I’ve put 156 trail miles on my Hoka One One Speedgoat 5’s, and at this point I think they are the best trail ultramarathon shoes I’ve ever worn.
I’ve worn a number of really solid trail shoes: Altra Olympus, Altra Lone Peak, Hoka Challenger, Nike Trail Pegasus, and Salomon Speedcross. I like all of these shoes, but they each have their drawbacks. While each of these shoes has something to offer, none matches the all-around excellence of the Speedgoat.
That’s really the takeaway here: when it comes to trail ultras, the Speedgoat does everything well. It has solid grip. It has the cushion to carry you to 100k+ distances. The fit is snug without being overly tight. The ride is soft but doesn’t feel mushy. It can handle rocks, roots, gravel, boulders, dirt, or mud.
On the trail, over long distances, the Speedgoat 5 does everything well.
The Speedgoat is not completely without issue, and for certain specific runs I may reach for something else, but if you’re looking for a shoe for trail ultramarathons that does everything well, the Speedgoat should be near the top of your list.
What’s Good About the Speedgoat 5?
The first thing I noticed when I slipped on my Speedgoats and took them for their inaugural spin was the ride. The Speedgoats felt soft while still feeling light and quick on my feet – an unusual combination.
Usually, a really cushioned pair of shoes leaves me feeling like I’m plodding (see Altra Olympus and Altra Paradigm). The Speedgoats somehow manage to feel super soft and cushioned while still feeling fairly nimble.
The second thing I noticed is the traction. During my first run, the Speedgoats did well up and down my local mountain trails across rocks, dirt, leaves, pine needles, wet Georgia red clay, gravel, and even a touch of asphalt. Living in Georgia, I’ve never run in snow, so setting that aside, the only conditions where I’ve found the Speedgoats to struggle is in thick mud. The Speedgoats do well on nearly all surfaces.
The last point I’ll highlight is that the Speedgoats can really go the distance. I used the Speedgoats when I ran the Georgia Death Race: a 70 mile trail run in the north Georgia mountains. I had my crew bring a backup pair of shoes to the 50-mile aid station, but when I got to that point my feet felt so good I didn’t dare to even untie them. I finished GDR without ever touching my laces between the start and finish lines, and this was a race where my feet were soaked from the very first mile when we started in a deluge. I did finish the race with two small blisters on my right foot, but given the conditions where my feet were wet for most of the day, I consider the performance of the Speedgoats on the day to be nothing short of amazing.
To take things a step further, about 20 miles of the GDR course consists of gravel roads. In most shoes, running that far on gravel would leave the bottom of my feet feeling very, very tender. I don’t recall ever even noticing the pointy tips of the gravel during GDR. The Speedgoats handled hours of gravel with ease.
What Could Make the Speedgoats Better?
The Speedgoats are fantastic and I love them, but they aren’t without some drawbacks.
First, they just don’t look great on my feet.
In the marketing shots, Speedgoats are pretty beautiful, but put them on and they sort of morph and collapse to fit your foot. I think this is due to the flexibility of the midsole and stretch of the upper, and all this is essential for the glorious ride they provide, but the tradeoff is that the Speedgoats ain’t much to look at when you have them on your feet.
Personally, I don’t care what they look like when I’m out on a trail run, but if you’re considering the Speedgoats as something to just wear around town, I wouldn’t recommend them.
Second, they do struggle in really thick mud.
When I ran GDR, it poured rain for the first hour or two and the trail turned to thick mud. For the first 15 miles or so I wished I had the tread of my Salomon Speedcross (but the midsole of the Speedgoats). When conditions were truly nasty, the Speedgoats’ tread filled with mud and stopped doing much of anything.
Despite the poor performance in truly wet conditions, I wouldn’t have worn anything else during GDR. The overall performance of the Speedgoats is good enough that it was worth struggling through the first few hours of the race. The Speedcross would have given me better grip during those first few miles, but they’d have murdered my feet over the course of 70 miles.
Third, and this is my only true gripe with the Speedgoats, the upper and toe box of the Speegoats don’t provide much protection from the harsher elements of the trail.
If you take a look at the featured image you’ll see the toe of the right shoe is ripped. This happened during GDR when my toe caught on a root. The upper of the Speedgoat is road-shoe soft and I don’t think this would have happened with any other trail shoe I’ve worn. In addition, during the last 10 miles of the race I kicked a few rocks and busted both of my big toes pretty badly (as I write this, one big toe has no nail and the other big toe nail is dark purple). Most other trail shoes I’ve worn have some sort of protective element at the toe to protect against busted toes and the Speedgoats do not.
Verdict: The Best Ultra-Distance Trail Shoe I’ve Ever Worn
The Speedgoats are fantastic and I anticipate putting many, many more miles on them (after I stitch up the toe), and I suspect that this won’t be my last pair of Speegoats. The combination of cushion, lightness, fit, and traction provide (for my feet) a better all-around package than any other trail shoe I’ve tried.
Now, they wouldn’t be my first choice for a 10-mile run in muddy conditions, for that I’d reach for my Salomon Speedcross. I also wouldn’t pick them for a gravel road or groomed trail run of 20 miles or less, for that I’d put on my Nike Trail Pegasus. Also, if my foot were a bit wider and my ankles slightly more flexible the Altra Olympus would make a strong case for ultra trail efforts. But for my feet, for ultra-distance trail runs, it’ll be tough to find a better option than the Speedgoat.