I’ve been running in the Hoka Zinal for about six weeks now and have put on close to 150 miles on them, including two 20+ milers.
This is Hoka’s newest mid-cushion shoe, with 19mm of cushion in the forefoot and 5mm of drop from heel to toe. The upper is made from recycled content (yarn?) and the product is listed as “vegan friendly”. It has a dual-density outsole, similar to the Challenger ATR with 4mm lugs, so it will work well on both technical trails and even pavement. The other main feature worth mentioning is that it has a gusseted tongue, which means it let’s in very little dirt. Honestly, these shoes keep my feet cleaner than any other pair I own.
Hoka’s website list these as “a responsive trail runner geared towards shorter distances.” First of all, don’t market a $160 shoe as a “short distance” shoe, it makes it sound too specialized. That phrasing also makes it sound like the thicker the sole, the farther you can run, which is absolutely not true. I would run a 100 miler in the Zinal long before I’d run one in the Challenger ATR (I’ve tried it twice and had to change out of them before 50 miles and the Challenger ATR is my favorite shoe). It performs better than most Hoka models, is equally as comfortable, and doesn’t break down as fast because it doesn’t have as thick of a midsole.
Overall, this is an amazing shoe, maybe my favorite. While I test and review other shoes, I continue finding myself coming back to this one, so that’s saying something. I’d just like to understand better why this has such a high price tag. Other than that, I’d definitely recommend it. Watch the video for more of the lowdown on the Hoka Zinal.