Hoka Speedgoat 4 - The perfect trail running shoe?

Why the hell did I wait so long to buy the Speedgoat?

I’ve been having mixed success with trail runners in 2021 which you can read about in previous mini-reviews:

  • Hoka Challenger ATR 5 GTX - Love the comfort and waterproofedness. Great for road-to-trail. Did 50-60 mile Sheeps’s Head Way twice in them. But very little grip in the wet.
  • Saucony Peregrine 10 - Killed my heel. Unwearable. Great grip.
  • Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max - Heavy, blister-inducing on rough ground, lethal on wet rocks. Great bounce. Will keep using for easy terrain and hiking.

So when I finally signed-up for the Kerry Way Ultra Lite after many years of “I must I must” (blog post coming very soon!) I started getting stressed about my footwear. I’d used the above (and others) on various coourse recces over an extended period and nothing felt right.

I’ve avoided the Speedgoat for as long as I’ve run offroad because every review said they were narrow. Whilst I don’t have particularly wide feet, my poor smallest toes get destroyed over marathon+ distances so I avoid anything that is specifically called narrow.

But when I thought about how much I loved the ATR apart from the grip, it seemed like an obvious choice with the Vibram Megagrip. I also really enjoyed the Evo Mafate around 2019 apart from the stiffness and them falling apart.

Weirdly this orange colourway was temporarily much cheaper than the others on Alltricks so I went for it. My usual size was correct.

Hoka Speedgoat 4

I’ve done three runs in them. The first was a short one on mixed surface which felt great and the second was on a ten mile recce of the KWU Lite from the start of the Old Kenmare Rd at the Kenmare end towards Killarney. That’s all off-road but not really technical at all. They were absolutely perfect on this. Comfortable, grippy, good on wet surfaces, great on the downhills. And not too narrow! So I’m not sure where that reputation comes from.

The third run was the Kerry Way Ultra Lite itself two weeks ago. And they rocked! I had many problems on the day but none of them related to my feet. In recent years I’ve taken to taping up most/all of my toes on very long runs. And more recently on my Sheep’s Head Way FKT, I taped my forefeet too, with Leukotape P. I did this for KWU and had zero blisters. Yes zero! That’s over 58km of all sorts of terrain including roads.

Feet

The cushion was incredible on the day. The wet grip wasn’t needed much due to a dry week and I had no grip issues on the rocky bits. Not a single slip. And more impressively for such a high stack, not a single ankle roll. I had a couple of forward stumbles but that was down to my legs getting tired and me not lifting enough.

I was genuinely shocked at how well they worked and how great I felt at the end of the race. Sure I’m going to lose 4 toenails but that’s unavoidable with hammering downhill.

I have Ecotrail Wicklow 46K this weekend and will update this post if I have anything new to report about them.

But honestly, this is what I’ll be running in offroad for the foreseeable future. Unless they release V5 :-)

UPDATE: I’m just back from doing the Ecotrail Wicklow 46K and the Speedgoats were amazing again. I had a very rough day with my right calf completely cramped from mile 6 onwards but I didn’t have a moment’s issue with the shoes. They handled every surface perfectly and were ridiculously comfortable. I had one minor skid on a steep downhill on loose gravel which no shoe would have been able to prevent, but that’s it. And yet again, no blisters. This time I only taped my toes. So I’m sticking with “the perfect trail running shoe” description.

Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland https://conoroneill.com