Our verdict

For those seeking trail speed, the Hoka Zinal 2 stands as our definitive contender. Priced at £180, it might stretch some budgets, but we found that its featherlight design with a low stack height is primed for short trail races. On top of that, we discovered that the fantastic Vibram Megagrip outsole guarantees solid traction across varied terrains. However, it's only tailored for those with medium or narrow feet.

Pros

  • Crazy lightweight
  • Exceptionally fast
  • Cushioned for its low weight
  • Nice ankle gaiter combined with a sock-like upper
  • Race-ready fit
  • Handles technical trails and turns with top speed
  • Features a Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole

Cons

  • Upper durability may be compromised
  • Really narrow
  • The CMEVA midsole isn't reflective of its $180 pricing.

Audience verdict

78
Decent!

Who should buy

The Hoka Zinal 2 is an ideal trail running shoe for:

  • Hoka enthusiasts looking to incorporate a lightning-quick shoe into their trail lineup for speed workouts or races.
  • Trail runners who prefer a sock-like upper in a lightweight design and aren't aiming for ultra races.
  • Those with narrow feet who often struggle to find comfort in typical trail running shoes.

Hoka Zinal 2

Who should NOT buy

If you have wide feet, the Zinal 2 is not going to be the best trail shoe for you, despite its appealing lightweight design. It might become uncomfortable just a few miles in or even as soon as you warm up in them. Consider the Saucony Peregrine 13, which we found to offer a lightweight feel paired with a more accommodating upper.

For those eyeing ultras, the Zinal 2 will also fall short. It's tailored for shorter trails and it also lacks a rock plate. For long runs or ultra trails, we are encouraging you to consider cushioned alternatives like the Nike Wildhorse 8 or the New Balance Fresh Foam X More Trail v3.

Hoka Zinal 2 parts

Breathability

In the lab, the moment we got our hands on the Zinal 2, we were amazed by how light it felt. And lightness usually hints at top-notch breathability. So, does this Hoka deliver?

Absolutely! We discovered that the Zinal 2 offers outstanding breathability. While it didn't snag our highest rating, it surpasses many others, proudly earning a 4/5. This score makes it a solid pick for nearly any trail run.

One of the reasons for this impressive breathability is the ultra-thin upper in the toebox and medial area. Out of the +200 running shoes we've tested in the lab, few have an upper as thin as this one. It's so thin, in fact, that light passes through it almost effortlessly.

Hoka Zinal 2 microscope

Under our microscope, we found the real magic. Rather than a traditional upper with ventilation holes, Hoka chose a consistent design with tiny gaps.

Hoka Zinal 2 microscope 2

These microscopic openings ensure smooth airflow. However, if you look at close-up images, it might not seem that way. But trust us, as you can see in the video below—it's there!

Test results
Zinal 2 4
Average 3.3
Compared to 83 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

An ultra-thin upper that boasts breathability and durability is akin to a rare gem. With high hopes, we decided to test this with the Dremel, wondering if Hoka had truly delivered.

To our disappointment, the tool easily tore a significant hole in the toebox. This outcome means a score of 1 out of 5 from us.

Hoka Zinal 2 Toebox durability
Test results
Zinal 2 1
Average 3.1
Compared to 63 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

For those runners who often find holes in the heel padding after some weeks, the Zinal 2 is a solid pick. 

It boasts a commendable 4/5 rating in this test, placing it ahead of most other trail shoes on the market.

Hoka Zinal 2 Heel padding durability
Test results
Zinal 2 4
Average 2.9
Compared to 61 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

When we examined the outsole of the Hoka Zinal 2 in our lab, we were thrilled to discover it features the renowned Vibram Megagrip Litebase rubber—often considered the gold standard for trail shoes.

Hoka Zinal 2 Vibram

Consistent with our expectations, we measured the Vibram's composition to be quite hard, registering an 83.6 HC on the durometer.

Hoka Zinal 2 Outsole hardness
Test results
Zinal 2 83.6 HC
Average 85.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
72.5 HC
Outsole hardness
95.0 HC

Outsole durability

We gave the Dremel one more go in the lab and discovered that it removed 1.5 mm from the Vibram Megagrip outsole. 

Though the result isn't ideal, it's not too concerning. The test is really hard and the lugs have enough thickness to ensure durability.

Hoka Zinal 2 Outsole durability
Test results
Zinal 2 1.5 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 56 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We've accurately measured the v2 Zinal's razor-thin outsole and found just 1.1 mm of rubber. Far from an issue—this is precisely what we expect from a lightweight trail racing shoe.

Hoka Zinal 2 Outsole thickness
Test results
Zinal 2 1.1 mm
Average 2.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.9 mm
Outsole thickness
6.5 mm

Weight

When it comes to weight, this shoe truly excels.

While the impressive 1st generation Zinal already turned heads with its feather-light 8.4 oz (239g), Hoka has outdone themselves with this release, crafting an out-of-this-world lightweight 7.5 oz (213g) shoe.

Hoka Zinal 2 Weight
Test results
Zinal 2 7.51 oz (213g)
Average 10.30 oz (292g)
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
7.51 oz (213g)
Weight
13.37 oz (379g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

In our measurements, we clocked 29.8 mm in the heel area. Considering that the Zinal saga is crafted for blazingly fast trail races, there's no need for an excessive amount of foam.

Approaching 30 mm, this height is consistent with the previous version. Moreover, it's a testament to the idea that there's no need to fix what's already been working wonders!

Hoka Zinal 2 Heel stack
Test results
Zinal 2 29.8 mm
Average 32.2 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
16.1 mm
Heel stack
42.4 mm

Forefoot stack

We measured the forefoot and found it to be a tad thinner than we anticipated, registering at 22.6 mm. This thickness isn't a significant concern for short runs. However, it does somewhat limit the Zinal's suitability for longer distances.

The shoe isn't crafted for long-distance purposes, but if someone had hopes of using it for extended workouts or races, we'd advise caution.

Hoka Zinal 2 Forefoot stack
Test results
Zinal 2 22.6 mm
Average 24.5 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
15.2 mm
Forefoot stack
33.9 mm

Drop

The 7.2-mm heel-to-toe drop seems beneficial for nearly everyone, regardless of how your foot strikes the ground during a run. However, this is a noticeable deviation from Hoka's stated 5 mm drop.

Curious about why such discrepancies occur? We've written an article that delves into this topic. In it, we also discuss our commitment to following the official World Athletics guidelines—a standard some brands choose to overlook.

Hoka Zinal 2 Drop
Test results
Zinal 2 7.2 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 105 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.1 mm
Drop
17.3 mm

Insole thickness

Our measurements show the insole at 4.8 mm. This is pretty standard and does the job well. It doesn't increase the shoe's weight significantly, and it ensures comfort on trail runs—even if we decide to run a bit longer than planned.

Hoka Zinal 2 Insole thickness
Test results
Zinal 2 4.8 mm
Average 4.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
2.7 mm
Insole thickness
9.8 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The 2nd-generation Zinal registers a 12.9 HA on our durometer. This makes it significantly softer than the original version, which came in at 20.0 HA. Nonetheless, it's important to keep in mind that the lugs usually mute the cloud-like feel and give a firmer feel in trail shoes.

This shoe also lacks a rock plate and the cushioning isn't very thick. Given these factors, we recommend opting for smoother trails and steering clear of areas with sharp rocks.

Hoka Zinal 2 Midsole softness
Test results
Zinal 2 12.9 HA
Average 22.7 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
9.1 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
39.0 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

Unfortunately, the CMEVA foam doesn't perform well in colder conditions—it becomes significantly firmer.

We placed the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes and then re-tested it. Our results showed a concerning 23.3 HA.

This represents an 80.5% increase from our initial measurement and ranks among the most significant changes we've observed in our lab tests. And it's discouraging for a £180 shoe.

Nonetheless, the shoe retains a balanced feel—not leaning towards overly firm. So, if this isn't a major concern for you, it's still a solid pick.

Hoka Zinal 2 Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Zinal 2 80.5%
Average 26.4%
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

Don't count on superior stability. The shoe's lower stack height lends a helping hand, yet with its minimalist design and upper, we found it's tailored for neutral runners.

Torsional rigidity

Hoka made a sensible decision here, with the Zinal 2 scoring a 3/5 in our lab's torsional rigidity test. They avoided making the shoe overly rigid, which could lead to discomfort. Yet, we understand that a high-speed trail shoe shouldn't be too flexible either.

Test results
Zinal 2 3
Average 3.5
Compared to 100 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

We found that the heel counter is ultra-minimalist—it lacks structure and bends easily. This is precisely what we expect from a shoe of this type, almost as if there isn't a heel counter at all!

Test results
Zinal 2 1
Average 3.2
Compared to 98 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

We discovered that the Zinal 2 boasts an incredibly narrow platform. Measuring at 106.7 mm, it reminds us of a kart on a track—agile and fast, designed for the quick turns. This design emphasizes speed over stability, which is why we've mentioned its speed-focused construction.

Hoka Zinal 2 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Zinal 2 106.7 mm
Average 112.1 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
102.1 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

We measured the heel and found that it's designed with the same approach. At just 83.4 mm, it's narrower than most other trail shoes we've seen in the lab.

Hoka Zinal 2 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Zinal 2 83.4 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
77.2 mm
Midsole width in the heel
109.3 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

In our lab, we conducted our classic 90-degree bend test to measure the force required to bend the shoe to this angle.

We found that the Zinal 2 needed less force than usual (17.2N), highlighting its flexibility and design for agility and comfort.

Test results
Zinal 2 17.2N
Average 28.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
10.5N
Stiffness
54.5N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We placed the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes and then took another measurement in our lab. We discovered that the stiffness had risen to 29.5N.

The stiffness shot up by 71.4% in colder temperatures. We think this is excessive, and it'll be quite evident during those chilly trail runs.

Test results
Zinal 2 71.4%
Average 35.1%
Compared to 103 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
102%

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

The Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole features Traction Lugs technology with varied patterns and placements for better grip. In the lab, we measured these lugs at 3.7 mm, making them suitable for smooth and easy trails. However, for muddy trails, these lugs may be a little bit short.

Hoka Zinal 2 Lug depth
Test results
Zinal 2 3.7 mm
Average 3.6 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.7 mm
Lug depth
5.8 mm

Size and fit

Internal length

This shoe is designed for racing, so we found that the fit is snug and ready for competition. The shoe's length, at 266.4 mm, is also slightly shorter than what we typically see for a US 9. It's like stepping into an F1 car... but for trail running!

Hoka Zinal 2 Internal length
Test results
Zinal 2 266.4 mm
Average 268.9 mm
Compared to 53 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
259.7 mm
Internal length
274.1 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

Building on the snug-fit theme we discussed just before, the shoe's upper tells a similar tale.

Hoka Zinal 2 upper

Measuring at 95.4 mm, it's far from wide-foot friendly. Narrow-footed runners will love it, average-footed folks will experience the race-tight sensation, while wide-footed individuals should steer clear of this Hoka.

Hoka Zinal 2 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Zinal 2 95.4 mm
Average 98.8 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
92.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
104.9 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We measured the area for the big toe and found it to be somewhat more accommodating at 75.7 mm. It's close to the average, but the design still leans toward race day!

Hoka Zinal 2 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Zinal 2 75.7 mm
Average 79.0 mm
Compared to 68 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
70.5 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

In the Zinal 2, we found that the tongue is part of a sock-like upper with ankle gaiter.

Hoka Zinal 2

This design stops small rocks and debris from getting into the shoe, ensuring nothing interrupts your race. It fits snugly and even contributes to a better heel grip.

Hoka Zinal 2 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Zinal 2 Sock like

Comfort

Tongue padding

We measured the tongue area and found it has a maximum thickness of 1.9 mm. While this might seem thin, it's essential to understand that this shoe is all about lightness. 

However, because of the paper-thin tongue area, you could encounter some issues if the laces are tightened excessively. Just keep this in mind in your next race, and you'll be good to go!

Hoka Zinal 2 Tongue padding
Test results
Zinal 2 1.9 mm
Average 6.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Tongue padding
12.2 mm

Heel tab

A practical finger-loop heel tab is present at the back of the Zinal 2. Considering its sock-like upper and the pliable heel counter, the heel tends to fold easily. This heel tab is a game-changer for us, ensuring smooth foot entry every time.

Hoka Zinal 2 Heel tab
Test results
Zinal 2 Finger loop

Removable insole

Even though we were able to remove the insole without any issues since it's not glued down, remember that the Zinal 2 has a notably narrow design. This made it challenging for us to fit many third-party insoles or orthotics inside.

Hoka Zinal 2 Removable insole
Test results
Zinal 2 Yes

Misc

In the lab, the moment we got our hands on the Zinal 2, we were amazed by how light it felt. And lightness usually hints at top-notch breathability. So, does this Hoka deliver?

Absolutely! We discovered that the Zinal 2 offers outstanding breathability. While it didn't snag our highest rating, it surpasses many others, proudly earning a 4/5. This score makes it a solid pick for nearly any trail run.

One of the reasons for this impressive breathability is the ultra-thin upper in the toebox and medial area. Out of the +200 running shoes we've tested in the lab, few have an upper as thin as this one. It's so thin, in fact, that light passes through it almost effortlessly.

Hoka Zinal 2 microscope

Under our microscope, we found the real magic. Rather than a traditional upper with ventilation holes, Hoka chose a consistent design with tiny gaps.

Hoka Zinal 2 microscope 2

These microscopic openings ensure smooth airflow. However, if you look at close-up images, it might not seem that way. But trust us, as you can see in the video below—it's there!

Reflective elements

Why skip the reflective elements? Every gramme counts in the lightweight game!

Hoka Zinal 2 Reflective elements
Test results
Zinal 2 No