First seen on HOKA’s elite athletes last summer during the Olympic Trials, the HOKA ONE ONE Speed Evo R Spike is an asymmetrical speedster that has many racers intrigued, if not straight up excited. Based on extensive testing as well as input from Leo Manzano, HOKA designed specific spike plates for each foot that help to improve traction and thereby minimize energy loss around the bends. With such a dramatically different look, I wasn’t sure what to expect when trying out this spike.
After lacing up the spike my initial reaction was one of surprise. The raised heel bed gives the appearance of extensive cushioning, but the underfoot thickness feels much closer to that of a standard track spike. Like many HOKA shoes, the stack height is lower than the outside appearance of the shoe suggests. For the Speed Evo R, the heel bed provides stability while the underfoot EVA delivers a highly responsive feel with just a bit more heel cushioning than a standard spike. Taking my first few steps, my stride moved naturally to a midfoot strike as a function of the aggressive bevel of the spike plate. At a relaxed trot, the transition from midfoot to forefoot felt a bit bumpy, but as I moved into a run, that feeling dissipated. To simulate how my form might change later in a race, I tried jogging with a heel strike and found that the EVA foam provided an enjoyable, springy feel without the ample give of a non-racing shoe. Both myself and others who have tried the spikes have enjoyed that extra cushioning while jogging between reps and at later stages in our workouts and races.
Moving into a faster tempo, the spike continued to provide an easy transition from mid to forefoot with each step. As far as the turns go, running 200s in the spike felt similar to my experiences with other mid-distance and distance spikes. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary with regards to grip, but HOKA has advertised that their asymmetrical design saves small, imperceptible fractions of energy on each step, which meant that the real test would be to race in them.
So, to be thorough, I tried them out for an indoor 5000 on a banked track. The differences that I noticed between the Speed Evo R and other distance spikes were that the Speed Evo R kept me on my forefoot further into the race and that my feet felt a little less battered afterwards. Outside of those two factors, the Speed Evo R delivered the experience of a high level distance spike. Personally, I look forward to racing in them again.
The lightweight mesh upper provides a structured fit, as opposed to a sock-like one, and as with most spikes, the Speed Evo R is not a shoe that slips easily onto your foot. Once on, the lightly peached interior provides a smooth and secure hold. With spikes, I prefer a snug fit that holds my foot in place without any pinching. I try to avoid spikes that are tight across the forefoot though, as a little toe-splay can be welcome in longer races. In my standard shoe size, I found that the Speed Evo R had a secure heel, midfoot, and forefoot feel without being too snug. The point of interest is the length. Compared to other distance spikes, I find the Speed Evo R to be ever-so-slightly long. However, sizing down brings the front of the shoe into contact with the front of my big toe, and the fit of all the other parts of the shoe becomes too tight. As such, I recommend buying your standard shoe size unless you prefer a very tight fit when wearing spikes.
Given its combination of responsive cushioning and an aggressive spike plate, the Speed Evo R can cover a variety of distances. In my case, I would feel comfortable wearing it in any event from the 1500 up to the 10,000. That being said, the angle of the spike plate encourages a runner to mid or forefoot strike, which can be a problem in longer races if a runner is used to heel striking. In such cases, a runner’s calves may not be prepared for 10,000 meters of calf-shredding steps.
Shop the Men’s HOKA ONE ONE Speed Evo R
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Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.