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Hoka Mach Supersonic Review: Now Featuring Profly+
By Chief Editor/Founder Matt Klein and Senior Contributor Nathan Brown

The Hoka Mach series has seen some large shifts in design over its lifespan. An odd option that almost didn't fit in the line up, the Mach 4 was a favorite among our team for its lightweight cushioning that made it more accessible as a workout/racing shoe for those who wanted softer cushioning in a faster ride that could also be used for training. The Mach Supersonic comes in as a variation of the Mach 4 using a PROFLY+ midsole foam, a new supercritical EVA and a modified upper that again changes things drastically. 

Hoka Mach Supersonic
Price: Tentatively Coming February 2022, $150
Weight: 8.3 oz, 235 g (men's size 9), 6.9 oz, 195 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: (M) 29 mm / 24 mm (W) 27 mm / 22 mm
Drop: 5 mm
Classification: Lightweight Trainer


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The Hoka Mach Supersonic is a firmer/faster Mach for those that want a lightweight trainer that can push the pace. A snugger upper provides a performance fit, while a firmer midsole material makes this shoe better for faster and shorter distances. A strong departure from the Mach 4 despite looking similar, the Mach Supersonic loses versatility at recovery/training paces while gaining a faster edge for tempo and interval workouts.

Nathan: The HOKA Mach Supersonic is a limited release option for the Mach series. It brings a very different feel than the beloved Mach 4, being significantly firmer and stiffer front to back, as well as a more snug fit. The gemoetric shaping and layout of the dual layered midsole look similar, but the shoe runs very differently.



FIT 

Matt: The Hoka Mach Supersonic fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The fit is snug throughout the length of the shoe, especially at the forefoot. The Mach Supersonic has a performance fit, using a full-length jacquard upper. It feels secure on foot and I did not have to lace lock the shoe at all. The forefoot is narrow, giving more of a workout/racing fit. The midfoot and heel are somewhat snug, but solidly secure. The contoured heel collar sits against the Achilles tendon well and is not overdone, further adding to the security. There is a stiffer heel counter in the rearfoot that wraps fairly far forward on the medial and lateral side of the heel. There is plenty of heel collar cushioning, although those with sensitive heels should be cautious. For those who want it or like being able to slip a shoe on and off easily, there is a massive pull tab (Jami is this enough?). The tongue is slightly thicker and is secured well due to gussetting on both sides. While the upper does stretch a little, this upper overall will work for those who want a performance or narrower fit. 

Nathan: The new upper in this model removes a lot of volume and gives a snug performance-like fit. The heel is secure thanks to this narrowing, and the midfoot locks down very well. An area that I noticed the decreased volume the most was the toe box, particularly laterally. There is not a lot of stretch to the upper, which for lockdown is effective, but doesn't allow for accommodation if you have a moderate to wider foot. The more rigid upper also doesn't scream "comfort" but is geared again towards achieving lock-down. Going back to the heel, there is moderate padding on the rigid heel counter as well as the gusseted tongue, and the contoured heel counter adds to the security of the heel. I found it to be a bit snug on casual running days, but the lockdown was appreciated for harder efforts. 


PERFORMANCE 

Matt: The Hoka Mach Supersonic has a slightly firmer and snappy ride. The PROFLY+ midsole foam is resilient, but not soft. Upon break-in, the ride is firmer and stiffer. This breaks in slightly but has continued performing in a similar manner. There is little flexibility to this shoe, which combined with the slightly firmer ride makes it better for uptempo and faster paces. Running at easy paces makes this shoe feel too stiff, but picking the pace up helps the foam shine a bit more. There is a 5mm heel drop which is only slightly noticeable due to the heel bevel and toe spring. The traction is average for a road shoe and the exposed rubber makes this shoe best for road-only use. I have over 30 miles on my pair and am chewing through the exposed outsole rubber, so the Mach Supersonic will work better for that are light on their feet (unlike me). The shoe overall feels light on the feet and will work best as a lightweight trainer or workout shoe. It is easy to pick up the pace in the Mach Supersonic and it does well during tempo runs and fast interval workouts. Although not a plated shoe, the ride is stiff enough that it works as a great alternative.

Nathan: The Supersonic, though it is constructed similarly, gives a very different running experience than the Mach 4. The Mach 4 was one of the most versatile shoes of 2021, and it provided a combination of softer cushioning, responsive foam, and some snappiness from the firmer EVA bottom layer. The Supersonic loses versatility, and provides a quite firm and stiff ride. The new supercritical PROFLY+ topsole reminds me of QU!CKFOAM from 361, and it is more of a "rubbery" pop than a trampoline like pop. Really this just adds to how firm this shoe is, and I didn't find the topsole to be very responsive anyway. Given how stiff and firm this shoe is, it really only performs okay at tempo paces or strides, and felt awkward and very firm and clunky at anything slower. This is a one-off shoe from HOKA that doesn't plan to be continued, so you'll have to want this firmer, more stiff (and less versatile) vibe to go the Supersonic route. 


STABILITY 

Matt: The Hoka Mach Supersonic is a neutral shoe. However, there are a few methods of stability here that are emphasized more than the previous version. There continue to be elevated sidewalls in the rearfoot on the medial and lateral side which serve to provide some subtle guidance for rearfoot strikers. The firmer midsole is more stable than the previous version as there is far more torsional rigidity here versus the Mach 4. The stiff and rockered ride do a decent job of rolling the foot forward, although during break in the ride almost feels too stiff and made me feel like I was trying to get around the stiffer forefoot. This has broken in and is not noticeable during workouts, but is another reason why this shoe does better at faster paces.

Nathan: There is a lot of traditional HOKA design here, which creates a relatively stable, yet neutral platform. The wider base, the secure upper, side walls, midline cutout and heel counter all give some guidance toward center. Pair that with a firmer foam and it is a relatively stable platform. However, as Matt mentioned, the shoe is really firm, and transitions at slower paces are not smooth if you don't match up with the mild rocker well, so you might find yourself fighting through transitions. 


THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Is Softer or Firmer Cushioning Better?, By Chief Editor Matt Klein
The Hoka Mach Supersonic is noticeably firmer and stiffer compared to the previous Mach. This not only changes the ride but a few other characteristics of the shoe. Looking at midsoles alone, a firmer ride is inherently more stable. A higher durometer or firmer sole will deform less and intrinsic muscles will not have to work as hard as there is less extraneous motion. A lower durometer or softer sole will deform much more. That deformation is rarely in a perfectly straight plane of motion (like the sagittal plane or front to back) and there is likely to be extra motion in different planes of movement, including transverse (across) and frontal (side to side) planes.

Softer cushioning is not bad but it requires additional stability for many people. Additionally, we know from the evidence that softer or more cushioning does not necessarily provide more impact protection (Chan et al. 2018). It may actually increase joint loading in certain individuals, potentially due to decreased or delayed proprioception or body awareness (Kulmala et al., 2018; Pollard et al., 2018). This does not occur in everyone and some people will do better in softer shoes due to the frequently discussed comfort filter.

However, that does not necessarily mean firmer cushioning is better. Firmer shoes will often have less deformation, which means more shock absorption needs to come from the muscles/joints. This can be a great training tool for running faster or for strengthening the lower body. However, running in firmer shoes have some requirements. The main one is having adequate strength in the lower body, particularly of the muscles related to shock absorption (quadriceps/gluteal muscles for a heel striker, calf for forefoot striker). This differs from the requirements for running in softer shoes, which mainly are related to having adequate stability/intrinsic muscle strength from the foot and hip to handle being on an unstable surface.

We have frequently discussed that the comfort filter can play a large part in predicting whether a shoe will work for someone or not (Nigg et al., 2015). Like all subjective things, this will vary greatly depending on the individual as comfort is complex and multifaceted when it comes to footwear choices (Menz et al., 2021). When it comes to softer/firmer cushioning, different people will have different preferences. I encourage each person to try different shoes on to find out what works best for their own bodies given that we are all different. This can be difficult for newer runners, who may not know what they are looking for. For those interesting, Bishop et al. (2020) have developed an excellent running shoe comfort assessment tool called the RUN-CAT. For newer runners, those who work in running retail or experienced runners looking for more information, the RUN-CAT may provide some interesting insight into personal perceptions of footwear and may help with decisions regarding the best shoe for that person.

References
Bishop, C., Buckley, J. D., Esterman, A. E., & Arnold, J. B. (2020). The running shoe comfort assessment tool (RUN-CAT): Development and evaluation of a new multi-item assessment tool for evaluating the comfort of running footwear. 
Journal of sports sciences38(18), 2100-2107.

Chan, Z. Y., Au, I. P., Lau, F. O., Ching, E. C., Zhang, J. H., & Cheung, R. T. (2018). Does maximalist footwear lower impact loading during level ground and downhill running? 
European Journal of Sport Science, 18(8), 1083-1089

Kulmala, J. P., Kosonen, J., Nurminen, J., & Avela, J. (2018). Running in highly cushioned shoes increases leg stiffness and amplifies impact loading. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 17496.

Mercer, M. A., Stone, T. M., Young, J. C., & Mercer, J. A. (2018). Running Economy While Running in Shoes Categorized as Maximal Cushioning. International journal of exercise science, 11(2), 1031

Menz, H. B., & Bonanno, D. R. (2021). Footwear comfort: a systematic search and narrative synthesis of the literature. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research14(1), 1-11

Nigg, B. M., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms:‘preferred movement path’and ‘comfort filter’. 
British Journal of Sports Medicine49(20), 1290-1294

Pollard, C. D., Ter Har, J. A., Hannigan, J. J., & Norcross, M. F. (2018). Influence of maximal running shoes on biomechanics before and after a 5K run. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 6(6), 2325967118775720


RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: Many of the changes in the Hoka Mach Supersonic are good. The increased torsional rigidity makes the shoe more stable and the upper provides a more performance fit. This pushes the Mach Supersonic toward the faster end of the spectrum. It loses the versatile ride of the previous version, which may or may not be a good thing. Hoka needs to decide what their customer base wants, as most seem to want softer cushioning. However, from a performance standpoint, the Mach Supersonic is much better for faster running and therefore is better differentiated from other training models. So I do not have major recommendations because even though I liked the Mach 4, the Supersonic has a better-defined place in the Hoka lineup. The problem is that my tastes are often different from the general population, so I am interested to hear the public's reaction to trying this shoe. 

Nathan: Given that this is a "one off" model, not sure how many recommendations we need to say. Mainly, I hope that the Mach 5 is more of a natural progression of the Mach 4 that gave a very versatile ride.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR 

Matt: The Hoka Mach Supersonic is a slightly firmer, snug fitting, performance/lightweight trainer for those who want a shoe for uptempo running and workouts. The stiffer ride and firmer cushioning make the shoe more responsive during faster running, while the performance upper makes you feel fast. This is a different shoe from the Mach 4 and those looking for a stiffer but non-plated road workout shoe will enjoy the new Mach Supersonic. 

Nathan: The HOKA Mach Supersonic is a good option for people wanting a tempo and workout only shoe that operates on the firmer and stiffer end of the spectrum without having a plate. It is also for people who do well in a snugger fit and prefer back to front lockdown without a lot of wiggle room. If you're looking for the versatile progression of the Mach 4, you may want to wait.


GRADING 

Matt
Fit: B+ (Snug performance fit. Gets a little narrow at forefoot)
Performance: B+
 (Great for running fast, but less versatile at training paces)
Stability: B+ (small sidewalls in heel provide rearfoot guidance. Forefoot almost too stiff unless running fast, which may cause some extra motion)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Nothing major new here other than a firmer midsole.)
Personal:  B (A solid workout shoe, but there are so many faster shoes that it is hard to chose these over others unless you do not want something plated)
Overall: B+ (A solid lightweight trainer for those who want a firmer/snugger shoe than other higher stack options for workouts or uptempo running)

Nathan

Fit: B+ (Solid performance fit, a bit too snug in forefoot. I couldn't fit my thicker winter socks in this shoe without irritation. Good heel lock.)
Performance: C+
 (Rides quite firm and stiff, not very responsive, solid option as a tempo only shoe, lacks versatility)
Stability: B+ (Classic neutral HOKA shoe with some stability increased due to firmer foam, but transitions are arduous at slower paces)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Still appreciate the combination of top and lower midsole compounds and crash pad cutout)
Personal:  C (This shoe only does "okay" for me at faster paces, and is not enjoyable for daily miles or recovery. I found it too firm and stiff)
Overall: B- (I feel this is not a movement forward for the Mach series, and this model isn't a part of HOKA's future plans. If it works for you, stock up. I won't be doing so.)
   

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FURTHER READING

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Hoka Mach 4
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Hoka Rincon 3 - A versatile, stable daily trainer that can handle a wide variety of work

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Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.


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TESTER PROFILES:


Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

Nathan Brown PT DPT OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:29:44 marathon. He typically runs between 20-50 miles per week at a variety of paces from 8:00-9:00 min/mile for recovery runs to 6:45-7:15 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel. 

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your
local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Hoka for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

NEXT:
Hoka Kawana Review


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