HOKA One One Speed Instinct Review

First Impressions of the HOKA One One Speed Instinct:

Is this a Hoka? Where’s the huge midsole? I like what I’m seeing so far…then I picked the HOKA ONE ONE Speed Instinct up and examined it closer…

…wow, that’s a pretty light shoe (men’s size 9 = 9.0oz; women’s size 8 = 8.1oz). Looks like just enough cushioning for all types of trail runs. Not a ton of traction it appears but hopefully just enough? OK, so how does it perform?

hoka one one speed instinct

Presenting the Hoka One One Speed Instinct. Definitely a versatile and nimble trail shoe.

Now for more details. In this review we’ll break things down in to five areas:

  1. What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the shoe.
  2. What’s decent: the features or aspects that are OK but not particularly new or differentiating.
  3. What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the shoe better.
  4. When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the shoe excels.
  5. How it compares: my current go-to shoes and how this compares

I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. After all, you’ve probably got more running you can do today!

What’s good?

  • The versatility. This shoe is versatile based on several factors we’ll discuss below. Wanna go fast? You can. Wanna slow down and enjoy a nice ride? No problem. Do you spend some time on the roads before you get to the trails? All good.

hoka one one speed instinct

What do you want to tackle today in the Hoka One One Speed Instinct? Get after it!

  • The ride. Hoka calls the cushioning in this shoe Pro2Lite. The durometer of the midsole in the heel is softer than the foam in the forefoot. This means the shoe can get up and go should you want to pick up the pace. Additionally, like most Hokas the Speed Instinct utilizes a meta-rocker design to encourage a smooth ride. It works.

hoka one one speed instinct

What do you want to tackle today in the Hoka One One Speed Instinct? Get after it!

  • The cush (i.e., the midsole). 25mm in the heel, 22mm in the forefoot. Much like one of my all-time favorite shoes (the Hoka One One Huaka) this shoe utilizes Hoka’s RMAT midsole. I really like RMAT. I think it’s a great combination of being plush not providing a good energy return making it responsive when you want to push the pace.
  • The fit. I debated on categorizing the fit under this bucket. The more I wore the shoe though the more I appreciated the fit. It’s not a super accommodating fit but there is just enough width and volume to keep things comfortable. What the fit does allow for is a nimble and precise ride. I know exactly what my foot is going to do in this shoe with every foot plant and that’s a good thing.

hoka one one speed instinct

The fit is precise. I’d recommend wearing thinner socks in this shoe.

hoka one one speed instinct

Like the rest of the fit the heel lock in is good. No heel slippage for me in this shoe whatsoever.

  • The weight. 9.0oz in a men’s size 9. Perfect.
  • The style. Does this matter? Not really, but I do think it’s a bonus when shoes are functional yet also look cool. The Speed Instinct doesn’t look like a traditional Hoka and that’s a good thing in my opinion. Plus, you have at least five colorways to choose from in each the men’s and women’s version to find your favorite style.

What’s decent?

  • The grip. The lugs are just deep enough and have just enough directional support for everyday situations. However, I don’t think this is the best outsole for tackling wet rocks and certainly not mud.

hoka one one speed instinct

The outsole works well but I would be careful on rocky terrain.

  • The protection. This is not an overly protection shoe but because of how nimble the ride is you can hopefully move around sharp rocks as you pick your foot placements. Just be careful not to step on a sharp rock in the middle of the heel. Curious design choice to expose the midsole in that precious spot.

hoka one one speed instinct

If you kick a big rock with this toe bumper, you will feel it. Be careful!

  • The price. These retail for $130. This price point kind of seems like the new normal nowadays. OK.

What could be improved?

  • The breathability. Somewhat surprisingly, the shoe runs a little warm. While Hoka claims the “Seamless Air Mesh on the upper is lightweight and allows for excellent airflow and breathability” I don’t think the shoe is super breathable. It’s OK but I think it could be better.

hoka one one speed instinct

A less breathable upper than I would prefer. I think the next iteration can improve on the breathability claims.

  • The durability. I’ve put about 50 miles on these so far and I don’t think they will last much more than 250-300 miles I’m predicting. I’ve had friends completely blow out the upper and cause the upper to separate from the midsole so we’ll see how these hold up over time and I’ll report back if my durability predictions are wrong.

When to use it?

  • Fast days on the trail. This is a great trail half-marathon to marathon type of race shoe. Also, a great weekly trail workout kind of shoe for hill repeats, trail tempos, etc.
  • Everyday use for lightweight runners with narrow or average feet.
  • Door to trail. It rides on the roads well and transitions perfectly to less demanding terrain nicely.

The Hoka One One Speed Instinct is a great option in these scenarios.

Similar shoes to compare with:

  • Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3: Really similar shoes in a lot of ways. Both weigh 9.0oz in a men’s size 9. The Hoka has just a touch more cushion in the heel and forefoot. The fits are similar although I might give the edge to the Nike here. The Pro2Lite cushioning in the Hoka is responsive just like the Zoom cushioning in the Nike. You can’t go wrong with either shoe.
  • Salomon Sense Pro 2: Again, similar in weights (9.2oz for the Sense Pro 2) and fits. However, I had some issues with rubbing on the inside of my big toes on these Salomon’s that prevented me from loving the shoe. The Salomon is also a firmer ride with less overall cushion. I would choose the Speed Instinct over the Sense Pro 2 but I know plenty of people who swear by both the Sense Pros and the Sense Pro 2s.

So, the $130 dollar question – should you purchase The Hoka One One Speed Instinct?

In a word, yes. If you are looking for a fast, nimble, precise shoe with plenty of cushioning to handle a variety of distances the Hoka One One Speed Instinct is a nice shoe.

Questions, comments, or feedback on this shoe? Please share! And thanks for reading!

Purchasing Information

If you’re interested in purchasing this shoe, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.

If that’s not an option, please consider using this Amazon affiliate link. The return policy is great, and it’ll drop a few nickels into URP bucket if you decide to keep it. Thank You!


Meet Your Reviewer: Ben Zuehlsdorf

I am an avid running gear junkie. When I’m not smelling new shoes I’m usually running or racing around the local trails in Marin County, California or talking shop with the San Francisco Running Company community of friends. I was once a road marathoner but now have transitioned almost exclusively to the trails and racing ultras the last few years.


Disclaimer: These shoes was provided to URP/Ben for testing purposes. All words and thoughts are ours and no compensation was offered or received.

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