Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Hoka ONE ONE Zinal Multi Tester Review: Screaming Fast Fun, Fully Capable Rocket of a Shoe!


Article by Jeff Valliere, Canice Harte, Shannon Payne, and Sam Winebaum


Hoka One One Zinal ($160)

Introduction

Jeff V: The Zinal is Hoka’s all new, sub maximal race shoe, clearly aimed at full speed race efforts over shorter to mid distances on semi to moderately technical terrain, courses like, Sierra Zinal for instance, with a 7200 foot initial climb, then fast rolling gentle trail and even gravel roads, concluding with a 3,600 foot exciting drop to the finish line described as an “elevator shaft” for it’s steep, fast and precipitous nature. 


Out of the box, the Zinal feels feathery, tipping the scales at a very scant 9.1 oz/ 258 grams in my US men’s 10 and in an attention getting, but stylish teal, dark blue and orange colorway (with a few purple accents).  Excitement was high to get the Zinal out on the trails for some fast running!

Sam: Any shoe daring to name itself Zinal sets the bar high. I have run this 30K Swiss race 4 times back when I was young and sort of fast and Jeff describes the course well. Shoe selection for the course favors a do it all shoe with focus on climbing and smoother flats with the stability and support to handle the last 4 or so miles of precipitous descent which even includes very, very steep pavement right to the finish. My fastest time in the 1980’s on the course (3:01) was actually in the Nike Terra TC road shoe. 

Let’s just say they were great but for the downhill… and were shot after the race.

I received my pair after Jeff and Canice and took them right out of the box for the Ragnar Trail Colorado Relay which included 3 courses of between 3.8 and 6.8 miles, with 500 to 1100 feet of gain per loop on smooth Colorado single track and some pavement. Jeff V also rocked his at the race. 

I was immediately struck by how light 232g / 8.18 oz in my US8.5 and broad on the ground and comparatively for Hoka low stack at 22/18. They have with a very soft underfoot ProFly layer with below a firm rubberized foam and then a low profile but aggressive partial coverage Vibram Litebase outsole.  


So apart from the addition of the Vibram and lower stack, the construction is very similar to the somewhat higher stack height road Mach 4 (RTR Review), a shoe whose ride I really like. The upper was airy and seemingly flimsy. By stats and construction it seemed the shoe is well named! So how did they perform on my first three runs during the Ragnar. Read on to find out?


Shannon: Oh man do I ever have some high expectations for this shoe. The Hoka Torrent has been my second favorite trail shoe of all-time (the first iteration of the Salomon Slab Sense Ultra sits in that number one spot). I’ve heard only great things about this mythical Zinal, and I can’t wait to test it out. On one hand, I don’t want it to be so wildly successful that it’s a Torrent-killer, but on the other hand I sort of want it to be even more amazing. I’m torn.


Pros:  

Jeff V/Sam:  Lightweight, responsive, protective underfoot, well cushioned, secure fit, stability, traction

Canice: Lightweight, great cushioning and very comfortable

Sam: Simple, thin upper is highly supportive, highly breathable, and comfortable. Left them on for 6 hour drive after Ragnar!

Sam: Great balance of very light weight, forgiving and responsive cushion, any grade geometry and flex, grip, and stability 

Shannon: It’s light, it’s lively, it’s “just enough shoe,”  I’d train in it, I’d race in it.


Cons:

Jeff V:  I am struggling to come up with a true con, but a full rubber outsole, without a weight increase would be amazing in a perfect world, as would a lace loop to contain the laces.

Canice: None for me

Sam: None for its fast and light focus. A variant with a few more millimeters of stack could extend the platform to ultras and more technical terrain. 

Shannon: I’ve got one gripe and it’s right there with the Clifton 7, Rincon, and the Mach: while I can’t speak to the men’s version, in the women’s sizing drop down a ½ size. Typically I’m an 8 and could have very comfortably run in a 7.5 or possibly even 7 in this shoe.


Stats

Weight: men's 8.45 oz. / 240 g  women's 7 oz / 199g (US8)

  Samples::8.18 oz /232g (US8.5) 9.1 oz. / 258 grams (US10),  8.73 oz / 247g (US10)

Stack Height: 22 heel / 18 forefoot (4mm drop)

Available  July 1st, 2021. $160


Tester Profiles

Jeff V.  runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 

Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as in traditional road races and triathlons.

Shannon is a Colorado native currently residing in Northern California. NorCal is nice, but Colorado has her heart. Having run competitively for around 20 years, she was a 7x All American at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was a 2x member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team, 2x winner of the Mt. Washington Road Race, and was 3rd at the 2014 World Mountain Running Long Distance Championship. Her favorite shoes currently include the Hoka Torrent, Saucony Kinvara, and Brooks Launch, and her favorite runs include anything that goes uphill.  

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 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 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying to many fine New England IPA.



First Impressions and Fit

Jeff V:  Wow is all I can say.  The Zinal is impressively light, yet simultaneously has a substantial and high quality feel that suggests a fast, yet robust shoe that will not require delicate prancing or cautious line picking.  Sliding my feet in, it is clear that the Zinal has a perfectly snug and secure fit for my slim foot, but the shoe is not excessively narrow and has a very good hugging feel. 


On the foot, they feel even more feathery than the weight revealed on the scale and feel springy and responsive.  One of those shoes that the moment you put them on, you know it is a hit.  Tread looks fairly minimal, primarily focused on forefoot and heel, with a large patch of exposed foam under the midfoot for weight savings, but given the existing tread has an effective pattern and that it is Vibram, I am hopeful that traction will be very good.  Fit is true to size with a very secure heel, an exceptionally secure midfoot with amazing stay put, one and done lacing and a toe box with little extra room, though not confining.


Canice: Jeff really nails the Zinal in his description above. Sometimes when you get a lightweight shoe you have to give up cushioning and/or rock protection but I found the Zinal to be a pleasure to run on steep rocky descents and a pure joy while climbing. For me the biggest impression is how good the cushioning is for the weight.


I usually wear a size 10 and my sample in a US10 fit perfectly. I had plenty of space for toe splay and great mid foot hold. My size 10 sample weighed 8.73 oz / 247g.



Sam: Cheery colors with a low slung wide platform, the Zinal practically screams let’s have some fast fun.  Trying them on the day before the Ragnar Relay I was a perfect true to size with a very forgiving forefoot from the almost entirely unstructured upper with a gusset tongue, softer but quite extensive toe bumper and not totally rigid heel counter to hold the foot in place. Even wider feet should be happy here. 


I wondered if there was enough support to keep me secure but they sure were comfortable! About the most comfortable trail shoe I have ever worn. Let’s just say upfront  they stayed on my feet literally the whole day before the relay, every leg including two night legs, in between legs, and even for the 6 hour drive immediately after. Pretty amazing for a trail shoe and a racing one at that! 


Shannon: I put this on and my first thought was, “I’ll be darned, the Speedgoat and the Torrent made a baby and it’s THIS!” It’s light, yet has ample cushion and a springy feel. Not to mention the color way rocks and is visible from a Mile away. The fit, as stated before, would have been much improved in a smaller size, but I’ll try not to harp on that too much.


Upper

Jeff V:  The breathable mesh upper made of 100% vegan, recycled materials has a modern woven look with a pattern that indicates structural foot mapping for the highest level of security and comfort.  

The materials are thin, lending to excellent flexibility and breathability, without compromising security or protection.  As previously mentioned, fit is very secure with no extraneous materials and lays very nicely over the foot.


Lacing is superb, with the medium width  laces providing a little bit of stretch and interacting perfectly with the eyelets such that when you snug the laces, they stay snugged as you move on to the next or tie them down.


The heel collar is low, well padded and semi flexible, but provides very good stability and security with no heel lift.

The toe bumper is minimal, but solid enough to ward off all but the most severe rock stubs and goes unnoticed, integrating cleanly with the upper.

The gusseted tongue adds to the supreme fit and midfoot security, making step in feel almost slipper-like.  


While the tongue is very thin, it is protected enough to eliminate any lace bit (which I am carefully attentive to, given I tend to over tighten laces for technical terrain).  I have never had an issue no matter how much I snug the laces.


Canice: Jeff has described the upper in great detail and I agree with his assessment. I’ll just add that I found the uppers to be breathable and very comfortable overall. The mid foot hold is spectacular.


Sam: The guys describe the upper well. Seemingly not structured enough at first look for a trail shoe, the very pliable, thin but at the same time densely woven  engineered mesh wraps the foot totally and securely with plenty of room (and even when wearing thicker socks at my true to size). 

The lightly padded tongue and gusset plays a big role in securing the mid foot. 


Even running in the heat of the day and after I never wanted to take them off or even loosen them. Lace up for each leg was once and done. Breathability and drying was quick and the mesh is dense enough that even on dusty dry trails almost nothing made it inside.


Shannon: What everyone else said! Super light and airy upper. This isn’t a shoe that has your foot suffocating on those hot runs. While I know some may not appreciate a tongue with minimal padding, I love the thin, minimal tongue and the gusseted construction that wraps the mid foot very securely.


Midsole


Jeff V:  The Profly dual density midsole, with ultralight blue EVA foam on top and rubberized EVA on the bottom is very light and provides an amazingly well balanced combination of predictable firmness with compliant cushioning.  It is a similar construction to the Mach 4 (Profly+ rubberized foam) with of course the Vibram LiteBase outsole added to the Zinal. 


Response is excellent, with a very nice propulsive feel at toe off, which is accentuated by the light weight of the shoe and locked in fit.

The forefoot of the shoe is moderately stiff fore/aft with a long bend to the notable flex point across the very center of the shoe, yet lateral flexibility is good for contouring over rocks and terrain underfoot, with good trail feel.

While the Zinal is marketed as a shoe for shorter distances, I find the midsole and overall protection here to be plenty sufficient for middle to longer distance runs of any speed on most terrain.  For prolonged, and very rocky or hard surfaced descents, I would prefer a bit more cushion underfoot, but the Zinal delivers a surprisingly well cushioned and protective experience.


Canice: Once again I fully agree with Jeff’s assessment. For me the midsole of the Zinal is the true star. I had plenty of cushioning and protection to run 23 miles of single track in the Wasatch Mountains and they felt great the entire way.


Sam: The midsole with its softer ProFly underfoot and firmer rubberized foam below provides a superb combination of landing shock absorption, underfoot protection and lively rebound. The Zinal sits on a wide platform which amplifies not only the relatively low stack (22/18) cushion but also makes the shoe very stable. And all of this is delivered at barely 8.5 oz / 240g. I can’t recall a trail shoe this light which delivers so much just right cushion and stability. And then you figure in the outsole into that weight and clearly the foams here are not the old stuff from Hoka. The Zinal follows the trend in that department set by the road equivalent Mach 4 with its similar and I think largely identical dual layer midsole with here the lower rubberized foam I think a touch firmer for trail protection and stability.

The heel is flared as we find in many newer Hoka with a kind of dual step. When the flare is  combined with the firmer lower layer landings are both very stable and more than adequately cushioned.


While low stack the cushion and platform is more than adequately forgiving as even after my relatively pedestrian relay performances the next day I had no soreness to speak of. 


There is no additional rock protection. beyond the relatively firm lower midsole and front outsole, While my first runs were on relatively obstacle rock free terrain there is plenty of protection here.

The shoe flexes towards the midfoot at the angles in the joining of the midsole layers with a distinct flex point at midfoot and very mild ones further forward. The softer top layer allows the flex, very clever. As the outsole is also in the flex and protection mix here overall the front of the shoe does not have a distinct front climb flex point.  It is a  more gradual flex pattern that is also a stable and protected front platform. They climb very well.  As the forefoot (and rest of the shoe) is quite but not totally torsionally rigid and broad on the ground the platform is also very stable. I do wish for a touch more very front flex. They are surprisingly confidence inspiring for such a light shoe, especially for timid old me on the downhills, at least on non to semi technical terrain. 


Shannon: The midsole of this shoe is the perfect mix of just enough cushion, just enough responsiveness, just enough flexibility, and just enough beneath the foot and the ground to offer protection across some pretty rough and rocky terrain.


Outsole

Jeff V:  The Zinal features a Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole with 4mm lugs, with the lugs covering 3 lengthwise strips over the forefoot and a horseshoe shaped U around the perimeter of the heel.

Best estimate is that 50-60% of the outsole is covered in Vibram Litebase, while the remaining is made up of rubberized EVA foam.  Previously, I have found exposed foam underfoot to be a bit of a liability in regards to traction and also with a tendency to shred fast on rocky terrain, though in this particular application with the Zinal, I have not really noticed much compromise in regards to traction on most terrain under most circumstances. 


This said I am a bit more cautious when the trails are wet or on rock garden type terrain.  Even so, I have not had any surprise slips or concerns.


After 50 or so miles of running, much of it on rocky, technical terrain as well as also smooth singletrack, pavement and dirt roads, the wear rate of the Vibram rubber is average, with just a little bit of wear showing where I toe off.  

Jeff V: The rubberized EVA is holding up surprisingly well, with signs of wear, but no shredding of flaking as is often the case.

The lugs, while relatively low profile, have an effective shape and arrangement, as I have only found the limits of grip on really steep and loose surfaces, but overall the outsole has  performed very well for the majority of my running.


Canice: Park City, UT trails tend to be hard packed and dry and the Zinal’s had plenty of grip for me. I did test them on rocky terrain but unfortunately it’s very dry here right now and I could not find any water or slick rocks to test for wet traction. At present the durability is looking good.


Sam: My outsole experience so far has been on the sandy sometimes loose and mostly obstacle free Ragnar course. Grip was flawless everywhere even on tight steep switchbacks and descents. Several road sections were also handled with aplomb with the outsole sensed in the mix more than a road shoe but not overly so. I think the Zinal also can be used as light road trail hybrid and should be especially fine on gravel/dirt roads for those uses.


Shannon: The outsole of the Zinal is, in my opinion, a step up in aggression from a shoe like the Challenger ATR. The lugs are aggressive enough to provide great traction on softer terrain, but not so aggressive that running on hard packed surfaces or even asphalt en route to the trail feels bad. I was overall very impressed with what I initially expected to be a shoe suited primarily for the most sketchy terrain.



Ride

Jeff V / Canice:  The ride of the Zinal is quick, responsive and energetic, giving a distinct propulsive feel at toe off and a compliant, well cushioned ride with good ground feel.


Sam: The guys have described the ride well. Zinal is a race shoe weight ride  that won’t leave you beat up and which is very stable and at the same time lively. The combination of softer top foam and firmer lower foam in combination with the outsole balances cushion, protection, climbing and flats ability, agility and stability very well.  Combined with the comfort of the upper, it has a ride that for me should take me further than the 30K of Sierre Zinal on non technical terrain and certainly for those hour or so quick trail runs out the door. 


Shannon: The Zinal is just the right mix of springy, light, and energetic, but it doesn’t sacrifice cushion or protection. Hoka did a great job of striking a Goldilocks balance here between those two things. It didn’t matter the trail surface, it felt equally good across all types of terrain. 


Conclusions and Recommendations:


Jeff V:  The Zinal is a hit, a rocket of a race shoe with very good response, a lightweight, agile and nimble feel, great protection underfoot, stability, excellent traction and a very secure fitting race like comfortable upper.


While marketed as a shorter distance shoe and I agree, I think given the cushion and protection, the Zinal can easily extend into the mid distance range and even longer for some.


Technical terrain is not a stretch for the Zinal in the least and it handles it well, but I think it performs best on moderately to less technical terrain and at faster running paces.


A race shoe for sure, or a shoe best saved for best efforts, but one that can easily pull double duty as an uptempo trainer.  While durability is good, I would be conservative with how much I run in this shoe on rocky terrain.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.3/10

Ride: 9.5, Fit: 9.5, Value: 9.5, Style: 9.5, Traction: 9 Rock Protection: 8



Shannon: The Zinal is a wonderfully versatile shoe when it comes to not only surface but also distance. I know it’s marketed as more of a race shoe, but in my opinion it’s a perfectly satisfactory daily trainer for the trails if you’re used to something light and quick. It’s what you might call an Any (Trail) Surface Any Distance kind of shoe. 


To reiterate though, a more appropriate size (women’s 7-7.5 to the 8 that I ran in) would have definitely resulted in improved fit and feel of the shoe as I had far too much room in the toe box, making for a bit of a sloppy fit that I really had to try to ignore in favor of focusing on other aspects of the shoe, to that end, it loses a point and a half for sizing. Do I like it better than the Torrent? Interestingly, no, despite the Zinal’s higher price point. I felt the fit of the Torrent to be better overall in terms of sizing and the secure fit of the heel made for a perfect overall fit. Beyond that, I foresee the Zinal doing great things.

Shannon’s Score: 8.5/10. 


Canice: The more I run in the Zinal’s the more I want to keep running in the Zinal. I really enjoy light shoes but have always been challenged to run in them due to lack of cushioning and protection. For me, based on my experience the Zinal is a go to shoe for running in the mountains. I have plenty of cushioning, I find them easy to run in when precise foot placement is required and I love the ground feel that is combined with shock absorbing cushioning.

Canice’s Score: 9.5/10



RIDE

FIT

VALUE

STYLE

Traction

Rock Protection

Overall Score

% of Total 

30%

30%

10%

5%

15%

10%

 

Score

9.7

10

9.5

8.5

9

9

9.5


Sam: Light in weight for a trail shoe (and really any run shoe) is combined with plenty of cushion, response, stability and upper comfort/hold to create a fast and fun trail racer that you can also train in. 


I say “trail shoe” but also it is a very fine and very light road trail hybrid as well. I don’t think it leans mountain and technical terrain or ultras for me but faster, more agile runners should also certainly take a closer look for those purposes.  


I would certainly lace them up for Sierre Zinal as they are an ideal shoe for that terrain of steep climbs, smoother less angular cruising and a short abrupt steep and not very technical descent. And in fact they served me just that way and brilliantly at Ragnar Trail in Snowmass. 


Hoka has delivered a versatile, fun, fast trail racer/ trainer in the Zinal. Even if you don’t trail race and are looking for a rush of a run (trail, door to trail) which doesn’t leave out great protection, plenty of comfort, stability and security in as light all in a package as many road performance trainers it is the top choice of 2021 so far for me.  Wish list.. a version with slightly more stack to extend the platform’s range.

Sam’s Score: 9.54 /10

Ride: 9.8 (30%) Fit: 9.8 (30%) Value: 9 (10%) Style: 9.3 (5%) Traction: 9.2 (15%) Rock Protection: 9.2 (10%)

  

11 Comparisons


Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review):

Jeff V:  The Sense Pro 4 is the same weight, though with a bit more stack height, a more full coverage, better lugged outsole and costs $20 less.  The Zinal, while less cushioned, has a softer, more compliant feel and is more forgiving underfoot.  Both uppers are very race like, secure and form fitting with no excess material or room.  I would pick the SP4 for more technical terrain and the Zinal for less technical, but both are top picks and two of my favorites.


Canice: I like both of these shoes. I think the Zinal wins for cushioning and the Sense Pro 4 wins for protection. I would happily wear either of these shoes but will more  likely reach for the Zinal for a quick 10 mile run.


Hoka Torrent 2  (RTR Review):

Jeff V:  While somewhat close on paper in regards to stack height and weight (though the Torrent 2 is ~½ oz. heavier), the Zinal is more responsive, has a more precise fitting upper and has better protection underfoot.  Due to its deeper, more aggressive lugs, the Torrent may be a better choice for softer, looser terrain, but the Zinal is a faster, more adept shoe on slightly less technical terrain.  The Zinal also has better protection and still very good grip, so it becomes a personal choice between the two.


Hoka Challenger ATR 6 (RTR Review)

Jeff V / Canice:  Not a close comparison, but both are Hoka and both are relatively light and fast.  The ATR 5 is nearly 1.5 oz. heavier in my size 10 and has significantly more stack height and cushioning.  Both share a similar weight saving outsole design with strategically placed lugs with foam under the midfoot for weight savings.  The Zinal is more responsive, climbs better, is more stable and agile, and  has a superior fit.  I would pick the ATR 6 for longer distances on less technical terrain, or very long and sustained, non technical downhills.


Hoka EVO Speedgoat (RTR Review)

Jeff V / Canice:  The EVO Speedgoat weighs about an ounce more in my size 10, has 10mm more stack, so much more ample cushioning.  The EVO has a better lugged and overall better gripping outsole for long, fast downhills.  The primary limitation of the EVO however is the stretchy Matryx upper, which performs well running a straight line and/or non technical terrain, but when pressed my confidence wavers when the trail gets technical.  The Zinal is lighter, feels more responsive and is much more secure.


Hoka Huaka (from way back)

Sam" The Hoka Huaka was an all rubberized foam midsole road trail hybrid so a do anything shoe and one of my all time favorites. It was slightly more cushioned in stack and rubbery bouncy in feel if not overly soft with a more rigid profile. The Zinal is more responsive and agile and of course as years have gone by with a far better upper. If you fondly recall the Huaka the Zinal is a lower slung more agile, faster and worthy successor. 


Salomon S/Lab Pulsar (RTR Review)

Sam: The Zinal is far more “practical” as a trainer and as a racer for me. The S/Lab Pulsar is a shoe I think that is far more specifically designed for the Sierre Zinal  course and especially Killian Jornet’s preferences   It is yet lighter but has a far stronger bias towards the fastest paces and running off the heels. 


The North Face Flight Vectiv (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Zinal is much much lighter, has a far superior upper with better fit and foothold, better traction and feels much more nimble, agile and competent on the trails and especially if they are in any way technical at all.  Both are very responsive and the carbon plate in the Flight Vectiv is good in a straight line, but makes the shoe feel very stiff otherwise.

Sam: I agree with Jeff. Just adding a carbon plate, even a flexible one does not make a shoe “better” and an upper doesn’t have to be as complicated (Matryx and knit in the Flight ) to work well and be more comfortable. The higher stack and narrow heel landing keep the Flight on smooth and flatter terrain while the Zinal can go there and anywhere else. 


VJ Ultra: (RTR Review soon)

Jeff V:  Both are very light and adept at high speeds, responsive, nimble, agile and with amazing foothold.  If primarily running over very technical terrain, especially if grip is paramount, the VJ Ultra is a superstar.  If less technical though, both shoes are fine choices (VJ Ultra excellent on any trail).  If roads or primarily hardpack, the Zinal, with lesser lugs and more tamed outsole gives less resistance.

Sam: I agree with Jeff’s assessment of ideal terrains for each above. The VJ Ultra is more cushioned and protective and sits on a narrower platform. I prefer the broad heel landing of the Zinal as I found the VJ a bit tippy and unstable at the rear at slower pace with its big 5mm rear lugs in a dispersed pattern somewhat prone to catching  small obstacles on firmer dirt. Upfront, the combination of great flex and the outsole has the VJ a somewhat better and super grippy climber on absolutely any terrain I have tried them on, although Zinal gets close enough.  It’s Kevlar and extensive overlays reinforced upper likely has superior durability and is denser and stiffer with a more extensive toe bumper and less comfort and width upfront. 


Skechers Razor Jeff V / Canice:  The Razor Trail is a bit of an anomaly, with significantly more foam underfoot AND weighing a half ounce less in my size 10.  Both are exceptionally fast shoes, so light and responsive feeling, both are most at home on moderately technical to less technical terrain, however the Zinal can handle technical terrain better, as there is better protection underfoot and the lug pattern, while lesser in overage, has better traction and durability.  The Razor however are not as sticky, they wear quite a bit faster and there is a cut out center of the outsole in the Razor that is prone to the occasional zinger in technical terrain, which has not happened yet in the Zinal. 

Sam: I agree with Jeff and Canice. More shoe, more stability, a more comfortable upper, better and most likely more durable outsole for Zinal leads to a more versatile light trail shoe with the Razor TRL a more fun and fast almost road shoe with some trail abilities. 


Inov 8 Terraultra G270  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Despite all of the accolades and high praise by my co-reviewers, the TUG270 just did not do it for me.  Aside from the superb Graphene Grip outsole of the TUG270, among the best out there, the Zinal outperforms the TUG270 in every way.  Better foothold, more protective underfoot, softer cushioning, more responsive, lighter weight and has a 4mm drop (not a fan personally of 0 drop, as is the case with the TUG270).

Sam: My personal and for several of our testers 2020 Trail Shoe of the Year, the zero drop G270 has a more substantial and fantastic outsole, a somewhat softer bouncier underfoot feel for me if lower stack, and weighs 0.5 oz more. While the Zinal has a lighter, more comfortable and refined upper I worry about its comparative durability in more technical terrain compared to the heavily armoured G270's likely also where its additional weight comes from. For technical terrain at slow paces I still prefer the G270 for its zero drop, upper, and outsole but everywhere else Zinal replaces it for me.


Nike Terra Kiger 6 or 7  (RTR Review)

Jeff V / Canice:  At the end of the year, the Kiger 7 will likely be one of my co-favorites for 2021, as will the Zinal, but in a different class.  The Zinal is more of a pure race shoe for flat out efforts, where I see the Kiger 7 as an all day cruiser, as it weighs more, has more cushioning, a wider, more accommodating fit and is not nearly as nimble, lively or responsive.


Brooks Catamount  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Very comparable in flat out, straight line speed and responsiveness, but the Zinal out performs the Catamount on the technical, given the superior foothold and traction.  If you require more room in the forefoot, the Catamount may be preferable.

Sam: Yes the rock plated Catamount may be faster on the flats but it is more rigid and awkward in getting there due to its rock plate and I find it less stable and confidence inspiring, especially upfront on more technical trails if somewhat more protected.  While maybe slightly “narrower” the Zinal toe box ends up broader, more comfortable and equally if not more secure while its heel area (upper and underfoot) is more stable.  The more agile “cat” here is the Zinal.


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.
No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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13 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

Unknown said...

How does the Hoka zinal compare to the brooks cascadia 16 coming out later this summer?

Unknown said...

Jeff, fellow Coloradian here. If you had to pick one shoe, The Zinal or the VJ , which would it be?
Thanks

Gus said...

I didn't see any mention in the Upper section regarding the heel counter -is it fully rigid, non existent, or somewhere in between?

Scott said...

Since we're talking race day shoe - how does this compare to the Pulsar?

Canice Harte said...

Regarding the Zinal vs. Cascadia they are very different shoes targeted at different users. The Cascadia is a great shoe to run in with lots of protection and cushioning, while the Zinal is about being lightweight, minimal and is designed for someone with precise foot placement. The Cascadia is your do everything shoe and the Zinal is a race car that go the distance.

Related to the question regarding the heel counter, the Zinal does have a structured heel counter but is between "fully rigid" and "non existent". To me it has structure and is very comfortable yet not over built.

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Scott,
Since neither Jeff nor Canice has run the Pulsar but I have but not the Zinal will try to answer. First Pulsar weighs more than 2.5 oz less at 6.2 oz. Their listed stack heights are almost the same with Zinal 1mm more. In large part Pulsar gets to that weight with a far narrower rear platform. It is not a shoe you want to be off the midfoot in whereas the broader platform Zinal will do better for heel striking. Another key difference the outsole where Zinal while not full coverage as Pulsar clearly has more aggressive lugs. The Pulsar upper is amazing in its light weight and great support. Both clearly designed for the Zinal course ( I have run it 4 times) with focus on climbing then smooth then very steep downhill. In the end the Zinal should prove more versatile while the Pulsar for all out racing is quite something but most won't be able to take it to the distances Zinal can get to. Hope this helps.
Sam, Editor.

Dan said...

Any comparison to the Speed Instinct 2? They look VERY similar. I enjoyed a lot about that shoes except the outsole was miserable in anything other than dry, smooth surfaces.

Ante said...

How doest it match the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Ante,
A very worthy comparison. Unfortunately I do not have the Zinal and the reviewers don't have the Speed Ultra but I do. The Zinal weighs about 0.6 oz less. It's listed stack height is 26/18 plus sockliner and 2.5mm lugs in a full coverage outsole with a plastic midfoot shank with the Zinal 22/18 plus its sockliner and somewhat higher 4mm lugs in a partial coverage outsole.Both shoes are quite flexible.
Sam, Editor

Scott said...

Dan,
Regarding the Speed Instinct 2: the Speed Instinct would more directly compare to the Torrent, which has more mid-sole, more tread and more weight.

rms said...

JeffV lauds the VJ Ultra on very technical terrain, but I have stability issues in very rocky terrain with them; perhaps I like a stiffer rockplate-type shoe.

middle.professor said...

Excellent review. On race day, I don't want my outsole collecting *any* small gravel and debris and the orange grooves look like these might be gravel collectors. What are your experiences with this?