Article by Matt Kolat
Hoka Gaviota ($175)
Hello one and all and welcome to my first solo English language shoe review for Road Trail Run! As most of us are aware, running shoes have gone through a lot of changes in recent years through the introduction of a variety of often interesting and sometimes curious technologies. We have plated shoes, we have Pebax and other supercritical foams, we have super trainers to name a few.
Support or stability shoes as they are often known have gone through a renaissance of their own. Long gone are the days of massive, plastic medial posts paired with external ridgid heel counters. Bar a few die-hard shoe models most of stability shoes now relay on modern foams paired with broad bases which provides enough stability for vast majority of overpronators as well as offer a more friendly product for neutral runners who might want extra stability in latter parts of their long runs when their form deteriorates and thus stability needs sky-rocket.
Hoka is one of the few brands which never had a traditional stability shoe but always relied on semi-modern or fully modern ways of delivering support. Neither of their stability models – Arahi nor Gaviota ever had plastic medial posts of overbuilt heel counters. In recent years both went through modernization – let’s have a closer look at Gaviota 5 in the review below!
Not a true stability shoe but more stable neutral (can be a Con!)
Soft despite huge levels of stability
Traditional EVA foam contributes to stability
Feels very secure
Modern looking and plush upper (typically not the case in stability shoes)
Very comfortable during long runs
Outsole materials are deteriorating slightly faster than expected
Not a true stability shoe but more stable neutral (can be a Pro!)
On the heavier side of daily trainer (not a max cush shoe)
Approx. weight: men’s 10.9 oz / 310g (US9)
Samples: men’s 12.13 oz / 344g (UK 11.5)
Stack Height: men’s 36mm heel / 30mm forefoot , 6mm drop
Available: now ! £149.99 / $175 including at our partner in Europe SportsShoes SHOP HERE
First Impressions and Fit
Gaviota is Spanish for Seagull. And if you’ve ever been to Aberdeen, Scotland, where I live, you’d know that one of the symbols of the city are our Seagulls. They are not only ever present but also enormous. More than happy to dive down and fly away with your burrito, a bag of chips (that’s UK for fries) or your youngest child if you’re unlucky (that last one’s a joke).
For that and other reasons I was very excited to review the Gaviotas. When the shoes arrived I was not sure what to expect because for a while now I have not been running in stability shoes. There are few reasons for that, first of all my technique has changed over the years and my biomechanics have improved. Secondly in recent years neutral shoes have become much more stable and the stability shoe market has largely shrunk. That said I do still prefer shoes on the more stable end of neutral as my form tends to deteriorate as my run progresses and stability becomes crucial in keeping injuries at bay.
When I opened the box I was impressed with how modern they looked. Most of us associate Hoka with innovation and fun shoes full of rockered motion. In this case apart from the above Gaviota looks luxurious and plush (because it is!). The area of the upper close to the achilles is padded accordingly for a plush daily trainer and I did not experience any rubbing or hot spots in that area or elsewhere for that matter.
The tongue is equally padded and comfortable, does not travel around during the run despite not being gusseted.
The laces while not as grippy and flexible as the marvelous ones Hoka treated us with in Mach X do an adequate job and are on the shorter end of the spectrum which is more than positive as in most shoelaces are far too long for my liking.
The heel counter is semi-rigid but more than adequate in terms of stability provision. There is no taping or overlays on the medial side, often found in stability shoes but this, in my opinion, had no effect on the quality of the ride. The upper in general is on the breathable end as it’s made from jacquard mesh, which I personally love because of its softness and sensation of freedom it gives me.
And most importantly the shoe fits me like all Hoka shoes do – I always size up by half a size.
With 36mm of stack height Gaviota is by no means a max max cushioned trainer at least by comparison to some of the high stacked shoes of today. That said however the way it made me feel in the run was as an ‘almost’ max cushioned shoe or in other words I would classify it at the top end of daily trainers when it comes to cushion and comfort.
The entirety of the midsole is EVA foam which can almost sound old fashioned these days but please bear with me! Between the EVA and the sockliner sits the H Frame. This is the main stability unit of the shoe which replaces the J frame which used to be much firmer and only present on the medial side of the shoe and around the heel. Here my sense is that the long bars of the H run length wise and are equal medially and laterally.
The J frame contributed to a much bigger medial bias of the shoe while the H frame creates a more inherent stability sensation. It’s there when you need it but when you don’t it stays nice and quiet, like a well trained guard dog it looks after our precious ankles, knees, hips – keeping the whole shebang of your leg in place, helping you maybe stay more injury free.
The 6mm drop and the Early Stage Meta Rocker is a noticeable combination as the shoe rolls very smoothly, unlike a traditional trainer with a massive drop. The midsole in general I would describe as soft for a stability shoe but never mushy or marshmallow soft. This to me is a very strong point for the Gaviota – in most cases inherently stable shoes achieve stability mainly due to a firm midsole. In the case of Gaviota it is the polar opposite; it manages a very high degree of stability and remains soft – what’s not to like!
Probably my biggest gripe with the shoe is with its outsole due to the fact that you can already see wear and tear on it slightly more than I would have expected at this stage. I think the reason for this is the fact that there is less rubber coverage on the shoe than in most daily trainers and the midsole is relatively exposed. Despite that, the shoe has excellent grip on wet surfaces and equally so on flat, uphills or downhills. If I was to guess why Hoka decided for a lower-than-usual rubber coverage it would be to save weight.
The shoe is relatively heavy as it is but luckily does not feel that way on the run. Traditional stability shoes almost always had cutaways in the heel that were referred to as a ‘crash pad’ to allow for greater stability when heel striking but also to allow transitions off the heel given their rear stiffness. Hoka seems to have taken that idea to the next level as there are multiple cutaways in the outsole in just about every direction. I believe this is another conscious decision that contributes to the high degree of stability in Gaviotas.
Ride, Conclusions, Recommendations
When thinking about how to describe Gaviota’s ride quality in a single thought I came up with the following. It’s that shoe you wish you had on that does not get in the way in the beginning of the run, when your stability needs are lowest, but as the run progresses and your stability needs grow it’s there for you with its stabilizing properties. It’s almost like two shoes in one behaving accordingly with the requirements of the particular sections of your run.
That said, it does have its limitations. I believe Gaviota is best suited for daily training and longer and easier runs. I’ve never once felt sore in them or insecure even on very tired feet – they kept me very stable.
As mentioned before the relatively low drop (6mm) and Hoka’s early stage meta rocker make for a very smooth roll of the foot. I would like to reiterate that this shoe is also relatively soft, if you prefer firm cushioning this might not be the shoe for you. There is also a very short period of break in before which the H frame is slightly more noticeable. But after about 10 km the H frame completely blended in for me into the shoe (without of course sacrificing any of the stability it provides).
There is not a great deal of energy return during the run but I believe that most people would not be expecting that from a stability shoe. I am not going to go off on a massive tangent here but is it even possible to achieve a high degree of stability and energy return? Who knows what the future holds – maybe I’ve just created a niche running shoe market – springy stable, which Gaviota is not. It is soft stable and I would see that as a massive benefit. It makes you feel confident you will not roll an ankle and equally keeps your feet fresh. I don’t think this shoe has a preference in terms of the strike pattern. It should suit heel strikers and more mid/forefoot strikers alike because the midsole and H frame does not seem to behave any differently regardless of which part of the foot I was landing on.
In terms of recommendations – I would not change very much in this shoe at all. I think the H frame is great. I only wish would be for the outsole to be made perhaps from slightly denser rubber to increase its lifespan. But all in all a big ‘Well Done Hoka!’ from me.
Matt’s Score: 9.4/10 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂
Ride 9.5 (50%) Fit 9.5 (30%) Value 8 (15%) Style 8 (5%)
Maciej ‘Matt’ Kolat- 38 years old, hailing from Poland but pounding Scottish pavements and trails since 2007. Mainly runs shorter distances on pavement 5-10 km and reserves longer runs for beautiful Scottish Glens. Matt’s opinion sometimes may differ from other RTR testers as he is the slowest of the bunch (5k at 25:38). Matt also uses running as a way to stay healthy having shedded 100 lbs so far (and counting).
The Gaviota is available in Europe from our partner Sports Shoes
Use our code RTR235 for 5% off all products
Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’.
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