Thursday, June 01, 2023

Hoka Zinal 2 Multi Tester Review: Super Light Trail Race Rocket! 12 Comparisons

Article by Adam Glueck,  Jeff Valliere, Dom Layfield, John Tribbia, Jacob Brady and Sam Winebaum

Hoka Zinal 2 ($180)


Sam: the Zinal is the second edition of Hoka’s sub maximal race shoe, clearly aimed at full speed race efforts over shorter to mid distances on semi to moderately technical terrain.  Courses like, Sierre-Zinal for example, 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 its steep, fast and precipitous nature. 

For the second edition, Hoka increases the lug depth to 5mm of Vibram Megagrip with Traction Lug, while decreasing the stack height of foam a few millimeters giving  the shoe a new rocker geometry with a more pronounced  front flex point  geometry, and finally tops it with a thin race focused mesh upper. It drops 29 g to an amazing 7.15 oz / 203g in my US8.5 sample. It now would seem to far more clearly compete with sub max trail race shoes such as the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar and NNormal Kjerag in weight and capabilities. 

Most of my trail runs are shorter in length and often incorporate a variety of terrain and often some pavement and pass as my tempo or fartlek days with shoes such as the Zinal are what I often reach for but I found the v1 quite harsh and stiff and other recent go to’s such as the Pulsar SG, Kjerag, and Saucony Sinister faster and more fun  so I was eager to see how the newest Zinal compared.

Dom:  I was not one of the original Zinal reviewers on RTR, but based on their enthusiastic opinion, I purchased a pair, and was not disappointed.  While Hoka had always made great super-cushioned shoes that are a great fit for my 100-mile races, their shoes were not great choices for shorter trail racing.  The Zinal, being lower to the ground, was more stable, light and fast.  It was an excellent shoe that I wore in a couple of fifty-mile races and one 100 km.  A well-balanced shoe I could find little to nitpick about.  However, Salomon dropped a bombshell into the running world with the Pulsar, demonstrating that trail shoes could be made much, much lighter.  So my wishlist for the Zinal 2 was really only this: make it lighter.  And wham, Hoka just delivered!


Beautifully crafted, secure, comfortable and light upper Sam/Adam/Jeff V/Jacob

Very light weight for substance at less than 7.4 oz / US9, particularly given big 5 mm lug outsole with rubber being heaviest material in a shoe: Sam/Adam/Jeff V/Jacob

Pure shorter distance, agile, highly responsive fast paces race machine for trail terrains: Sam/Jeff/Dom

Excellent grip in a variety of trail conditions, including on wet rocks/mud:  Adam/Jeff/Dom/John/Jacob


Firm responsive older school ride on firm terrain or road:  Sam

While Vibram Traction Lug and sharp profile of new higher 5mm outsole lugs are appreciated, lower lugs, more foam could lead to a smoother, more cushioned, harder surfaces ride, less stiffness, and more versatility. Sam/Jeff V

Steep pricing for a non super foam and quite specialized race shoe: Sam

Lace pressure - The “Tongue” or at least where there would be a tongue could use some reinforcement: Jeff V/AdamAdam/Jeff/Dom/John/Jacob

Heel retention is a little lacking:  DomAdam/Jeff/Dom/John/Jacob

Narrow fit may be uncomfortable for wider feet: John/Sam


Approx.weight: men's 7.4 oz  / 209g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

Samples: men’s 7.15 oz / 203g US8.5 (v1 8.18 oz / 232g US8.5),7.5 oz / 214g US 10, 8.4oz /     239g US 12

Stack Height: men’s 30 mm heel / 25 mm forefoot ( 5mm drop spec)

$180. Available June 2023

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: The Hoka Zinal 2 is a thing of wonder. Incredibly light and airy at first glance it is seemingly “not enough” upper for a trail shoe. Looking  more closely and touching we see the mesh while thin and truly single layer  is very dense and a bit crinkly and non stretch. Usually such a mesh might lead to a baggy fit but here the volume is on the low side and the extensive overlays wrap the foot beautifully. 

To make it work and secure the foot there is an elaborate array or really inner skeleton of underlays which appears to be all one piece. The entire rear of the shoe continues with the underlay fully wrapping the rear of the shoe and incorporating below its surface low place bolsters on either side of the ankle. 

Around the rand, so just above the midsole, the underlay fully wraps the lower part of the upper for protection and wear resistance and as one can see at the medial side shown below some extra support with the blue overlay also in the mix.

On the exterior rear there is a blue overlay fully wrapping the heel and tying into the lacing. We have a pliable but true heel counter in the mix above which we have the knit collar. 

The result is a totally secure rear hold that is in no way rigid allowing the rear of the foot to stay put yet adapt enough to terrain variations with the firm midsole and outsole playing well in terms of stability at the rear in the mix.

The lace up area has an external panel through which the orange cord loops hold the laces. The stretch knit tongue is unpadded with the round thin laces drawing the side overlays and loops over the foot magnificently and with total comfort. I have found no pressures even laced snuggly for my narrower foot, except at one bunion and only slightly so with the combination of stretch tongue and laces allowing easy yet secure forward bend/fold.

The toe area is quite broad at the bunions area but equally as secure due to the underlays and non stretch mesh with a bit of  pressure there on my bunion. 

The toe box front is nicely rounded with a pliable double layer toe bumper, internal underlay as elsewhere and a rubbery outer overlay. 

The fit is very secure, comfortable, true to size for me. No one should mistake this upper for a roomy comfort or a broad fit as the upper is focused on a race focused fit but every run laced up I have forgotten about the upper except for that  touch of bunion pressure on foot., as it is totally as one with the rest of the shoe.

Jeff V:  I like the original Zinal, but the Zinal 2 just blows me away.  For starters, the shoe screams fast at first sight and I am impressed by the streamlined race ready design, snug booty like cuff, aggressive (but not overly so) outsole.  The yellow colorway adds to the speedy look and WOW, I am stunned by the weight, a mere 7.5 oz / 214 grams in my US Men’s 10.  Sliding into these is encouraging, as the slipper like design feels snugly secure, without feeling confining and comfort is very good for a race shoe.  

Sam describes the mechanics of the upper well.  I find the fit to be true to size with a very secure fit in the heel, midfoot and while the toe, as Sam mentions is not necessarily wide, they are roomy enough for splay/swell and comfortable enough for as long as you would want to run in this shoe (with long distance limitations being primarily the midsole).  Foothold and security are excellent, enhancing the overall stability, control and agility of the shoe.  

No matter how fast I run on steep, technical terrain, rock hopping, off camber, I always feel in control and confident. 

The mesh upper is airy and cool, where I find them to be very comfortable in warmer temperatures (in the 80’s) and am sure they would be fine running in much warmer temperatures.

Adam:  The Zinal 2 has a remarkable slipper-like upper, and reminds me a lot of the Salomon Pulsar.  I knew what would make or break this upper for me was the integrated gaiter around  the heel.  Walking around with the shoe on, I was worried that the gaiter would either chafe or provide poor heel hold, but due to the flexibility of the midsole and softness of the material I had no issues with it running.  The fit is not overly narrow and the minimal overlays give room for the toes, but I would describe this as a precise-fitting trail shoe.  The weight is extremely impressive as the shoe feels like it disappears under you when running.  This is a race focused trail shoe, but comfortable and efficient enough to go longer distances.  

I love the bright yellow and blue colorway, and expect it to be a beautiful canvas for all the dirt and mud you run through along the way.  

Dom:  Despite my initial excitement about how light the Zinal 2 is (in US M10, weight drops from 257 g to 215 g, 9.1 oz to 7.6 oz), I was worried that the ‘total rebuild’ of the shoe meant that it would be a completely different beast, with very different character, and that I would no longer like it as much.  The 

Zinal 2 is a little narrower up front, but it’s still roomy enough that it will accommodate all but the widest forefoot, and frankly, the slightly narrower toebox is probably for the best, given its racing focus.  I was generally very impressed by the superlight upper.  I even enjoyed the distinctive lemon-yellow colorway.  

In my opinion, the only real weakness (compared to the original Zinal) is that heel retention is not as good: I have narrow heels, and felt a bit of looseness in the back end that contrasted with the ‘precise fit’ up front.

John: My first impressions are that the Zinal 2 is a lightweight, race-ready trail shoe with a precise fit and excellent traction. The upper is well-ventilated and comfortable, and the outsole provides solid protection on technical terrain. I love the feeling of this fast, responsive shoe and would use it for racing or training on technical trails. I didn’t test the Zinal 1, but appreciate what everyone has commented on about the updates such as lighter weight, more streamlined design, and improved traction. The upper’s single-layer mesh is both breathable and durable. I don’t have any issues with heel retention, but notice the fit is narrow throughout the midfoot and especially in the forefoot / toebox.

Jacob: The first thing that struck me about the Zinal 2 was the weight. I couldn’t believe how low it was and restarted my digital scale to confirm it wasn’t a glitch. It is the 9th lightest shoe (road and trail) I have weighed out of around 100 (though notably have not tested the Salomon Pulsar). It is lighter than the NB Fuelcell Rebel v2, a classic road trainer loved by many that is known for its low weight. For another comparison, it is only 10 g heavier than the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 3 yet has a full coverage outsole with 5 mm lugs—remarkable.

The light weight is due to many aspects, but the minimal, elegant upper is a major factor. The upper is a very thin mesh with underlays to provide support and a stretch knit instead of a tongue—a full bootie construction. 

Sizing is great and though the shoe is a snug, precise fit, I don’t have uncomfortable pressure on my toes due to narrowness which is the case for me in many Hoka models. I felt the same as Dom, however, that the heel fit is a bit loose, especially compared to the secure mid and forefoot. It isn’t bad but does decrease my confidence a bit. If I lace tighter to try to get a better hold (note there are no extra eyelets for a heel lock lacing technique), I feel uncomfortable pressure on the top of my foot due to the thin laces and minimal padding. I accepted lacing looser and feeling more free for better comfort, which proved to not be a problem as I still feel like I can run fast through technical terrain, but there are many other shoes where I feel more locked-in. The joy of the low weight and speed/fun factor makes up for the minor fit issues.


Sam: The midsole is Hoka usual compression molded EVA. My sense is that it is a firmer flavor than shoes such as the Speedgoat 5 or road Clifton 9 or that there is less of it and the 5mm lug outsole for sure adds to firmness (and response). The midsole is intended for fast shorter efforts over technical terrain and as such has plenty of ground feel and lots of response (in combination with the outsole) and not so much friendly bounce or cush. 

I would not doubt it is the same foam as the Zinal 1 which had 2mm more midsole foam but the same overall stack of 30mm heel and 25mm forefoot, the outsole of the 2 increasing in lug depth. 

The midsole feel is similar to the first version quite firm and maybe a bit firmer due to the additional rubber and less foam stack height  but now we have a much more effective rocker to go with what remains a fairly stiff flexing longitudinally and flat at midfoot  shoe with a far front flex point for climbing which the first version had less of.

Jeff V:  This is not the soft, plush cushy foam Hoka is known for, as the EVA midsole here feels firm, stable and responsive, but compliant enough for several hours of hard running.  With a 30/25 overall stack, they are by no means ultra worthy, but I have run in them up to 2.5 hours at a time on a wide range of terrain, including rocky technical trails and a 4.5 mile road downhill dropping over 2,000 feet and I found cushioning and protection to be surprisingly good.  While the EVA is on the firm side, I do not find them to be overly harsh and can easily see running in the Zinal 2 for 5 or 6 hours with no problems.  I find response to be excellent, not necessarily bouncy, but certainly propulsively snappy and with such a low weight, they are really fast on the uphills, as well as rolling terrain, downhills or wherever you want to crank them up.  The firmer midsole makes them very stable and predictable, performing well in technical terrain.

Adam:  Sam and Jeff describe the midsole here well.  It doesn’t have the special PEBA bounce of the Saucony Sinister or Endorphin Ultra, but is still light, highly responsive, and beautifully stable and predictable.  This makes the Zinal excellent on technical terrain where you still want cushion but control of the shoe is paramount.  I’ve taken these shoes up to 30 km at a time, and while I think that was longer than I’d want to run in them again, they felt sufficiently cushioned and competent for that distance.  The shoe responds well to increases in pace.  

Dom:  My feeling about the midsole is basically this: there’s just enough of it.  This is very clearly a shorter-distance race shoe, not a daily trainer, and not an supercushioned monster suitable for 20+ hour runs.  I just want to know how light the shoe is (very, very light) and how far I can comfortably run in it.  I’ve yet to race in the Zinal 2, but my impression from a couple of runs is that cushioning is similar to the original: i.e. ideal for distances up to 50 miles.  

John: Dom summarizes my thoughts perfectly. In my opinion, this is the Goldilocks of midsoles for short to 30K race distances. There’s just enough for padding for comfort and protection as well as response and ground feel. Response and reactivity of the midsole isn’t bouncy, per se, but it is dynamic and lively.

Jacob: The midsole feel is between an old-school denser muted EVA and a modern bouncy foam (it is modern EVA). It is not exciting but performs well and is lively and low density. The platform underfoot is relatively narrow and lower stack for a modern shoe from Hoka but I find it amply stable and cushioned for shorter distances. 

Overall I really like the level of cushion and flexibility for short and fast runs. The foam is soft enough for my preferences and doesn’t feel harsh even on road as long as I focus on form. It feels connected to the ground and encourages good form and precise foot placement, however it doesn’t have any of the harshness of more minimal shoes. I agree with Dom and John about being just enough midsole for shorter races. I would race it up to 50km. 


Sam: The outsole is Vibram Megagrip in the Lite Base construction to reduce weight. The lug depth increases to 5mm from the prior 4mm and we now have Traction Lug, small nubs on the sides of the lugs said by Vibram to significantly increase traction over conventional lugs. 

The mini Traction Lugs face to the rear and to the sides at the forefoot for toe off grip and to the front and to sides at the rear for I assume to keep the heel from going sideways on landings.

The outsole contributes to the highly responsive, snappy, stable and quite firm feel of the shoe as it is well matched to the relatively firm midsole. After some miles, the Zinal 2 developed a far front climbing flex but otherwise the outsole contributes to the quite rigid (but not totally rigid) torsional flex of the shoe.  

Jeff V:  Traction is excellent and I really appreciate the deeper and notably improved lug design, complete with jagged traction lugs for added grip.  

I was able to run a wide range of terrain in both wet and dry and I always confident with my footing, be it wet rock, steep and loose off trail, hardpack with a gravel layer, slab scrambling and yet the lugs are very reasonable and versatile for dirt roads and even has good road manners.  Durability this far is very good, showing almost no wear after 40 hard miles.

Adam:  My first test run in the Zinal 2 was on wet trails.  The lugs are not deep, similar to a Salomon Sense or Pulsar, but provide excellent traction.  I covered slippery roots, exposed rock sections, mud, and had no issues at all with traction.  On pavement and rock, the thin outsole prevents the shoe from feeling overly harsh.  I haven’t seen any appreciable outsole wear, and think for the intended use of this shoe (fast trail running and racing), it’s fantastic.  

Dom:  Vibram Megagrip rubber on Litebase has proven to be a winning combination.  I was initially skeptical about the durability of Vibram’s ‘Litebase’ construction, but having run many hundreds of miles in the Hoka Tecton X, I’ve been shocked at the capability and durability of this outsole construction.  The Zinal 2 uses the same materials, but with a completely different lug pattern that reminds me of Salomon outsoles.  I’ve only tested on dry ground around Los Angeles (from gritty and loose to smooth rock) and the grip has been stellar.   But my expectations are that this outsole will perform well just about everywhere and also prove to be durable.

Jacob: I agree with everyone that the traction is excellent. I ran fast in the pouring rain on technical trail with all the classic non-mountainous test scenarios: wood bridges, roots, and sidehilling rock sections—I had no slips and no concerns. I want to second Dom about being surprised and glad about the excellent durability of the Vibram Megagrip Litebase version on the Tecton X, which looks like it is thin with small lugs and could wear quickly, but is lasting me a long time. I expect even better durability in the Zinal 2 with its larger lugs and more rubber coverage. 

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: A totally modern shorter distance trail speedster with an older school firmer highly responsive ride from its EVA foam and big outsole. It performs best when you want to go all out and more straight ahead on moderately technical terrain and are not worried about what your legs will feel like the next day. The big outsole and firmer ride will lean it more soft ground conditions or shorter distances than some of its competitors such as the Kjerag and even S/Lab Pulsar SG for me. Maybe I'm too old and slow for a shoe such as the Zinal 2!

It is a clear improvement over its v1 with far lighter weight, more aggressive traction, and a truly superb race ready upper. It remains a more specialized trail shoe focused on racing and fast efforts than an all arounder. I would like to see the outsole reduced in height and the foam upgraded to a softer and more dynamic less rigid flavor such as that found in the Tecton X and with a nylon or woven rock plate for protection and some front propulsion.  

Sam's Score: 9.25 /10

Ride: 9 overly firm and not leg friendly beyond fast shorter efforts

Fit: 9.4 but for a bit of bunion pressure perfection

Value: 9 value suffers because of the ride being race focused firm and responsive

Style: 10 Beautiful!

Traction: 9.4 Excellent but prefer lower profile lugs for smooth hard terrain

Rock Protection: Adequate for race purposes. Would like to see a thin plate with softer midsole foam combination


Jeff V:  The Zinal 2 really rips!  They are incredibly well protected, cushioned and high performing for such an amazingly light trail shoe.  I can’t think of many shoes within 2 ounces that can offer up what the Zinal 2 does and even then, that shoe might be more of a niche use sort of shoe, but I feel confident in the Zinal 2 running very fast on about any terrain, no matter how technical.  They would not be my first pick for extended rocky outings, or prolonged downhills, but they can perform there too.  I would recommend the Zinal 2 as a shoe to be saved for race day, trail races maybe half marathon or less on moderately technical trails would be the sweet spot here, though I think can go longer for many, or more technical for some.  Running the Pikes Peak Ascent or a VK?  This is your shoe!

Jeff V’s Score: 9.5/10

Ride: 9.5

Fit: 9.5

Value: 9.5

Style: 10

Traction: 9.5

Rock Protection: 9.5


Adam: The first run test I did in the Zinal 2 was a 30km trail race with ~4500 feet of elevation gain in wet conditions on a mix of fast flowing California singletrack, gravel, and exposed rock.  The combination of a comfortable and precise upper, excellent outsole grip, and lightweight responsiveness made the Zinal a fantastic racing shoe. 

I was pretty sore afterwards but did finish 2nd overall on a course with 4500 feet of vertical , so I’d say the sweet spot of this shoe is half marathon distance or less, but I was able to go the distance and perform very well.  The lack of rock plate means I’d be less inclined to take these for a rock-laden scramble in the mountains, but for lighter, smoother trails, shorter days, and big climbs, they’re fantastic.  

Adam G’s Score: 9.5/10

Ride: 9.5

Fit: 10

Value: 9.5

Style: 10

Traction: 9.5

Rock Protection:9


Jacob:  I have enjoyed every run in the Zinal 2. It encourages me to have good form (focus on more forefoot strike) and run fast. Every test run I did was faster than I usually run. When I get in a groove on the run I float along through the woods. The midsole doesn’t provide much energy return nor softness, but it has good flexibility and ground feel as well as just enough protection to still feel smooth on rough terrain. Combined with the excellent traction it’s a highly performant shoe . Though it is designed for racing, I like training in it on faster runs.

Overall, the Zinal 2 is a world-class shorter distance speed shoe—a modern racing flat for trails. It is very lightweight which makes it fast and fun to run and the low weight is achieved without sacrificing performance. It has enough cushion for any sub-ultra distance (I would consider it for 50 km and Dom notes he would use it for 50 mi), excellent traction, and a good fit. The fit is the weakest point for me with a slightly loose heel hold and tendency to hurt the top of my foot if I lace too tightly, but is overall good, just not perfect. For positives in fit, I don’t have any issue with narrowness which is a problem for me in many Hoka models.

I recommend the Zinal 2 for racing shorter distances, speed workouts, and even daily training (if you prefer less cushioned shoes and if durability is as high as expected) on most terrain. It is capable in technical trails and most conditions. However, for me the looser heel fit along with the notably flexibility and no rock plate leads to the Zinal 2 not being on my top list for rugged trails such as New England mountain running, though it would probably be acceptable, I prefer more security and protection. Overall, it is a remarkable lightweight and performant trail speed shoe that I think most runners would appreciate.

Jacob’s Score:  9.22 / 10

Ride: 10 (30%) Fit: 8.5 (30%) Value: 9.5 (10%) Style 9 (5%) Traction: 9.5 (15%) Rock Protection: 8.5 (10%)


Dom:  Boom!  After weighing the Zinal 2 and going for one run in them, I knew immediately that this would be the shoe I would pick for any forthcoming trail race up to 50 miles.  They are light and fast and grippy and predictable.   While not as vaporous as the Salomon Pulsar, the Zinal 2 is still stunningly light, and has more protection, better grip, and a much more comfortable upper.  It’s not a perfect shoe: in particular, I thought the heel was a little loose.  And sure, I’d take another millimeter or two of midsole up front.  But when you look at that weight, any criticisms feel churlish: you don’t complain about the poor stereo in a Formula 1 car.  The Zinal 2 is built to scream over the trails, and I’m 100% on board.

Dom’s score: 9.9/10

Ride: 9

Fit: 8.5

Style: 9.5

Lightness: 11

Value: Meh

Speed: 10

Smiles: how many am I allowed?

11 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Hoka Zinal v1 (RTR Review)

Dom: Zinal 2 is not a revised Zinal but a completely different beast.  The original Zinal was light, but not a standout in that regard.  Mostly it felt like a lower, more flexible, more responsive version of a regular Hoka shoe.  It was certainly raceable (and I used it in several races up to 100 km), but coupled with a fairly roomy fit, it also felt like a comfy training shoe.  The Zinal 2 slices off a shocking 1.5 oz (42 g) of weight and feels like a lean, mean racing machine.

Sam: Zinal 2 is lighter, less stiff in front flex with a more performance oriented upper and deeper traction

Jeff V: Agreed with Sam here.  Z1 is a great shoe, but the Z2 really builds upon that with improved upper, lighter weight and better traction.

Hoka Torrent (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Torrent offers softer cushion and is a bit more flexible under foot, but weighs more and is not as performance oriented.  Traction is comparable, with perhaps a slight advantage going to the Zinal 2.

Salomon Pulsar SG (RTR Review compared to Kjerag)

Jeff V: Both are comparably light and geared to all out fast performance, but I struggle a bit with the very narrow heel of the Pulsar SG and find them a bit unstable.  I find the Zinal 2 to be much more stable and planted, also more protective underfoot such that I can go much faster on the downhills.  If only going uphill, I could toss a coin between the two, but for an up/down and especially if there are any technical trails in the mix, the Zinal 2 is my choice hands down.

Salomon S/Lab Pulsar

Adam:  The Zinal 2 feels a lot like Hoka’s version of the Pulsar with the outsole grip, sock-like upper, and amount of cushion are very similar.  The Zinal 2 actually reminds me a bit more of the original S/Lab Sense Series, as the foam is more traditional than Salomon’s Energy Foam.  I would say that the Zinal 2 is more stable with more traditional lacing, and a little more stiffness as a result of the outsole.  Both are fantastic trail shoes I’d be happy to race in with the Zinal 2 leaning as a slightly more traditional option in stable cushion and upper. 

Dom: Zinal 2 is not a revised Zinal but a completely different beast.  The original Zinal was light, but not a standout in this regard.  Mostly it felt like a lower, more flexible, more responsive version of a regular Hoka shoe.  It was certainly raceable (and I used it in several races up to 100 km), but coupled with a fairly roomy fit, it also felt like a comfy training shoe.  The Zinal 2 slices off a shocking 1.5 oz (42 g) of weight and feels like a lean, mean racing machine. 

NNormal Kjerag (RTR Review compared to Pulsar SG)

Sam: Weighing a bit more at 7.55 oz /231g vs. 7.15 oz  /  203g US8.5 in my US8.5 samples the Kjerag is a way more versatile shoe that is both broader in front fit and considerably easier on the legs. I have done trail runs and road runs with it and even trekked 2 days with a heavy pack and every outing was delightful and fast.  I have also road run and trail run in the Zinal and it is considerably firmer and more responsive but less energetic in return feel. 

Less torsionally rigid and more stable, the Kjeraghas a softer riding midsole foam that while not disclosed feels alot like a supercritical foam similar to Puma Nitro but firmer. 

Kjerag's Matryx upper is ultra worthy (19:41 UTMB record for Kilian in his)  unlike the more short distance Zinal 2’s with a notably broad toe box that works in conjunction with a more flexible front of shoe. 

Its Litebase Megagrip  outsole is lower profile with flatter lugs than the 5mm Zinal lugs so more suitable for dry terrain and road but with less potential loose,  mud and snow grip. That said, in a side by side test on the same trails on the same day the Kjerag gripped better on loose gravel over hard pack due to its lugs planting better on small rocks and its flexibility. 

Some say Kjerag is a half size large but I am perfect in mine at true to size. In comparison, the Zinal is snugger up front and I might size up a half. I am a half size up in the S/Lab Pulsars for reference. The Zinal may be faster in mostly straight going for powerful runners over short distances where response and grip are key but everywhere else including longer distances the Kjerag will take you further and more comfortably so.

Saucony Sinister (RTR Review)

Sam: What you will say a “ road” shoe in these comparisons? Indeed and I think for good reasons. Both Adam and I in our testing found the Sinister to be a sensational trail race/speed  shoe. While its upper may not be as trail rugged as Zinal’s it is equally if not more secure and supportive at the midfoot. Underfoot, it has super light and far more energetic PWRRUN Pb supercritical foam and a full outsole that is at least light trails worthy for sure as we found out. It is both more flexible up front for climbing and more than decently stable for light trails  At 5.45oz  / 155 g (US9), it is very light for its 25mm heel / 19mm stack and a big 1.6 oz / 45g  lighter than Zinal. Would I have raced Sierre Zinal in it in the day when I was younger and faster? For sure as i raced the Nike Terra TC and American Eagle there in the 1980’s, both super shaky in upper support for the big downhill whereas here there is way more support.

Adam:  Totally agree with Sam here.  The Sinister is also a fantastic shoe.  It’s got a far more race focused upper, which feels more like a spike than a trail shoe, but the responsiveness of the PEBA based midsole is far superior to Hoka’s EVA.  Due to the narrow width of that shoe and the lightness of the upper, I’d save them for light trail or cross country racing in good weather, whereas I’d feel comfortable taking the Hoka for aggressive days in the mountains.  My dream for the trails would be the Zinal 2 featuring a similar foam to the Sinister, as I’d get less sore racing in it and it would be even more responsive.  

Peregrine 13 or 12  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Peregrine is more cushioned and protective, perhaps has superior traction in loose terrain, but is not nearly as light or fast as the Zinal 2. Despite that, for prolonged technical terrain, and especially if rocky, the added weight/substance of the Peregrine will be an advantage longer days on the feet.

Inov-8 G 270 (RTR Review)

Dom: I loved the original Inov-8 Terraultra G 270, and have also been enjoying the recent update (now called the Trailfly G 270 V2).  The G 270 is notably zero-drop, has a little more cushion up front, and a much bouncier ride.  It also has a bombproof upper, while the durability of the Zinal 2 is TBD.  While I’ve raced a handful of times in the G 270, it feels more like a perfect daily trainer.  And indeed, the G 270 is the shoe I throw in my bag almost every time I travel.  But for race day, the two shoes are not even close.  Zinal is 60 g (2.1 oz) lighter per shoe.

Jacob: When it was released in Summer 2020, I considered the G 270 to be relatively light and a fair choice for a shorter distance racer… the Zinal 2 is on another level (for my US 12, 70 g / 2.5 oz lighter). I would choose the Zinal 2 for racing any distance. It is snappier and has a snugger fit in the forefoot. 

The G 270 is more comfortable for me and has a denser, bouncier, more cushioned underfoot feel along with a wider platform, less lateral flexibility, and more stability. The G 270 is more versatile, runs smoother at slower paces, and is at home hiking in the mountains whereas the ZInal 2 would feel a bit shaky and lacking in protection. Both are great shoes overall.

MTN Racer 3 (RTR Review)

Jeff V: Not really much of a comparison, as the MTN Racer 3 weighs a good bit more, but has better cushion, a generous all day fit, better traction and overall better protection for long days, where the Zinal 2 is a pure racer.

Dom:  Fully agree with Jeff.  The MTN Racer 3 is an excellent shoe, but doesn’t really live up to its name.  It’s more comfortable and more cushioned, but feels like a regular training shoe.  Zinal 2 feels stripped down and built to race.

VJ XTRM 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff V: Perhaps truly the closest comparison here in stature, profile, ride and performance.  The VJ is a bit heavier, but does not feel it on the foot and has a more locked in secure upper, far superior traction, particularly in loose rough terrain where the VJ is best of any shoe on the market and is crazy precise, stable and confidence inspiring, where the Zinal is better suited for faster running on more moderate terrain and has better cushion.

Catamount 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: Take the Zinal 2 and give it a more forgiving (but not over soft)  and deeper cushioned supercritical foam midsole and a more rugged upper and you get the Catamount 2. Its front combination rock protection and propulsion plate gets to the same place as the Zinal rocker and flex but more protectively and with less firmness in the mix. The Cat is clearly more distance focused than the Zinal 2 while remaining a speedy all-arounder. If somewhat heavier, it is a more versatile shoe. 

Jeff V:  Sam sums it up well.  I find the Zinal 2 to be more stable and agile in technical terrain with a bit better traction.

Salomon Sense Ride 5 (RTR Review)

Jeff V: A non close comparison, as the SR5 is much heavier, more cushioned and not nearly as fast.  SR5 is superior for long days at slower paces with better all around protection, where the Zinal 2 is a fast speedster for racing or PR attempts at shorter distances.

The Hoka Zinal 2 is available now at Hoka HERE 

and at our partner


Tester Profiles

Adam Glueck is an endurance athlete (cross country and AT skiing, running, mountain and gravel biking) who formerly competed at the NCAA’s Division 1 level in cross country skiing while studying at Dartmouth College.  He can run a 4:43 mile, 16:20 5k, 1:23 half, and grew up running in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  He’s currently working as an engineer in the Bay Area and exploring trails from Santa Cruz to Tahoe.  You can follow him at on Strava here

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Dom 51, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  In 2019, his only notable finish was at the multi-day Dragon’s Back race in the UK.  In 2022 Dom finished 4th in the Angeles Crest 100 and was 10th in his age group at UTMB.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets lucky,, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run or nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content and RoadTrailRun and its contributors received no other compensation for this article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Anonymous said...

Was hoping for a somewhat Mach Trail but this isn't really it though it is remarkably comfortable

Anonymous said...

How do you think the Zinal 2 would perform at Mount Marathon? What would be your ideal Mount Marathon shoe?

Anonymous said...

I wish Vibram would not add these micro traction stuff to the lugs anymore. It might somewhat improve grip, but it is a beast to clean. Dirt gets stuck there, and then I doubt if there is much benefit to them anymore. Particularly wet earth/mud.

Anonymous said...

Super ugly, no surprise being a Hoka and all. No thanks on the bootie construction. Must be a quick shoe if a chode like Glueck can place 2nd at a regional, uncontested trail event though.

Anonymous said...

7.55 oz = 214 g

Pierre said...

Hello RTR , great review,
about the zinal 2 midsole :
Do you feel it more durable and more cushion after some km ??
I am running with Zinal 1 since 2 years ( 2 pair) and i feel the cushion not very durable, even if the shoes is great , this is my go to shoes.

Pierre from France

DavidL said...

Looks a lot like a Kaptiva imo

Ante said...

Did you test zinal 2 in wet conditions, water crossing? How is drainage and does it hold water? I consider Zinal 2 for swimrun

Andrea said...

These shoes look great on hot summer days in fnaf security breach and going to the beach.