Dave: I’ll be honest, until the emergence of Carbon X, I wasn’t the biggest fan of HOKA on the roads. However— and I’ve said this for a long time— it seems to me that the trail line is coming from a completely different planet of designers. The HOKA trail stuff is freaking legit! It’s firm (the way HOKA should be designed) and allows the maximum mechanical efficiency and return for the runner.
The EVO Mafate 1 was outstanding. At the time, I was diving into the world of ultra-marathon training (a short-lived venture); I used the M1 on multiple trail runs up to 5 hours in the Los Angeles mountains. Side note: a lot of people don’t realize this, but SoCal offers some serious vert and dirt! The M1 performed extremely well and became my workhorse long run shoe for the trails. On speedier days, I used the HOKA Torrent.
Needless to say, I was eager to get my feet into the updated Mafate 2.
Taylor: I have been part of the resistance for too long, and the HOKA ONE ONE Evo Mafate 2 is the maximal shoe that converted me to the dark side.
There are a few reasons why I have stayed away from HOKA in the past: 1) They became wildly popular so quickly and I have been waiting for their “inevitable fallout”, 2) numerous testimonials of HOKA detail their constriction through the toes, and 3) the sheer terror of running technical trails on platforms. But I am here to tell you that the Evo Mafate 2 can toss all those prejudices into the trash because I love almost everything about this shoe.
Not a lot has changed since the first edition. They kept an aggressive outsole, tons of firm EVA cushioning in the midsole, and what they call an “Early Stage Meta-Rocker” to assist with the responsiveness of the shoe.
Most changes come on the top-side. A patented MATRYX upper material is still used but the geometry of the upper has changed a bit. Also, a gusseted tongue was added for better fit and more security on the trails.
Dave: There aren’t too many major differences from M1 to M2, so this isn’t going to be the most interesting review, but I can tell you out of the gate, I love the new upper! MATRYX is the new material used for this year in M2, which uses strategically placed Kevlar to mold the foot and enhance good flex and movement while rolling along in the mountains.
I felt locked and loaded in this shoe much better than I did in Mafate 1, simply because the new upper isn’t rough on and around my foot. The old upper came off a bit rough to me and also had some lacing issues on my more narrow foot.
With this version, I’m able to climb hills with more confidence, as the shoe flexes at the right position points. Likewise, on the downhills, the shoe allows for a bit more splay so I’m not jamming my toes. M1 caused me to slide a bit forward when running downhill, most likely because the upper didn’t mold my foot well enough at times.
The switch from R-MAT to R-Bound was a good call. R-Bound in HOKA, A-Bound in Altra (last year) hmm. Can we get more creative guys? Anyhow, R-Bound is nice, and honestly a bit softer underfoot. When running more than a marathon in the dirt, you’ll want the extra cush to be a bit more forgiving. The new midsole floats along real nice!
Taylor: HOKA brought together the best of the best ultra trail athletes to create the first iteration of the Evo Mafate. Those same athletes developed the second version with an ultimate goal of top-tier performance and underfoot protection over long-distance trail adventures.
There is a laundry list of good qualities for the Evo Mafate 2. What impresses me most is the midsole. It is a beautiful composition of EVA that is soft enough to feel cushioned, firm enough to feel protective, and is responsive. It is perfectly suited for going far on any terrain with comfort. That’s a hard combination to figure out in the trail running world.
I found that the midsole didn’t allow for really any ground feel, as is the case with other HOKA models. I also found that I don’t care, because this midsole is perfect for keeping your feet comfortable at truly any distance.
The overall ride of the shoe is quite smooth and responsive. In part, this is due to the more firm midsole. The meta-rocker ensures a smooth transition from initial foot-strike to toe-off. This was just as smooth on above-treeline rock rambling as it was on gravel road. I would also gladly take this on a few paved road miles if needed.
The MATRYX upper extends protection to the top side, is rather breathable, and simply comfortable. I was pleased to find that the forefoot had plenty of room for my wider feet. There was no pinching or tightness in the toes as many attested to in the first version.
Last— but far from least— on the list of stand-out qualities for the Evo Mafate 2 is Vibram’s Megagrip. Even with an atypical outsole pattern with deep lugs, Megagrip was steadfast on all terrain from the technical rocky trails of Colorado to the saturated dirt and rooty trails of Minnesota. For a durable ultra-trail shoe, this choice of outsole was a no-brainer.Shop HOKA EVO Mafate 2
Dave: The new MATRYX upper is hot. Trail runs in SoCal can broil. The UV index is at least 7 in the winter here and 10+ in the summer. Our trails here are exposed and we get to 5000+ feet really quick when climbing, with some runs lately having me upwards of 10,000-11,000 feet on Mount Baldy, exposed AF! I have messed around with different sock types, but runner beware, this shoe can get a bit sticky on longer runs.
Taylor: It has been really difficult to find negatives with this shoe. The most notable setback for this shoe is its performance on fast technical trails; however, the shoe isn’t designed for those, so it doesn’t bother me.
The midsole offers more than ample protection for technical trails, but the stack height is just too much to let your guard down on anything that is more than moderately technical. Some of this is give-and-take, but if there was a way to keep the same level of protection with less height HOKA would have a backorder list that’s longer than the Mississippi.
Another small thing: many shoe companies are slashing shoe weight as if they were Wal-Mart, but the Evo Mafate 2 actually added some, going from 9.6oz to 10.3 oz. The added weight seems to have come in the midsole. As mentioned before, the midsole is scoring high enough praise that the little bit of extra weight doesn’t really matter.
Dave: Other than the MATRYX upper, the midsole change is solid and the shoe runs so well! Nothing to really complain about here. Well done, HOKA!
Recommended for the runner looking to put some serious time in on the trails. As far as racing goes, it’s a tad sloppy for me to race 50K, so I’d be looking to run this somewhere in the 50 mile to 100K range.
Looking for more speed in the trails on a lighter platform? Look to the Torrent. It’s a bit more fun to run short in.
Taylor: Let me just say that I wish I would have had these shoes before my most recent 100-mile race. I would have been able to stick with one shoe throughout the duration and come out in the end stronger.
HOKA seems to have found a great balance in the midsole by providing high marks in being protective, responsive, and also feel cushioned. The highly protective trail shoe that will go the distance on any terrain.
Smartwool’s slogan is “Go far. Feel good.” That’s exactly what you will be able to do in the Evo Mafate 2. If you’re looking for a great trainer or racer and you typically venture on more technical trails, consider coming to the “dark side” and purchasing a pair.
You can pick them up on Running Warehouse for $169.95.Shop HOKA EVO Mafate 2