Article by Dominique Winebaum, Joost De Raeymaeker, Peter Stuart, Derek Li, Ryan Eiler Jacob Brady and Sam Winebaum
Hoka ONE ONE Mach 4 ($130)
Editor Note: The Mach 4 doesn’t launch until March 2021 but is one of those shoes which so captivated our testers that they had to show and tell, and now!
Dominique: I am excited to be testing several pairs of shoes (running and hiking) from the HOKA Spring Collection 2021 -- plenty of novelties to boost my stride!
Based on the characteristics of the ride, HOKA has classified its line of footwear into three categories: Fly, Glide, and Sky. Testing the Mach 4 I get to experience the Fly ride, which is characterized for its “responsive cushion” and “energetic ride.”
This is my first introduction to a Mach model and it was love at the first step. It may be hard to go back to the Arahi 5, which I am also testing, after running in the Mach 4. I presently have an undiagnosed sore heel that is improving with rest but made worse by running, though the pain did not resurface running in the Mach 4, as it did running in the Arahi 5, which is much firmer.
Joost: As I wrote in my Rocket X review (RTR Review), these are my first ever couple of HOKA shoes and I don’t know if I’m lucky to get the great ones, but they’ve been a success for me so far. They are very different shoes in feel and purpose, but both belong to the faster Fly line. The Mach 4 is a fast everyday trainer for logging long miles. For price and purpose, its place in the lineup is comparable to the Nike Pegasus 37, the Saucony Ride 13 or the Reebok Floatride Symmetros. The feel of the Mach 4 is quite different, though. Read on for more info and comparisons.
Peter: The Mach 3 was not my favorite shoe. It was pretty hard and unforgiving for a Hoka--in fact it was pretty hard and unforgiving period. It was fine, but not particularly fun to run in. The Mach 4 is softer, more comfortable and better looking.
Derek: The last Mach I used was Mach 2. It was a pretty good all-around shoe for me, if a little on the flat-feeling side. I missed out on Mach 3, but I’m glad I caught the boat for the Mach 4. While the fit is still fairly similar to the Mach 2, the Mach 4 looks and feels completely different! As Peter has said, it is now a much softer shoe than prior versions. Is that a good thing? Read on to find out the good, the bad, and the bouncy.
Sam: Been waiting and waiting… Ever since the first Mach with its rubberized foam I thought there would be a worthy replacement for the 2014 Huaka, an all around even trails shoe with a lively bounce and stable manners from its full RMAT rubberized foam midsole and a few patches of rubber but no Mach or other Hoka got that magic back.
Machs have been firmer, relatively low stack for a Hoka and definitely not much fun. While Cliftons have improved in stability and rocker geometry over time, they remained,even in the 7 a shoe that I had trouble flowing with. Adding more stack to the Mach, now equivalent to the Clifton's, and softer new foam and what appeared to be a new rocker geometry caught my attention as did the Swallow Tail.
The Mach tail and associated outrigger are a new take on the outrigger to cushion landings and lever the foot forward first seen in the radical trail TenNine and as an extreme Swallow Tail combined with a Carbon Bow in the Deckers Lab (parent of Hoka’s innovation lab) KD-S 21 “concept shoe” where it was, if clearly effective, also extreme and overdone for pure run purposes.
The Clifton Edge of earlier this year also included an outrigger heel that was broader and further protruding than in the Mach's (back weighting the shoe). Clearly Hoka and Deckers Lab believe the concept has merit and have very rapidly evolved it in less than a year with now a tuned down tail in the Mach 4.
With a weight at barely 8 oz and that full 29mm/ 24mm stack, I was eager to see where this totally modern, new school Hoka fit. I suspected it would for sure improve on the Mach and likely be a smoother running and lighter alternative to the Clifton.
Ryan: There were mixed reviews about the Mach 3, and so I didn’t set the bar as high as I should have for this iteration. The folks at Hoka must actually be listening to customer feedback! Hoka has been openly experimenting with a variety of flared and extended heels, so I was curious to see how this particular swallowtail shape affected the ride. It’s impressively lightweight for a shoe that by appearance should weigh 12oz. Looking at the spec sheet, I expected a bulky, overly-firm trainer, but it turns out that my initial impressions were far from the truth.
Jacob: The Mach is Hoka’s lightweight, uptempo/daily trainer. Previous iterations were lower stack and firmer—not classic Hokas
. Version 4 is a dramatic redesign, gaining in stack height, softness, and upper structure, while declining in weight! I really enjoyed the Mach 3 and even a year later, still run in it every couple of weeks. With version 4 Hoka has changed the two things I liked most about the Mach 3: the firm but well cushioned underfoot feel and the thin, unstructured jacquard mesh upper. I was curious to experience the pros and cons of these changes—let’s check it out.
Approx Weight:: men's 8 oz / 227 g (US9) / women's / (US8)
US men’s 8.5: 7.76 oz / 220g,
US men’s 9.5: left 234 (8.25 oz), right 238 (8.4 oz), 237g / 8.4oz, 235g / 8.3oz
US men’s 12: 265 g /9.3 oz
Stack Height: men’s 29mm/ 24mm :: women’s 27mm / 22mm, 5mm drop
The Mach 3 had a stack height of 24mm / 19 (official catalog) mm so more cushion in Mach 4 and now the same stack as Clifton, Clifton Edge, Rocket X (30/25), and Arahi 5.
Available March 2021 $130
Joost/Derek/Sam/Dominique/Ryan: Hugs the foot
Peter/Derek/Ryan: Flashy yellow, soft without being too mushy, rides easy.
Joost/Sam/Jacob: Great cushioning
Joost/Sam/Jacob: Lively ride
Fits like a glove - pair is a half-size down from my regular size 9.
Dominique/SamSmooth, quick to adjust, and secure shoelace system.
Cushioning is super comfortable, protective, and propulsive.
Joost: Able to pick up the pace if needed
Sam: Swallow tail deflects heel shock and helps the foot lever forward quickly after the soft landing
Jacob: Bouncy, smooth, stable ride
Jacob: Impressively light for the level of cushion
Joost/Derek/Dominque/Jacob: The longest shoelaces I’ve ever encountered on a shoe
Ryan/Sam: Full-fledged midsole/outsole comfort makes transition a bit sedated for hard running
Peter/Derek: can feel a little ponderous.
Joost: A bit too warm for tropical weather
Joost: Feel heavier than they are
Peter: The longest shoelaces ever. How did they get that so wrong?
Peter: More break-in than I’m used to.
Sam: forefoot could use a bit more pop/response to go with its bounce, a patch of real rubber?
Jacob: Upper runs a bit hot
Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, hiking and trekking, and gardening.
Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years
Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can. He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line. More recently he has solo time trialed the 2020 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K.
Ryan decided to forego his Wall Street job to be a gear junkie, and is currently the fledgling entrepreneur behind his company, Bridger Helmets. Most days, you'll find him loping along the Charles River in Boston. Of all the places he's run, Central Park NYC and the New Hampshire coast top his list.
Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over two years and averages 50-60 miles per week. Jacob has run several marathons and shorter (≤ 50km) ultras and mountain races in the past two seasons, with a PR of 2:51 in the marathon. In addition to running, he surfs, rides (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skis. He is 25 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and about 155 lbs / 70 kg.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 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 163 lbs.
First Impressions and Fit
Dominique: Literally it was love at the first step. The shoelace system is very well designed and straight forward, and creates a comfortable and secure fit. With HOKA, I am often able to fit into a half size smaller shoe, which is the case here. (This size 8.5 Mach 4 came my way a bit by accident.) The fit is perfect wearing a thin pair of socks. I would say this is probably my favorite pair of HOKA road running shoes thus far in terms of delivering an all around positive experience. I am currently dealing with a minor on and off heel pain that is exacerbated by running, however, my heel is not as sore after running in the Mach 4. I enjoy the feel of the shoe, which is extremely lightweight, breathable, and cushiony, as well as performing.
Joost: The Mach 4 is easy to get on your feet, easy to lace up and hugs your feet like a (tight) glove. I could use an extra millimeter or two of width, but never got any hotspots while running. The big toe can move in its natural forward direction without being pushed to the inside, which is great. The Mach 4 fits true to size for me, with enough room to spare up front for long comfortable runs. I got the blue flower/citrus colorway, which looks good. At first sight, the hoof shaped heel seems a bit odd, and while it sticks out a little too much, it didn’t get in my way.
On first putting it on, it reminded me a little of the feeling of some old Nike Vomero models: a luxuriously soft fit with delicious amounts of cushioning. A shoe that says: your feet will be pampered, in spite of all the miles you run. The 5mm drop is the same as in the Rocket X and due to the flexibility and softness of the midsole, didn’t put any extra burden on my achilles.
Peter: True to size for me. A little wider than the Rincon, which is nice. They are very, very comfortable. Good looking in the Citrus colorway. Materials are soft and supple.
Derek: The new Mach 4 fits true to size and has a relatively high volume upper, though not necessarily wide. People who normally complain about the narrow last of Hoka’s will probably appreciate this. I would describe the fit as being more on the relaxed side for a performance shoe and definitely roomier across the midfoot than the Mach 2 I used before. Walking around, you can immediately tell that it is a very different kettle of fish from previous Machs. There is a distinct squish to the foam as you walk around, reminding me somewhat of the Skechers MaxRoad 4 range or the ASICS Novablast. A pleasant surprise indeed for something in Hoka’s speed-focused lineup.
Ryan: So inviting, in nearly every way possible. And who thought a yellow and grey shoe could pull off such a classy look? I second Joost’s observation, that the very first moments of lace-up have that coddled feel of some Nike Vomero models. But from there on, the Hoka is an even better shoe. My M9.5’s fit was exactly true to size.
Sam: An unusual and appealing design and color which blends bright yellows with muted white gray upper and navy blue logo collars and lacing system.
As the others have said a worry free superb true to size fit blending very easy on the foot comfort and a lockdown that doesn’t suffocate or slip anywhere that I would characterize as closer to a training than racing fit.
Jacob: Out of the box, the Mach 4 is immediately striking as it has a lot of midsole, both height and width, but is notably lightweight. It has a unique dual-density midsole design with a wide, wrapping lower layer that is very firm, almost hard, and a soft top layer. I have never experienced a shoe with two midsole densities that are so different from each other. Also, it has a protruding swallowtail-shaped heel midsole and flared heel collar—all modern features.
On foot, it is soft, plush, and comfortable! A big change from the slim Mach 3. There isn’t much extra width in the toebox but it’s wider than the Mach 3, which I had some issues with narrowness with thick shoes. The Mach 4 is still not a wide shoe and those with wide feet may have issues. Length is perfect and the soft upper mesh with stretchy laces makes lace-up easy and accepting to a variety of tightnesses.
Dominique: The upper has been designed with engineered mesh “made from heat press TPU embroidered yarns,” which is highly breathable and lightweight contouring my foot like a glove. The back of the heel is reinforced with an “anatomical Achilles construction” designed to alleviate pressure in that area prone to injury. I have been wondering if this is one of the reasons my heel pain has been more manageable since I started running in the Mach 4.
The shoelace system allows for the perfect gliding of the shoelaces through the eyelets making it a breeze to tie one’s shoes. However, the shoelaces could be shorter. The collar of the ankle has comfortable and supple padding and an achilles tab that protrudes and also functions as a pull tab.
Joost: Dominique said it: it contours your foot like a glove. A nice and soft one at that. I’m a little bit concerned about the heat though, since here in Angola the hot rainy season is upon us. In spite of the good breathability, the material itself is a little thicker than some of the mesh uppers we’ve gotten used to lately.
The heel and ankle area is well padded and not too stiff. The outward facing achilles area is something that has been picked up by lots of brands lately and does its job well, taking possible pressure off the achilles for people with chronic tender heels like me.
The tongue is reasonably thin, attached with a gusset to the outsole and holding down the midfoot securely.
A minimal toe bumper adds some structure to the front of the upper and there’s a thin adhesive strip going from the heel to both the lateral and medial sides of the shoe, probably to add just a little bit of stability to the upper.
Derek: As others have already said, the fit is good, especially with the soft and unstructured upper material. The good thing about the extra volume is that you can really achieve good lace tension without worrying about pressure points e.g. at the arch. The fit is not sloppy despite the high volume, because the last is still relatively performance-oriented, with the raised midsole sidewalls providing the expected cradling effect on the foot, so you can really get it to contour to your foot shape as Joost described.
Unlike Joost, I did not have any problems with the upper in terms of ventilation and heat build-up here in Singapore. It is a thicker material than what’s on the Carbon X 2, but it’s also a little softer in feel, especially compared to Carbon X 2. I tend to get a little more heel slippage from shoes with the curved heel motif, but with this shoe, there was zero movement, as I was able to get quite a good lockdown with the laces. Yes, the laces are long, really long, but I do what I usually do in this case, and that’s run the excess lace under the crisscrosses and that pretty much takes care of the issue.
Peter: I don’t have a ton to add to the above. The upper feels great and laces well, but the laces stretch up to my knees. Double knot is almost insufficient. It’s ridiculous.
Ryan: I, too, only have kind things to say here (never-ending laces aside). The toe box seems like it was sculpted carefully, curving around and across the toes in an anatomically considerate way. Up front, the bumper is darn near perfect, walking the line between being too hearty and too flimsy, resulting in a supremely comfortable forefoot fit on all sides.
This engineered mesh skews toward the soft and supple end of the spectrum, but still manages to resist stretching. It doesn’t have the tenacity of some other racier, unforgiving meshes, but in a shoe like this, comfort wins every time. I’m a fan of the flared heel design, as long as the shape of the heel is cupped enough to hold it in place -- which this one is. It makes it easy to get these on, and eliminates any potential achilles rubbing issues. Wide laces on a partially laminated tongue add to the plush feel, carefully distributing pressure across the bridge of the foot.
Jacob: The Mach 4 uses a thick, soft engineered spacer mesh with good structure and no overlays. The design is sleek and clean and the materials are high quality. The mesh holds the foot precisely but has enough give to make it easy to dial in the fit. The flared heel with rigid heel cup locks in the back of the foot very well and without pressure. The tongue is similar to many current Hoka models and has light padding, a stretchy gusset, and a comfortable fit overall. The laces are also stretchy and add to the comfort, however they are far too long and I have to take care to tuck them in so they don’t slap around. Also, the mesh runs a bit hot. However, the upper is well-done and performant overall.
Dominique: Profly midsole™ -- a “cushioning system that combines soft foam in the heel with firmer foam in the forefoot” -- providing better protection for the heel and better propulsion for the forefoot and resulting in a more comfortable and performing ride. Smart cushioning design to offer better protection and better performance. I can certainly attest to that as my heel has been less painful after running in the Mach 4 and my forefoot rebounds that much better. The early stage Meta-Rocker gives you that propelling feel as your foot rolls smoothly from heel to toe. As a heel striker, it works really well for me, and energizes my runs.
Joost: The midsole is basically a dual layer matter, with the top part being Profly. The lower part is a rubberized foam and also serves as the outsole. Upon standing and walking in the Mach 4, you notice the soft feeling of the Profly. Soft being not overly soft. You never get the feeling that the foam will bottom out. For lack of other words, it’s a reassuring kind of soft, a soft that says: I got your back on those long runs.
Peter: Midsole is soft and forgiving without being mushy or risking a bottoming out. It took a couple of runs for the midsole/outsole to flex right for me and I had to stop and give them a good hard bend to get them to feel good. Once they broke in, though, the midsole got very comfortable and has stayed so for many many runs.
Derek: While this shoe also uses the ProFly dual density foam layup like the Carbon X, the underfoot feel is very different, as both top and bottom layers appear to be very soft, with the bottom layer (which also doubles as the outsole) still being relatively soft. The absence of a carbon plate also contributes a lot to the overall softness of the shoe, most noticeably in the forefoot. It almost, but does not, bottom out for me.. I think it may well do so for a heavier runner (I’m about 140lbs). For me, at various paces and especially the slower paces, I can really appreciate the springiness of the whole set-up. As a bonus, this springiness does not come with the added baggage of instability, I think because of the bucket-seat design that Hoka loves to use, where your foot sits lower in the shoe due to raised midsole sidewalls, and the relatively wide footprint of the shoe.
In a way, this design also helps to direct the bounce of the shoe a little more, as opposed to a more untamed feel that one may get in e.g. ASICS Novablast or Skechers MaxRoad. I’m not saying that the stability is good or bad. I personally like untamed; NovaBlast, Fuelcell TC, VF OG all the way, but I can see that some people struggle with the unstable heel at slower paces and for them, the more stable design of the Mach 4 will help, without obscuring the bounce of the heel too much. That said, the softness of the foam, with a 5mm heel-toe drop, will probably have heel heel-strikers finding the shoe a bit flat, and it would probably serve mid-strikers best.
Ryan: The predominant attribute I noticed was how plush the heel cushioning managed to be without feeling mushy or uncontrolled.
My guess is that the relatively wide stance of the heel helps, while the sandwiched midsole foams cooperate very well together; the outer, rubberized layer provides the necessary stability, and the upper (brighter yellow) layer focuses purely on luxury. Derek said it nicely when he mentioned how all of this helps to direct its inherently springy nature. While it doesn’t return energy in the same way that some more lively, low-density midsoles do, this is a phenomenal composition for daily training. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the swallowtail design does to the underfoot feel, but it probably attenuates the impact energy on footstrike, and it certainly doesn’t hurt anything (and maybe makes for a nice bottle opener after a deserving workout?).
Sam: As others have well said the midsole and outsole are made up of two layers of foam: soft new CMEVA underfoot and firmer rubberized foam as a layer of cushioning and also as the outsole. There is plenty of overall stack here at 29/24, the same stack as the Clifton, Clifton Edge, and Arahi 5 so while we check in a very light 8 oz we have plenty of cushion underfoot. And we come in half an ounce lighter than the Clifton 7.
While we do not have it confirmed, the rocker design is clearly new as on the run the Mach 4 rolls easily to toe off and also has some flex with the softer top foam flexing more than the firmer lower foam despite deep slots cut through the “outsole” all the way through to the top layer. My sense is the rocker design is close to the Clifton Edge, another 2020 Hoka. This difference in layer densities also creates a spring effect from the outsole, if mild at toe off so while not snappy the front is in no way mushy.
The deep grooves provide some spring to the toe off and there is plenty of front stability but there is no mistaking this is a relatively soft forefoot and one extremely well matched to the rear of the shoe’s midsole feel. This midsole is all about soft easy and energetic flow.
Gone are the stiff, lift the knees toe offs of the Cliftons and earlier Mach and the earlier Mach’s firm dense riding midsole. In a reversal from the overall firmer and less bouncy Clifton Edge the top foam is now softer while the outsole foam firm. It makes a huge difference in ride quality in combination with a less broad rear outrigger and its back weighted feel of the Edge.
The Swallow Tail geometry.. Clearly something to it. By moving the “touch point” further back I first feel a very mild kick forward, then a touch of deflection of the lateral tail to a landing further forward and more centered than usual as the medial tail seems to also momentarily delay any rear pronation.
Then there is a mild very flowy kick forward to midfoot and towards transition likely also enabled by the deep center cavity and decoupling grooves which are also clearly weight reducing elements.
It is all very smooth in feel and very pleasing, and due to the wide on the ground platform, quite stable despite the softness of the overall midsole.
The result is a wonderfully well cushioned midsole with considerable bounce and spring that is ideally suited to daily mileage at most paces for me.
Jacob: The Mach 4 uses Hoka’s Profly midsole, which can come in a variety of flavors. The Mach uses two separate pieces, a soft upper layer and a wider, firm lower layer which wraps around the soft layer and acts as the outsole as well. This lower layer is a rubberized foam and very firm, “hard” even. To the touch it is the firmest midsole of any shoe I have tested. However, the underfoot feel of the Mach 4 is predominantly soft—slight sink-in, bottomless cushion, high-bounce style. Additionally, it’s very stable from the wide platform and firmer outer midsole layer, which is a great combination.
The Mach 4 employs a heel design where the midsole extends significantly further back than the back of the heel. This design has been applied in many of Hoka/Deckers (parent brand) shoes over the past year, such as the TenNine (extreme example) and Clifton Edge. It adds stability and contributes to bounce, especially for heel strikers and on downhills. I notice a significant effect on downhills and it inclines me to intentionally land further towards my heel to get a roll-through, bounce-off rebound. Overall it is a great midsole that runs comfortably and smoothly at a variety of paces over any distance.
Dominique: Made with rubberized EVA, this type of outsole provides another layer of cushioning and more bounce than the typical rubber midsole. The heel is slightly protruding in a similar way to the Clifton Edge, however, the center of the back of the heel is not round but is shaped like swallow tail. The combination of the extended heel shaped in a swallow tail creates a more dynamic landing and efficient roll of the heel.
Joost: I already mentioned in the midsole section that the outsole is basically the lower layer of a dual layer midsole, made of a rubberized foam. It offered adequate traction in my test runs so far, although I’m yet to try it on slippery surfaces. The hoof shaped heel seems a little weird and too big at first sight, but it might actually offer some decoupling for people who strike very far back in the heel. There are some side to side and lengthwise grooves and small areas without foam to make it more flexible and also lighter. I can see very little signs of wear so far, so the shoe should last a fair bit.
Peter: Haven’t gotten them in the rain yet, but traction seems good. Wear is minimal after about 50 miles. I have no problem with the swallow-tail heel. It’s a great place to step on the shoe with one foot while taking the other shoe off! Almost makes up for the extra knot tying time when putting the shoes on!
Derek: The rubberized EVA outsole here seems to be a lot softer than what is used on the Carbon X. It grips the road well both on wet and dry surfaces, and is decent on soft dry trails and grass, but not so good on wet dirt or grass. I also worry about durability with such a soft compound. I only have minor scuffing on my shoes so far, but it is still early days and I have not put in significant miles on my pair.
As with the Carbon X, the Mach 4 also sports the new Swallow Tail design, which decouples the heel and allows for a more cushioned and natural landing. I do find that the landing is smoother than the previous Mach 2 I tested, but I’m not entirely sure if it is due to the Swallow tail or just the foam being softer and more malleable to the shape of the road as you land.
Ryan: There’s something particularly welcoming about a shoe that manages to use foam for both the midsole and outsole. In this outsole composed of a rubberized foam, the initial footstrike provides feedback that I’d describe as less of a rubber-esque ‘clap’, and more of a velvety handshake with the road. It may be mostly a proprioceptive effect, practically speaking, but I think it changes the experience quite a lot. I prefer real rubber for faster running, but this outsole is sublime for the majority of my training mileage.
Sam: The "outsole" is extremely well matched to the "midsole" delivering a very consistent feel through the entire stack and a very pleasing one if not as snappy and responsive as real rubber would deliver. For training purposes the combo is brilliant!
Jacob: In the Mach 4, like many of Hoka’s models,, including the previous Machs, the midsole is the outsole—specifically, the firm rubberized foam ProFly layer. There are flex grooves and cutouts where the softer upper layer is visible to add flexibility in the forefoot and softness/bounce in the rear. The outsole design leads to a consistent, smooth, and stable ride. The material is well-textured, adequately durable, and grips well on road and dirt in dry and wet conditions.
Durability Update: Dominique has approximately 400 miles on her pair. The "outsole" wear is for all intents and purposes "cosmetic" and recall the thickness of the midsole as outsole layer is close to half an inch thick. Yes it will scuff as it is softer than rubber but her lack of wear is remarkable.
Other reviewers report similar slow wear with Joost at about 300 miles. Notice the fine patterning is still mostly visible.
And Peter Stuart at about 300 miles.
Dominique: I am enjoying the ride which is both cushioned and responsive. As I tend to run at a slow pace, here is a shoe that allows me to run faster when I feel up to it.
Joost: The ride of the Mach 4 is what I would call secure and comfortable. It is soft, bouncy and it transitions well. I land on the balls of my feet, but if you’re a heel striker, the soft bounciness is probably more pronounced. The fact that there are both lengthwise and widthwise grooves adds some decoupling, making the shoe more stable in my opinion. The shoe is intended as a faster daily trainer and for longer runs. It’s easy enough to pick up the pace in the Mach 4, but at slower paces it also feels great.
Peter: The Mach 4 rides like a nice, easy, soft daily trainer or recovery day shoe. It doesn’t feel especially light or fast to me, but it is super, super comfortable. The softness that makes them so comfortable step after step also makes them a little inefficient. I don’t feel like I’m getting stuck in mud, but I don’t feel like I’m bouncing off the ground either. I’ve run a ton of days in these and am really enjoying the comfort of the ride and not feeling beat up at all.
Derek: I agree with the others. The ride is fun and relaxed with pretty good vibration dampening, It is a comfortable shoe to knock out the middle miles in. The shoe has good flexibility through the toes for its stack numbers, but I would have liked a little more snap through the toe joints as I find it a little difficult to hold a faster pace in the shoe, something which the Mach 2 was actually pretty good at. Overall, it feels a bit less like a performance lightweight trainer and more like a daily trainer for me. It may well be one of the best daily trainers in this weight class and price point at this stage, as the amount of cushioning to weight ratio is excellent. Cornering and heel stability are both above expectations for this degree of softness in a shoe, courtesy of the grippy rubberized EVA and the raised midsole design.
Ryan: The ride here is like your ideal training partner: pleasant and enjoyable to be around for mile after mile. It’s especially impressive how much cushion you get around 8 oz and only $130. Given how stable and deep the midsole is here, I think it works well for clipping off mileage at anything below tempo pace. I’m in agreement with Peter that while it doesn’t feel like it’s hindering propulsion, it also doesn’t have intentions of bouncing/launching you forward -- a small tradeoff for such a friendly sensation, in my opinion.
Sam: The ride is ideal for my middle miles. Very light in weight and feel, soft and plenty well cushioned yet stable with as Ryan says they are just darn “pleasant and enjoyable” and every mile so far in these has been big smiles fun. It is the kind of shoe I am just eager to run in no matter the agenda and I have dozens and dozens to choose from.
It is not a high speed high response shoe. I have found that as I amble along my pace gradually and easily picks up in the Mach 4 with for me its ideal pace somewhere between 8 and 9 minutes per mile. Faster they are great too but the forefoot softness and only mild response up front lacks some speed pop. This said it should be a very fine marathon race ride for those seeking a non plated, softer experience.
Jacob: The Mach 4 is a blast to run in! It is bouncy, energetic, endlessly cushioned, stable, smooth, comfortable at slow paces and cruises along at speed. My first run I was blown away by the trampoline-style bounce effect and effortless speed. I ran faster than I had planned and had a great time. I found if I lean into the heel more than I usually do I feel a super-bounce off effect. On downhills this doesn’t require changing form and is really fun. The level of bounce is reminiscent of the ASICS Novablast, NB FuelCell TC, or Nike Vaporfly, but is less dramatic as well as much more stable without any tippyness.
So, firstly the Mach 4 is bouncy, fast, and light. However it’s far from just that, as it’s more mellow than a shoe designed specifically for speed. The midsole feel and geometry is forgiving at any pace and comfortable to run in for slow longer runs or recovery chillers. I enjoyed the Mach 4 as much on a 10 mile easy run (8:00min/mi) as a 5 mile descend workout (6:30min/mi avg). There isn’t enough snap for short intervals or track speed, but for tempo blocks, marathon pace work, or fartlek-style, the smooth cruising bounce works well.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Dominique: I love my HOKA whether it is road running, trail running, hiking, or recovery! With the Mach 4, I can say that this is my favorite HOKA road running shoe thus far. I am really excited about this shoe and would recommend it to friends, especially if they are heel strikers, and are looking for a shoe that is both protective and performing. I am all about enjoying my runs while keeping injuries at bay, and the Mach 4 is a great fit for me.
Dominique’s score: 9.8/10
Joost: I have been looking for a good cushioned daily trainer I could use on tired and sore feet for some time now and I think I have found it. While I really like to run in something like the Adios, the Boston or the Floatride Run Fast, my feet are getting older and after a couple of 100 mile weeks in a row, they scream at the thought of anything but a nice comfortable slipper. I’ve been using the Razor for those runs, since the Hyperburst foam is soft enough, but the trouble with the Razor is that I can’t help but pick up the pace in them, just when I need to just relax and roll along. The Mach 4 has ended my search for now. It will be my go to easy, feet recovering runs shoe for now.
Joost’s score: 9.6/10 (Ride: 9.5 (50%), Fit: 10 (30%), Value: 9.5 (15%), Style: 9 (5%)
Peter: I’m surprised by how much I like the Mach 4--especially considering the ‘meh’ Mach 3. It’s become my easy day and recovery day go to. They fit well, they’re comfortable and they ride really nicely. I’ll get into comparisons later, but these are much more fluid than the recent Cliftons for me and they are considerably softer feeling than the Rincon 2. Overall a terrific shoe that will work for lots of different folks.
Peter: 9.3 Really solid, enjoyable, not completely thrilling! Laces TOOOOOOO LOOOOOOONG.
Derek: I consider the Mach 4 the sleeper hit of the new lineup for Hoka. It is very fun to run it, with excellent bounce and cushioning, in a very light 8oz package. I see it as a very able daily trainer and posing a serious threat to the Skechers MaxRoad 4+ as a lightweight but very cushioned trainer. Its only weakness is an overly flexible forefoot. Adding some rigid elements to give the forefoot more snap could make a world of difference to its versatility.
Derek’s score: 9.35 / 10 Ride 9 40% Fit 10 40% Style 8.5 10% Value 9 10%
Ryan: Here’s proof that an ultra comfortable, highly impressive trainer doesn’t need to weigh 10oz. If you’re looking for a daily trainer with some bouncy cushion and a luxurious ride, you’d be amiss to overlook this shoe. Its transition is a bit too relaxed for harder efforts, but for medium-easy mileage, this will be a workhorse of mine. At a relatively affordable price point, and with an all-around great fit, this shoe should garner some fans in the year ahead.
Ryan’s score: 9.6 / 10 Detractions for lack of energy in transition, excessively long laces.
Jacob: Even amongst the many innovative shoes released in recent months, the Mach 4 stands out as a marvel. It is impressively lightweight for the cushion, can fill roles from a recovery shoe to a longer speed day shoe (I think it could even work as a marathon racer), and is comfortable both in fit and ride. Especially given the modest price ($130), the Mach 4 is a trainer that could fit in anyone’s quiver. The fun, fast, smooth, and stable ride is fantastic. I would recommend it to any runner looking for a daily trainer, a single shoe quiver, or a long run shoe. The only caveat is it may not work for runners with wide feet or who prefer a roomy toebox.
Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 9.5 (5%)
Sam: What more can I say! Hoka has clearly brought us something new and exciting after I would say some years of struggle in the midsole foam and uppers department. They ain’t saying much but the combination of a new lighter and softer CMEVA with lots of bounce and a somewhat firmer rubberized foam layer of midsole as outsole with what I can feel is a new rocker geometry that flows instead of requires knee lift effort to move along, takes the Mach 4 really up to speed as a thoroughly modern, light, and exciting trainer. The new Swallow Tail clearly stabilizes the soft foam at the heel, provides a runner adaptable landing area, and a noticed platform lever forward to mid foot.
I do wish for a touch more pop/ response off the front to extend its speed range and racing capabilities. Maybe some rubber or actual firmer dual density ProFly foam underfoot upfront?
At just 8 oz and a reasonable $130 with close to super shoe grade stack heights and weight to stack ratios and plenty of stability from its broad platform, the Mach 4 can not only daily train but for sure can be a race option for those not wishing to race in a plated shoe and seeking a more flexible feeling softer ride with lots of energy and smooth flow. It is for me clearly one of the most fun and exciting rides and overall best executed training shoes in a long time. It is my highest scoring trainer of 2020.
Sam’s Score: 9.6 /10
Ride: 9.6 (50%) Fit: 9.7 (30%) Value: 9.4 (15%) Style:9.3 (5%)
Hoka Mach 3 (RTR Review)
Jacob: These are surprisingly different feeling shoes, though both lightweight, uptempo daily trainers with nearly identical utility. I am a fan of the firm, lightly bouncy, Mach 3 and don’t feel like the Mach 4 is a replacement for that feel as the ride is dramatically different—softer, plusher, and bouncier. The Mach 3 has a thin, narrow unstructured upper that is bested in comfort and foothold by the structured, plush Mach 4 upper. I prefer the lower, stiffer, more “plain” ride of Mach 3 on days where I don’t want the sink-in soft style of the Mach 4. The Mach 4 is the “better” shoe overall though as it is lighter, more comfortable, easier to run fast in, and has more protection for longer runs.
Peter: Such a vast improvement. The Mach 3 was harder, the materials were rougher and the ride was clunky. The Mach 4 is a soft, pillowy easy ride.
Sam: What Peter says, 100%!
Hoka Clifton (RTR Clifton 7 Review)
Peter: The Clifton 6 takes a lot of work for me to run in. The Mach 4 is more fluid and a more natural ride.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Mach 4 is overall the more enjoyable shoe, at every pace. It is almost as cushioned yet bouncier, without feeling as sluggish as the Clifton to run in.
Sam: Agree with Peter and Derek. The Mach 4 with the same stack height as Clifton is half an ounce lighter, bouncier, softer cushioned in feel and considerably easier to transition to toe off at all paces.
Hoka Rincon 2 (RTR Review)Michael Ellenberger (joining review soon); Both the Mach 4 and the Rincon are solid options from Hoka that I found to run TTS. The Rincon - primarily owing to a more traditional shape - feels a little more nimble and bouncy, as compared to the smooth and consistent Mach. Major differentiators for me are width (though wider than v3, the Mach is still a markedly narrow shoe) and durability (where the Mach is sure to outshine the Rincon). But ultimately, both of these shoes will work for a huge swath of runners. I genuinely like both, but think (if you can get over the heel) I prefer the Mach - it doesn’t feel quite a lively, but it’s a fun and engaging ride nonetheless, with cushion for basically any distance without compromising weight.
Hoka Huaka (RTR Review)
Way back in 2014 the Huaka with its rubberized foam RMAT midsole and a few patches of rubber secured a big place for me as one of the all time greats. It was quite bouncy, stable, and fast handling roads and moderate trails equally well. Since then.. well.. the only Hoka that made me smile like that was the trail focused,, super light EVO Speedgoat. That is until the Mach 4 as it brings back the rubberized foam bounce of the Huaka here in a combo of rubberized foam outsole with that new magic ProFly midsole above in a softer overall package that is more road focused package and with a far superior upper as times have for sure have changed!
Hoka Clifton Edge (RTR Review)
Dominique: the Mach 4 fits better and more snugly than the Clifton Edge. The avant garde look/design of the Clifton Edge has been greatly refined and improved in the Mach 4, namely the protruding outrigger heel is not as pronounced. The swallow tail in the Mach 4 creates a more dynamic ride with less impact as the heel strikes the ground. The Mach 4 is less expensive (by $30) than the Clifton Edge. The Mach 4’s cushioning feels bouncier and the ride is more enjoyable.
Sam: Agree with Dominique. Call the Edge a “prototype” for the Mach 4 as they share the same stack height, a rubberized foam outsole, and the outrigger heel. The differences are that the Mach 4 foam is softer and clearly bouncier, its upper more refined, the outrigger is not as prominent and no longer heel heavy in feel and the Swallow Tail is more adaptable providing deflection on lateral strike and some support on the medial side whereas the Edge’s was more monolithic and feels that way. The Edge's main midsole is clearly firmer to the touch and on the run while its rubberized outsole is softer. The firmness of both is reversed in the Mach and along with a somewhat more svelte heel outrigger and lighter weight the difference is huge in run feel. The Edge may be a touch more stable at the heel but the other benefits of the Mach 4 far outweigh that.
Hoka Rocket X (RTR Review)
Joost: Rocket X M10 (what I was sent for review), Mach 4 M9.5. Similar drop and stack, but a different feel to the shoe because of the foam, the plate and the thinner upper. The Rocket X is definitely made to pick up the pace, while the Mach 4 protects your feet. I would say, one is the complement to the other. In theory, you could just have these two shoes in rotation.
Peter: Rocket X is a faster, firmer ride. A racer or tempo day shoe. The Mach 4 is for easy days.
Derek: I tested the Rocket X in US10, but would probably be best shod in US9.5. I wear US9.5 in the Mach 4. The Rocket X is for me more of a pure racer that can tolerate some slower paces, while the Mach 4 feels best a slower-moderate paces but struggles a little at fast paces. You should probably get the Mach 4 for training and Rocket X for racing.
New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 (RTR Review)Sam: The Rebel has a soft and extremely energetic and bouncy ride. About 0.7 lighter it is "less shoe" in terms of stability and overall cushion but is a yet more fun ride. It comes down to "practicality" and "versatility" for me. The Mach 4 leans more towards a daily trainer and even recovery shoe while the Rebel v2 is for shorter faster runs. Both are fantastic.
Skechers Razor + (RTR Review)
Joost: Both M9.5. I’m comparing to the Razor + instead of the 3 or the Elite, because the + is also more forgiving, a little heavier than the others and more intended as a daily trainer. As far as foam is concerned, I’m a huge fan of Hyperburst. I think it’s the best foam as far as stack height/bounciness and liveliness goes. The Razor+ would be my daily trainer of choice if it weren’t so narrow in the forefoot and if it didn’t want me to pick up the pace everytime I put them on. The Mach 4 is like a seat in first class. You travel the same distance, but you feel pampered and more relaxed when you arrive.
Reebok Forever Energy Symmetros (RTR Review)
Joost: These are more similar offerings. It’s been a while since I ran in the Symmetros, because the bursa on my left heel has been very tender and the cushion on the Symmetros is just in the wrong spot for me. I would say the Mach 4 is a bit smoother on the run.
Sam: for sure a better fitting front of the shoe in the Mach 4 as I found the Symmetros toe box too unstructured and its insole overly mushy leading to a sloppy front of the shoe. The Mach is also soft at the front but more cushioned and more stable there. At the rear the Symmetros is somewhat more stable but not as well or as bouncy in cushion.
Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (RTR Review)
Derek: I tested FFEv1 and fit US9.5 in both shoes. I much prefer the Mach 4, as the FFE felt a little flat and not as bouncy as I would like. The Mach 4 feels more cushioned, and is an overall bouncier and more refined shoe.
Sam: I concur with Derek.
Sekchers MaxRoad 4+ (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. This is a really close match-up for me. The MaxRoad 4+ fit is good, but the Mach 4 is great. MaxRoad 4+ still has the slightly more springy ride, and has just a little better rocker and snap through the forefoot, which I find easier to pick up the pace in, but the Mach 4 has an overall softer ride with better impact protection. It’s a tie for me. Really impossible to pick between the 2 and it may come down to individual fit preferences.
Sam: The MaxRoad 4+ indeed has a springy bouncy ride similar to Mach 4 but due to its midsole pillars really only feels right and it feels really right run faster whereas the Mach 4 handles slower paces better for me and is a bit soft, lacking in forefoot dynamism at faster paces in comparison. If you are a heavier runner or a strong forefoot striker the MaxRoad 4+ pillars may deform too much as some of our testers encountered hot spots. The Mach 4 is a more versatile safer bet in a soft and bouncy shoe.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon (RTR Review)
Peter: The Beacon 3 has been my favorite shoe of the year. The Mach 4 gets close, but doesn’t knock it off of the podium. The Beacon is a little firmer, a little less cushioned and a little smoother and more efficient for me. They’re both great, but I prefer the Beacon.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Beacon 3 is good but not great for me. I prefer the overall livelier and more energetic and cushioned ride of the Mach 4. Mach 4 gets the nod for me.
Ryan: While these competitors come in at nearly the same weight, both sharing foam in their midsole/outsole, they have very different characteristics under foot. As Peter notes, the Beacon is certainly firmer, but feels a bit less stable to me due to the geometry of its heel. The Mach feels more enveloping, with a wider stance, a more robust heel, and softer cushioning. I prefer the luxury of the Mach on most occasions, but I still love the Beacon for its snappier and more streamlined ride.
Saucony Ride 13 (RTR Review)
Joost: Both size M9.5. Before I got the Mach 4, the Ride 13 was my go to shoe for easier recovery days when I felt more beat up. It’s got the better upper and a great ride. The Mach 4 is definitely softer underfoot, which is just what I need right now for my sore feet. It’s taken the crown from the Ride 13.
Ryan: I completely agree with what Joost has noted here. While the Ride 13 is a fantastic shoe and will still share some of my mileage, the Mach 4 has managed to make the ride and fit a little bit better. The engineered mesh of the Mach seems more refined, and its ride is clearly softer than the Saucony’s, due in part to the lack of traditional rubber on the outsole. The only occasion on which the Saucony may have an edge would be for faster running, but in most cases, the Mach wins for comfort and fit.
Sam: The Ride 13 is one of my faves of 2020 mainly for its lively flexible forefoot whose thick rubber makes all the difference in pop up front something the Mach doesn’t quite have being more bouncy there than responsive. The Mach 4 upper is superior, not as suffocating up front as Ride 13 and has an overall lighter on the foot hold. The Ride 13 is a “safer” bet as it is somewhat more stable and more traditional in feel making it a great all around daily trainer while the Mach is more new age and far lighter.
Nike Pegasus 37 (RTR Review)
Joost: Both size M9.5. I have ambiguous feelings about the Pegasus 37. It feels like a shoe that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It’s got that big responsive airbag under the forefoot, but otherwise feels heavy. The upper feels stiff and the ride can be clunky at times. At the same time, it doesn’t seem to irritate my achilles and objectively analyzed with my Stryd stats, it’s actually an ok shoe. It just doesn’t feel like it. I much prefer the Mach 4, with its soft ride and hugging upper.
Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. The Peg 37 is a well cushioned shoe that can pick up the pace well for something of its weight and degree of firmness. The Mach 4 is almost the opposite in terms of a soft springy feel that struggles with pace pick-ups. For easy runs, I would always go with the Mach 4. For something needing some speed I would go with the Peg 37.
Sam: Agree with the guys on the Peg 37 men’s version. The softer React lower pressure Zoom Air women’s version gets the match up closer. The Mach is clearly bouncier and lighter while the Peg 37 women’s is more responsive due to its extensive outsole rubber and Zoom Air and is a touch more stable. Call the Peg 37 women’s a well updated classic daily trainer while the Mach 4 is a more modern, bouncier and softer new approach in the class.
Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Speed feels harsh next to the springy soft feel of the Mach 4, but is so much easier to do uptempo in, courtesy of the plate and the SpeedRoll technology. Mach 4 would accommodate wider feet better, and would be a better option for slower, easy or long runs. Overall I consider the Speed the more versatile option.
Sam: Derek is right. The Speed’s plate and firmer overall ride, yet with a touch of bounce, has more propulsion and pop while the Mach 4 is all about plate-less soft comfort and smooth flow. They weigh about the same with the Speed a touch lighter. The Mach 4 upper is superior in its smooth all over comfort and hold. I am not sure I would consider the Speed more versatile as it handles slow and easy considerably better than the Mach although it doesn’t quite keep up with the faster pacing the Speed handles so well so it depends which way your training and needs lean.Jacob: The Mach 4 is more comfortable and easygoing while still running fast well. The Speed has a unique feel and rides a bit awkward and harsh for me—I put a lot of miles on it and never loved it. The Mach 4 lacks the snap of the Speed and thus isn’t as performant for short speed, but for cruising long runs or marathon pace work I prefer it. For endurance to easy runs the Mach 4 is much more comfortable.
Adidas SL20 (RTR Review)
Sam: What a contrast here. At the same weight the SL20 is far firmer, far more responsive and for sure can be raced shorter distances (10K for me). It lags the Mach 4 by a country mile in versatility as it is not a shoe that most will enjoy daily training in or going long in.
adidas Adizero Pro (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Mach 4 has the more comfortable fit for me, but these 2 shoes are very different in terms of underfoot feel. The Adizero Pro is firm but very snappy and does very well at speed work or even long runs that have fast segments. The Mach 4 is more focused on soft cushioning that makes the slow and moderate pace runs feel effortless and painless. In terms of overall versatility, I think the Mach 4 wins out.
Adidas Boston (RTR Review)
Joost: Both M9.5. These shoes are so different it’s hard to start a comparison. I would say the upper on the Boston is very well done and the traction of that Continental outsole is the best out there. The ride of the Boston is a lot firmer than the Mach 4. At the beginning of a training block, I might go for something like the Boston, but as my legs and feet become progressively more tired, I will definitely reach for the Mach 4 to spoil my feet.
Adidas Adios (Adios 5 RTR Review)
Joost: Both M9.5. The most recent pair of Adios I have is the 4, which I picked up while I was in NYC for the marathon last year. It’s one of my favorite shoes for fast and short track workouts. A couple of years ago, when I did the bulk of my training and marathon racing in Zoom Streaks, I might have been able to use them on a daily basis. That’s no longer the case, although I do like to put them on for a run from time to time, exactly to give my feet a little more work. On a day to day basis, I would use the Mach 4 and leave the Adios for special occasions.
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