Hoka Zinal 2 review: a lightweight and responsive shoe for shorter, faster trail runs

Hoka has reworked the Zinal for 2023, with a lighter build and lots of traction, and the result feels fast and free

Hoka Zinal 2 trail running shoes on stone wall
(Image: © Future)

Advnture Verdict

The Hoka Zinal 2 is lighter and grippier than its predecessor, and great fun for fast efforts on woodland trails and mixed terrain. The single-piece upper with stretch collar is excellent for keeping out grit and water, and the feel underfoot is responsive with just enough cushioning to keep descents comfortable. The only real downside was a little movement in the heel, though your foot is locked in place well elsewhere.


  • +

    Super light at just 189g

  • +

    Really sticky, well designed Vibram outsole

  • +

    Keeps out water, dirt and stones particularly well


  • -

    A little movement in the heel

  • -

    Quite narrow fit

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Hoka Zinal 2: first impressions

The Hoka Zinal 2, launched in summer 2023, is a trail shoe built specifically for tackling shorter distances, with a pared-back design and improved traction to keep things light and fun.


• List price: $160 / £160
• Gender specificity: men's and women's
• Sizes: men's 7-13.5, women's 4-9 (UK)
• Category: neutral trail shoe
• Stack height: 30mm
• Drop: 5mm
• Weight (per shoe): 6.67oz / 189g (average men's)
• Colors: black/ceramic, black/sherbet (men); black/ceramic, night sky/sunlit ocean (women)
• Best use: Speed on trails and mixed terrain

The whole shoe is cleverly designed to prevent ingress of dirt and water. Its most striking feature is the sock-like stretch knit collar, which takes the place of a tongue and fits snugly around your ankle.

The heel tab is essential for pulling them on, but it's well designed – large enough to easily hook two fingers into, with reinforced stitching for strength.

The lacing system is smart, too. Rather than conventional eyelets, which would provide a place for water and mud to seep inside, the Zinal 2 has small hoops of cord for the laces to thread through. These are a lighter option than metal eyes, and again they're sewn firmly in place with extra zig-zag stitching to ensure they don't pull out. My inner seamstress approves.

Hoka Zinal 2 running shoes close-up on collar and lacing system

The Hoka Zinal 2 has a distinctive stretch knit collar (Image credit: Future)

The mesh upper is super thin (hello under there, socks), but tightly woven, and should keep your feet protected from rain and splashes. It's not fully water resistant, but it does a much better job of keeping you dry than most.

The 5mm lugs of the Vibram sole are deeper than those of the original Zinal, with a chevron pattern to maximize traction. Each lug has textured rubber on three sides too; Hoka really doesn't want you slipping when things start to get technical.

Hoka Zinal 2 running shoe outsole

The Zinal 2 has deeper lugs than its predecessor for improved traction (Image credit: Future)

The colors are great too, and refreshingly practical considering the recent trend for white and pastel trail shoes. The women's sizes are available in black/ceramic (shown here) and night sky/sunlit ocean (which are shades of purple). Men's sizes come in black/ceramic and black/sherbet, the latter of which has orange accents.

Hoka Zinal 2: on the trails

Overall, this is a fun. nimble feeling shoe that feels made for speed thanks to its light weight and flexibility. It's pretty minimalist for Hoka, but still has a distinctively cushioned feel underfoot.

To me, the fit feels true to size, but perhaps erring on the narrow side. If you have wide feet then you might prefer to go up half a size.

Woman's feet wearing Hoka Zinal 2 running shoes

The elastic collar takes some getting used to (Image credit: Future)

The absence of a tongue takes some getting used to (I kept wanting to pull it up while tying the laces), but the sock-style upper hugs your foot nicely, with particularly good support around the midfoot, and does an excellent job of keeping out debris.

However, I did notice some movement at the heel due to the stretch collar, which doesn't lock your heel in place like a more conventional trail shoe. Your foot is cocooned so well elsewhere that it won't shift much, but it's slightly distracting. and you can't make a heel lock to prevent it.

The low profile (the stack height is 2mm less than that of the original Zinal) and flexible sole unit help you feel connected to the trail, but with a distinctly cushioned feel that you'll appreciate on descents.

Hoka Zinal 2 running shoe heels

I noticed some movement in the heel, though the midfoot felt nicely locked in (Image credit: Future)

My favorite part of the Zinal 2 is the outsole. The redesigned lugs really do feel nice and sticky, and are great for mud (which there was lots of during my testing). There's no rock plate, so this is a shoe I'd prefer for woodland trails where I'll be dodging roots and tackling slippery dirt and leaves rather than anything particularly stony.

It also feels good on roads if you're heading out for a training run from your front door, or tackling a mixed terrain 10k.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.