From the introduction of asymmetric track spikes to the spectacular weight to cushioning ratio of the Tracer, we have recently seen HOKA ONE ONE provide more performance shoe options for the competitive runner. While track athletes and road runners were the first to get a glimpse at these performance products, trail runners can now join in with the release of the Speed Instinct. Built with responsive cushioning and a lightweight, sleek design, the Speed Instinct is ready to blaze through a variety of terrain.
While trail runners may be familiar with other HOKA trail products such as the Challenger ATR 2 or the Speedgoat, the Speed Instinct takes a new approach and caters to runners looking for a more agile and fast feeling shoe. Built with the new Pro2Lite midsole concept found on the Clayton and Tracer, this shoe utilizes a softer foam in the heel for protection and a firmer foam in the forefoot for propulsion. At slower paces, when I tend to heel strike more, the shoe provided a soft, smooth ride with plenty of cushioning. While not as soft as the Challenger ATR, the shoe still provided good protection for longer distances. As I picked up the pace, I could feel the responsiveness of the forefoot propelling me forward, which made the shoe an ideal option for faster running.
With a 22mm forefoot stack height (3mm offset), the shoe also provided plenty of protection from rocks and debris without feeling disconnected from the ground. While cushioning should be suitable for a wide range of distances, it is worth noting this shoe will not have the same feel as other HOKA models. The narrower base provides runners with a more connected feel to the ground and a more nimble ride. The Speed Instinct is able to keep weight at a minimum (9.0 oz mens size 9) with a lightweight airmesh upper. With a seamless design, the shoe provides an irritant-free wrap and secure lockdown, ideal for fast descents. I personally liked the fit but felt the upper material used was not extremely breathable and would not be my top pick for a longer run on a hot day.
Where as most Hoka trail shoes are best suited for hard trail conditions, the Speed Instinct provides good traction over loose terrain and hard ground. The multi-directional lugs are long enough to provide sufficient grip on most trail conditions and the rubber outsole material seems to shed light mud easily. I found the shoe to be a very versatile option and would consider using it on any terrain, with the exception of extremely soft, muddy conditions.
As a road racer who runs quite a bit of my weekly mileage on the trails, I’ve been quite pleased with the Speed Instinct. I’ve used them for moderate effort long runs on technical trails and even higher intensity tempo runs on hard fire road surfaces. The mixture of a lightweight, low offset design paired with a responsive yet cushioned midsole makes this shoe a great option for when I’m looking to add a little spring to my stride. Overall, I’m pleased with the innovative design HOKA ONE ONE has created with the Speed Instinct and look forward to seeing how they continue to innovate within the trail market.