Speed Instinct is a fast and nimble trail shoe form Hoka One One, although it doesn’t look like the typical bulky Hoka shoe with big midsole. Speed Instinct is a neutral shoe with weight of 8.6 oz without the insole for size 10.5, with stack height of 25 mm in the heel and 22 in the forefoot which makes a 3mm heel to toe drop. More drop is for most perceived as more comfortable. Less drop is more like the natural position of the foot, but it also puts more strain on the muscles and tendons of the foot. Speed Instinct is uptempo / racing shoe where less drop is recommended.
The Speed Instinct features a PRO2LITE midsole like the speedy and responsive road shoe Clayton. The midsole is dual density, softer in the rear for comfort and firmer, more responsive in the forefoot. The result is nimble heel to toe transition with plenty of cushioning. The outsole of the Speed Instinct is composed of carbon rubber with low multi-directional lugs that handle a variety of terrain. The lugs are deep enough and have enough directional support for everyday situations, but wet traction is not good enough. The shoe is slippery on wet rocks, even on wet asphalt. However the grip on dry rocks is great.
The mesh is seamless and lightweight, Hoka calls it Air Mesh. The external web design provides zonal support for an enhanced foot wrap and welded synthetic overlays wrap around the midfoot for increased support. Toe bumper in front is supposed to protect toes from debris and adds aberration resistance, but don’t rely on it, it’s thin and flexible. The heel counter is flexible too but despite that it’s comfortable and offers good amount of support. The tongue is of medium thickness with plush padding, but it starts to slide outwards after a few miles into the run, which loosens the lockdown a little bit. The insole is very soft and thick, it can be used with other shoes too to improve their comfort.
The toe box of Hoka Speed Instinct is not wide, tips of toes get sensitive after around 12 miles, Clifton and Challenger have a wider toe boxes for comparison. The biggest drawback is the breathability of the shoe, the multiple layer upper keeps the feet warm which can be a good thing during cold weather but it’s a bad thing during the summer. About durability – The upper mesh started to tear after 100 miles, but only the outer layer is torn, the inner one is intact and the mesh tear stopped after around 25 miles more. On the other hand the outsole is fine and it doesn’t wear quickly.
Speed Instinct has nimble and precise ride. Additionally, like most Hokas the shoe utilizes a meta-rocker design to encourage a smooth ride and It works. The shoe lets you run fast and doesn’t limit you. Really fast pace like 5 minutes per mile is not an issue. Speed Instinct is not an overly protection shoe, be careful not to step on a sharp rock in the middle of the heel where the midsole is exposed. The shoe can handle more difficult terrain, but on smoother trails performs the best. I recommend the shoe for fast training workouts like trail tempos and hill repeats as well as races of course.