French brand Hoka One One has become the manufacturer of choice for many long distance runners looking for cushioning, shock absorption and a stable off road ride. Whilst the brand has become famous for its maximalist, heavily cushioned thick-soled running shoes, the Speed Instinct 2 is a very different beast.
Out of the box, it's immediately obvious that the Speed Instinct 2 is built for...well, speed. There's still a decent amount of mid-sole and heel cushioning so although not a minimalist shoe at 226g they're still lightweight and should appeal to swift and efficient off road runners.
If you're used to running in shoes with a regular and/or high heel-to-toe drop (anything in the region of 6mm to 12mm), then the Speed Instinct 2's 3mm stack height will take some getting used to. I normally run in shoes with a fairly standard drop of 6mm so the Speed Instincts felt flat and close to the ground but this helped push onto the midfoot, encouraging a more efficient stride that was particularly noticeable when running downhill.
Being pushed further forward took some getting used to but I was able to relax into my stride thanks to the excellent grip offered by the sole. The multidirectional lugs give certainty underfoot on slippery rocks and in almost every kind of terrain barring ankle deep mud.
If you're already familiar with the Speed Instinct, then you'll be pleased to know that the 2nd version of the shoe is more durable than the original. The new upper has been designed to provide additional support in the mid-foot and deliver increased breathability overall.
It's worth mentioning that we noticed less physical effects the day after running in the Speed Instinct 2. This is probably down to the lower stack height which reduces the tendency to heel strike on the descent and in turn lessens the impact on the quads and knees.
All in all, the Speed Instinct 2 is a comfortable shoe. The close to the ground ride, combined with a reassuringly solid grip enabled us to respond and adjust quickly when travelling in varied terrain.