Part of the fun of our job is trying out the latest gear to hit the market. In this instance, it is the new Hoka Zinal – the trail running shoe designed to fly on the trails. Our Hoka Zinal review looks at this latest release in further detail discussing how it compares to other Hoka models and what you can expect from this new trail running shoe.
While the Hoka Zinal is a trail running shoe designed to cope on tougher trails, it manages to do this while offering a lightweight and speedy ride. It is billed as a responsive trail shoe geared for shorter distances, delivering the perfect blend of speed and agility. We take a look at how it is made and how it holds up on even the most technical of trails.
The Construction of the Shoe
Our Hoka Zinal review begins with a look at how the shoe is constructed. Made from recycled yarn, a stripped-back mesh upper has been designed with a gusseted tongue to keep debris out. We love this nod to sustainability, as will many trail runners who love to get out on the trails and enjoy the benefits of nature. Reducing our carbon footprint on the trails with the kit we wear is just another benefit.
The emphasis with the shoe really is on ‘lightweight’. It has been stripped back and reduced in weight without compromising on the technology over even the slippiest trails. What you will find with this shoe is that it sticks with good grip to many different surfaces whether that is rickety, damp wooden bridges or rocks and debris on rocky trails. It has a strong tread compound that can deal effectively with most of the conditions we face as trail runners.
- Lightweight mesh upper made from recycled content
- Profly midsole – the dual-density design provides cushioning and responsive toe-off
- Toe bumper – because as trail runners, most of us have kicked a rock!
- Vibram® Megagrip with Litebase construction designed with maximal grip for any terrain. The litebase is a paired down version of the orginal Vibram® Megagrip which gives it that lightweight feel.
When it comes to colour the options are limited which we feel is a good thing. All too often, there is too much choice for a shoe that ultimately should be covered in. mud right? Well, you have two choices – the men’s Hoka Zinal and the women’s.
How it Deals with Tough Terrain
Come rain or shine the weather never stops us getting out and hitting the trails. What this does mean is that we always have to be prepared for various terrains and invest in shoes that can cope with the conditions whatever they may be. This means having a variety of trail running shoes. A pair for the dry trails, a pair for the wet trails, those that can cope with deep mud, a pair for racing… You get the idea.
The holy grail for a trail runner is finding shoes that can cope with multiple terrains while also transferring from road to trail to save on money and negate the need for several pairs. The beauty of the Hoka Zinal is that it ticks many boxes. While it is billed as being a lightweight shoe, designed for speed over shorter distances, it is so lightweight and comfortable that it will deal with longer distances too. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if it could deal with the ultra distances that we are so fond of.
What we don’t know yet, and can’t include in this Hoka Zinal review, is how many miles it will do. We all know we have different running styles. I wear out the heels of my road running shoes before anything else. With my trail shoes its the toe box that tends to go first. What we do know is that we have gone through several pairs of trail shoes because they get quite a battering. They are constantly getting wet, kicking rocks, getting caught by brambles. They don’t stay pretty and in one piece as long as the road shoes do. We recommend saving this type of shoes for your shorter distances, off road races and the more technical trails.
How Does the Zinal Compare to the Speedgoat?
We are a massive fan of the Hoka Speedgoat so we had to compare the two while considering this Hoka Zinal review. The Zinal does hold up very well when compared to the Speedgoat. Both shoes are designed with Vibram® Megagrip. This provides great traction on more challenging terrain. The difference between the two is the Zinal features a Litebase construction on the outsole with 4mm lugs rather than the 5mm of the Speedgoat. That said, we didn’t find that the shallower lugs detracted from the handling on the trails. It is a lighter shoe than the Speedgoat weighing 2.3 ounces in a men’s size 9 and 2.2 ounces in a woman’s size 7.
The Hoka Zinal in Summary
In the past, trail shoes have often been quite clumsy, robust and more focused on dealing with challenging terrians than providing a smooth and lightweight ride. Now there is a focus on making shoes that are lighter, bouncier and more cushioned. They are required to offer a lightweight ride that affords the runner both speed and protection. We feel that Hoka have managed to strike this balance with their range of trail running shoes. The new Hoka Zinal goes that one step further. Lightweight, and providing a speedy ride, it manages to deal with even the most challenging terrain.
The Zinal is designed as a nimble and lightweight shoe with an emphasis on speed and agility over shorter distances. For those that like to race off road, Hoka have designed a shoe for the serious runner. Of course, even those that just run for fun can feel the benefit of the comfort and protection of a decent trail shoe will enjoy the freedom it gives you to enjoy some speed on the trails. While it may be a great shoe for shorter trail distances, it’s also a comfy ride over the longer miles. We can’t wait to eat up some race miles in these.