Thursday, January 03, 2019

Hoka One One EVO Rehi Review: Gotta Go Fast Race Flat

By Michael Ellenberger & Sam Winebaum

Hoka One One EVO Rehi ($140)
The Skinny
PROS
Light, comfortable, and sharp-looking - a combination not often found in the same flat!
CONS
Doesn't quite have the HOKA signature super cush road-feel; unclear how the outsole, which is the midsole, will fare over time.
Low stack means a firm ride if a somewhat bouncy one

Tester Profiles
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flat at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Sam is 61 with a recent 3:40 Boston qualifier. He runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range.

Introduction
Sam: The Rehi represents Hoka's first traditional stack height, non maximal or near maximal race "flat".  Shoes like the Tracer and Hupana check in with at 20mm forefoot height, Rehi has 13mm up front and 17mm at the heel so low.  Forget max cushion here or cloud like soft Clifton bounce along. The comparison needs be to other flat type racers.  The difference between Rehi and other flats is that while stack heights are "traditional" for a flat, if lower drop than many at 4mm, the upper is a Kevlar supported MAYTRX mesh first seen in the trail EVO Mafate, while underfoot the midsole is the outsole, a  rubberized foam in two densities co molded together without glue: softer heel area, firmer forefoot area. We tested Rehi to see how it measured up.


Michael: I love vintage video games: Super Mario Bros. and Battle of Midway 1942 for Nintendo Entertainment System rank among my all-time favorites. But when you want to have fun and go fast, nothing plays quite like Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis. I've fired up that game, and its sequels, countless times - but it's still a blast, every single time.

Enter the HOKA ONE ONE Evo Rehi ("Rehi"). The Rehi is yet another racing flat from HOKA - this one, lighter, lower profile, and built for nothing but speed. It's a technological showcase, including HOKA's PROFLY dual-density midsole, water-resistant (and stretchy!) MATRYX upper, and a rubberized foam mid- and outsole with no blown rubber underfoot, to save a few ounces. Despite its crumb-like 6.7 ounce weigher in a men's size US9, the Rehi feels substantial and packs a lot of flashy, technological punch. You can play in this flat over, and over, and over - and still have a blast.

Not unlike the 2D flash of Sonic on the Sega, the Rehi looks sharp as well, with a series of faux-knit vertical lines and an open-style lacing system that carries on a flexible fabric down past the last set of eyelets into the toebox. It's a unique, lightweight, and downright comfortable system that leads into a forefoot that feels surprisingly close to the ground, especially for HOKA.

I tried to run slow in this shoe, I really did - it's just one of those flats that feels fast, and you can't help but up the pace while wearing it. Of course, we're going to cover every nook and cranny of the Rehi below, but as I was writing up the review, I had in my head Sonic the Hedgehog, and his no-frills catchphrase that sums up the Rehi: "gotta go fast!"

Statistics
  • Weight: 6.7 oz/190g US M9 5.8 oz/164 g W US 7
    • Tested Sample 5.96 oz / 169 g US M8
  • Stack Height: 17mm/13mm, 4mm drop
  • Price & Availability: $140, February 2019.
A little heavier with the RunScribe pods!





First Impressions & Fit
Michael: I've had a number of racing flats come across my desk (sidewalk?) of late, including, most recently, the adidas adios 4, but the Rehi stands out as just looking and feeling fast, before you even try it on. The nice blue upper, accentuated by the neon yellow laces, really give this shoe some visual pop. I haven't tested it scientifically, but the old adage says you need to look fast to run fast, so... that box is checked. Slipping on the Rehi, the MATRYX material has just the right about of stretch to give that sock-like comfort without feeling like a water shoe, and the weight is balanced so that the shoe just feels like you have nothing on. There are a few lighter flats we've tested recently (see here, here, and here) but I can't truthfully say any of them feel much lighter than this. A great first impression.

We had a size 8.0 to test (I'm generally a size 8.5 in anything else) and it fit pretty well. Certainly a little snug - if I was buying at retail, I'd want to compare the two - but for a racing shoe, I think the smaller size is often preferable, and this is certainly something of an 8.25. If you're in-between sizes normally, I'd certainly suggest you size down.

Sam: Sharp with truly a magic slipper like vibe to them. The fit at a half size down from my normal with very thin race socks was just fine. With more normal socks or for a wider foot, true to size should work. The Rehi has for sure a race flat fit but a friendly one, especially in the toe box with its very thin but supportive MATRYX mesh softened and opened for some splay by the lycra insert down the center in front of the laces. Clever and sharp looking. I only ran in them once before shipping my pair to Michael. We share shoe sizes and he is a far better tester for such a speed shoe than me. This said I enjoyed my lively tempo run in them.

Upper
Michael: HOKA employs their patented MATRYX upper material on the Rehi, and it's the first thing you'll notice - it's soft enough to be comfortable, but not flimsy in the way some knit or light-mesh uppers can be. Moreover, the MATRYX technology promotes lockdown by employing Kevlar "wires" that optimize foot holds in strategic areas. Modulating various density strands and uneven placement of the threads and wires in the weave create the structure. It's a low-volume upper, with a lycra strip extending past the tongue to improve fit and comfort - another welcome addition.
The upper material is also shockingly thin, which undoubtedly reduces the weight, but - because of the Kevlar reinforcements - doesn't feel at-risk of tearing. The MATRYX upper is also highly resistant to water and moisture and should drain well. Our previous review of the HOKA Evo Mafate called the MATRYX material the "star feature" of the shoe, and "almost indestructible," and there's no reason to think that will change here. Expect long-term durability to be industry-leading.
Sam: In addition to MATRYX itself,  the Rehi features a lycra stretch vamp insert just in front of the lacing. This feature was first introduced in the MATRYX upper EVO Mafate prototypes worn by Hoka elites to help that relatively stiff upper flex more evenly while introducing some give but also very key, while not  compromising foot hold upfront.  The EVO Mafate 2 and Speedgoat 3 have similar lycra vamps.  Here the lycra vamp accomplishes the same, likely part of the reason that both Michael and I at a half size down from usual found the race fit just fine.
The unusual combination clearly give the shoe not only some upper flexibility on toe off but a highly secure race type fit, one which combines security with a bit of width give where and when needed from the lycra vamp. Clever!

Midsole

Michael: The Evo Rehi features a full-length dual density ProFly rubberized foam midsole: soft enough to be HOKA-worthy, but not so soft as to feel unresponsive. It's a nice ride, for a racing flat, but every time I put them on, they just feel a little... "flattier" than I thought they would. The middle looks beefy, but it feels like a flat. Again, this isn't a complaint, necessarily - it's just a slight disconnect between what I think of when I hear "HOKA racing flat" and what I feel when I fire up the run. Ultimately, this was a pleasant surprise: I wanted a shoe that was built for speed, not a lightweight trainer without an outsole. And while efficient runners can certainly get away with a wider variety of efforts in the Rehi, almost anyone can slip these on for a 10K or half-marathon and be ready to roll.

Sam: With low stack height in a wide platform the Rehi midsole sits somewhere between fast and something else for me. it is missing a touch of rubber for pop and or some stack. I wonder what Rehi would be like if it was yet simpler by employing instead of a dual density midsole (softer heel/firmer forefoot) in such a low stack shoe,  using a single density foam sitting somewhere between the firmness of the heel and forefoot might make the ride smoother and faster yet.  I also wonder what this exact midsole geometry with its deep flex holes up front and deep heel cavity but adding a few millimeters of foam front and back would be like. I think maybe an improved Rehi and also an improved Mach 2, a stiffer more cushioned  (27/22 mm stack) cousin to Rehi with  the same dual density ProFly rubberized foam midsole,  Of course this likely implies a new "miracle" foam and not mere rubberized foam,

Outsole
Michael: Remember the midsole? Yeah, so, that's the outsole, too. The Evo Rehi doesn't have the traditional blown rubber or strategic rubber placings underfoot; instead, the same midsole foam spreads underneath, punctuated by some "strategic coring" (large holes in the outsole) to reduce the weight. While I appreciate the intent - and certainly it adds up to a low weight, in the end - it's hard to believe that the rubber coating on the Zoom Vaporfly 4%, for example, adds more than a few tenths of an ounce. Still - I'll take it! Anything in the furtherance of a faster ride.

I was hesitant to take the Evo Rehi out on a wet day as its maiden voyage, as I had never before run in a shoe without any rubber whatsoever. Surprisingly, the hardened foam midsole performed admirably - maybe even better on some of the wet road elements than other racing flats, rubberized or not. A later run in the Rehi was even more interesting - cold, misting, and slick. No shoe would have complete traction in these conditions, and I certainly had to roll it back from some tight turns, but I had confidence in the shoe, even when dropping 5:20s at the end of a progressive effort.

Sam: A touch of rubber at the heel and in the toe off area for wear but also for response might increase the snap and durability here,

Ride
Michael:The Rehi runs smooth - while it's undoubtedly a flat, it well-suited to the half- and (dare I say it?) marathon distances. I did several runs in these, including a fartlek session, a long run, and a progressive tempo effort. While if I had to use a racing flat for a long run, this isn't necessarily the one I'd choose (not with the Zoom Fly and Adios Boost 4 available), I would strongly recommend the Rehi for those medium length workouts where you really want to get after it, at the expense of a little pounding. For a race, the Rehi is a no-brainer. The comfort:weight ratio here is remarkable; you get the cushion of a 9 ounce trainer in the responsiveness and pickup of a racer.

Sam:  I only ran once in the Rehi before sending them to Michael. They were enjoyable, decently cushioned, if thin, with a nice flex. They felt fast but more a fast workout shoe than even a 5K to 10K race shoe for me given other snappier, equally light and in some cases more cushioned choices. Read our comparisons below.
Beyond 10K I just don't think they would have enough cushion although I do think, unlike many race flats, the wide on the ground platform, MAYTRX upper support with the foot sitting down in the midsole provides plenty of stable support.

Conclusions & Recommendations 

Michael: 
I was excited to try the Rehi, and I was not disappointed. The Rehi is exactly what you want in a racing flat: it's comfortable, it's light, and it just feels fast. It's the Sonic the Hedgehog of shoes - you can use it over and over, and it won't get old. Just don't expect to run slow.

The materials here are impressive - it's a technological showcase from Hoka, with that MATRYX upper giving your foot a comfortable squeeze and the lightweight, soft-but-responsive foam extending from midsole to outsole. No, there's no carbon fiber plate here (what review is complete without mention of the Vaporfly 4%? Though of course, HOKA plans to combat Nike's warship with 2019's Carbon Rocket). I don't think you'll miss it: the Rehi rips, either way, and no plate means the weight can stay under the 7 ounce mark in my test pair.

Like Sonic, the Rehi is a flat I just keep coming back to - sometimes, you gotta go fast.
Michael's Score 9.75/10
-.25: I hate to knock a near-perfect shoe, but another ounce of weight or so would put this flat dangerously into 5K/10K perfection. For now, I'll stick with the Reebok Run Fast Pro for those races where turnover, not cushion, is key.
Sam:
Echoing Michael there is some seriously effective upper technology here to create a race fit upper which beautifully holds the foot to the platform and isn't a nasty got to take 'em off race done straight jacket. The rubberized foam midsole outsole provides a smooth somewhat bouncy ride with finally some decent flexibility in a Hoka, but given the low stack and lack of rubber is not quite as cushioned or snappy as it could be at my slower paces.  Yeah no plate, but I wonder what a single density of foam and some outsole rubber in strategic places would do for Rehi, a la Fresh Foam Beacon. And while we are at it a few more millimeters of stack to extend the range of race distance and even training options for this shoe for more runners.  Bottom line: Rehi is a fun fast 5K to 10K race shoe for runners faster than me.
Sam's Score: 9.4/10
This is a race shoe, no question about it but appears somewhat limited in utility for me to short races
-0.6 for thin overall stack and lack of any rubber combined which could give it longer range, more snap and potentially also better durability. Of course adding stack would add weight and it is here maybe we have the key rub. The rubberized foam is likely heavier than newer competitive materials,

Comparisons
  • Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit (RTR Review)
    • Michael: I love the Zoom Fly FK for daily training and those runs where you need one shoe to do it all. The Flyknit upper is equally comfortable to HOKA's MATRYX setup, if not a little harder to squeeze into, for some. But for 10K or half-marathon racing, the HOKA is just a faster-feeling, more race-oriented flat, even without the carbon fiber plate of the Fly.
    • Sam: Zoom Fly Flyknit is a dynamic lighter trainer. I am not racing anything in it given other choices and certainly not  for 5K to 10K where I would easily pick Rehi.
  • Asics Adios Boost 4 (RTR Review)
    • Michael: We were huge fans of the Adios 4 here at RTR - and Adidas's newest offering provides strong competition to the Rehi, but once again, I think the Rehi just feels faster. The lack of outsole rubber keeps every footstep lively, and when we're really counting ounces, I'd take the Rehi over the Adios.
    • Sam: No question the Rehi is faster and considerably lighter. Adios 4 is that special racer I don't mind training in. Rehi would be reserved for far fewer workouts and races.
  • Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro (RTR Review)
    • Michael: The Rehi most keenly matches against Reebok's non-Pro variant of the shoe the Fast ( (these two are within .1 ounces of each other, as listed), but when the rubber (or lack thereof on Rehi) really hits the road, Reebok's $250, 4 ounce rocket ship the Pro will certainly will not let you down. Looking to win your next road 5K? The Run Fast Pro is the shoe you should pull. Looking to crush that 10-miler? The Rehi won't leave your calves screaming, as the Fast Pro will.
    • Sam: Hands down the Fast Pro for a 5K or even a flat 10K for me. Much more dynamic with a yet thinner forefoot by 0.5mm that actually feels more cushioned than Rehi. Even with only one run in Rehi is less dynamic overall as the PEBA midsole and unique outsole of the Fast Pro make it a rocket at a minuscule weight with surprising substance and cushion. The Rehi heel cushion is superior but for racing short I am not focused on heel cushion.
  • Nike Streak LT 4
    • The LT 4 is considerably firmer underfoot than the Rehi, and a bit more aggressive. It feels like a trackless-spike. At 5 ounces in a size 9, the LT 4 is better suited to cross-country, track, or short-distance (5K and under) racing, but at 10K or above, I’d pick the Rehi - it’s more forgiving and considerably more comfortable.  
  • Nike Zoom Streak 6 (RTR review)
    • The Streak 6 (and its Flyknit variant) is a similarly-profiled flat to the Rehi: 6.4 ounces, but at a greater 8 mm drop with more stack for sure with  26 mm at the heel and 18mm upfront. Streak is cushioned enough (by way of the Phylon midsole and integrated Pebax shank) to handle longer races. Make no mistake, the Streak is a racer through-and-through, but it’s one that could likely handle the marathon better than the Rehi. Moreover, the durability of the Streak - primarily from the blown-rubber outsole - may perform better for those who race routinely, or in tricky conditions. Neither choice here is a bad one, but with the Streak 6 available at a discount (owing to the upcoming Streak 7), it’s worth your time to consider.
  • Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% (RTR Review)
    • Michael: Of course, no comparison is complete without note of Nike's $250 flagship. And yes, the Vaporfly 4% (and its Flyknit update) are terrific racers - no doubt about it. But for a half-marathon or 10K on the roads, I'm picking the Rehi: the weight, upper, and overall comfort of the shoe just eeks past Nike's top gun. You can't go wrong, of course (we really are living in a golden age of racing flats), but the Rehi will have you ready to run fast, right from the gun. No carbon required.
    • Sam: Michael and I are of vastly different ages and speeds. I would race a 5K in Rehi before Vaporfly but beyond that Vaporfly. 
  • Hoka One One Tracer 
    • Sam: Weighing an ounce more the discontinued Tracer has a 24/20 mm stack so 7mm more at the heel and forefoot RMAT midsole foam, also a rubberized foam, so considerably more "cushion" than Rehi. In the end, while more protective Tracer is less bouncy, so in some ways actually firmer in feel, less flexible, and less fun. I just don't think stiff rockered Hoka's work well for me at speed.  It could be that the Rehi in doing away with the outsole rubber and deeply coring the forefoot opens up the transitions and livens the feel much as the Fresh Foam Beacon does. While Tracer could potentially serve for longer races, Mach 2 now slots just above Tracer in cushion for that purpose.
  • New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon (RTR review)  
    • Weighing about 0.5 oz more, the Fresh Foam Beacon provides considerably more cushion with its 26mm heel and 20 mm forefoot vs. the 17/13 of Rehi. Both are quite bouncy and lively with no outsole for Rehi and mere patches Beacon. If racing is the primary purpose and you want that kind of ride reach for Rehi. . Its race focused upper is superior and its dynamic ride tauter.  If all around versatility in a very light weight for cushion shoe including for some racing then Beacon wins. You will also save $20.
  • Reebok Floatride Run Fast (RTR review)
    • Sam: Coming in at about the same weight the Reebok has a ride equally adaptable to training and racing. Its PEBA midsole foam is lighter and has for me greater and faster energy return. Now as for uppers, hands down the Rehi. The Fast's upper is fine but sloppy in comparison.  I would select the Rehi over Run Fast for 5K up to about 5 miles and a few fast workouts. Over that and for most daily training if you like a light shoem the Run Fast.
  • Hoka One One Mach 2 (RTR review)
    • Many similarities underfoot here with the same dual density rubberized foam ProFly midsole and no rubber outsole. We get somewhat similar somewhat bouncy rides with the Mach 2 stiffer and more cushioned. The Mach 2 upper is softer and more relaxed while the Rehi is for sure a more race tuned and locked down upper. In the Hoka scheme of things the Mach 2 is the performance trainer long racer, the Rehi the shorter race and speed shoe.
  • Skechers Performance Razor 3 Hyper (RTR review)
    • Sam: at a shade over 6 ounces the Razor shares a 4mm drop with Rehi but adds 6mm more heel and forefoot stack of a springy yet dense Hyper Burst foam. Bonus you also get a bit of an outsole.  The Rehi seemed a touch more stable due to its wider on the ground platform with foot embedded in midsole and more secure upper but clearly has less cushion particularly at the forefoot. At the heel they felt surprisingly similar, quite low, Razor is designed to a be long racer but as with Rehi for faster racers as you will feel that low heel when tired or slow,  While both are exciting neither checks as many versatility boxes for me as other options.
The Rehi was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Read full reviewer bios here
THE REHI ARRIVES FEBRUARY 2019
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7 comments:

Michael said...

Following!

Jim said...

Sam, so you'd choose this over the non-Pro Run Fast for a 10K or half?

Thanks!
-Jim

Jim said...

Sorry...I misread that!

Jeff McIntyre said...

Thanks for yet another informative review! Comparison to Skechers Go Meb Speed 5? 5k, 10k, Half?

Michael said...

@Jeff - Pretty similar shoes. The upper on the Rehi is a little more impressive (both comfortable and largely water-resistant) whereas the GMS5 had that really open mesh which was... fine? But largely unimpressive, IMO. The midsoles are more comparable - the Skechers FlightGen tech gives a smooth and snappy ride. I don't have enough experience with the Meb 5 to make an absolute decision, but I think I'd take the Skechers at 5K, and the Rehi and 10K and above!

Will Bates said...

Interested in how these compare to the just released Nike Streak 7

Michael said...

Me too! Hopefully we can get some Streak 7s in soon. If anything like the Streak 6 (and apparently they are, with a revamped upper), the Rehi feels a little more responsive and flexible. Would prefer the Rehi for shorter races and workouts, certainly. Excited to try the S7.