross grooves and chevron shaped broad lugs transitions more smoothly than the Clayton and has a welcome longer flex, although it remains a fairly stiff shoe, especially when new. The stiffness just isn't as noticeable as it is in the Clayton as now the transition is facilitated by the longer hollowing out of the midsole and the outsole design.

Outsole

Unlike most run shoes which tend to use firm rubber especially at the heel Mach (and Clayton before it) use RMAT, a very durable but softer material. Hoka has used it as the entire midsole in shoes such as the Huaka with a thin conventional rubber outsole or even as a single unit of RMAT making up both outsole and midsole in the Hupana. 

When combined with the relatively firm ProFly midsole one has a sense of slight final stage rebound and cushion at heel landing and toe off, a bit on edge taken off of the firmer midsole.

Dom: I’ve logged about 130 miles in the Mach, of which maybe 30 miles were on pavement, and 100 on dirt.  Certainly, I can say that the Mach doesn’t perform too well in mud, but it doesn’t seem fair to ding a road shoe for that.  Overall, I had no complaints.


The RMAT outsole shows very slight wear, with some loss of the texturing pattern, but nothing significant.  Again, long-term durability prognosis looks good.
IMG_20171108_100949.jpg
Hoka Mach outsole at 130 miles



The Clayton arch instep irritation/blister issue
Sam: The Clayton 1 for many produced irritation and even blisters under the front of the instep on the medial (inside) near the flex point. The Clayton 2 was slightly better than Clayton 1 but still some saw irritation there. While I did see the issue when the Claytons were brand new and stiff in the first few miles, but less so in the Clayton 2 than 1, over time they broke in. By changing the sock liner footbed to an old more dense, thick and cupped one from an adidas Energy Boost I had no more irritation but still could feel a little something. My wife runs the Clayton 2 and has had zero instep arch irritation issues.

I have had zero issues with the Mach, not even a pressure point there.
Hoka seems to have done three things to resolve the issue:
  1. The Clayton sockliner footbed had a noticeable edge where it met the upper, basically it did not taper down in thickness as it met the upper. The Mach’s sockliner tapers smoothly to meet the upper and this difference is noticeable to the touch with no “edge” to potentially irritate.
  2. The new Mach sock liner is thicker and more cupped at the heel with distinct sidewalls in front of that which should also maybe prevent the sockliner from sliding forward and bunching towards the instep. It also noticeably slides into the shoe more easily and smoothly so less friction than Clayton's which might have contributed to folding and bunching.
3. Mach has a longer flex which allows the foot to bend more gradually on toe off instead of having all the toe off pressure and a stiff flex all in one place, where the blisters occured.
4. The upper is more pliable and foot conforming up front again making bending of the foot less abrupt and concentrated
Dom:  I experienced the widely-reported instep blistering issue with the Clayton 2, but found it could be remedied by switching out the footbed.  I agree with Sam that the problem seems to be completely fixed in the Mach.


Ride
Dom: I really liked the Clayton 2, for both road and light trail use.  Obviously, for the latter, you have to accept a compromise in grip in order to reap the advantage of the impressive light weight.  I wore the Clayton 2 to race (nearly all of) the Western States 100, and was very happy with my decision.  
Dom running to 3d place at the Rio Del Lago 100 in the Mach
Photo Credit: Facchino Photography
I was delighted to discover that the Mach feels almost identical.  I went for one run with Clayton 2 on one foot and Mach on the other and couldn’t discern any significant difference.  


Sam: Running a Clayton 2 on one foot and the Mach on the other the Mach ride is clearly smoother on the road and with a less awkward stiff transition, but it is a subtle difference. I still wish for a bit more flexibility. I loved the rear of the Clayton with its stable landing and decent but not mushy cushioning  but always felt toe off was a struggle on road. In the Mach things go much smoother with less of a sense that the rear and front of the shoe are disconnected.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Dom:
The Mach has enough cushioning that it would work as a daily training shoe, even during high-volume periods.  It is also light enough that I would reach for it as a race shoe for half-marathon distances and above on road.  For shorter races, a more stripped-down shoe might be preferable for a light, fast, injury-free runner.

Personally, I run far more on trail than pavement, and have enjoyed using the Mach off-road in terrain that is not too rough or slippery.  Off-road I would only use the Mach for racing (not for training) when every gram counts, and you are comfortable with the trade-off of diminished grip and rock protection.

Sam: 
Hoka has gotten the “wrinkles” out of its light, highly cushioned performance trainer long racer which in its earlier Clayton iteration while a very fine shoe was held back by stiffness at toe off, a poor sockliner and sock liner to upper interface, and a somewhat awkward fitting and busy looking upper. All of these issues are resolved. And with a sleek and modern look, the Mach also leaves behind the busy and the cluttered with looks matching the smooth ride and seamless fit.
At a tiny 8 oz. the Mach provides a powerful blend of cushion, response, support and we expect durability. It is a great single shoe choice for training and longer racing on road and even smoother trails. 
Sam's Score 9.8/10 -0.20 for still some front of the shoe stiffness. A yet more segmented outsole/midsole with deeper grooves would be an improvement. 

Comparisons

Dom:
Hoka Mach to Hoka Clayton 2 (RTR review)
The Mach runs extremely similarly, and improves on the Clayton in several ways. To my mind, the biggest deficiency of the Clayton 2 was the issue of instep chafing. This seems to be entirely absent in the Mach.  
Sam: Hoka Mach to Hoka Clayton 2 (RTR review) Smoother and more fluid on the road than the Clayton 2, with a far superior upper, the Mach is a worthy replacement for Clayton Hoka Mach to 2018 Hoka Cavu (RTR review) The Cavu is firmer and stiffer while sharing about the same stack height of ProFly midsole. The differences come from a less refined outsole midsole interface in the Cavu and also from less soft RMAT in the outsole of the Cavu. The Cavu's unstructured upper is fantastic for road use, in many ways even superior to Mach but would be to minimal for trail use which the Mach can cross over to. Hoka Mach to Hoka Clifton 4 (RTR review) At least for me no comparison. The Clifton 4 while slightly firmer than precedessors is still to soft and unstable at the heel for me in comparison to Mach. It is almost 1.5 oz heavier as well. Hoka Mach to Hoka Hupana 1 (RTR review) The other Hoka with "other training" in the marketing along with Cavu, the Hupana is softer and is more energetic than Mach due to its all RMAT construction and has a considerably snugger upper. The Hupana is more fun to run than the stolid Mach but the Mach is more versatile overall. Hoka Mach to Skechers GORun Ultra R2 (RTR review) A very close comparison here. The GRUR2 has a similar midsole feel but has a shorter stiffer flex, so reminding me more of the Clayton than the Mach in terms of transition and smoothness. So, nod for ride to Mach. The upper is a toss up. Both have fantastic seamless smooth support from heel to toe and decent room. The GRUR2 has a slightly more rounded from of the toe box. The GRUR2 appears to use a flatter thread or material in the knit than the Mach and is somewhat denser and thus warmer.

Hoka One One Mach: $130. Available February 2018

For Dom and Sam's bios see our Reviewers Bio Page here
Photo Credits: Facchino Photography and Dominick Layfield

The Mach was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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2 comments:

Σπύρος said...

I wonder why the dense of the mesh is different in the medial and lateral side, it makes no sense and it limits brethability.

sam winebaum said...

Σπύρος
It makes good sense to me and said so in the review. Denser mesh on medial side provides more support there where it is needed most. Lateral side less dense mesh for breathability. One could see less dense mesh but then support and versatility ( for trail and for those needing a touch of stability) would suffer.
Sam, Editor