Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Hoka ONE ONE Mach 3 Multi Tester Review: Sleek and Versatile with a Consistent, Firmer yet still Friendly Ride

Article by Jacob Brady, Hope Wilkes, Peter Stuart, and Jeff Valliere

Hoka One One Mach 3 ($140)

Jacob: The Mach 3 is the third iteration of the Mach, Hoka’s lightweight and responsive, but still “maximum cushion,” uptempo trainer/racer. The Mach series is less squishy and lower stack than a “classic” Hoka shoe, but still well-cushioned. This model features a totally revamped, streamlined upper along with the same midsole/outsole as the previous generation. 

Hope: I missed out on the Mach 2, but quite enjoyed the OG version: tall stack height, relatively low weight, and cushioning that was both forgiving and responsive. This update is vastly slimmed down. Not quite as slim as the Tracer of a few years ago, but a far cry from the Bondi or the Clifton.

Jacob/Hope: Very lightweight; minimal upper
Jacob/Hope: Great balance of ground-feel/stiffness and cushion/comfort
Jacob: Unique midsole feel; fun to run
Jeff:  Lightweight, responsive, secure but minimal upper, well cushioned
Peter: Light upper, good looking shoe. Firmer than your average Hoka

Jacob: Slightly narrow in the forefoot
Jeff:  Laces, outsole traction, durability concerns
Hope: Cushioning bottomed out for me once I hit double digit mileage during a run
Peter: Stiff. A little punishing.

Weight: men's 8.6 oz / 245g (US9) 7.1 oz /  204g women's / (US8)
  Samples: 9.9oz / 281g (US M12), 9 oz/255g (US M10)
Stack Height: men’s 24mm heel, 19mm forefoot :: women’s 22mm heel, 17mm forefoot
Available Feb. 2020. $140

Tester Profiles 
Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He runs every day and averages 50 miles per week. Jacob recently ran a PR 2:51 marathon and just wrapped up his first season of ultra/trail running which included two 50km trail races and two mountain races. 
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days. 
Jeff runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's but when he hits the road can fly. 
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years.

First Impressions and Fit
Mach 3 on the foot- Certainly Sleek!
Jacob: I received the Mach 3 to test unexpectedly and upon unboxing was super excited to try them out. I tried on the Mach 2 a few months ago and had a positive impression but never got to take them for a run. Hoka has been putting out some great shoes with progressive designs recently and the Mach 3 is a continuation of this. The upper is minimal, very pliable, overlay-free, and a bit shiny. The red/blue colorway with the blue midsole foam in the heel just looks great. I don’t often get excited about the look of a shoe but I’m really into the Mach 3’s design and fun but not flashy colorway.
Pressing the midsole to the footbed

I messed around a bit with bending the upper and flexing the midsole. The upper doesn’t have much structure at all and I can press it down to the footbed easily, even crushing the semi-rigid heel without much pressure. The midsole isn’t very flexible but doesn’t have a defined break-point which is good; it also flexes as well laterally as it does lengthwise—seems like it’s going to be a balanced ride.

The fit is true to size and snug with a slightly narrow toe box. Not too tight—feels about perfect for my foot shape—seamless and comfortable. The midsole softness is midrange. Solid and stable with substantial depth but not squishy or ‘sinky’. I’m pumped to take these on a run.

Jeff:  Remarkably lightweight and minimal for the amount of cushion, with a very sleek and minimal upper and secure fit which feels true to size and precise. The outsole has no true rubber pads and is instead comprised of rubberized foam, so I do question traction and durability. The orange (rust) and blue colorway is very sleek and fast looking without being overly loud.  I like the flexibility of the heel and find it to be very comfortable with the gusseted tongue a nice touch.

Hope: Finally a jacquard upper from Hoka! I still won’t shut up about the Brooks Hyperion because of its super simple woven upper. Even sleeker and more comfortable than a knit. The Mach 3 fits me true to size in a US Men’s 8. I also received a US Women’s 9.5 which was a hair too long for my liking, so I stuck to the M8. Step in comfort is good and the shoe feels light on foot. I’m less excited about the look of the M3 than Jacob is, but it’s fairly subtle for a Hoka (leaving aside the very understated and underrated Hupana). I love that Hoka is using a “ground contact” foam compound in lieu of a rubber outsole. They’re some of the best in the game at this and it makes for shoes that are equal parts light and tenaciously grippy.

Peter: Got 3 Hokas to test on the same day. Happy Hokanukah? Elevon are big and burly, Cavu looked pretty minimal, Mach 3 looked like it might be the goldiocks of the three. Good looking, pretty light and not as big and bulky as some other Hokas. Step-in revealed them to be less cushy than other Hokas. 

Jacob: The Mach 3 upper is composed of a sleek, single piece of thin, semi-rigid mesh. There are no overlays. The heel is padded, and has some structure, but is totally collapsable and free-feeling. The tongue is great: thin, stretchy, soft material wrapped around a thin piece of foam. The stretchy fabric continues down to the footbed and keeps the tongue from sliding at all—high-quality, modern, and comfortable.
The upper is light, unobtrusive, and keeps the foot in place well. It is easy to find the right lace tightness. It’s comfortable but not plush; a performance fit rather than slipper-like comfort.

Jeff:  The engineered Jacquard upper is seamless and minimal with a secure and comfortable fit and with good breathability.
The heel is slightly padded and flexible, quite comfortable with a locked in fit with good stability/security.

The tongue is gusseted, which aids in security/fit, as well as ease of entry.  An especially nice touch in this application.

Fit is true to size, though the forefoot is a touch on the narrow/tapered side and becomes more obvious on warmer days and on longer runs when my foot starts to swell.  It has not been a problem for me, but something to consider if you have a wider foot or simply prefer a bit of extra wiggle room.

Hope: I didn’t have any issues with width, but otherwise I agree with what the guys had to say here. This is a performance-minded upper that’s substantial enough to provide adequate support and lockdown, but light enough to stay out of your way. Notably, Hoka has struck a good balance with the tongue design (which echoes the recent Carbon Rocket): it is Goldilocks thickness: not so thin that I felt lace pressure, but not so thick that I felt like I was wearing a trainer (or worse, a skateboarding shoe).

Peter: Not much to add here. It’s a really good and lightweight upper that holds the foot. 

Jacob: The Mach 3 midsole is made of Hoka’s PROFLY foam. The midsole is composed of two densities of PROFLY foam which are molded together seamlessly with softer foam in the heel; slightly firmer foam in the forefoot. The heel is notably softer to the touch but the difference while on the run isn’t striking.

The midsole is also the outsole, but it’s not just classic exposed EVA. The Mach 3 midsole is not Hoka’s original, marshmallowy EVA; it is rubbery, firm but not dense, and feels unique both in hand and on the run. The natural tackiness of the material and its flex characteristics (certainly stiff but bends smoothly and consistently) make it really seem like rubber, but it’s light and airy like a foam; a bit reminiscent of a bouncy ball.

As in many Hoka’s shoes, the Mach 3 midsole wraps up around the foot (what Hoka calls “Active Foot Frame”). This adds to the precise fit and helps achieve good lock-in with a minimal upper. For me (with a pretty average-width foot; most shoes fit well/true to size), the fit of the Mach 3 is nearly perfect. It can feet a bit narrow in the forefoot (pressure on the outside of the widest point of my foot) due to the Active Foot Frame if I lace on the tighter side or when cornering at speed. Usually it’s just wide enough for me. Those with wide feet may find it too narrow. I also didn’t look the overly prominent under-arch midsole feel on step-in but got used to it on the run. 

Jeff:  Jacob’s description of the Profly midsole is spot on: light, yet firm without a spongy feel and is reasonably responsive.  The Mach 3 is stiff, but not negatively so and with the early stage Meta Rocker, makes for a smooth, though not overly quick transition.  I find cushioning to be good for fast running over shorter to mid distances, though would likely prefer a bit more cushioning and forgiveness for longer runs.

Hope: I thought the blue was just a paint job, so shows what I know! That said, the Mach 3 has pretty good snap to it up front and a somewhat softer heel. In the past I’ve had issues with the “bucket seat” design of some Hoka midsoles cutting into my feet -- no such problems here. I had the opposite problem Jeff did. For me, the midsole became too soft over the course of a run, leading to discomfort and too much groundfeel. Another shoe I keep in my quiver which I know is no good for me beyond the half marathon distance but is sublime up until then is the OG Altra Escalante. It’s okay for a shoe to not have what it takes to go the distance, so long as it works well for medium-long runs, easy runs, and tempo runs like the M3 does.

Peter: Certainly a different feel to the PROFLY midsole. I find it overly stiff, but it has started to give in at about 30 miles. I took it off and bent it into a U mid-run the other day and enjoyed the rest of the run more after that. I’m interested to see if it breaks in and gets more comfortable over time. 


Jacob: The Mach 3 outsole is a continuation of the rubberized foam midsole. It has a decent amount of texture and is naturally tacky. The tread patterns is largely shallow, wide lugs. Grip is very good and I love the road feel of these in on dry asphalt. Durability appears good so far but I still have relatively low mileage.

I’d heard from several runners, including fellow RTR reviewer Dom Layfield liked the previous models of the Mach for trail running (RTR Review) despite its lack of a rubber outsole and intention as a road shoe. After receiving the Mach 3 I was curious to see why as the outsole doesn’t seem like it would perform particularly well on any type of wet or loose surface. However, dry grip off-road, especially on non-technical trail where the foot can land smoothly and relatively flat is effective. Wet grip is good on road  (I was cautious initially and pleasantly surprised) but a bit sketchy off-road, most notably on roots. The secure fit, stiff midsole, and smooth ride—not really the outsole—is what makes the Mach trail-capable.

Jeff:  The rubberized foam outsole is light and has a firm, yet compressive feel on the run without feeling harsh or slappy.  I was skeptical at first about not having at least some durable rubber for grip, ride quality and durability, but performance has proven to be above my expectations. I do however still find myself using added caution, particularly while cornering on smooth cement, bike path bridges or anything even slightly wet or frozen.  The outsole works reasonably well on flat gravel paths, but find it insufficient for even moderate trails and will certainly accelerate wear.

Hope: I’m a big believer in Hoka’s rubberized foam "outsoles: and the M3’s didn’t disappoint. As Jeff said, it feels both light and firm with reassuring grip, groundfeel, and responsiveness.

Peter: No issues with grip, little to no wear so far.

Jacob: The Mach 3 is a great addition to my rotation as it fits in between traditional EVA daily trainers and soft, squishy super foams. The rubberized foam is bouncy but not soft and stiff and also not hard. Hoka hit a great balance in midsole density. I don’t have anything else in my fairly large (10+) shoe rotation that feels similar, even though the Mach 3 ride isn’t extreme or polarizing.
Mach 3 on the foot; certainly sleek
The Mach 3 runs very smoothly at every pace I’ve thrown at it, from all-out hill reps, to pace blocks at low 6min/mi, to chiller road/trail combo runs at mid-8min/mi pace. Despite the name, I’m mixed on whether or not I think the Mach feels fast or is easy to run fast in. However, it is light, responsive, and bouncy so it doesn’t hold me back when I do push the pace and I often run faster than I was planning to (and have a great time doing it) when I wear them.

As for the trail potential, on dry, smooth (no roots) trails, the Mach works really well due to its stiffness and balance of protection and ground-feel. Thus, it’s a great road-to-trail shoe, which is a necessary part of my rotation. I wouldn’t choose it for a straight trail run, at least not on trail with any jagged rocks or roots. The feel, protection, and flex characteristics work well off-road, but the grip is notably worse than a trail-specific shoe.

Overall, the Mach 3 is a solid everyday, do-it-all shoe. I’d like something a bit more plush for recovery and true slow days, but it has a consistent and friendly ride which works well for everything else, including workouts. I always have fun running in the Mach and would love to try racing in them, though they’re definitely not as fast as a plated shoe (e.g. Nike Zoom Fly, Nike Vapor Fly, Hoka Carbon X).

Jeff:  Jacob nailed the ride characteristics, light, responsive, bouncy yet simultaneously firm and able to handle faster paced running, but as he said, I too was a bit thrown by the name, in that I expected it to be faster and more inspiring of speed.  It can be a quick shoe, due to the light weight and relatively good response, however it takes some nudging to get there and maintain that pace.

Hope: I’m not a particularly fast runner, but my inclination is that this is a shoe it’s easy to run fast in more than it’s a fast shoe. The ride feels like a step down in softness from the Clifton 6 (a good thing given the uptempo positioning of the Mach 3), so it’s got more pop and bounce to it. It’s not exactly propulsive, but it seems equally happy to go at my fast pace as at my “all day” pace. Nice and smooth too!

Peter: Definitely a firm ride, perhaps too firm. I haven’t had a lot of fun running in them, but I’m not mad at them either. I’m hoping they start to feel better as they get more miles in them. They’re definitely a trainer and can work for faster days--but not as a race shoe for me. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Jacob: The Mach 3 is a well-designed, lightweight, capable shoe with a unique, smooth and balanced ride. The level of ground feel, responsiveness, and cushion is perfect for a performance trainer . The Mach 3 would be a good choice for a one-shoe-quiver as it can do it all, including trails, decently well. The only caveat is if it fits your foot well, as it is a bit narrow in the forefoot. The Mach 3 also would be a good addition for those with a large rotation as the midsole feel is unique and the shoe is fun to run in—the way this testing has gone, it’s already becoming a daily trainer for me. Overall, it’s an interesting, great shoe.
Jacob’s Score: 9.05
Ride: 9 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 9 (15%)  Style 10 (5%)

Jeff:  Though I am by no means a roady, I have reviewed quite a few pairs of road shoes over the years and struggle a bit with how to recommend/categorize the Mach 3.  It is a very nice shoe and I enjoy running in it and I guess I would call it a good up tempo trainer, though it takes a bit of nudging to go fast despite it’s lightweight and good response.  I don’t think it is a quick enough shoe to be considered a dedicated race shoe, nor is it plush, well cushioned and smooth enough for just racking up daily miles. Cushioning, comfort and ride are adequate, so I don’t think you could go wrong, but for racing I would look for more response and training perhaps more durability, cushion, versatility.
Jeff’s Score:  8.6
Ride: 8.5, Fit: 9.5, Value: 7, Style: 9

Hope: My feelings somewhat echo Jeff’s. I don’t like the Mach 3 for distances beyond 10 miles and I don’t want to race in it, but it feels great for some training such as tempo and easy days -- I wouldn’t take it to the track. If you can buy from a local running store that will let you take the Mach 3 out for a few dozen miles risk-free, I would do that. The midsole feel is unique enough to justify your attention if you’re an efficient runner and the lightweight upper keeps things sleek and simple. The $140 price point pushes this close to the premium/plush trainer category, so consider what you’re expecting from the shoe before ruling out other fine daily trainer options.
Hope’s Score: 8.1
Ride: 8 Fit: 9 Value: 7 Style: 7 

Peter: I’m neither here nor there on the Mach 3. They’re fine and showing signs of breaking in nicely. There are other shoes I prefer for a daily trainer . The ride is a bit stiff and I agree that they don’t scream “take me on a long run”. The real secret winner in the latest Hoka releases is the Cavu 3, which I love running in. 
Peter's Score: 8 / 10

Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: here
Editor's Note: Unfortunately none of our testers ran the Mach 2 (RTR Review) or Rincon (RTR Review) so those comparisons can't be directly made. By the numbers, the Rincon has a 30/25 stack and weight of 7.1 g so compared to the Mach 3 at 8.6 oz it is a lighter shoe with more stack but is  a compressed EVA based midsole vs. the significant rubberized foam outsole of the Mach in that shoe's mix.  

Hoka ONE ONE Clifton (RTR Review)
Hope: Clifton 6 was unrunnable for me due to blister issues caused by the bucket seat midsole. Mach 3 has a more forgiving fit, so it wins here easily.
Peter: I prefer the Clifton, but they are TOTALLY different feeling shoes. Clifton is super cush for easy or recovery days. Mach is much firmer.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel  (RTR Review)
Jacob: The Propel midsole is much softer and more flexible; better for recovery but not as versatile or as good at speed. The Propel upper is also true slipper-style comfort with more room in the toe box. Both shoes fit true to size and they’re both great. I use the Propel when I’m running easy or steady endurance pace. The Mach works for this (though is less fun at slow paces) as well as workouts, tempo, and even racing. I like having both in the rotation as the Propel shines on easy days and the Mach will work for everything else.
Hope: I’m with Jacob -- the Propel feels a bit mushy underfoot (despite having a rubber outsole) and the Mach feels more speed-ready. 
Peter: Propel wins hands down. I think it’s better for all tempos. Propel may be the best all-around daily trainer out this year. 

New Balance Fuelcell Rebel (RTR Review)
Peter: Totally different shoes. The Rebel is softer, faster and more fun. 

Nike Pegasus Turbo 2  (RTR Review)
Peter: The Turbo 2 causes immense foot pain for me. The Mach is the default winner here. Ride of the Turbo is softer and a bit smoother, but I had to give mine away. 

Asics GlideRide (RTR Review)
Hope: The GlideRide caused a terrible burning sensation on the soles of my feet for 8 miles the first time I took them for a spin. The rocker shape keeps things moving fast and smoothly, even over the long haul, but I’m not a fan of the stiffness of the shoe. The Mach 3 is much more forgiving.
Peter: I prefer the Mach. There’s so much shoe in the GlideRide that it feels like I’m a member of the band KISS. 

Reebok Forever Floatride Energy  (RTR Review)
Jacob: The FFE feels much more traditional than the Mach as it has a cheaper-feeling, standard engineered mesh upper and a rubber outsole. I wear a US Men’s 12 in both but the FFE is a bit long and the fit isn’t nearly as dialed. The ride of the FFE is a bit bouncier but the firmness, overall level of cushion, versatility of both is similar. The Mach is notably lighter and rides smoother for me. The FFE midsole is great but the Mach’s weight savings, upper, and fit are so much better that I’d definitely choose with the Mach. 

Saucony Kinvara 10 & 11  (RTR Review Kinvara 11)
Hope: Both Kinvaras are more comfortable over long distances for me. The K10 seems more speed enhancing than the K11, but both are as capable of going fast as the Mach 3. I’d give both Kinvara the edge here, with a stronger preference for the K10 over the M3 than the K11 over the M3.
Peter: The Kinvara 11 is stiff too, but is much more enjoyable to run in than the Mach. I think the Mach upper on the Kinvara 11 mid/outsole would be great. 

Skechers Performance GO run Ride 8  (RTR Review)
Hope: I love HyperBurst. Its application in the GRR8 is more welcoming to runners of all abilities and preferences than the super light, super bouncy make up of the more minimal the Razor 3. The Mach 3 is a fine shoe, but I anticipate that I’ll put the GRR8 on my Shoes of the Year list.

Skechers Performance Razor 3 (RTR Review)
Hope: Very different shoes. The R3 is race-ready, while the Mach 3 isn’t (at least for me). If you want a bit more shoe underfoot, pick the Mach, otherwise enjoy the bounciness of the R3, a Hall of Fame shoe in my book.
Read reviewers' full run bios here
Mach 3 releases Feb, 2020
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.

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Unknown said...

Interested in how they compare to the Rincon? I've run Marathons in, and love the Mach 1&2, but most Hoka dealers are raving about the speed of the Rincon. Any comparison? Thanks!

Dan said...

I have the OG Mach but find the Rincon to have a softer midsole, narrower last and more minimal/less supportive upper. For me, both are good at speed and pretty easy runs though I'd pull out a more traditional trainer for recovery runs. I love em both. If you want the bounce of a classic Hoka, go Rincon. If you want a firmer midsole (still plenty cushioned), wider toebox and a more secure fit, go Mach.

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Dan,
Thanks for your comparisons. While I did not test Mach 3, I did M1 and M2 as well as Rincon and agree with your comparison.
Sam, Editor

DH said...

Any thoughts on comparison to Cavu 2 or upcoming Cavu 3 ?
While the Cavu 2 has sizing issues and could use some improvements in the upper, I think it is a light, smooth, not bouncy or jarring fast ride for longer runs - but I am worried the Cavu 3 will move too far towards a traditional Hoka rocker feel?