This shoe’s proposition: If padding is good, can you ever have too much? Hoka’s thick EVA midsole (it’s 35mm at the heel and 31 at the toe) makes up almost a third of the shoe’s height and provides massive cushioning—especially welcome for tender knees, heavier runners, and banzai downhills. Despite the sole’s thickness, the shoes are light on the feet, thanks to a super-soft, open-cell foam that adds padding with scant weight (think of it as a durable kitchen sponge). Even those of us with cranky joints routinely crushed 15 miles on hard-packed trails without issue when wearing the Hokas.
The fat sole felt like monster truck tires on runs in California’s Trinity Alps Wilderness. The soft outsole wraps around obstructions and stabilizes the foot on uneven terrain while buffering from rock bruising underneath.
We expected a sole this fat would make for a heavier, less responsive shoe, but the Mafate’s rockered (curved) sole and springy rebound helped us maintain a fast stride.