Friday, August 03, 2018

Hoka One One EVO Mafate 100 Plus Mile Updated Review: Maximal Cushion, Highly Responsive, All Terrain Racer and Trainer

Article by Sam Winebaum, Jeff Valliere, and Dom Layfield

Update: Our review is updated at approximately at 100 plus miles with comments on upper fit, outsole wear, and more general comments. 
Jeff now has 115 miles of often very technical, rocky Boulder running in the EVO Mafate and says: "When not reviewing other shoes (which has been in a bit of a lull for me this summer), I almost always find myself reaching for the EVO Mafate, even over the Torrent which is also a favorite for 2018." 
Dom now has150 miles on his and concludes: 
"I think this is a highly significant shoe for Hoka One One.  Hoka have long been a dominant force in the ultrarunning world, and I have worn their shoes to race several 100-mile races.  But until recently nothing in their line up has really stood out for me as a well-rounded trail shoe, or enticed me a daily trainer.  The Mafate EVO has a sublime, super-cushioned ride (particularly in the forefoot) and is absolutely a shoe I would select for both high-volume training and on race day."

Hoka One One EVO Mafate
Sam: The Mafate was Hoka’s original shoe way back in 2009. Remember those years? Running was in the throes of Born to Run, minimalism, and Vibram Five Fingers. Well Hoka, founded by two ex Salomon guys with a deep knowledge of running shoe and ski design, and mountain biking had a different idea. Their Mafate was designed to be the running equivalent of a well suspended mountain bike or fat ski with maximum cushion and broad foot print on the ground for fast downhill running. Well we know how the story ends now a decade later with Hoka growing rapidly on essentially their initial formula with a broad line of shoes, some even not so maximal.

I first ran the original Mafate in 2010 and also used it to hike around the Mt Blanc in a bit more than five days.
2010 Cruising Park City Trails in the original Mafate
For sure it was well cushioned and leg friendly on downhills but it was hard to move along uphill or on the road as it was so stiff and massive. Rolling forward to 2018 the new EVO Mafate maintains its max cushion and vibe in a thoroughly modern dynamic shoe. Under development for a considerably time, very near production versions were run to great success by Tim Tollefson (3rd) and Jim Walmsley (5th) at the 2017 UTMB on a course ideally suited for a shoe where lots of vertical, technical terrain and smoother fast running are all in the mix.
The EVO Mafate uses 2 flavors of cushioning in its midsole: Hoka’s EVA and below that R-Bound a successor to Hoka’s dynamic RMAT, now 9% lighter and more durable. It is shod with a versatile any terrain Vibram MegaGrip outsole, has some flexibility and is very decently responsive, even on the road.  I has a very commendable lightweight of 10.5 oz for a trail and for that matter road shoe with this much going on underfoot. We did not run its predecessor the Mafate Speed but Hoka tells us the main difference is the upper and the substitution of R-Bound for RMAT.
And what an upper the EVO Mafate has! It is made a single piece of engineered mesh with patented new MATRYX tech where the structure and support does not come from varying the weaving pattern of a single material but from varying densities of Kevlar thread woven in with the other more conventional threads. The resulting combination is non wicking while also having high abrasion resistance. Read on to see what our testers thought. They ran on a variety of surfaces in Colorado, Utah, and New Hampshire. 

Update: Jim Walmsley crushes the Western States Endurance Run record wearing a very slightly modified EVO Mafate. 
Tweet and Photo Credit: 
Hoka told RoadTrailRun: 
"Jim had a slightly-modified version of the Evo Mafate, but only very slightly with an upper we had had in an earlier prototype. 
  • the midsole and outsole are the same – not shaven down!
  • the upper was slightly modified from our in-line product but 95% the same, and still Matryx..."
Approx.Weight: US M 9 10.5 oz/ 298 g
Sample Weight:  US M 8.5 10.26 oz /291g
Stack Height: 33mm heel, 29mm forefoot, 4mm drop
$170. Available July 1st, 2018

First Impressions and Fit
Sam: There is no mistaking the EVO Mafate for a Hoka and for that matter no question this is a Mafate of the bold original concept variety. No tuned down graphics here for this race shoe. I really like the bold but not to crazy colored look which approximates the yellow and blue of other 2018 Hoka. I hope there will be a more conservatively styled version as the Mafate is sure to be popular with walkers and hikers.

The fit is true to size and relatively spacious for a trail shoe as there are no overlays whatsoever beyond a few thin lines which appear to be mostly decorative. It has a foot conforming spacious fit but not an entirely foot hugging, soft fit or for that matter a snug dialed fit as the mesh while pliable is unstructured by any overlays or stiffeners even in at the toe bumper. I stubbed a toe a few times but was so high off the ground that the impact went to areas below the upper and didn't feel a thing.  All the structure comes at the dense and quite stiff thread level with the Kevlar woven in providing the structure and abrasion resistance.The fit is quite unique seemingly inadequate as there is no sense of targeted lockdown areas, yet all of a piece and secure in hold except maybe for the most radical technical trails run fast.

Jeff:  Like Sam, the original Mafate was my very first Hoka way back in 2010 and like many, I was a bit befuddled when I first saw them, but I quickly changed my mind on them however on my first run.  Yes, they were a bit sluggish and cumbersome, but I liked how I could steamroll the downhills and not really worry about finesse and they left my legs feeling fresh. Right then I knew Hoka was onto something.  The progression over the years has not been entirely linear, but Hoka has been on a steady rise and over the last year or so, that rise is getting much steeper with the Mafate EVO and Torrent.

I was initially very impressed with the seeming improbable low weight for such a stacked shoe (305 grams/10 ¾ oz. in my US Men’s size 10) and in awe of the deep lugs, however the lugs seemed a bit tall and skinny to me. Initial fit seemed accommodating, but I had a bit of trouble dialing in lace tension on my thin low volume foot. The Kevlar woven into the upper also seemed interesting, but offers little give and I questioned its effectiveness. A novel idea that could go very well, or quite bad.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and though I prefer toned down colors, sometimes I don’t mind a bit of flash if done right. In this instance, I like the colorway and graphics, I think it looks fast, modern and trick.

Jeff's 115 mile update: The fit of the EVO Mafate, which I initially found to be a bit roomy, seems to have improved as the upper has conformed and become more pliable and I no longer find my foot shifting inside at all, even when pushed to the max.  

Dom: I’ve never run in any of the previous iterations of the Mafate, so cannot comment on how the EVO compares.  The first thing I did after unboxing the EVO was to weigh my sample pair. The size US M10 weighed 10.8 oz (307 g)  per shoe. Unfortunately, that was about all I was able to do, as the shoes arrived the day after I’d had foot surgery.

When I was finally able to run again, several weeks later, I was initially underwhelmed.  The sole certainly felt pleasingly plush, but the Mafate EVO felt a little narrow in the forefoot, and well… Hoka-shaped.  

My first thought was to compare to the Hoka SpeedGoat 2.  My pair of SG2 weighed 594 g per pair, compared to 614 g for the Mafate EVO, a difference of 20 g (0.7 oz).  I’ve worn the SG2 in several ultra distance races (including UTMB) and can’t imagine wanting more protection.  Consequently, I was a little unclear what advantage the slightly heaver Mafate EVO had over the SpeedGoat 2.

Based on touch alone, the EVO’s upper fabric seems really tough.  It’s too soon to call in terms of long-term durability, but I have to say that this “MATRYK” nylon/kevlar blend feels almost indestructible.

Sam: The innovative upper with its MATRYX technology is clearly the star feature.
The darker threads are the Kevlar woven into the durable high abrasion nylon. This is a different take on “engineered mesh” as instead of structure being created by variable weaving density or even thickness the placement of the threads and wires in the weave create the structure.
One can clearly see the additional darker vertical Kevlar wires woven in at mid foot.
Throughout the rest of the upper the Kevlar is used more sparingly and longitudinally. Looking closely one can see they are present at every mesh hole running front to back
The ankle collar and achilles collar are moderately padded and very secure. The tongue is very short, although seems to stay in place just fine. It is  only lightly padded and has about 20 large ventilation holes starting at the lace holder loop. It is a conventional with no bootie tying tongue to midsole which is a bit of a surprise as the mid foot upper has no overlays and is quite high volume. The mid foot hold works fine on most terrain but given the high stack and essentially unstructured beyond Kevlar wires upper I wonder if a bootie might have helped conquer that last type of trail, the super technical, very rocky taken at speed where the otherwise effective support of the upper can get overwhelmed. But maybe not… as this shoe is designed to plow through the UTMB and its steep and often wet but moderate terrain.

The toe box is roomy, decently well held and free of any pressures. The MATRYK construction creates a very pliable upper overall with the support seemingly concentrated at each and every mesh hole so a feeling of substance but without much stretch.
The Speedgoat 2 has a snugger overall upper, particularly upfront with its toe bumper and other overlays and with its 6th lace loop further towards the front of the shoe.  There is a clear contrast between the two and a tradeoff to be decided based on your running terrain, foot shape and volume, between the comfort and volume of the Mafate and the additional measure of security in the Speedgoat

Jeff:  Overall I like the Kevlar weave and think it is a durable and effective way of reinforcing the upper. The fit of the upper is generous and comfortable, but I had a real tough time over my first few runs finding a reasonable level of lace tension.  Not enough tension and my foot was sliding around, particularly on technical terrain. When I tightened to a point where I thought it was tight enough to keep my foot secure, I experienced a bit of pain and too much compression on the top of my foot, but my foot, particularly the forefoot still wavered.  After 50 or so miles, I finally was able to achieve a happy medium for running in semi technical terrain or easier, but on steep, fast, rocky, technical downhills, I still find myself treading somewhat more carefully. If running on easier terrain up to semi technical and for those with wider feet, the Mafate EVO will be a welcome change.  For hard charging technical terrain, the fit of the Speedgoat 2 might be preferable, or consider the Torrent.

The tongue is on the thin side as Sam mentioned.  Not particularly problematic, but I find myself spending a bit of time before a run sliding my finger in the shoe to make sure it is smoothed out and not folded over, as well as properly lined up.  It is also a bit short. I think it would be a great improvement if the tongue were a little more padded, a little longer and gusseted or stitched into a stretch booty design like the Torrent or many of the Salomons.  This would help with ease of entry, as well as foothold and security, which this shoe is lacking a bit of.

Dom: As I mentioned above, I was initially somewhat disappointed at the forefoot width of the EVO, which felt narrower than previous Hoka shoes that I’ve liked (Speedgoat 2 and Clayton 2).  But as time went on, the forefoot became distinctly more spacious. I’m not completely sure whether the extra width came from -- sole or upper -- but I greatly appreciate it. My guess is that the upper stretches over time because the strands of kevlar woven into the upper fabric run longitudinally (i.e. heel to toe) and not across the shoem allowing the weave to open up in that direction.  [Except in the vicinity of the laces, where there are additional reinforcing strands.] Consequently the fabric is stiffer lengthwise. Personally, I’ve found this to be a feature rather than a bug. After the initial break-in period, I’ve loved the extra width provided by the permanent (plastic) deformation of the upper fabric. However, it does concern me that those with narrower feet may complain that the initially-snug fit becomes sloppy.

Another controversial area is the tongue, which is surprisingly minimal for a ‘maximal’ shoe.  Like the other reviewers here, I didn’t experience any significant problems with it, and it seemed fine in normal use.  But to echo Jeff, I felt it was a little short, and could do with more padding, particularly around the top edge, mostly to anchor the tongue in place.

Otherwise, I thought the upper was thoroughly excellent.  The fabric feels super tough, and my expectation is that it will prove very durable indeed.  I also found that it dried very quickly after a water crossing. In some shoes in which the upper fabric lacks stretchiness, I’ve found that achieving the right lacing tension is very finicky.  Initially, this seemed to be the case with the EVO, but this issue seemed to go away after the break-in period.

Midsole and Outsole
Sam: The midsole is made up of two materials: Hoka EVA and R-Bound. Below the foot we have Hoka’s EVA which here is slightly firmer than the what I feel is the Speedgoat’s overly soft and bouncy flavor. The Mafate is definitely more flexible than the Speedgoat. I notice some cross shoe indentations in the midsole below the sockliner which are not present in the Speedgoat which along with the deep forefoot cavities and grooves assist with flexibility,
PC:Sally Reiley
The foot sits down in the midsole in Hoka’s Active Foot Frame “bucket seat” which beds the foot deeply into the midsole. The Active Foot Frame is located in the pictures above and below (when removing the sock liner) at about the middle of the black midsole sidewall highlights.
Just above the outsole the bright blue layer is R-Bound a bouncy dynamic material that is 9% lighter and more resilient than its predecessor RMAT. These are fantastic foams first introduced in one of Jeff and my all time favorites the Huaka as well is in the lively Hupana with both having the entire midsole made of RMAT. The R-Bound, in combination with the relatively firm thick outsole, gives the Mafate its responsive any terrain feel while molding to terrain and tempering shock from the outsole.
Understanding that the upper is focused on long haul comfort, the underfoot platform is impressively stable. The rear view above shows the broad on the ground platform at the rear of the shoe.

Jeff:  This midsole is fantastic!  Firm but well cushioned with an impressive amount of snap and spring to it, not for just a maximally stacked shoe, but for any shoe.  This is really noticeable when climbing, fast downhills, fast flats, buttery singletrack, doubletrack and on the road even. If you shaved off the lugs, I think this would be an absolutely awesome road shoe as well.

Last year, I was quite impressed with the cushioning and reasonably happy with the response of the Speedgoat 2, but now after trying them side by side with the Mafate EVO, the Speedgoat 2 feels much more spongy.  Still good, but compared to the Mafate EVO, the midsole of the SG2 seems like a bit of a throwback, what a difference a year makes.

As Sam states above, the midsole here is reminiscent of the RMAT found in the Huaka, a shoe that still ranks in my all time favorites list, despite being ~5 years old (I still have two pairs, well guarded and only come out on special occasions…. ;) ).

Sam: The outsole is Vibram’s MegaGrip. I found it excellent in snow, more viscous mud, Moab sand, and on moderate NH roots and rocks. In early spring sticky, tacky Utah mud the deep crevices in the center forefoot “locked in” the mud making them very difficult to clear. Very small rocks can get jammed in the thinnest crevices and are hard to remove but quickly ejected from the three big forefoot cavities. 
I found the outsole to be excellent on road. Of course, the giant lugs are a bit slappy but the rectangular center shapes at forefoot and flatter than usual larger overall lug surfaces provide a broader landing and smoother toe off platform than in the usual trail shoe with the three front deep center cavities and other deep grooves contributing to flexibility and some spring. As Jeff notes below, the lugs are for sure noticeable on firm smooth terrain such as road and hard pack but for me in a good way that adds a sense of dynamism and consistent feel that more triangular lugs often lack. I did not find them wobbly on firm terrain or roads. Clearly, this outsole midsole combination was designed with input from the Hoka speedsters Tollefson and Walmsley who wanted road shoe worthy response and speed with any terrain traction in their long hauler.
Sam: The broader front lugs and deeply cored front cavities stand in sharp contrast to the Speedgoat’s outsole view. The Mafate has more front on the ground full contact, is more flexible due to the deep coring and grooves up front and is noticeably more responsive.

Jeff: The outsole is a bit of a mixed bag.  The lugs are quite tall and pronounced, offering excellent grip on most terrain, especially loose dirt, soft ground, mud, sand and snow.  In the wet the outsole generally grips well, but gives a little on wet, smooth slabby rock and are average to slightly above when compared to most trail shoes in the wet.

Because the lugs are so vertical and pronounced, I find them to be very obvious underfoot and somewhat wobbly on hard surfaces, which wasn’t particularly problematic, but I was just always aware. As the lugs have worn some over time, they seem to have softened some and are less obvious and the shoe runs much smoother.

Dom: In the limited (i.e. dry) conditions I was able to test in, the traction was great.  Unlike Jeff, I couldn’t feel the lugs, even on smooth surfaces. Given the lack of a tougher outsole layer, I would be surprised if durability is anything more than ‘acceptable’.  But probably this a classic trade-off between weight and durability. That may make the Mafate EVO more of a race-day shoe for ultramarathons rather than a daily trainer.

I should also note that the sole has a tendency to accumulate stones in the many little holes in the outer layer, somewhat of a strange choice for a trail shoe.

The only downside I found was instability in rough, loose terrain.  Despite Hoka’s bathtub midsole construction, a shoe with a ~30 mm stack height is inevitably going to feel somewhat tippy and harder to correct when rolled.   Although the Mafate EVO performed well in steep terrain, I found the shoe a little scary when running on trails with loose rocks. I rolled my ankle several times in the course of single long run on an overgrown trail where the ground visibility was poor.  Recovering from a stumble was noticeably harder when wearing the Mafate EVO (30/34 mm stack height) than when wearing a lower stack trail shoe, typically in the 20 mm range.

Outsole Durablity
Jeff: Durability was also a concern at first with some initial noticeable wear, but the wear rate seems to have slowed or leveled off after the first 40 or so miles and I actually prefer how they run now (with 115 miles) vs. when they were new.
There are a number of gaps in the outsole where rocks can collect in the cracks and crevices between the lugs, but has not yet been problematic.
Update:  Jeff's outsole wear at 115 miles.
Jeff: My initial concerns about lug durability were only partially valid, as the lugs have worn appreciably, but not disappointingly so and still have a lot of traction despite the wear.  If anything, I like this shoe more with somewhat worn down lugs and find that the EVO Mafate runs more smoothly and predictably than when new (the lugs at first were a bit shifty and overly pronounced).  At first I was seeing initial (and very minor) signs of lugs beginning to shear, but that never fully transpired despite beating the snot out of these shoes on rocky terrain. 

Dom's 150 Mile Outsole Update
I’ve now logged around a hundred and fifty miles in the Mafate EVO. The biggest weakness of this shoe is undoubtedly the outsole (or lack thereof).  
Unless you’re running on baby soft surfaces, the blue sole lugs, which are molded from the midsole material, wear away very quickly indeed. The yellow Vibram material heel lugs are almost worn away (I would expect them to be gone by 200 miles).
The forefoot tread shows wear, but is still in pretty good shape.

Sam: The EVO Mafate is unusual for such a maximal shoe, road or trail, in having a noticeable snappy response, no mushy feeling and relatively decent flexibility for such a giant stack. Moving along on all terrain I never had that feeling of maximal mush and they even had some terrain and road feel. I ran them in Moab on soft sand and red rock, UT spring snow and mud, New Hampshire roads and moderately rocky, rooty easier trails and the ride was always decisive and snappy with lots of cushioning that never bogged me down at any pace.
Dom:  There’s something really special about the ride of the Mafate EVO.  It has a pleasing springiness that is very unusual in a trail shoe. As Sam observed, this is a trail shoe that also feels great on road, so it really flies on smooth trails.

The upside of the tall stack is the feeling of bottomless cushioning and the commensurate decreased wear-and-tear on your legs during high-volume training.  This is a shoe that I found myself instinctively selecting for back-to-back long runs. And I found myself running further than planned and feeling fresher each time I wore the shoe.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Hoka’s long hauler racer is true to the Mafate’s original super cushioned maximal heritage but dials in lively response, some dynamic midsole firmness and decent flexibility for the giant stack. all leading to any terrain and even road versatility. 

While the innovative upper is ideal for its primary long haul task with width, comfort, durability, and water absorption resistance, it may not be ideal for the roughest technical terrain taken fast, places I don’t go that often anymore at speed as Jeff does! it also is likely to high volume for very narrow feet if intended use is more technical trails.  I would love to see a road leaning version as Jeff suggests, reducing the lug heights and lightening the upper. We hear some Hoka elites have in fact shaved their outsoles down for smoother terrain racing and training, 

Overall the EVO Mafate is the most versatile, lively, responsive maximal shoe I have ever run, and not just for trails as on the road it runs more like performance trainer than a sofa.
Sam’s Score: 9.75/10
A touch more foot wrap and structure to the upper would perfect the EVO Mafate. Maybe a finer gauge softer thread in the weave, a fuller, more padded tongue and/or a midfoot internal strap or bootie? Some lower profile lugs would be welcome and make the shoe faster yet on hard surfaces.

I think this is a highly significant shoe for Hoka One One.  Hoka have long been a dominant force in the ultrarunning world, and I have worn their shoes to race several 100-mile races.  But until recently nothing in their line up has really stood out for me as a well-rounded trail shoe, or enticed me a daily trainer.  The Mafate EVO has a sublime, super-cushioned ride (particularly in the forefoot) and is absolutely a shoe I would select for both high-volume training and on race day.

Though I immediately recognized all of the positive attributes of the Mafate EVO, it took me a handful of runs to warm up to this shoe, as fit/upper security/foothold was my primary reservation. Since I primarily run on steep, rocky, technical terrain, foothold is paramount and I struggled a bit, but over the course of several runs, I increasingly became more confident in how to best utilize the Mafate EVO.  As I used them on runs that were less steep and technical, I became increasingly impressed. The level of response with a high level of all day cushion is amazing and coupled with the more roomy and relaxed fit, make them an ideal choice for those with wider feet or anyone just looking for more room for splay and swelling on long days.  
The EVO is really a fast shoe on the uphills, flats and semi technical to non technical downhills and I would not hesitate to race in this shoe at just about any distance, over all but the most technical terrain. If I were signed up for the Pikes Peak Marathon or running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, or Hardrock, this would be my first pick and would highly recommend.
Update: As the EVO Mafate has broken in and I have learned more about how they react, I have become more confident in technical terrain and feel quite confident in even the steepest, most technical terrain.  The versatility is superb, an amazing shoe if you are just looking for max cushion on a recovery run, or if you want max cushion and maximum response for pushing at your hardest efforts at any distance and over just about any terrain, training, racing, recovering.  This easily could be the best trail shoe I have run."
Jeff’s Score:  9.7/10
.2 for fit.  An advantage for some and a liability for other I realize, but I think some fine tuning could be done to increase security, particularly if they dialed in the tongue/wrap and made the shoe more bootie like as was done with the Torrent.
.1 for lugs.  This is a really minor nitpick, but I find them to be a bit tall and wobbly, particularly on hard surfaces.  I am not yet completely convinced on long term durability (when used in rocky terrain).

Hoka EVO Mafate vs, Hoka Speedgoat 2 (RTR review)
Jeff:  The Speedgoat 2 was at the top of my favorites list last year.  The SG2 is 6 grams lighter in my size 10, has a wider platform and a more secure fit, though some will find that fit too narrow and problematic, something I don’t often experience, but have experienced foot pain from the narrowness on just a small handful of runs.  The Mafate EVO is much more forgiving in regards to fit, which will be a huge benefit for those with wider feet and those running long distances on more mellow terrain where super secure foothold is not a top criteria. Last year I found the SG2 to be reasonably responsive and wore it when I won the Aspen Backcountry Half Marathon last year in a new course record time.  Looking back though, expectations have been re-adjusted with the introduction of the Mafate EVO and when worn side by side, the difference is night and day in favor of the EVO. Depending on fit, type of running and preferred terrain, you could save $40 going with the SG2.

Hoka EVO Mafate vs. Hoka Bondi 5 and 6 (RTR review)
Jeff:  Outside of the clear road vs. trail differences, the Bondi is heavier, less responsive and not nearly as nimble.  The Bondi does provide excellent cushioning that does not feel excessively squishy and is great for long road miles or mellow trails (as I have used previous versions for Grand Canyon double crossings), but the Mafate EVO is a much better choice for spirited running, though I do find the massive lugs problematic on smoother terrain.

Hoka EVO Mafate vs. Saucony Peregrine 8 (RTR review)
Sam: The Peregrine has a slightly better yet comfortable foot hold. While a superior performer on very rough terrain taken slower it lacks the lively response of the EVO Mafate elsewhere.

Jeff:  Peregrine is tops in foothold, but is heavier and not nearly as responsive as Mafate EVO.  Testing aside, I’ll pick the EVO over the Peregrine almost every time. The Peregrine 8 has a more durable outsole however and an overall better outsole in my opinion.

Hoka EVO Mafate vs.Salomon S/Lab Ultra (RTR review)
Sam: The S/Lab Ultra and EVO Mafate were the two shoes seen at the front of UTMB in 2017 and will likely be there in 2018 as well if the Hoka elites don't pick the somewhat more "minimal" Torrent (RTR review). They both weigh about the same and both focus on forefoot cushion. The S/Lab Ultra uses a PU insert up front to dampen shock and maintain resilience while the Hoka relies on its 29mm stack. The S/Lab is a more agile shoe with a narrow and at the limit for me front of toe box width. It is better suited to long hauls on very technical terrain, if it fits your foot , while the EVO Mafate is more responsive, slightly softer and more cushioned, and crosses over to hard smooth terrain better.
Jeff:  What Sam said above.  The S/Lab Ultra has a fit that will really limit it’s range for many runners, however the EVO is overall faster, lighter, better cushioned and more versatile, unless you are in more technical terrain, the S/Lab Ultra may be a better choice.

Altra Timp vs Hoka EVO Mafate (RTR review)
Sam: The Timp shares a 29mm forefoot stack with the Mafate and is almost an ounce heavier. It’s upper is very commodious and super comfortable, really to roomy and unstructured for any kind of technical terrain run fast. I prefer its more flexible “giant flipper” climbing capabilities to the EVO but once the terrain turns downhill (less stability) or flat (more ponderous) it is not nearly as much fun as the more agile and clearly more responsive Mafate.

Altra Paradigm 4.0 vs Hoka EVO Mafate (RTR review)
Sam: The Paradigm is another maximal option sharing close to the same forefoot stack at 30mm but as a Zero Drop shoes has 3mm less cushion and stack at the heel. Altra's elites often chose this shoe for dry conditions ultras as it has no real outsole profile but a broad on the ground foot print. It has a bouncy, slightly softer than Mafate's yet dynamic EGO midsole.When combining the midsole feel with less drop, I miss the heel height and more responsive ride of the EVO, especially on road and firmer trails. It is just harder to move along and despite the same weight feels heavier and more ponderous. Its upper is a soft engineered knit/mesh with the midsole reinforced by a medial Guide Rail. Due to its upper and the Guide Rail Paradigm is somewhat more stable overall. If I was on a long slow hike/run I would chose the Paradigm over the EVO in dry conditions. For everything else the EVO is more dynamic and responsive.

Brooks Cascadia 11 vs Hoka EVO Mafate (RTR review)  
Jeff:  Cascadia has a more secure fitting upper and a more durable outsole, but is heavier and not not nearly as responsive

The Mafate EVO is available now! See shopping choices below
Neat article at Running Warehouse about Tim Tollefson, his training and his involvement in the development of the EVO Mafate to tackle UTMB where he finished on the podium last year in them and is set to challenge again in 2018.

Reviewer Bios
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 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 
Dominick Layfield
Dom lives in Southern California after several years in Park City, UT.  He is an avid trail runner who likes to race.  He holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT, and has worked as a researcher in orthopedic biomechanics. So he knows the difference between a ligament and tendon :-).
In 2016, he raced, among others, the Angeles Crest 100 (2nd place), Scout Mountain 80K (1st place), and Georgia Death Race 68 miler (3rd place).  His 2017 achievement include first place in the dead of winter 2017 108-mile Spine Challenger race in the UK, breaking the course record by an hour, first place in the Quicksilver 100K in California, and 14th at the Western States Endurance Run. 
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah.

The Mafate EVO were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Wes Arnold said...

Fantastic review! I will be upgrading my Mafate Speed 2 with the Evo as soon as it hits the UK. I also like your review of the Torrent and was wondering what areas the Torrent excels in where the Evo might struggle. I'm not fast on the trails, favouring ultra distances when it comes to races but in training will do some shorter distance at speed. I'm thinking the Evo might cover all my bases - including soft grass and muddy conditions - or could there be a place in my rotation for the Torrent too?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Wes,
They are very complimentary shoes. The Torrent is lighter, more agile and has truly outstanding traction. It's upper is super comfortable but somewhat snugger and is more secure. It would very likely be a great choice for faster shorter runs in the UK including mud and soft grass. Our Torrent review here:
Our review index is below.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated

Dan said...

I was eagerly waiting for this review and really enjoyed it. Thanks for all the comparisons to the SG2 as it's been my mountain racer/trainer since I got them. My feet are on the narrowish side (Altras are hit or miss) so I can't say that the wider last of the EVO would be all that beneficial. I will have to say after picking up and enjoying the Speed Instinct 2, why is Hoka, in 2018, still making shoes without a gussetted tongue?!

Σπύρος said...

I have the Speedgoat 2 but i find it too narrow in the forefoot and toebox. Which one would you suggest? The torrent or the EVO Mafate?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dan, why no gusseted tongue on a shoe like this? Even with the center lace holder the tongue still moves to much. This shoe should have a gusseted tongue even if it adds a few grams mercy me.
I am in the process of a 30 trial of the Mafate Speed 2 and have a few thoughts since it's the EVO's predecessor and I'm guessing built on the same last.
1st the toe box is most definitely roomier the the SG2. My feet measure an 11 on a device and I tried both the 11.5 and 12 SG2 and both were to narrow. I ordered the Mafate Speed 2's in both an 11.5 and a 12 and I feel the 12's are the correct size. With the 11.5's my toes can hit the front on downhills, no room for a thicker sock if I wanted and no room for a better footbed. So I would suggest you size up at least a 1/2 size if not a full size. My foot also measures 104mm at it's widest for reference and their were no issues in that regard.
I live in New England and have found the traction and grip on rocks stellar. This is vital for me anyway.
I am having an odd problem that I've never experienced before in any shoe and just my right foot. Both the 11.5 and 12's did this. the 2nd toe in from the pinky side and radiating back into my foot become more and more discomforting and then painful as miles add up. I thought maybe the shoe just needed breaking in so i took them hiking in pretty rocky conditions trying to break in more but by the end the exact same problem happened as while running and I couldn't wait to get that right shoe off it was so sore. very odd and like I mentioned never had this happen before. Really bummed out as I REALLY like these shoes and would recommend for sure. I guess they just don't agree with my foot. I may try the EVO version as maybe it's the Rmat of the Mafate Speed 2 that's the issue.
Anyway if the Speedgoat 2 is to narrow try the Mafate for sure. Why oh why they don't make a Speedgoat in wide is beyond me. I'll be it would outsell the regular Speedgoat.

Jeff in MA

Anonymous said...

Thoughts or comparisons to the Challenger ATR 4? I am hoping that you will be reviewing the Challenger 4 soon. Thanks for this exciting review.

Rachel said...

How does the sizing for the EVO Mafate compare with the SG2, Challenger 4 and Torrent? I’m 7.5, though had to size up in the SG2 due to the toe box (ended up returning them anyway; couldn’t seem to get them to work well with my feet).

I’m also curious how the performance compares with both the Challengers and the Torrent. I love the glove-like fit, good toe space and nimble feeling of the Torrent for shorter runs, but am not sure I can handle the minimalist feel of the forefoot over longer/rockier ultras. I feel like the heel is a protective distance beast, while the forefoot is minimal and allows quite a few rocks to jab up into my metatarsals. Like two shoes in one! I love the comfort of the challengers, but don’t feel as fast/nimble or as confident in the grip. I’m looking for a shoe that will feel comfy over 100mi yet fast/responsive. The SG2 was awesome going downhill, but felt a bit spongy, like too much shoe going up and on flatter sections.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Rachel,
Lots of great questions! Thanks for asking them, If you have narrow feet low volume feet the EVO Mafate's upper while more comfortable and roomy may be less secure on technical terrain than SG2, Torrent, or Challenger but I think you will it find more suitable for longer distance comfort. It is more responsive in the way a good road racer is than any of the others: firm decisive landings and toe offs. It has tons of cushion at the same time and for sure is less spongy than SG2. It is not agile speedster the Torrent is but did take Walmsley to a big record at Western States this weekend! It will shine on flatter sections and climbs just fine as it is close but not quite the flexibility of the Torrent with a long flex. Challenger I am less familiar with but version 4 is firmer than version 3.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Rachel,
As far as sizing I don't think you would need to size up because of toe box issues as you had to in the SG2. I found its toe box very slim and snug, in part due to all the overlays and pointy toe. None of that in EVO Mafate. Caveat is the comment above for narrow low volume feet,
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, great reading your reviews.

Would you compare Evo Mafate with Mafate Speed 2 or La Sportiva Akasha?

Best regards from Croatia

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous in Croatia, Thanks for reading! I did not run Speed 2 but from what I know the differences are of course the new MATRYX upper on EVO and I believe replacement of RMAT layer above the outsole with the new R-Bound which is lighter and more resilient. Jeff Valliere will compare to Akasha a shoe he is very familiar with having tested and reviewed here
Sam, Editor

Jeff Valliere said...

Akasha has better grip due to true sticky rubber and more stable, more secure upper, but EVO has better cushion, much more responsive, lighter and more accommodating upper for longer distances.

Anonymous said...

Great review - do you guys have any updates regarding long term durability of this shoe?

I'll admit I am a little concerned.. I picked up a pair and logged 50 miles on mostly groomed trails here in the Bay Area, yet some lugs are entirely ripping off. Little disappointed that things are wearing so soon - do you think these shoes can last 300-400 miles?

Having said that - this is an amazing shoe.. really wouldn't recommend it for windy singletrack with rocks, but for buffed out trail conditions it works wonderfully. Really shines on the downhills if you ask me.


Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks. I just passed 100 miles on mine today and there certainly is wear on the lugs, particularly in the forefoot, but less than I predicted early on and no lugs have ripped off, despite the fact that all but about 5 miles has been exclusively on steep, rocky technical trails and off trail. I actually like this shoe more and more each run and some of that has to do with the lugs being less pronounced than on day one.

Anonymous said...

Good shoe for TDS or too bulky / unstable for the technical bits? Slightly put off by the wear of the outsole showing on Jeff's shoes after 100miles. You aren't going to get much more than 200 out of them are you!

Jeff Valliere said...

TDS is not jumping out at me, but I am finding that even though the EVO Mafate is not low slung, I can get through technical sections of trail and even off trail with no real issues or slow down. This shoe does not feel bulky at all either, at least in my opinion.

As far as tread wear, I think the pictures look worse than in person. Yes, there is noticeable wear, but still more tread than necessary for MOST trail use. Like I said in the updated section of the review, I actually think they run better as the tread wears some.

Jeff Valliere said...

I should also reiterate, this is likely about the highest rate of wear one will see given the rocky, steep, technical terrain I frequent. Would be interested to see photos after 100 miles of use on smoother, less rocky terrain, I bet they would look nearly new still.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff. TDS = Traces des Duc des Savoie. The 120km slightly more technical race during UTMB week.

Jeff Valliere said...

I think the EVO Mafate would likely be fine. My first few runs I was a little bit tentative only on the steepest, most technical terrain, but as the shoe has broken in, I have become much more confident. I am to the point now where I'll go about anywhere at any pace in them without hesitation.

chrispyb said...

I have the Evo Mafates, but haven't worn them outside the house yet. I'm worried because my pinkie toes seems to go numb after wearing them for an hour or so. Thinking about returning and picking up some Salomon Ultra Pros. I run on rocky technical trails in Massachusetts and NH. Any thoughts?

Sam Winebaum said...

HI chrispyb,
numb toes might indicate too small and stiff when new? They do stretch over time and get more flexible, very decently flexible actually. I too when I get up my courage run or fast hike in the Whites and run New England trails. The EVO would be good for moderate paces in the Whites more hiking than running for me due to its very high stack. It is best on smoother stuff even roads but as our testers found over time the upper really molds to the foot.Since you wrote one of other testers Dom Layfield chimed in at 150 miles with his comments now in the review. The Ultra Pro would be somewhat more stable but with less forefoot cushion where the EVO shines. My shoe of choice for the Whites the Salomon XA Elevate if it fits you. More stable than Ultra Pro, denser forefoot protection, a somewhat more secure upper, and likely a more durable outoole than EVO. See our XA Elevate review here:
Sam, Editor

geomaz said...

Hello Sam,thank you for the very useful review!

Because I am really interested to purchase a pair of the Evo Mafate,I woud like to ask you two questions,please.

Because I have wide feet ,do you believe that if I remove the insole,there will be enough space for the toes?[one of the reasons why I love the altra shoes].How less will be the stack high then [I love the maximal shoes]

Also how does the Hoka Evo Mafate compares to the Altra Olymbus 3 ?

Thank you again for your very useful informations,once again my friend!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Geomaz, it is hard to know if they will be wide enough. Can you try them In a store? They will stretch some. For sure not as wide as Olympus a shoe I have seen but not run in. Removing the insole might help with the width as might putting a flat thin insole instead. There will be little overall effect of removing in sole on cushion but while not a super hard board as often below sockliner is fairly firm. Sam, Editor

Stromdiddily said...

I just ran the Bigfoot 40 in these last weekend. Shoes held up awesome despite some very rugged and technical terrain.

My only complaint is some rubbing on the top of my foot from where the tongue connects to the upper.

John said...

Hi, i am planning on ordering a pair of Evo’s soon. I’m not sure what size to go with. I have worn 12.5’s in everything - Altra’s, Salomon’s, Nike Terra Kiger, Speedgoat 2, Peregrine’s. But with the Torrent I had to size down to 12. Weird, right? I can’t explain it. Any advice of what I should go with?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi John, I sized my usual 8.5 in all the shoes you mention above. You don't say which Altra or Salomon. Of the shoes you mention (except the Altra) the Torrent had the most volume or at least the lightest fit over the foot. How is it working out half size down? I found it despite seemingly to roomy super secure when I ran the SpeedGoat 25K. The EVO Mafate is also quite voluminous and the upper when new requiring some molding to the foot as it is fairly rigid yet without any overlays. Given the high stack I think it may be best to stay true to size and adjust with socks.
Sam< Editor

John said...

Hi Sam,

In Altra's I've worn Instinct's Original and 1.5, Torin 1.5, Superior 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, Lone Peak Original, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, Escalante's, One's Original - all 12.5's.

In Salomon's: Sense Pro, S-Lab Sonic, S-Lab Sense Ultra - 12.5's.

Regarding the Torrent's, they are amazing. They are my favorite speed show at the moment. And the 12's are working perfectly.

So I ordered the Evo's in 12.5. I might be able to go down to 12, but because I am using the for longer run's (4+ hours), I'm figured there will be swelling of the feet. I took them out for a first run today - Steep rocky run with about 750 vertical feet per mile. The shoes were amazing. Especially running back downhill. The shoes were secure, protective, but also felt so fast for a a max cushioned shoe. I ended up giving away my Speedgoat 2's last summer because they sometimes hurt my feet with longer distances. The Evo's are night and day compared to what I remembered the Speedgoat's to be. Hopefully they will fix the issues with the SG 3's.

My local running store doesn't carry them. When I asked them about the Evo's they tried to sell me another pair of the Speedgoat's trying to tell me they are essentially the same shoe. So I ended up ordering them online.

Thank you very much for your reviews. I basically use them for all shoe buying now.


Unknown said...

In Brazil, it is only avaliable Salomon Ultra Pro and Hoka Mafate speed 2. I am having a lot of difficult , choosing one for ultratrails.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Pedro, If upper works for you and we did not test Speed 2 I would go for the Speed 2 as under foot it should be very similar to EVO. The ride is more cushioned and dynamic for EVO. The Ultra Pro's upper is quite roomy upfront, pretty much roomiest Salomon out there. Our Ultra Pro review is here and other trail reviews below.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Guillermo said...

Hi Sam,

I was wondering if you could help me.

I'm currently running on Salomon XA Elevate which I like quite a bit (good secure fit, very versatile, I feel I can do any trail/race with it). Previously I used to wear Saucony Peregrine (6 and 7) which I also liked.

I decided to introduce a pair of Hokas into my rotation as I wanted something with more cushion for longer and easy recovery type runs... So I got the Speedgoat 2. The fit was great, they were soft and comfy, BUT I felt like I was running on a pair of stilettos whenever I was going downhill on somewhat technical terrain. Pretty much every run I'd have a few near sprained ankle experiences.. so I gave up on them. I still wanna give Hola another chance.. so I'm considering this EVO Mafate as well as the Torrent... how do they compare to the Speedgoat 2 as far as stack height and agility? Obviously, I'd prefer to sacrifice some cushion over twisting my ankles... :)

Thanks in advance!

Jeff Valliere said...

Give the Torrent a go, stable, protective, fast, lower than other Hokas, but still good cushion/protection for most runs. Upper is not quite as precise as XA Elevate, but still good.

Unknown said...

How about the cushioning of Mafate evo vs Saucony Peregrine 8?