Monday, November 11, 2019

Hoka ONE ONE Elevon 2 Multi Tester Review

Article by Jeff Beck, Peter Stuart, and Sam Winebaum

Hoka ONE ONE Elevon 2 ($160)
Sam: The Elevon 2 is a maximally cushioned trainer that sits on the firmer more responsive end of the Hoka road line. It is in the uptempo Fly collection which also includes shoes such as the Mach, Carbon X, and Cavu. It is reasonable in weight at 10.1 oz / 286 g for a men’s 9 for its big 32mm heel / 27 mm forefoot stack height, but not category leading. It has a very simple yet supportive upper with an internal strap system linked to the laces at midfoot. It has plenty of crystal type rubber outsole in all the right places so should be many miles durable.  

Sam: Decisive and responsive ride, heavily cushioned, firmer no mush feel, excellent rocker
Locked down and secure: straps in upper connecting to laces lock down midfoot, deep active foot frame and broad on the ground platform stabilizes the rear 
Jeff: Premium materials throughout, asymmetrical lacing works well with straightforward upper, midsole works well at uptempo speeds
Peter: Heavily Cushioned

Sam: one of the noisiest shoes I have ever run and that’s even before rocks can get lodged in the deep front grooves adding to the racket
Jeff: Weight isn’t out of bounds for stack but heavy for uptempo trainer, toebox is adequate but not great, midsole feels dull at slower speeds
Peter: Heavy, ankle-attacking tongue.

Tester Profiles
Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39 both he is working to demolish with help from his coach Dave Ames as he trains for his first 50 mile race in December 2019.
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.

Estimated Weight:: 10.1 oz / 286 g men's / (US9) 8.3 oz /  243 gwomen's / (US8)
Samples: 9.77 oz /277g M8.5
    11.2 oz/317g M10.5
Elevon 1: 10.2 oz / 289 g
Stack Height: 27mm (forefoot) 32mm (heel)
Available February 2020. $160

First Impressions and Fit
Jeff: My first impression of the Elevon 2 wasn’t positive. The toebox feels standard for Hoka, which is to say a little tight, and while the upper fits well and feels high quality, it doesn’t have the same soft comfort more and more big mileage trainers are coming with. 
The midsole, however, is interesting, and it’s wide base folds in a little bit as you press down with your heel, showing how much of the midsole wraps around your foot instead of simply being underneath it. There’s a lot of details in the upper to discuss, but the first thing that stood out was the tongue, and the off-center notch they included (reminiscent of the original Vaporfly 4%) at the top - perfect for the connective tissue at the top of your foot. 

The fit is spot on as true-to-size.

Peter: I was hopeful that even though it seemed to be a ton of shoe, with a ton of material in the upper, that somehow it would be a nice daily trainer. Fit was good and first few steps were pretty pleasant.
Sam: A simple looking upper over a flashy midsole sidewall geometry. The fit is true to size. The upper fit feel is all business, not exactly plush despite the soft mesh, and is noticeably locked down at midfoot by the straps. You can certainly feel the straps in play.  I have had no issues with either the straps or had any of the old infamous arch bite of earlier Hoka such as the Clayton, This is not a seamless type fit but with the lockdown of midfoot and the deep active foot frame Hoka has managed to keep the toe box, while not the broadest, completely overlay free and of a soft and very pliable engineered mesh.  Memo: don’t remove the laces unless you take a pic of the elaborate and effective scheme linking them to the laces.

Jeff: The Elevon 2 features Hoka’s engineered mesh, and unlike a number of other shoes has virtually zero overlays. The resulting feel however, isn’t a sloppy upper that lacks structure. The shoe has some less obvious features that are hidden in plain sight. 
Of the six main eyelets, only the first and sixth are symmetrical, the rest use offset wings that provide an extra layer of support inside the shoe - each side has a wing with two eyelets, that wing connects to the midsole. This will let runners of all foot size/shape dial in the fit, not an issue for me since my foot is pretty standard in width, but many other runners will be able to take advantage of that. The tongue is thin, but not so thin that you’ll easily experience lace bite, and the off-center notch at the top of the tongue for the tendon/ligament at the top of your foot is a nice addition. The plastic/rubber split heel counter may look pronounced and cumbersome, but it disappears on the foot. It is very flexible, and I can’t imagine what foot type would have issues with it. 

Jeff: That said, the upper fits the midfoot and heel very well, but the forefoot is tight. Maybe not as tight as Hoka models from 3-5 years ago, but tight enough to keep me from running more than 8-10 miles without issue. It isn’t as much an upper issue as the shape of the platform, there’s just too much taper for runners with wide toes - picture the Speedgoat 2 or 3.

Peter: The upper looks and feels more like a basketball shoe to me. It’s bulky, has a ton going on with all of the wings and eyelets and the weird plasticky split tongue. I was worried that the tongue was going to be a problem and I was right. On my first run I dug a hole in each ankle right at the split in the tongue. Never a good feeling to come back bloody from trying a shoe. The upper doesn’t feel as cumbersome as it looks--it’s generally a pretty good fit for me (if you don’t count the ankle attacking tongue). 
Sam: The guys have described the upper well. I have had no issues with the elaborate tongue or the front fit. I would echo Jeff’s comment that this is one very very pliable soft upper whose secret sauce is the strap system and the deep setting of the foot into the midsole,

Jeff: The Elevon’s midsole uses Hoka’s Active Foot Frame to envelop the foot from the midfoot to the heel, so your foot doesn’t sit on top of the platform as much as sit inside of it. It is also has their ProFly firmer midsole, the darker part of the midsole. The result is a firmer feel than the stack height would suggest. Both elements are made of EVA, but the contrasting shape leads to a two stage ride.

Peter: The pro and the con of the midsole is that it’s firm. It’s pretty darn firm for a Hoka and for such a cushioned shoe. If you find the Clifton and the Bondi too mushy, you’ll probably appreciate the firmer midsole. 
Sam: The midsole is extremely well cushioned and as Elevon is in the Fly uptempo category at Hoka on the firmer and more responsive side. Mind you, there is almost zero shock here and cushion for days and especially long, long miles day in day out at preferably faster paces, but you will not find a plush soft ride here. Just a very consistent, inherently stable, and I think somewhat snappy responsive feel. The rocker geometry of the platform and the front "sort of flex" grooves, it's still a relatively stiff sole, play a huge role in making the shoe roll along let’s just say deliberately and consistently no matter the pace. 

Jeff: The majority of the outsole is exposed EVA midsole, with a covering of crystal rubber around the extreme part of the heel and then again, starting at the ball of the foot going forward. The exposed EVA is cut into pods which offer minimal traction, but the crystal rubber has traction and durability to spare. There are deep channels cut into the forefoot, as well as one big indentation underneath the heel. The front channels help give the shoe some flexibility. Those flex channels help the Elevon from feeling like a big slab of foam underneath the foot, and helping it come alive when you run faster than an easy pace.

Peter: I’m just not a fan of the way crystal rubber feels on the road. Some people are. I’m not. There’s plenty of coverage and I’m sure they’ll last forever. 

Sam: I am generally also not a fan of crystal type rubber as it has a weird blend of firmness and softness, Firm and hard on landing and sort of mushy on return is the best way I can describe it. There is plenty of rubber in the right places and for sure, despite a fairly thin layer, zero absolutely zero wear 20 miles plus in.
The outsole has deep, deep narrow flex grooves up front which extend all the way up through the midsole to the ProFly top layer. In concert with the side pointed sidewall midsole "wings", they provide some flex to the big stack here with the flex increasing somewhat with some miles. Without the flex grooves and the sidewall geometry, the shoe likely would be completely stiff as say Bondi is forcing all the toe off to the rocker. As it stands, the combination of rocker, sidewalls and deep underfoot grooves allows the foot to roll without too much extra effort at knee lift to toe off. This said a touch of concentration is required to maintain that toe off roll. The ASICS Glideride, stiffer yet, but a few millimeters less in front stack, is easier to roll but Elevon is more than adequate if more deliberate and ponderous to get there than Glideride. 

The outsole is one of the noisiest I have ever run although a faster paces the slapping noise dies down that is if you don’t jam a rock in those narrow flex grooves which I more than once did leading to yet more of a clacking racket to go with the slapping, 
Drove me crazy and I had to stop to pull the rock out, so deeply jammed that I almost needed a lever to remove it!  


Jeff: This is my biggest complaint about the Elevon 2. During easy runs, the shoe felt well cushioned but dull and lifeless. There was no pop to the shoe whatsoever, and I had very little response other than “yup, it is in fact a shoe”, but when the pace picked up (for me that meant a pace between 7 and 8 minutes per mile) the shoe came alive. While many shoes have that compression and release with each step, the Elevon 2 only seems to have that if you are running faster. Unfortunately, it is a big and heavy enough shoe I wouldn’t recommend it for speedwork - which is where it truly shines. We’ve seen a number of shoes come out this year that were well cushioned and over 11 ounces, but felt lighter on the foot. This shoe comes in just over 11 ounces for my pair of 10.5, but they feel much heavier on foot.

Peter: While first mile or so was decent, the weight of the shoe really dragged me down. After a couple of miles I couldn’t wait to change shoes. I really felt the weight on hills and between the weight and the generally stiff ride, I just wasn’t smiling at all during my runs in the Elevon. 
Sam: I got to say I am not sure if Jeff and Peter were running in the same shoe! I certainly did not find it heavy in any way. Big yes, massive in cushion yes, totally isolated from the road yes, firmer yes, but easy enough to roll along.  I found the ride consistent, stable, and responsive at slow and faster paces although it is not a shoe I would reach for if hard tempo is on the program. I tend to actually prefer a somewhat firmer, stable ride for my easier runs but one with lots of cushion as during those runs I am less focused on form and want the shoe to help me stay line up.  I think if you want to be sure you are stable and not sloppy on easier runs it is a great choice. This is also a great shoe for big daily miles. Certainly not lifeless or dull for me, they for sure don’t have a springy or bouncy ride. It’s a firmer but totally and massively cushioned ride with a very decent roll and toe off despite the big stack. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff: This is my first exposure to the Elevon series, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. There’s only so many ways to slice a pie, and the Elevon seems to fit in the gap between the super cushioned Bondi series and the slightly-less-cushioned-but-still-lots-of-cushioning Clifton series. The result is a shoe that isn’t quite as blocky to run in as the Bondi but offers more protection than the lighter weight Clifton or Rincon. The asymmetrical lacing system is subtle, but works well to lock down the foot, though the toebox is just barely on the side of “okay” for me. The premium upper doesn’t hold too much heat, and it does lock the foot down very well, but the bipolar nature of the midsole simply didn’t work for me. There’s no shortage of high-stacked shoes over 11 ounces in my size 10.5, and most of them excel at easy miles while some still working fine-to-good when the run picks up the pace. The Elevon 2 only felt good when the pace quickened, but I’d rather have a Reebok Floatride Run Fast, Nike Pegasus Turbo 2, or adidas Boston 8 on my foot if I know a run is going to push the pace.
Jeff’s Score 6.8 out of 10
Ride: 7 (50%) Fit: 7 (30%) Value: 5 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)

Peter: Not my shoe. I think if you want a firmer Hoka, you can give it a try, but I’d probably steer you towards the Mach 3 for that. I think a heavier runner might enjoy it more. 
Score 6/10. Just not my shoe. Tongue dug into ankle, heavy, not super fun to run in. 

Sam:This is a max cushion that is all business and doesn’t pretend to be a plush cushioned coach with velvet covered cushions, looking at you Torin Plush for example or a Pogo stick looking at you Skechers Max Road. The fit and upper security is outstanding at mid foot with the strap system to the heel which is deeply embedded in the wide midsole which also contributes to the Elevon’s inherent stability. The upper straps are noticed, a positive add, eliminating all front overlays with a mile into each run any sense they were there mostly disappeared. The underfoot ride is on the firmer side (for a Hoka) but highly cushioned. You will hear the Elevon coming as the crystal rubber outsole makes this a quite noisy shoe on the road and that is before the slap sound is joined by any pebbles easily and tightly embedded in the deep narrow forefoot grooves

You get lots of deliberate response here from all parts of the underfoot platform if you work the rocker right (quite easily to do). There is not much road feel given that massive fairly firm 32mm heel  27 mm forefoot of stack between you and the road. There is a sensation that it is the entire platform under foot, as one, propelling you. The rocker on this quite stiff, but not completely so, shoe is particularly well executed working with the flex grooves with far less forcing of toe off than many Hoka such as Bondi or even Clifton but without quite the easy roll of say the new ASICS Glideride. I don’t agree that the Elevon is heavy at barely over 10 oz in a size 9  given all that stack and the very secure upper but for sure it is not a featherweight, The Elevon is a very solid choice for big big max cushioned miles where during every mile you will be stable, secure, and firmly supported and cushioned well above the road. 
Sam’s Score: 8.8 /10
Ride: 8.5 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value:8.5(15%) Style: 8.5 (5%)

None of our testers ran the Elevon 1

ASICS GlideRide (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. The GlideRide is similar in stack height, weight, cost, and even upper construction. But the ASICS shoe has a much better toe box, a more comfortable upper, a better riding midsole, and a more durable outsole. GlideRide wins by a country mile.
Sam: The Glideride provides nearly the same cushion and is much more fun to run with a more effective rocker and a simple, superbly foot conforming upper. Both true to size for me.
Peter: I don’t love the Glide Ride either, but I like it better than the Elevon.

Hoka One One Carbon X  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. While the Carbon X costs an extra $20 (all the way to $180) which is getting astronomically expensive, it is a markedly better shoe. Even at easy paces the Carbon X runs very well, and the upper has more room up front. Carbon X, even as a trainer, without hesitation.
Sam: Agree with Jeff no question Carbon X, except potentially for slower paces for me.
Peter: Carbon X

Hoka One One Rincon  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The Rincon’s stack height isn’t as high, but it feels nearly as protective, and runs much smoother. Smoother, lighter, faster, and cheaper means a major win for the Rincon.
Peter: What Jeff Said.
Sam: Agree but you will get more toe box room, a more stable ride and more durability out of the Elevon. Both true to size

Brooks Glycerin 17   (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The big neutral trainer from Brooks has a similar lockdown upper, but brings a bigger toebox and more plush feeling to every aspect of the shoe. I liked how the Glycerin felt at all speeds, though I’d give the faster tempo ride to the Elevon. That said, I’d still recommend the Glycerin for better versatility, fit, and comfort.
Peter: I’ve been running a lot in the Glycerin lately. It’s my favorite easy day shoe. It’s cushioned, plush and lively enough. 
Sam: While Glycerin has a smoother fitting upper I prefer the steadier, firmer more responsive ride of the Elevon, by a hair, over the plush feel of the Glycerin. For most I would say Glycerin is a more versatile conventional single trainer choice if you like lots of cushion .

New Balance Fresh Foam More  (RTR Review)
Sam: Similar more responsive firmer max cushion rides. The More lacks an effective rocker and is much more of a chore to run. Its upper is ill fitting and overly voluminous for me and best for higher volume feet I could have sized down half a size from my normal in the More.

Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The softest Mizuno trainer (perhaps ever) is a fantastic daily workhorse with a knit upper that holds the foot well, and doesn’t overheat. The Elevon feels better at tempo speeds, but give me the Mizuno for the better fit, more comfort, and smoother ride.
Sam: Sky Waveknit 3 while heavier is a better any pace daily trainer, quite effortless to run any pace except faster as Jeff says for such a big shoe and is one of my favorites of 2019.

Skechers Performance GoRun Max Road 4  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. A shoe that I wanted to like more than it wanted to like me (podular failure in the midsole gave me matching pinch blisters in 100% of runs by mile 3 on each small toe), the Max Road 4 has one of the bounciest midsoles ever made, mated with an upper that can give upper lockdown issues. All that said, I’d still take it over the dull feel and cramped toebox of the Elevon.
Sam: I had no blister or other issues with the Max Road 4. It is a shear bouncy joy to run at faster paces. I prefer the Elevon for slower paces and its non stretch upper but overall for fast fun with tons of lively cushion the Max Road.

Saucony Triumph 17  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. Similarly priced, stacked, and weighted, the Triumph has a more comfortable upper, a bigger toe box, more traction, better durability, and a substantially better ride - even at pace. No hesitation, Triumph wins.
Sam: Agree with Jeff. At moderate to somewhat fast paces I prefer the Elevon steady, consistent easier to rock along firmer ride. I found to much of a contrast between Triumph bouncy lively midsole and its dull and quite stiff forefoot outsole whereas the Elevon outsole midsole is better matched if oh so noisy. All of this said Triumph is a better all around choice in a daily trainer for me.
Elevon 2 Releases February 2020
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Kevin M said...

Thoughts on these for a 100 miler? Flat course. Hard packed dirt or pavement. I'm not fast (25-26 hour range). Was thinking Rincon or maybe Topo Zephyr. How do these compare with the Zephyr? Thanks.

Sam Winebaum said...

A good option but pebbles will get jammed in deep flex grooves. Stable, consistent, super cushioned. Zeyphr will get you a much more accommodating toe box for that distance. The ride is somewhat less cushioned and also favors mid foot strike. For the course and distance you might also consider something like Saucony Triumph or Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3. Rincon also a good choice but would favor a narrow foot.

Kevin M said...

Thank you! I currently run in Rincon and Speedgoat 2s so I'm good with Hoka "narrowness." I do have a narrow mid foot/heel and do like a little more toe room.

wuxiaworld said...

An extremely wonderful pair of shoes. I wish I could buy it. Thank you for sharing!