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I’ve wanted some more “serious” trail shoes for a while now, so I was happy to get a pair of Hoka Speedgoat 2 as an early birthday present. I’ve been running in Salomon X-Mission 3 for the past year–while they’re great shoes, I saw Hoka One One (pronounced Hoh-ka Oh-nay Oh-nay) as the holy grail of trail shoes. Elite athletes tout the merits of the brand, and the Speedgoat 2s are actually named after Karl Meltzer (“Speedgoat”); he holds the record for winning the most 100-milers and also broke the Appalachian Trail record in 2016.
Slews of everyday runners also claim that running in Hokas is “like running on marshmallows” and that there’s zero break-in time. After reading all the positive reviews online, I was convinced that the Speedgoat 2s would be as legendary as they sounded. I even left my Salomon X-Mission 3s in France for my 3-week trip back to the US, assuming that I’d wear the Hokas for my upcoming trail race in Massachusetts.
Did the Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 live up to my expectations? Here’s what I thought:
This was one of my first concerns, as some reviews say that the shoes are too narrow (especially in the toebox), or that they run small. I usually wear a 7.5 in US women’s (for both my Salomon X-Mission 3 and Brooks Launch 5), but oddly enough, Hoka’s True Fit tool recommended a size 7. I ignored the tool and just went with size 7.5. It seemed pretty consistent with my other running shoes, so I’d say that the Speedgoat 2 is true to fit. I do, however, size up with all my running shoes, so that does leave me some leeway (my normal shoe size is 6.5-7).
One thing I didn’t love was that the tongue of the shoe was shorter than I’m used to, so it felt weird as I was lacing them up. I didn’t have any problems during the two runs I took with them though (4mi and 8.5mi trail).
Hokas are known for their characteristic thick soles and loud color combos. I got the Canton Blues color, but there are 8 other just as flamboyant options currently available on the US site (the Speedgoat 2 is no longer available, so this links to the Speedgoat 4).
The arch blisters I got from the Hoka Speedgoat 2 (I’m sure everyone has always wanted to see a low-quality closeup of my feet post-run LOL)
This is where the Speedgoat 2s failed me. Contrary to popular opinion, I did not find that running in Hokas was like running on marshmallows. I found the thick soles very uncomfortable, and it also seemed easier to roll your ankle since you were higher off the ground. The soles are Vibram soles, however, and they’re known to be high-quality and have incredible traction.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was really the nasty arch blisters I got near my heel. These blisters started appearing within a couple miles on my first run, and made completing the run extremely painful. In 10 years of running, I’ve never blistered so quickly, and in such an inconvenient spot.
I thought maybe that I had to break the shoes in, so I tried Hoka’s recommended duct tape blister remedy and laced up for another run. I didn’t blister that time, but the duct tape was uncomfortable and the shoes themselves still didn’t feel great.
A little blooper from out mid-run photoshoot haha
Customer Service / The 30-Day Guarantee
I wanted to know if maybe the arch blisters were a common problem, or if that meant that I had gotten the wrong size. I emailed Hoka One One’s customer service to ask these questions, but I got an irrelevant copy/paste response about warranty that didn’t answer any of my questions at all.
I decided that I’d return the shoes under Hoka’s 30-Day Guarantee, which lets you go on as many test runs as you want, and guarantees free returns within 30 days on full-priced* items. The shoes weren’t getting more comfortable, and my time was running out. I called customer service to make sure I could return the shoes from a different location than the original shipping address (shipped to MA but was in OH), and also make sure the guarantee applied to sale items. The website says “full-priced items,” but it’s unclear whether you have to pay return shipping for sale items, or if the guarantee doesn’t apply to sale items at all. The customer service rep said there were no problems for both concerns, and the person who got my gift did get a full refund after the shoes were received. I’m wondering if this might be because we had a code for free shipping, which might also make return shipping free.
I’m definitely bummed about my Hoka experience, and will likely not try the shoes again for at least a while. Still, the 30-day guarantee is pretty helpful/reassuring, and I’m glad they fully refunded my Speedgoat 2s. (I wonder what happens with the test-run shoes though–do they refurbish them? Sell them used on eBay? Use them for running test-run events like Salomon’s aperun?).
I ended up ordering another pair of Salomon X-Mission 3, which were much cheaper and more familiar to my feet.
If you are interested in trying Hoka One One, the Women’s Speedgoat 4 is $145. I don’t recommend them based on my experience, but maybe they’ll work for you.
Quick tip: if you buy something on sale on the Hoka One One site, shipping is not automatically free like it is for full-priced items. Sign up for their mailing list though, and they’ll welcome you with free shipping on your first order 🙂