Hoka completely overhauled its neutral-oriented Vanquish shoe for 2016 in amazing fashion. Not only is the Vanquish 2 considerably lighter (almost 2 full ounces lighter per shoe!), it also rides more smoothly and is more responsive than the original. It still features a cradle design, in which the foot and interior structure of the shoe is encased on the sides and bottom by a durable two-layer foam shell. The foam closest to the foot provides superior cushioning, while the foam closest to the ground serves up a resilient peppiness. Smooth-riding and impossibly light for a shoe with as thick of a midsole as it has, the Vanquish 2 is remarkably flexible and offers a nice mix of soft landings and energetic toe-offs, especially at moderate to fast paces. (Our wear-testers thought it was sufficient but not quite as responsive at slower paces, too, but it took a while to dial in the correct (lower) cadence with longer ground-contact time.)
For all of those reasons and more, we gave this shoe our Editor’s Choice award as the top shoe in our Spring 2016 shoe review. (More new 2016 running shoes can be found here.)
The seamless and stitchless TPU-reinforced upper has been redesigned slightly, which our testers thought helped in the fit and forefoot flexibility. (Several testers also liked the color “pop” of the new version.) There are more durable rubber segments on the outsole of the updated version, which should make a longer-lasting shoe and slightly more stable than the first version. (Our testers wavered on how stable the Vanquish 2 really is—some thought it to be moderately stable, others thought it would be best only for strong-legged neutral runners.)
Given the maximally cushioned chassis, a sense of ground-contact proprioception and agility are understandably lacking in this shoe, but that becomes nearly irrelevant once you find your groove out on the run. Our testers found this shoe best for long runs, progression runs and tempo runs, although it is still more than adequate for slower recovery runs—even though it feels slightly less smooth and responsive.
“This shoe was a blast,” said wear-tester Adam Heaney. “It is one of the most responsive shoes I have ever run in. It sets the standard for energy return in a running shoe.”
This is the shoe for you if … you’re looking for a lightweight max-cushioned shoe for half-marathon and marathon training runs.
Weight: 9.8 oz. (men’s 9.0); 8.3 oz. (women’s 7.0)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm; 32mm (heel), 27mm (forefoot)