The year 2010 saw the rise of minimalist shoes thanks to Christopher McDougal and his book "Born to Run." Minimalist is one word that you would not use when describing the Hoka One One Mafate, roughly translated from Maori, it means "Time to Fly over Earth." Jeff Valliere who is no stranger to the trails, put his pen to the paper and wrote up product review on the Hoka One One Mafate shoe.
When I first heard of/saw the Hoka One One Mafate trail running shoes, I, like many, was a bit skeptical. Too big, too bulky, too high off the ground, silly looking I thought. A recent opportunity to test these shoes however had me eating my words. At first glance, the shoes are obviously large, a bit “pontoon-ish” as I have heard them described, but this initial reservation was tempered by the fact that they helped me to stand much taller than my meager 5’9” height would indicate, a great ego boost for social gatherings, but good for running steep and technical trails?
At a deceptively scant 10.8 ounces, the Hoka Mafate feels light and soft under foot, but did not initially inspire me to go fast. For the trial run, I chose my staple training route on Green Mountain in Boulder and aimed for every sharp rock, stump or root I could find and was amazed that I felt nothing poking through at all. The sheer size of the shoe took a little getting used to on the climb, as I am very used to putting my “normal” size 9.5 shoe in hidden nooks and on very specific steps, so I had to be a bit careful. By the summit, my image of the shoe had improved, but I was still a bit lukewarm and knew that the real test would be the rocky and technical descent.
I took off from the summit at a quick, yet still somewhat tentative pace, not sure what to expect. Within minutes, I was cruising fast and really enjoying the cushion and stability of the large outsole, feeling like I was in full control and likened it to bombing technical downhill on a full suspension mountain bike with lots of travel. The rubber compound of the outsole, coupled with an excellent tread pattern (perhaps aided by the massive surface area) means that these shoes really hook up on all sorts of trail conditions, steep and loose, steep and firm, steep pine needles and pine cones, rocks, snow etc…. (though like many/most shoes, I found them to be a bit slick on wet rock). The upper has excellent support, is comfortable and well ventilated. After a few runs, I completely forgot about the size and height of the shoe and found myself running the technical descents with a renewed (and almost dangerous) sense of assuredness and self confidence. I could see the Hoka being an automatic choice for long distance trail ultras or for somebody looking to minimize impact for the sake of injury prevention or rehabilitation. My only complaints as a potential customer would be the loud coloring and the hefty price tag. All in all, I would highly recommend giving this shoe a go, you will not be disappointed.
Written by Jeff Valliere