Hoka Zinal Review

David Garcia
April 11, 2021
Gear Rating

The Good

Lightweight for easy turnoverResponsive midsole for agilityComfortable out of the box

The Bad

Security for lateral movementTraction on technical terrainLacks the Hoka signature thick cushioned midsole

PROS (What did you like about the shoe?)

Note: Please use complete sentences verses the old bullet point style 


The most noticable "pro" of the Hoka Zinal is the weight.  It's a pretty light shoe making for easy turnover, especially when trying to go fast.  The Zinal, although its not your standard Hoka thick midsole, boasts their Profly midsole that feels more responsive than other Hoka shoes.  This combined with the light weight makes it speedy and agile without that clunky feeling from thicker, heavier shoes.  The Zinal is also comfortable out of the box with its supple upper and wider toe box.



CONS (What didn’t you like about the shoe)

Note: Please use complete sentences verses the old bullet point style 


The Hoka Zinal lacks slightly in the technical department.  Although the upper is supple, its shy on the structure or overlays to keep my foot in place for lateral movement.  Also, the Zinal, similar to the Challenger ATR and the Torrent, seems to lack in the traction or outsole department.  The outsole is not continuous to offer protection nor are the 4mm lugs even remotely aggressive.  Lastly, the Zinal lacks that signature thick Hoka midsole that gives you the cushion for all day comfort.




Note: Think…What you think of the shoe? What type of runs is this shoe ideal for? Would you buy this shoe? 


The jury is still out whether I'm a fan of the Zinal or not.  In many aspects, its a great shoe.  I think its meant to go fast on less technical terrain.  It's light and comfortable.  What more could you want in a shoe?  However, on the flip side, if you don't care about going fast and you expect a thicker midsole from Hoka to cushion you for that big day in the mountains, then the Hoka Zinal might not be the shoe for you.  I don't think its very good for technical or mountainous terrain. It does great on more swooping singletrack or crushed gravel than anything off camber or rocky.  For my style of running, which tends to be longer, slower days in the mountains or desert, I would not recommend this shoe.  That said, for my training days back home where I can do shorter and faster runs, this might just be the perfect shoe. 



FIT  7/10

Note: Think…Was there anything that fit particularly well? Or didn’t? Was is comfortable to wear? Any odd spots or wear patterns? Was it true to size compared to other shoes you’ve tested?


Like I said, the Zinal is very comfortable out of the box.  The upper is supple and conforms well to the shape of my foot.  I found no hot spots or weird rubbing points so far.  My only concern with fit was my inability to secure my foot in place when I was running on rocky or technical terrain.  I felt like the lack of overlays in the upper allowed my foot to slide around more than I wanted.  I feel like Hokas in general, including the Zinal, are pretty consistent and true to size.


RIDE 6/10

Note: How would you describe the ride? Was it soft or firm? Was it fast or slow?

Did it perform on one surface better than another? (trail shoes)


I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the ProFly midsole of the Zinal.  Although it is not as cushioned as other Hokas, I found the Zinal's to be very responsive and zippy (technical term) for speedy efforts.  Granted, the ProFly midsole doesn't have the all day cushion for comfort, but it does much better than many other "standard" thickness midsoles out there.  The ProFly midsole was the perfect balance of cushion and firmness for tempo runs or speedwork.  I definitely steered towards less technical trails with the Zinal, given it's lack of aggressive outsole or structured upper.  I did enjoy running on slickrock in the desert with the Zinal's.  Part of the reason for the lower rating is that I just enjoy getting out for long days and the Zinal is not the shoe I would use for that.  If I did shorter or faster runs more often, I would rate the Zinal much higher.


TRACTION/PROTECTION (For trail shoes only). 4/10

Note: How grippy was the outsole? What type of terrain is the shoe best for? How protective was the upper? 


I can't say I was a fan of the Vibram Lite outsole on the Zinal.  Similar to the Challenger ATR, the Zinal has a two piece outsole with a whole section of exposed midsole.  Granted, I know this makes the shoe lighter and more flexible, but it also changes how much I trust my shoe on rocks or anything technical when there's a chance of landing on that exposed midsole.  From a protection standpoint, I didn't think the upper did the shoe any favors.  The lack of overlays didn't secure my foot nor was there much protection from sharp rocks.  Lastly, the toe bumper seemed like an after thought and would do very little to protect your toes in the case that you kicked a rock while running.  I would classify the Zinal as more of a fast racing shoe or a non technical trainer or even a hybrid trail shoe like the Challenger.  I wouldn't consider taking the Zinal's on any technical mountain terrain.


MSRP $150.00