How I longed to love this shoe. Hoka had rectified the previous Speed Instinct’s shortcomings of a cramped toe box, spongy response, and improved traction. The first item of that list precluded me from the use of the shoe’s first generation. So dropping $160.00CND/130USD on a shoe should render glorious trail run fun. Well, mostly it will leave you and your bank account feeling shorted.
On the plus side, the improved upper does offer more toe-box room. And, the Speed Instinct 2’s fit of relatively narrow heel and midfoot to a not-quite-narrow toebox works well for my specific foot shape. My toes align well with the last, and the upper is flexible enough to provide a nice mesh-like fit. The upper also breathed, and drained well (tested thanks to a couple water crossings). With the amount of give in the upper, the initial concerns of hotspots (mainly around the tongues lower join to the upper) didn’t bear out. The problem is, out on technical trails there was more lateral slop than I’d hoped for.
In terms of trail feel, the Pro2Lite midsole is supposed to offer softer cushioning in the heel and firmer responsiveness in the forefoot, which sounds like it should be ultrarunning bliss for 50km races and beyond. That’s mixed, while I appreciate the protection and cushioning offered, the shoe feels a bit dead in roots, rocks and babies heads. Part of this could be down to the low-for-Hoka, vertiginous for any other brand, stack height.
While I’ve happily trail run in Hoka Challenger ATR 2s, I found the Speed Instinct 2’s stack-height of 25mm heel and 22mm forefoot a more intrusive than I remembered. This height provides a good amount of lateral torsion on misstepped landings, giving leverage for the occasional mild ankle roll… well mild so far. On the plus side the low 3mm drop offers a nice and natural feel. And, is complimented but the amount of sink into the midsole’s cushion.
Per Hoka One One, the Speed Instinct 2 has “multidirectional lugs for improved traction”, unfortunately that just doesn’t seem to be enough for Vancouver’s North Shore trails. In damp conditions, the Speed Instinct’s don’t offer the confident grip of my regular go-to trail shoes (Brooks Caldera or Altra Lone Peak 3.0). On damp stripped roots, log bridges and damp rock the shoes don’t inspire much faith in the traction. If you’re in dryer climates, this will be less of a concern.
I’ve only had the Hoka One One Speed Instinct 2’s a couple weeks, so can’t speak to durability. And, likely won’t any time soon. Hoping for new go-to trail run shoes in the Hoka One One Speed Instinct 2, there’s just too many caveats for me to reach for it instinctively as I head to the trails.