HOKA One One has long been known for their maximalist running shoes. But, over the past few years, they have been reducing that stack height while maintaining the same legendary ride quality for a faster-feeling and more nimble trail feel. Released in June 2021, the Zinal trail runners are wicked-light, comfortable and capable — in spite of minimalist outsoles and full mesh uppers.
HOKA One One Zinal Features:
- Mesh upper derived from recycled content
- Gusseted tongue
- Toe bumper for protection
- Molded EVA sockliner
- PROFLY™ construction early stage Meta-Rocker
- Vibram® Megagrip with Litebase construction outsole with 4mm lugs
- 5mm drop
- Weight: 9.6 oz (11.5, each, actual)
- MSRP: $160
Zinal is a light (but comfy) flyer
Admittedly, most of my trail runs are between 4-6 miles. Rarely do I take time for longer outings, unless I’m training for an event. Those distances are easy on the schedule and result in maximum fun because I don’t need anything more than a handheld water bottle and a gel. These quick-hitting activities also mean you don’t need as much comfort and can go with a more racy shoe. Now, the HOKA One One Zinal aims to change that with a lightweight and fast shoe that also has plenty of optimized squish for shorter races or training.
When a new shoe is introduced, you always wonder if the last is going to fit the same as previous models. That said, I’m happy to report that the Zinal fits just the same as other Hoka models. I ordered the 11.5 and it fits just the same as other HOKA shoes in the stable.
One of the key features of the Zinal is the woven mesh upper. This provides supreme breathability and modest support. Since the weave is varied for proper structure, the upper provides the proper flex without feeling loose. A welded toe protector, low-profile tongue and standard laces round out the uppers. It’s easy to cinch these down and get the proper fit with both ultralight and midweight socks. A cool summer breeze feels so nice, but a cold winter gust might get a bit chilly. Since the mesh offers little in weather protection, I’d keep these primarily for summertime running.
Hoka has the comfort game dialed. The Hoka Speedgoat 4 GTX remain my go-to for cold-weather training and are easy on these old bones. I appreciate the long-distance comfort they provide. Honestly though, the new Hoka Zinal’s don’t feel one bit behind. I’m finding the Zinal’s to be very comfortable and smooth on all terrain — even for trails with a road approach. In addition, they are more nimble than the Speedgoat 4, for example, due to the lower stack height.
Something that makes these tick is the Meta-Rocker. I have long appreciated trail runners with rockered outsoles because they facilitate a smooth plant-and-roll with every step. As a midfoot striker, I can land and roll off the toes with the ultimate efficiency and smoothness. These shoes simply feel like a extension of my feet and really propel me forward when pushing hard.
The outsoles are Vibram Megagrip, but are pretty minimalist. You don’t have a full outsole, but instead have separate forefoot and heel sections with exposed EVA in-between. Traction on Utah’s dry trails has been phenomenal both uphill and down (Megagrip is the industry standard, so that’s no surprise). But, they do tend to wear quickly if you use these for road approaches or light road running. The rubber is pretty soft and does tend to wear quickly on the road. It’s a bit of a catch 22 because they are such a great transition shoe.
I’ll add that the shape of the midsole/outsole is fantastic for stability. On technical trails, I feel sure-footed and confident because of the trapezoidal shape of the midsoles. We’re talking supreme stability here and it’s just awesome. You’ll notice that the midsoles do attract sharp rocks into the little channels, but it’s not a serious issue. In addition, the midsoles offer great trail feel with just enough feedback to keep you in tune with the terrain.
Adding a little more to the breathability story, these really do breathe well. In addition to the mesh uppers, the thin and ventilated tongue breathes perfectly. As someone who has warm feet, these have been fantastic. However, on dusty trails, you’ll get really dusty and dirty feet by the end of your run.
Fit: The fit of the Zinal is on par with all other Hoka’s I’ve worn. I wear an 11.5 consistently across the line.
- Comfort you can expect from Hoka
- Stable as can be
- Good traction
- A great option as a road approach shoe
- Breathes extremely well
- Good balance of protection and trail feel
- Dusty trails result in dirty feet
- Can’t unsee the Perry the Platypus looks (you’re welcome)
The Bottom Line: Hoka One One Zinal
These new lightweight, short-distance trail runners offer comfort well beyond their intended purpose. I would have no hesitation lacing these up for even the longest training or race courses. With stability in spades, the rockered sole makes for easy toe-off with tons of breathability.
Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com