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Hoka Gaviota 5: Out with the J, in with the H
By Bach Pham

Hoka came into 2023 with a mission of shaking up their entire line-up. There's everything from new foams (Peba in their racing shoes, lighter midsole in the Clifton), new stack heights (breaching 43mm in the Hoka Stinson), and new stability technology as seen here in the latest Gaviota. For those that don't know about Hoka's naming devices, their shoes take on names from all along the California coast. Gaviota - Spanish for seagull - represents a large portion of coastal front that remains pristine and undeveloped. In some ways, the shoe has also been the same til now; the Gaviota has remained a high stacked stability shoe that emphasizes stability through their J-Frame system. Version 5 breaks tradition for the first time by removing Hoka's signature J-Frame in favor of a new H-Frame system that provides a more universal-oriented form of stability.

Hoka Gaviota 5
Price: $174.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 10.9 oz, 309 g (men's size 10), 9.1 oz, 257 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: unknown
Drop: 6mm
Classification: Stable Max Cushion Trainer





RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Hoka Gaviota 5 is the brand's stability max cushion training shoe. The latest model is a major update from top-to-bottom, starting with a new H-Frame design that features a dual-layer midsole. The H-Frame sits on the top layer, forming an figure-8/letter H-ish shape through the shoe to create stability through both sides. The midsole features a softer CMEVA midsole than past models to create a highly comfortable cruising ride thanks to Hoka's signature early rocker design.

SIMILAR SHOES
: Mizuno Wave Sky 6, Asics Kayano 30

FIT

The Hoka Gaviota 5 sheds the narrow fit of past versions for a more true-to-size fit. The toebox has a good amount of width for toe splaying. The volume over the toebox is average and has some flexibility in the material. There is a generous amount of room in the heel and midfoot. I was worried there would be some heel slippage. The heel actually sits much more shallow on the heel than expected with some padding that crumples easily and sometimes takes readjusting after putting the shoe on. The laces locked down just enough though and never gave me issues. I think tightening the heel slightly is something that could be improved on in the next version to help dial in the fit. I did choose to lace-lock the shoe to help dial it in further. The laces verge on being short for lace-locking, but there is just enough. The upper is a Creel Jacquard Mesh that was very breathable and comfortable in the steaming hot summer weather I ran through. I had no hot spots or blisters. The heel counter is rigid about halfway up the heel and finished out with generous padding. The tongue is moderately padded and didn't cause any issues for me. The insole is removeable.




PERFORMANCE AND STABILITY

The Gaviota 5 feels almost exactly what it is intended to be: a highly cushioned daily training shoe that runs stable from front-to-back. The shoe features Hoka's CMEVA midsole that feels slightly soft underfoot. The sole is stiff throughout with no flexibility anywhere except the most subtle bit in the forefoot. The sensation I got while running in the Gaviota is more cushioned than responsive. As you get into your run the early rocker creates a comfortable rhythm at very easy paces (I run 10:00-10:30 min/mile pace on my easy efforts). I did not really enjoy the Gaviota at faster paces as the higher stack began feeling a bit unstable for the height. The shoe runs smooth from any footstrike, and feels best particularly mid-to-forefoot.

Though much lighter than past versions, the Gaviota 5 still has a bit of weight underfoot. It's balanced well from front-to-back so it doesn't feel tedious though. It feels best for everyday daily runs where you are just racking up mileage. It is okay for longer efforts if weight isn't something that is an issue for you and you just want a comfortable trainer for logging miles in. The highly specific runner I am, the shoe felt best for running on flat land. I found myself turning over and enjoying the early rocker most when I could just go straight and flat for long distances. With the shoe not being super responsive, it becomes a bit more tedious going uphill.

As seen on Hoka's website

The Gaviota 5 features a H-Frame stability design that replaces the previous J-Frame. Originally, the J-Frame was a denser piece of bottom midsole that wrapped around the heel and up the lateral side to create guidance. The new H-Frame focuses on a dual layer midsole design. Instead of the high level of guidance that the J-Frame provided in directing you center, the H-Frame creates a stable base wherever you land so you don't feel like you are collapsing significantly anywhere. The top layer features the H-Frame which creates a figure-8 design around the shoe. Hoka did not signal if the dual layer design features a firmer density midsole with the H-Frame, but just by feel it does feel firmer up top and softer underneath.

In some ways, it's not unlike many neutral shoes we're seeing now that also have dual density designs, whether it's a stability model like the Mizuno Wave Horizon or a stable neutral shoe like the Puma Velocity Nitro. The Hoka Gaviota 5 most resembles Mizuno's Wave Sky, which is actually Mizuno's neutral max cushion shoe. Like the Wave Sky, the firmer H-Frame sits on top while the softer sole is underneath, creating a more plush sensation when you initially hit the ground.

I really classify the new Gaviota as a highly "stable neutral" max cushion shoe. While the slightly softer bottom layer midsole makes it a bit more of toss-up for runners who have a need for a high level of stability, the shoe itself runs very stable. Those who are used to past Gaviota may find this version a bit more unstable though as the J-Frame sole was firmer than the bottom sole here. If you are a runner who has a high level of medial stability needs, I would suggest other stability options first.

The Gaviota does have other stable elements that help balance the shoe. There's a generous amount of lateral sole flaring and sidewalls which do a good job of keeping the foot centered. There's also a generous amount of width throughout. I found the shoe to work well for my flat feet without any irritations.

There is a lot of strategic rubber on the outsole of the shoe that focuses more on durability rather than traction. I would suggest some caution in wet conditions just because it's a high stack and not the grippiest of outsoles. I found myself slowing down on wet pavement. It seemed to tackle it okay, but could be better. The wider sole again does help remedy that to an extent. I did have some fraying on the exposed midsole around the rubber and a bit of wear on the lateral heel. I expect a fairly standard amount of durability for the shoe.

Cold weather update: As the Fall has come in my area, the midsole has definitely firmed up some and made the Gaviota feel much more stable throughout. This has also helped make the ride feel a bit more responsive with the extra firmness, which I think its an improvement. Going into cooler months with the firmer sole, I would rate the Gaviota's stability to be much improved as a whole compared to when the sole felt softer during warmer months and on par with moderate stability shoes. If you are in a cooler climate to begin with this is going to feel much more stable than for those in blistering hot, humid conditions.

Walking: For walkers, I found the Gaviota to be very comfortable for all-day use if you like having a max stack height shoe. On top of running miles, I also did a fair amount of walking and felt it was great for long walks and standing. The generous fit makes it extra comfortable.




Hoka Gaviota 5 vs. Asics Kayano 30, a Comparison

Asics Kayano 30
Price: $159.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 10.7 oz, 303 g (men's size 9), 9.3 oz, 263 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 40 mm / 30 mm
Drop: 10 mm

Hoka Gaviota 5
Price: $174.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 10.9 oz, 309 g (men's size 10), 9.1 oz, 257 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: unknown
Drop: 6mm

The Gaviota 5 continues the trend of stability footwear this year ditching intrusive stability technology in favor of a design that suits a broader number of runners. This includes one of its closest current competitors, the Asics Kayano 30, which removed the traditional post in favorite of a geometry-focused design.

The similarities are there. They have a similar max cushion ride, similar rocker, and similarities in shaping. The difference in stability is prominent though. I would say the Kayano 30 is a bit higher level of stability since the midsole is so dense throughout. Runners used to Gaviota may find the Kayano 30 more familiar feeling underfoot. The Gaviota actually feels a bit lighter and airy. Some runners may find the slightly milder stability feel underfoot in the Gaviota to their liking while some may find the denser Kayano ride more appropriate to their needs.

Fit-wise, the Kayano has better lockdown throughout while the Gaviota is a bit more generous with volume. I would say the Gaviota is definitely the more breathable of the two as the new Kayano can run warm. My preference leans a bit towards Gaviota just from a breathablity standpoint living in a hot, humid environment, but I really appreciate the lockdown of the Kayano.

The Kayano has a bit more value to it and I would say a bit more durability as well with a tougher rubber underfoot. However, despite that I would personally take the Gaviota due to the lighter feeling ride that suits my mechanics a little more than the denser Kayano along with the more breathable upper being a dealbreaker for me.





RECOMMENDATIONS

One of the recommendations I have that I think will happen for the next version is streamlining the heel fit to be more secure. It's fine here, but I think dialing it in so you feel more one with the shoe will help greatly with both additional stability and improve the ride immediately.

I think there's a lot of ways the ride can be further enhanced. The simplest may be shifting the bevel to be more lateral which would further smoothening the ride from heel-to-toe. The bevel is centered here and while I didn't feel that that the shoe rode clunky, I think this would help make it swifter.

I think an interesting option would be doing something that's become very popular among brands: introducing a Peba core to help give some responsiveness. The Gaviota could use a little bit of responsiveness to enhance the ride and the way the H-Frame design is integrated leaves a good amount of room to fit some kind of responsive core to the forefoot or heel.

The shoe did respond to temperature quite a bit between seasons. I found the shoe to be more stable and controlled as the weather got under 70 F. I think the shoe would benefit from more consistency here, with a foam structure that is slightly firmer and less compliant to help balance the stability features in the shoe.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR

For runners looking for a stable neutral max cushion trainer, this is an option to consider. It has a comfortable, fairly well-fitting ride for easy, easy miles and recovery days. It does run a touch heavy underfoot which is a consideration. Runners who enjoyed the higher level of guidance that the J-Frame provided past versions may find this to be less stable. It's a bit of a sacrifice Hoka chose here in favor of the shoe working for a broader audience. I also think this is best suited for more moderate-to-cool temperature runners who want a stable design. The shoe felt much softer and just a touch too compliant in the warm weather to be fully stable, but in cooler temps the ride felt very balanced and stable throughout as the sole firmed. If you live in a mild climate, this shoe will feel most optimal.

The shoe comes in at $175 which is a high price point upfront. It sits at the top end of its competitors (Kayano - $160, Brooks Glycerin GTS - $160). If you really are focused on a stable max cushion shoe that's non-intrusive and a good, breathable upper though, the Gaviota is worth a look. In the realm of max cushion shoes, it's definitely one of the most stable while still providing a mildly soft ride. If stability is your utmost priority, the shoes listed above may be those that you consider first and foremost with the changes to the Gaviota in mind.

I'm fairly excited to see what the Arahi looks like if it comes with the new H-Frame design. I think a slightly lower stack platform would really deliver with this concept, especially it likely being a lighter package. For me, the Gaviota 5 is a shoe that would likely not fill my quiver due to my preference for lower stacked shoes, but a typical Arahi stack height with this technology could be a lot more fun.



GRADING

Bach
Fit: A- (The heel could be more secure, but otherwise the upper is generous and accommodating)
Performance:
B/B+ (The shoe lacks versatility, but is comfortable for easy miles.)
Stability: B+ (A more universal stability that many runners will find comfortably stable, but may be lacking for some runners looking for a high level of stability)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (H-Plate design is not unique, but effective and will fit many walkers/runners)
Personal: B/B+ (Update after more miles: I've grown to really enjoy the shoe during the winter months when the midsole firmed up and the stability felt more present. It runs well and logs miles easily. The high price is a challenge, but if you can pick it up on a deal then it is a great cruiser)
Overall: B+

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Hoka Gaviota 5
Price: $174.95 at Running Warehouse

Shop Men | Shop Women


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FURTHER READING

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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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