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HOKA Zinal 2: Nimbly Aggressive
By David Salas

The HOKA Zinal initially came out to be the short distance racing shoe on the trails for HOKA. This is still the case with some large updates. The HOKA Zinal 2 now has a full contact Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole with deeper lugs and a new geometry as well. These big updates have made for some noticeable changes that create a nimble yet aggressive package. 

Hoka Zinal 2
Price: $159.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 7.4 oz, 209 g (men's size 9), 6.7oz, 189g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 30mm/25mm
Drop: 5mm
Classification: Trail Racing Shoe, Sub Ultra


The HOKA Zinal 2 is a trail racing shoe for the sub ultra distances. The shoe is very lightweight and streamlined to tackle nearly any trail condition. The 5mm lugs are stucky and full contact. The light rocker profile without a plate gives you some rounding to the platform while still allowing you to run naturally. The overall package is nimble and does come off a little bit as a racing flat for the trails.

: Saucony Peregrine 12, Brooks Catamount 2
PAST MODEL: Hoka Zinal


The HOKA Zinal 2 fits true to size in my Men's 9.5. The shoe does fit a more performance profile however. The volume is on the lower end with the width being a little snug through the heel, midfoot, and forefoot. The upper does feel like it has a solid hold on the foot from the moment you put it on. Those that like more volume may struggle with this one. The engineered mesh is reinforced pretty well throughout and I did not have too much issue with the upper in the Zinal outside of one thing. The heel collar does have some stretch to it. The tongue blends in with the heel collar and gives a stretchy and comfortable hold. At rest this feels nice, though I do find running in really soft footing or sharp turns when there is a lot of movement through the foot I do get some translation. This did make adjust how I was approaching some of these turns. Otherwise normal trail situations seem to hold up fine with the Zinal. I think just making a semi rigid heel counter for the region could help if they were to keep the knit collar. 


The HOKA Zinal 2 is a fun shoe to run in. The overall profile is very lightweight and nimble while still feeling aggressive enough to tackle some trails. The shoe has a slight rocker to it without a plate. The result is a gentle rolling sensation while still having a flexible forefoot. I like this approach for it seems to help with pushing off hard through the forefoot or with steeper climbs. Sometimes shoes that are too rounded are tough to get on your toes in those situations. The lugs provide good traction in every situation I have put it through. The general feel I have is that the Zinal 2 is an OG racing flat with a trail emphasis.

The lockdown feels like a lightweight racing flat and ride a fast moving trail shoe. I did notice some translation through the upper when running sharper turns or navigating on really soft terrain. Otherwise I really enjoyed my experience in the Zinal 2. The midsole is a compressed molded EVA and this feels consistent with the ride. I feel this helps mesh with the some of the other simplicities of the design and makes for a natural riding shoe. This is essentially a stripped down shoe for someone that wants something lightweight with a decent lug profile. 


The HOKA Zinal 2 is not a stability shoe by any means but does some things pretty well. I think first and foremost the platform lends itself to a natural stride pattern with a relatively grounded experience. The platform feels low to the ground and you are able to make quick informed decisions based on the footing. The lockdown is solid throughout, outside of the heel collar having some stretch on turns or really soft terrain. The traction is quite good underfoot and reliable in a good chunk of conditions.

My only gripe with this one is the heel collar. The stretch changes my experience when running in the settings mentioned above. Otherwise, the shoe is nimble and surprisingly stable for having a minimal design. 

Thoughts as a DPT: Simplicity
By David Salas

Sometimes simplicity shines. I feel this is the case in the Zinal 2. HOKA didn't do anything overly revolutionary here, but did create a shoe that is lightweight, nimble, natural, and aggressive at the same time. They took some notes from the racing flats and sub ultra needs. The shoe is very lightweight, grounded, and provides a natural ride. The one thing that feels a little disconnected is the upper. 

The upper is what holds your foot to the platform, being the midsole and the outsole. With the help of the lacing system this holds your foot down and prevents it from slipping upwards or sliding side to side. The upper here is very track spike like throughout with the exception of the heel. The upper really holds you to the platform through the forefoot and the midfoot, though loosens up a tad as you approach the heel. If you are running in straight lines this is fine, though sharp turns creates some translation. This is mainly because the material changes. The heel collar is a stretchy knit that does have some movement when loading it with side to side movements. So despite having such a locked in experience from the midfoot forward, the foot still slides in switch backs, hard turns, or soft footing. This creates a slight moment of hesitation while stepping to ensure proper planting and toe off. 

The upper is a very important component of the shoe and can make or break a shoe. In this case I don't think it breaks the shoe. I believe the other positives outweigh the heel translation in this situation. With that said I do believe it is very important to make sure the foot does not slide in any region of the shoe and to make the shoe dimensions consistent throughout. Never underestimate the power of uppers. There is a reason why a lot of companies will have their "big update" be an upper change.


I think the changes that went into the HOKA Zinal 2 were quite solid. I think the improved lockdown throughout and changes to geometry and traction really made this shoe shine. The only big recommendation I'd have is to improve the heel security in the medial and lateral direction to avoid translation of the foot with forceful turns or soft terrain where the foot is doing wild things as it is planting. 


The HOKA Zinal 2 is nimbly aggressive. For those wanting a grounded experience and a relatively natural ride this will be a very fun shoe for you. The lugs are grippy and can tackle nearly any terrain you feel comfortable running. Its a minimalist trail shoe for racing sub ultra's that delivers in most categories. 


Fit: B+ (Heel security medially and laterally could be improved, though good lockdown will come off tight to some)
Performance: B+ 
(Fun, fast, nimble, aggressive, though can be tough if you're switch backing a lot or running in mulchy or soft mud trails)
Stability: B+ (Good lockdown through the forefoot and midfoot, good traction, solid base and grounded feeling, heel translation issues with sharper turns)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Close to simplicity at its finest. Dialed in shoe with nothing to hide, though heel could be more secure considering how dialed in the rest of the shoe is)
Personal: B+ (Very fun to run in, basically a traditional flat for the trails, though I'd like to trust the heel more)
Overall: B+ (A very good option for trail racing sub ultras, though security in the heel could improve)


Hoka Zinal 2
Price: $159.95 at Running Warehouse

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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 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.

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