Finally a Hoka for technical terrain! The Zinal eases the throttle back on some of the maximalist tendencies in Hoka, but retains ample padding, especially in the heel-box.
The outsole fights firmly in its weight class, even though the lugs seem on the small side. This will appeal to some runners, especially those who like quick turnover without large lugs hugging the trail.
PROS: With an airy, austere build—especially for a Hoka shoe—the Zinal surprised me by
favoring responsiveness over bounce and cush.
Runners who are tired of their feet losing verve and pep in a Hoka pillow will find lots to like in this exciting—and hopefully continuing—trend.
With a flexible midsole, the Zinal listens to your foot when you change stride, pace, or terrain.
The outsole extends past the edge of the shoe a bit overmuch, and while it provides a stable
and comfy platform for the forefoot, it tends to slip on technical terrain.
The laces provide the barest functionality, but come off as stiff and less than innovative. It seems
Hoka focuses on crafting a well fitted upper over a manually adjustable lace-fit, but I would appreciate a lace system with more options.
I’m concerned about the wear pattern on the small toe side of the shoe. As with the Challenger ATR, that area seems to be the first to go.
However, this shoe is lower to the ground than the Challenger, and hopefully there’s less material flexing at the edge. The overall forefoot provides adequate toe splay without feeling cavernous.
The lace system doesn’t add much to the fit, but the shape of the shoe-body makes up for that with excellent tailoring.
I enjoyed rolling, non-technical trail in the Zinal. Loose trail highlighted some stability
deficiencies in the edge of the outsole, but only to a minor extent. I loved the pickup of the
Its light, responsive stature even allowed for some high quality road-running as well. The midsole is on the flexible side, but not so much that you feel every pebble.
The outsole of the Zinal performs adequately well in dry, dusty, and rocky environments. The
slightly soft foam on the outsole nestles pebbles and rocks without “glancing” or skating off
harder surfaces, as with harder, stiffer outsoles.
The lugs project less than many other shoes on the market. I think this comes off as a runner’s preference. I like small lugs, especially around Santa Barbara trails, as they are less likely to catch on rocks and roots.
Women's: 21mm heel 17mm forefoot; 7.0 oz. (199g); Sizes 5–11 (B)
Men's: 22mm heel 18mm forefoot; 8.5 oz. 242g; Sizes; 7–13, 14 (D)