The much-anticipated arrival in Australia of the all-new offering from Hoka has certainly justified all the hype. If the name ‘Evo’ isn’t short for ‘Evolution’ then it should be. Hoka has taken all the good points from the Mafates and Bondi Bs and added a few extras to create a really hot mix for their second-generation shoes.
While I loved running in the Mafates, the narrow toe-box and unyielding uppers with hard heel counter and ankle cuffs meant lots of pressure points and potential hot-spots. The Evos sport a plush, soft, web upper that is cool, light and roomier. I have no pressure points and my toes can relax and even spread out a little in their Injinjis. I am guessing they are partying in there given the incredibly soft ride of the characteristic thick EVA midsoles of the Evos.
And that’s what makes these so special: the huge EVA midsole that produces the softest, smoothest ride you could imagine. Your feet sit well down in the moulded EVA so even though you are high off the ground you are not as high as it appears. The 4mm heel-to-toe drop has been retained promoting a more forefoot strike. And the rocker bottom is still there making the transition from strike to toe-off seamless. But forget all the science and physics: these puppies feel good and make you want to smile when you run. If that isn’t enough reason to try them out then you are running for all the wrong reasons.
One of the limitations of the Mafates (the original trail Hoka) was that the ankle cuff would jam into your ankle bones at the first sign of camber. Not so with the Evos. They are a genuine contender for technical trail and I pushed them on narrow rutted tracks with reverse camber and sharp angles. They ate it up. They mowed down the rocky surfaces. The new lugged outsole bit into the loose dirt and gravel and even did a decent job on the slick mud. Hoka have really listened to the feedback from the earlier models and done their best to produce an all round beast that will outperform most the competition.
There has to be a downside, right. Well, maybe. I am still trying to figure out the benefit or detriment to my biomechanics of the spongy ride. But meanwhile I am loving that ride. And just like the Mafates, these shoes are simply made for downhills. The only limitation on downhills is how fast you can turn your legs over. The added cushioning does tend to encourage you to heel strike more on the descents but the resulting impact is soaked up by the massive surface area and thickness of the midsole. Hence the logo: ‘Time to fly’.
The raised platform increases the chances of turning an ankle but the deep-seated position of the foot within the moulded EVA gives great stability and security. That same recessing created a holding pool for water in the Mafates but the Evos have an innovative drainage bed under the insole to draw water away from your feet. And just on the insole, there is the option of a thick or thin insole to better customise the fit. There is also the choice of speed laces or conventional shoelaces. I have gone with the speed laces and the lock-down mechanism works well.
My use of the Mafates was limited by the cramped, stiff fit. None of that in the Evos so I am happy to wear them in trail ultras. Given the popularity of the Bondi Bs at Coast to Kosciuszko, I have no doubt the Evos will make their presence felt at trail 100-milers in no time. They are billed as a hybrid so there is no drama about wearing them on asphalt. The ride on sealed surfaces is as smooth as you could imagine. They really are irresistible.
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