|Heel to toe drop:||Men: 4mm|
|Arch type:||High arch|
|Use:||Fell running | Jogging|
|Material:||Mesh upper, Vibram sole|
|Features:||Breathable | Cushioned | Comfortable|
|Strike Pattern:||Forefoot strike|
|Distance:||Daily running | Long distance | Marathon|
|Heel height:||Men: 32mm|
|Forefoot height:||Men: 28mm|
|Release date:||Jan 2020|
|Brand:||Hoka One One|
|Type:||Heavy | Big guy | Low drop | Maximalist|
|Width:||Men: Narrow, Normal, Wide | Women: Normal, Wide|
|Special editions:||1 special editions|
Experts are runners, who post reviews at youtube, directly at RunRepeat or at their own websites. Each expert is categorized from level 1 to level 5 based on expertise. See stats on expert reviews and how we calculate scores here.
Are you an expert? Apply to contribute here.
86 / 100 based on 4 expert reviews
Hoka Speedgoat 4 - Outstanding performance at the Pen Llyn Ultra Winter RaceMore photos
The Hoka Speedgoat 4 is a deceptively capable off-road shoe. I expected the excellent cushioning provided by the thick midsole.
I was really impressed by a breathable upper which holds the foot comfortably and securely, whilst leaving plenty of space for toe movement at the front. I hadn’t anticipated the fantastic level of grip and traction that the Vibram outsole offered on all terrains.
The combination of these three components deliver an excellent shoe for any mid- to long-distance off-road events. The Speedgoat 4 delivers confidence over a variety of terrains which I hadn’t expected from a shoe with a 32-28mm midsole.
At the same time, that midsole cushioning can help protect the feet and legs from the fatigue that can build up over hours. This is an off-road shoe that will even run on roads I’d have no hesitation in recommending the Hoka Speedgoat 4.
- Breathable upper
- Secure hold with roomy toe-box
- Excellent cushioning
- Impressive outsole grip and traction
- Lack of ground feel
Last year, I reviewed the Inov-8 Mudclaw 300 following the Pen Llyn Ultra Winter Race during which I put the shoe through its paces.
As I prepared for the 2019 event, I needed something different from my race shoe. Not long before the race, I’d sustained a foot injury during a training run which had caused me to withdraw from the Snowdonia Marathon Eryri.
I felt that the foot had almost healed and I was determined not to miss the Pen Llyn Ultra, but I needed a shoe that would help protect my foot. My requirements were essentially that the shoe have a wide toe box and plenty of cushioning.
It also needed to be able to handle well in the mud given that the weeks leading up to the event had seen high levels of rain on the Llyn Peninsula of North Wales.
Now, I’ve not been a fan of Hoka since an issue with a pair of Cliftons a few years back and haven’t worn a pair since. After a bit of research, however, just one shoe seemed to tick all the boxes and so I took a deep breath and ordered a pair of Hoka Speedgoat 4.
The shoes arrived just a day before the event. This allowed a short training run on local fields and rocky beaches before the shoes were packed up with my kit ready for the event.
First impression & fit
Having never worn a Hoka trail shoe, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first thing that struck me when the courier delivered the shoes was how light the package was.
I genuinely expected to open up the box and find that they’d only packed one shoe!
Okay, so the shoe isn’t exactly featherlight. The Men’s shoe is listed at 10.8oz / 306g, but the Speedgoat 4 is deceptively light. Believe me, my UK 13.5 / US 14 shoe looks like a boat (as a friend and fellow competitor remarked whilst running the event) but weighs in a just 416g.
That’s not much more than my Brooks Ghost 12 road shoe, and yet the Speedgoat 4 includes a far thicker midsole and an aggressive all-terrain outsole.
Out of the box, the shoe fit fantastically well, and I just had enough time to snap a few pictures before heading out for a run along the footpaths behind our house.
After about 5 minutes I had the feeling I was being followed and turned to find a huge number of our four-legged neighbours along for the run. I can only imagine that they were keen to have a look at the new shoes.
Seriously though, I was really impressed with the way in which the upper provided plenty of room for the forefoot to move yet held the foot well on undulating terrain. I had expected the foot to move around on the thick midsole, relying on the ankle to generate stability.
I didn’t find that to be the case at all, I grew in confidence during the run which took in local horse hacks with no end of deep hoof indentations, and rocky beaches which offered anything but an even terrain.
I felt relieved that this shoe would allow me to compete and I headed back to pack my race kit.
The upper is constructed from tightly woven mesh. Across the midfoot and the front of the shoe, this is a single layer of mesh which gives excellent breathability. This mesh appears to have no elasticity.
The result is that whilst the laces securely hold the midfoot and heel, there remains plenty of width and height within the toe box for the toes to move freely. In fact, I don’t think I’ve run in a shoe with so much room in the front of the foot.
This was exactly what I was looking for in my current circumstances, as there was no pressure on the side of my foot at the front which was where the injury was.
3D overlays just above the midsole form a toe bumper which extends back to the midfoot, before rising higher around the back of the heel cup at the rear of the shoe. Further overlays around the midfoot provide structure and stability. It is these overlays, from which the lace eyelets are formed, that are critical to the manner in which the foot is held securely.
The footbed sits within the top section of the midsole, which prevents lateral foot movement. The 3D overlays then wrap around the midfoot, secured by the laces to hold the foot in place and provide confidence on the most technical of terrain.
To the rear of the shoe, the heel cup appears relatively low. This is a little deceptive because of the way the foot sits within the midsole. A rigid plastic cup is used to hold the heel, with just enough cushioning around the ankle and Achilles to ensure comfort.
The tongue is formed from the same mesh as the rest of the upper, sandwiched between a fabric inner and an overlay exterior. There is no cushioning within the tongue, but the shoe remains comfortable when laced up.
The Pen Llyn Ultra Winter Race
As I’ve come to expect from an event organised by Huw Williams, the communication in advance of the race was excellent.
The usual information was provided ahead of the event and the road book circulated gave a comprehensive explanation of exactly what could be expected. The event Facebook page is a vital part of all these events not only for information, but for the humour and feeling of inclusivity it engenders.
The morning of the event was dry and bright, much like the day before… until around 7 am when the rain began and didn’t stop!
We arrived at the event HQ, collected numbers and sat in readiness for the race briefing as the rain lashed against the windows of Pwllheli golf club.
Huw reviewed race instructions and key safety information before providing what proved to be an extremely accurate weather forecast; “the weather is going to be s**t, it’ll get a bit s**tter, then go back to being s**t and then it’ll get dark and still be s**t”.
With that, 170 competitors headed outside, for a few more brief words, a ten-second countdown followed by a bright orange flare, and we were off.
The first mile or so was a fairly hard-packed coastal trail with puddles that most of us danced around despite the fact that this would be the last time our feet would remain dry for several hours. The pathway soon gave way to a narrow, muddy coastal path followed by muddy fields before dropping down onto the beach at Llandbedrog.
In what was to form the backdrop to the day’s proceedings, competitors were lashed by the unrelenting North Wales rain and buffeted by coastal winds as the field spread out a bit.
So far so good… the Speedgoat 4s had provided excellent cushioning on the hard-packed trails. The beefy midsole means that a rock plate is not required to deflect the impact of sharp rock and stones. Furthermore, the aggressive Vibram Megagripä outsole had made short work of the muddy fields.
The terrain would, at various times, include mud, sand and loose stone. Because of this, I’d opted to wear gaiters to prevent debris from entering the shoes.
The Speedgoat 4 does not have fastening points for gaiters so I relied on rubber loops around the bottom of the shoe to hold them in place. The depth of lugs in the outsole meant that this was never an issue and they remained in place throughout.
The shoes were about to be put through a much tougher test as we ascended the steps from the Llanbedrog beach and ripped a page from the honesty book at the feet of the Tin Man. The next mile or two followed a narrow and exposed path around the headland.
Short, steep ascents and descents with rapid changes of direction would take place on a mix of mud and wet rock, grassland. The extensive water run off turned much of the footpath into temporary streams, before a very steep descent down to the beach at Abersoch.
The woven layer of mesh that forms the upper is extremely tough but remains light and breathable (the image shows how much light penetrates the fabric).
In wet conditions, water comes straight into the shoe. Consequently, the foot is wet through whilst running through flooded footpaths, puddles and tidal inlets.
The great news is that it drains from the shoe just as quickly. This means that you never experience the feeling of squelching along in water-logged shoes.
Furthermore, the lack of cushioning on the tongue means that there’s nothing to retain the water here either. I was really impressed by this aspect of the shoe; whilst the weather meant that the foot was always damp, it never felt wet unless it was actually submerged in water!
I’ll skip the midsole for now and jump to the Vibram Megagripä outsole of the Speedgoat 4. That’s because it was during the rather treacherous descent down to the Abersoch beach that I realised that this is a serious off-road shoe.
The steep descent was extremely technical, with a varied combination of wet rock, mud, standing water, and wet grass. To be honest, I was extremely surprised by the traction provided and I gained confidence as I descended.
The outsole gripped well on every surface, while the upper held the foot in place. I’m pleased to say that the outsole kept me upright throughout that descent.
The only time I recall slipping during the entire day was on an extremely muddy section that ran at an angle along the edge of a field of turnips! To be fair, I don’t think I’ve worn a shoe that would have kept me upright here, and I’m grateful to the Speedgoat 4 that I only hit the deck once!
The Megagrip outsole utilises 5mm deep, stepped lugs for traction. In general, wide lugs are used around the outside of the sole, in black on my shoe shown.
The lugs are a little smaller towards the front of the shoe and are replaced with chevron-shaped lugs on the medial side of the heel. These lugs are well spaced and designed for grip in all direction. The rubber used here has some give to better aid grip.
The centre of the outsole uses a slightly harder rubber (orange on my shoe), with multi-directional lugs. This rubber would also appear to be thicker and helps to keep the shoe stiff through each stride as well as offering a higher degree of protection from sharp rocks.
Back to the race...
We dropped briefly onto a road which led us down to Abersoch beach. Heading onto the beach, Tony (with whom I was running) and I appear to have been trying out a “synchronised running” routine judging by the event photo shown here!
The synchronisation was soon forgotten however as we ran along the beach into a headwind estimated at around 50mph.
We were finally directed off the beach and along a short road section before turning onto the Llwybr y Morwyr, or “Sailors Path”. This route was historically used by sailors going over land between the north and south coast of the Llyn Peninsula.
The route follows largely undefined paths and sheep tracks; often the only visual sign of the route was a distant gate, and the glimpse of an orange flag provided by the race organisers to mark our route.
Wherever the route crossed roads or anywhere humanly accessible, we’d come across a cheery marshal who would point us in the right direction and send us on our way with a few words of encouragement. How they managed to keep smiling while standing in the horrendous weather is beyond me – they’re a special breed and no mistake!
As I found last year, the checkpoints were second to none I’ve experienced. As we reached Mynytho, we were greeted with more friendly marshals; checking numbers, filling drinks bottles, checking our health, and all the while offering hot drinks and a range of snacks to rival a few wedding buffets I’ve been to!
This was repeated at every checkpoint we encountered, and the enthusiasm of the marshals was in no way dampened by the torrential rain lashing down upon us all.
After a couple of minutes, we were off and heading over Mynytho Common. This is a rather exposed section, with the potential for errors in navigation if you’re not paying attention, despite it being well marked. The route was primarily undulating grassy hillside, and occasionally fields. It was obviously exceptionally wet and muddy underfoot, with plenty of ascent and descent, much of it steep.
Passing “the scarecrow” to collect another page from the honesty-book page, we headed between the peaks of Garnfadryn, through Checkpoint 2 and then on a tarmac section for as few miles towards Morfa Nefyn.
The midsole was really going to be the critical component of these shoes for me, and the main reason that I chose to buy them for this event. The midsole needed to provide sufficient cushioning from the varied terrain I’d experience to protect the foot injury.
I was concerned that even if the shoe succeeded in this, the higher platform would affect my stability on technical terrain and reduce “ground feel”.
Between the upper and the outsole of the Speedgoat 4 sits a huge chunk of injection moulded EVA foam. It has a stack height of 32mm at the heel and 28mm at the toe (30mm/26mm women’s), with a 4mm drop. This foam is apparently lighter and more responsive than that used the Speedgoat 3, but I can’t comment having not run in that shoe.
The midsole is fairly stiff which is a real positive in a longer event when compared to most trail and fell shoes which are flexible. A flexible sole requires the foot to move and adjust with each footfall. This can cause the muscles to tire over long distances on uneven terrain. By comparison, the firm, solid midsole of the Speedgoat 4 provides a solid platform upon which to land and push off from (especially in my UK 13’s/US14’s!).
A “Balanced Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry” is also integrated into the midsole to promote a more efficient and smoother running gait. I’m not really sure what that means to be honest, so I’ll just try to describe what the shoe felt like to run in.
Essentially, I found that the midsole was extremely effective in providing a cushioned landing.
In this case, it protected my injured foot by reducing the impact of each footfall. Rather than sitting on the midsole, the foot is cradled within the upper section of the midsole. The wide, firm platform formed by the midsole effectively smoothed out the terrain, reducing the strain on the ankles and feet.
Despite the height of the midsole stack, I never felt as if I was “sinking into” the foam. Rather, it felt responsive so that as soon as the impact had been absorbed, I was transitioning quickly to the next push off. In this way, the shoe almost feels like a road shoe with a “go anywhere” outsole. Perhaps the fast transition is the result of the Balanced Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry?
At this stage in the race we had a few miles of tarmac on the way to Morfa Nefyn. Last year, I really struggled with the Mudclaw 300 on this section.
On this occasion, I was very impressed with the Speedgoat 4. Aside from the sound of the rugged outsole meeting the road on each stride, I could have been wearing a pair of cushioned road shoes. I really appreciated the cushioning of the midsole, as it minimised the impact of running on the tarmac in a trail show.
I’ve seen many trail shoes that claim to be “road to trail” but few in which you’d want to run more than a few hundred metres on the road. The Speedgoat 4 is genuinely an off-road shoe in which you feel comfortable on the road. It would also be very suitable for long miles on hard-packed trails.
Before long, we were crossing muddy fields again before summitting a hill to see Nefyn Bay laid out before us. Passing through the links golf course, we found Checkpoint 3, located at the Ty Coch pub on the beach at Nefyn.
Handing in the page ripped from the Scarecrow’s honesty book, I took on some hot soup, and some home-made brownies before setting off across the beach.
The Ty Coch checkpoint marked the halfway point of the route, and unfortunately, I was beginning to struggle at this stage. Looking back, I’m not sure about the cause; I’d kept fed and hydrated, and the foot pain remained manageable and certainly no worse than at the beginning.
I had been trying to shake a cold all week, and so it’s possible that there was something still lingering.
Whatever the reason, the next few miles were very tough and pretty slow. To his credit, Tony stayed with me and encouraged me along. I hoped that I’d get through this “bad patch”, but it wasn’t to be.
As we rounded the headland, the clouds broke and a rainbow briefly appeared over Nant Gwrtheyrn ahead of us in the distance.
Unfortunately, the persistent wind and rain had taken its toll and I was getting colder. As we came to the next marshal at the village of Nefyn, I had to call it a day. I was extremely disappointed for myself, but more so for Tony who had stopped with me.
The marshal couldn’t have been more helpful. He gave us shelter in his van and found the number of a local taxi who could return us to civilisation.
Whilst the race was over for us, I knew from last year what the remainder of the competitors had to face. The third quarter of the race is probably the most challenging.
Following the coastal path along the north of the Llyn, the route involves some tough ascents and tricky descents before dropping into the quarries below Nant Gwrtheyrn. From sea level, an extremely steep 3-mile ascent then takes competitors up to the BT mast just below the 444m Garn Fôr peak of Yr Eifl. The final ten miles is an undulating, largely road section back to Pwllheli.
Once again, the Pen Llyn Winter Ultra was a fantastic event and I’d recommend this, and the other events run by Huw Williams which can be found here. They all take place amongst the fantastic scenery of the Llŷn Peninsula and offer a great way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
This year’s winter event reached its maximum 170 entrants a couple of months ahead of the race which is testament to the excellent reputation that these events have garnered. For a great flavour of the event, take a look at the event photos taken by Sportpictures Cymru here.
Summary - Speedgoat 4
My primary reason for buying the shoe was for the cushioning the midsole would provide for my foot injury. The Speedgoat 4 turned out to deliver much more than this and is a far more capable off-road shoe that I’d ever have imagined. The upper is well designed with plenty of space in the front.
The heel and midfoot are securely held through the most uneven terrain, while the midsole “cradles” the foot to prevent the foot “rolling”.
The midsole provides every bit of cushioning that one would expect but remains firm enough that I never felt that I was sinking into the foam. The midsole somehow manages to remain responsive and gives a stable platform from which to push off each stride.
The Vibram outsole was really impressive, providing grip on wet rock and through muddy conditions equally. The central section of rigid rubber protects the foot from sharper rocks despite the shoe not having a traditional “rock plate”.
What’s more, this is the first off-road shoe I’ve worn which in which I can comfortably run several miles on tarmac.
Overall, I was really impressed with the Hoka Speedgoat 4. This will be my go-to shoe for long runs in the mountains, and for any off-road event that will require more than a couple of hours on my feet.
Footnote (excuse the pun)
Three days after the Pen Llyn Winter Ultra, I finally took myself off to hospital to have my foot looked at. An X-ray revealed a displaced fracture of the 5th Metatarsal.
As I write I’m sat with my foot in a cast. To my mind, that makes the performance of the Speedgoat 4 even more impressive. A shoe that can get me through 20 miles of rough terrain with a broken foot will always have a place in my rotation!
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
Durability overall in the shoe has improved.
...the forefoot of the Speedgoat 4 is ever so slightly wider; just wide enough that my toes don’t go numb after 5 or 6 miles.
Foothold is still very solid in the new upper and I didn’t feel my heel slipping or foot sliding around due to the added width (more on that below).
- The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is the latest update to the award-winning Speedgoat family that is known for providing excellent performance in all kinds of terrain. The designers of this trail running shoe were able to maintain the exciting features of its predecessor in terms of durability and cushioning quality.
- Like the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3, the Speedgoat 4 also utilizes a rubberized outsole. To provide stronger gripping performance, the manufacturers of the Speedgoat 4 repositioned and redesigned some of the outsole lugs. The newly designed multidirectional lugs now provide added structure and boost the gripping ability of the outsole even in wet conditions.
- Another update incorporated in the shoe is the lighter and more breathable mesh upper material. The flexible engineered mesh of this running companion provides reliable protection from uneven terrain.
- To accommodate runners with wider foot volume, Hoka One One introduces the Speedgoat 4 with a wider forefoot section.
Featuring the traditional lacing system, the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 guarantees a customized, snug fit to the foot. This running gear follows the standard shoe measurement to accommodate runners who have narrow to wide foot volume. However, it is recommended to test the shoe first or utilize the user comments about the sizing to ensure the right fit. The Speedgoat 4 is available in numerous colors and sizes.
In the outsole unit of the shoe is a highly durable rubberized material called the Vibram® MegaGrip. This flexible rubber outsole possessed amazing grip properties that work on both dry and wet surfaces. It also offers maximum protection even in the most rugged conditions.
Infused in the Vibram® MegaGrip outsole are the multidirectional flex grooves that allow freedom of movement. The ascending and descending design of the flex grooves are created to deliver aggressive gripping performance on various surfaces. Aside from providing superb traction, the flex grooves are also designed for added structure.
The Speedgoat 4 is a highly cushioned trail running shoe that features the injected EVA midsole. This responsive midsole material is a durable compound that runs the full length of the shoe. It is designed to offer support and optimal cushioning, giving the runner a springier and more comfortable running experience.
The Balanced Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry is also integrated into the midsole section to support the runner’s form while promoting a more efficient and smoother running gait. This technology is also featured in other Hoka One One running shoes like the Hoka One One Clifton 6 and Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR.
The breathable engineered mesh used in the upper unit is designed to offer a flexible ride and added structure for security on unpredictable terrain. The updated upper of this lightweight running shoe is also designed to offer an improved fit to accommodate runners with wider foot volume.
To ensure a secure fit, the designers have incorporated the TPU midfoot overlays. These 3D-printed add ons offer midfoot lockdown and additional support.
The midfoot cage construction provides exceptional midfoot hold to securely keep the foot in place during side-to-side movements.
Protecting the toes from debris, blisters, and abrasion is the reinforced toe cap. This material is firm enough to keep the toes in place during various activities.
This Hoka One One running shoe also uses the traditional lacing system to ensure a secure and snug fit every time.
The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 also has a waterproof version. The Speedgoat 4 GTX features a similar upper construction with the Speedgoat 4. The only difference is the Gore-Tex® technology incorporated in the upper of the Speedgoat 4 GTX.
The Gore-Tex® fabric used in the Speedgoat 4 GTX is also designed to make the shoe lightweight and breathable. This material also equipped the shoe to withstand wet and slushy conditions.
Like the Speedgoat 4, the Speedgoat 4 GTX also utilizes a highly durable rubberized outsole with a strategic lug pattern that provides a softer ride and smoother transitions, allowing the runner to have full control of the road.