Help me decide: Hoka Speedgoat 2 or Salomon Sense Ultra for UTMB?

The Speedgoat 2 and Salomon Sense Ultra, and BFF Oden. They are entirely different shoes, but worthy in their own right. The plush Speedgoat barrels over trails, whereas the Sense Ultra dances through them.

On Friday I leave for France and UTMB, so much of this week is dedicated to race preparation. One decision with which I’m struggling is my footwear. I have narrowed it to:

Ultimately, I may be obsessing over a detail that matters little. Other factors (e.g. training, race strategy, nutrition/hydration) will play a much greater role in my performance. But, still, if one shoe will be a few minutes faster than the other, I’ll gladly take that advantage.

My current plan is to fly over with both pairs, and make a last-minute decision based on course reconnaissance. But I’m sharing this internal debate in the hopes of hearing your thoughts and insights.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 v. Salomon Sense Ultra

The Speedgoat 2 and Sense Ultra differ primarily in their cushion and stability, or lack thereof.

The Speedgoat is classic Hoka, with a generous 32/27.5-mm stack height (heel/toe). On technically easy and moderate trails, I can barrel forward with near reckless abandon. But they’re inherently top-heavy, and are therefore clumsy when the footing is loose, off-camber, or talus-y.

The Sense Ultra is lower to the ground (26/18 mm heel/toe), so it’s more stable and agile. On technically moderate and difficult trails, I can nimbly dance through. But they’re much less forgiving on, say, gravel beds or pounding downhills.

I have run fast and far in both shoes. I wore the Sense Ultra for Bighorn 100, and was on course record pace until the trail degraded into a slip-and-slide. More recently, I wore the Speedgoat 2 on a new FKT for the 27-mile Pawnee-Buchanan Loop.

Fit, traction, and durability are generally equal, at least within the context of a 100-mile race and within their much larger differences. Both weigh 11.0 oz in my size 11.5.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 2, developed with superstar Karl Meltzler, is classic Hoka: it’s lightweight and generously cushioned, and offers a smooth ride. For its height, it’s remarkably stable.

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra is a form-fitting all-purpose trail shoe, with precision fit, reliable outsole grip, and a happy-medium balance between cushioning and feel.

Have thoughts or insights on what shoe would be best for UTMB? Please leave a comment.

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Posted in on August 22, 2017
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  1. Martin Rye on August 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    No idea. I am sure you’ll work it out. Go enjoy it. You are testing yourself against the top runners this time: we shall we following your progress.

  2. Jake on August 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Speedgoat. So stable compared to other Hoka models.

  3. mercuryrain on August 22, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Hoka because they weigh almost the same and why not have the most comfort you can. the way they are constructed makes comfort better for your feet, back, and posture. Going over rocks with plain running shoes sucks.

  4. John Abela on August 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I have not gotten a pair of the HOO Speedgoat 2’s yet, but I went through five pair of the first gen. The gen 2 will be the next pair of shoes I buy, after I wear out my LP2.5’s, which should be here pretty soon.

    It has been probably 5+ years since I wore a pair of Salomon shoes, not because I do not like them, I just have stuck with other shoes.

    But I have never done the UTMB, so what the hell do I know which you should wear for that trail. /shrugs/

  5. Michael on August 22, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I’ve run in Hoka Challenger ATR 3s and Salomon Sense Ultra. From reviews, the challengers are similar to the Speedgoat 2s. Over ~500 miles in challengers and ~100 miles in Salomons I’m inclined to vote for the stability / more generous forefoot of the sense Ultras.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 22, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Good point about the forefoot. It’s more generous in the Sense Ultras, probably lowering the risk of pinching or toenail pressure during a long effort.

  6. Spencer Warpzilla McKay on August 22, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    I just got a pair of the speedgoat 2’s and have been trying them out on the AT the past three days. I’m a bigger guy so the extra cushion Hoka provides is great for me. I have encountered a few times where I could see ankle roll being more probable on some technical terrain due to the structure of the goat. However, the plush cushioning and nice tread makes up for any poorly placed strides on sharp-edged rocks.

  7. Jim P. on August 22, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Go with the Salomon. I sense from your writing that you’re already leaning that way. You had a break-through 100-miler at Bighorn wearing those shoes, so they are associated with an important confidence-building race. For the familiarity, the proven fit and comfort, your ability to perform wearing them…why change now? Go with what you know and love. What’s the downside?

    • Andrew Skurka on August 23, 2017 at 7:52 am

      You’re right, that is the way I’m leaning. If UTMB were not such a critical race, I might “experiment” with the Speedgoat, like I did during the Pawnee-Buchanan Loop — “Let’s see what these things can do.” But I still don’t know that my feet will like the Speedgoat for 100 miles, whereas I know that they will do okay in the Sense Ultra.

      Some comments on FB were also useful. One person argued that the firm ride of the Sense Ultra would translate to less power loss when climbing. And another pointed out that races are supposed to be fast, not comfortable.

      Unless my reconnaissance strongly suggests otherwise, I think my plan is to start with the Sense Ultra and have the Speedgoat available (in my crew bag).

  8. Andy on August 23, 2017 at 5:17 am

    Why not both? Switch to the Hokas later in the race when your feet will appreciate the extra cushioning.

    • andrea on August 23, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Exactly. Leave the hokas in cormayeur and decide to switch there if your feet hurt

  9. Andy on August 23, 2017 at 9:39 am

    One of each.

    Why would you pick a shoe other than the salomon? You already know that you can rip with them on your feet. I can see training with the hokas to speed recovery time or whatever, but you’re going to be peaking for the year with this race. Besides- you’re going to want that extra grip for when you have to pass everyone else at speed.

  10. Brian Robinson on August 23, 2017 at 10:02 am

    I’ve not tried either of those particular models, but I’m not a Hoka fan in general. First,to get stability, Hokas have to be a tighter fit in the upper. That trades off toe and upper foot friction for more cushioning. In 100-milers I get side-heel blisters and toe trauma before I get rock bruises. Second, I don’t have perfect running form, especially when tired. With better trail feedback, I find that I notice form imperfections earlier and correct them. Better form keeps my efficiency higher throughout the race. I’d go with the Salomons, but every person is different.

  11. Fernando on August 23, 2017 at 10:14 am

    You will more than likely end up using both. You are going to start with the Sense, towards the end, when your feet will feel the pounding, you will switch to the foamy, comfortable Hokas. ;D It makes sense! I wish you best out there!

    San Antonio, TX

  12. Eric Lee on August 23, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I’d go with the Salomon. The course is runnable, but has some decently technical parts. I’d prefer something with a little better feel for the trail and more agility. I used the Inov8 Xtalon 212 in 2015 for the entire race, similar shoe to the Salomon and didn’t regret it. While they weren’t the best for the short road sections, loved them on the mixed dirt and rock for the rest of the course.
    Best of luck, and try not to get caught up in the early race madness, its a long race, and best to let those up front destroy each other and just pick up the pieces. And soak in all the energy, its unlike any other ultra race out there.

  13. Jeff Johanson on August 23, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Maybe neither?
    Have not run in the Salomon but have tried them on. I own the Hoka and even sizing up the toe box is to snug and pointy for my taste. I hike in them also in New England rock gardens and in that application have been quite impressed but still wish for more toe room. I believe the Salomon’s have a slightly roomier and more rounded toe box but my suggestion is the Salomon Sense Pro Max. Kind of split the difference but that is a nice shoe with good cushioning and that Salomon fit.
    There is also the Mafatee Speed 2 now available in the US. Look?? like it has a roomier to box than the Speedgoat 2.
    I bought the Altra Olympus 2.5 and like them allot but boy they run silly short. Size up 1-1 1/2 sizes at least. Highly technical terrain is not their strong suit but super comfy for high mileage.

  14. Andy D on August 23, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    As a Hoka user myself i recommend the Salomon! You are a highly experienced runner and will run fast on easy ground in any shoe. Focus on the technical terrain where it must be the Salomon.

  15. Eugene Smith on August 23, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Choose the middle ground, get the Salomon Sense Ride and take them for some shakeout runs leading up to UTMB. They play nicely in rotation with the Ultra and would make a great 100 mile shoe.

    I own both the Sense Ultra and the Ride, and find the Ride to be a superior shoe (for my needs) at a better price point. The fit is wider in the toebox, slightly more volume, and the cushioning is more substantial, over the Ultra, but not overly so. The Vibe midsole in the Ride has a nice cushioned feel for cruising along yet still remains responsive. Outsole compound/lugging is equivocal to the Ultra. I’ve only run a 50miler (a far cry from UTMB) in the Sense Ultra and wish I had worn the Ride ( they weren’t available at the time). The Ultras were a little harsh for the 50 mile distance.

    The Hoka Speedgoat 2 seems overbuilt for UTMB terrain, but I’m just a hack and haven’t actually run in the Speedgoat 2.

    Give em hell!

    • Andrew Skurka on August 23, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Cool website.

  16. Martin on August 23, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    I argue for shoe laces instead of the Salomon clip thing. I always have to tie a know into Salomons anyways which renders the clip mechanism useless.

  17. Daniel on August 24, 2017 at 1:10 am

    On the UTMB routes I believe one of the key sections is the descent from Col Ferret to Issert (just before the climb to the aid station at Champex Lac). It’s a really long descent of about 20km: steep at the beginning and then smooth and on roads in the second half. It’s not technical. This section can really make or break your race as it’s a really long descent and stresses the legs significantly before the final three climbs of the race. At least for this section, I would think the added cushioning of the Hokas (and no need for the technical advantage of the Salmons) would make a lot of sense.

    Overall I don’t think the UTMB route is that technical (of course there are sections that are rocky and rooty) and a burly trail shoe is not necessary. At the same weight, I would go for cushioning over stability and better technical performance.

    Provided it’s not very wet and muddy, I’m planning on using the Salomon Sonic 2 for CCC which gives you a point of reference for the degree of technicality of the route.

  18. Ben on August 24, 2017 at 8:39 am

    If there is still time for a test run I’d suggest the Speed Instinct 2. It’s much better cushioned than the Sense Ultra, weighs less, is a similar fit, and weighs less. The Speedgoat 2 is still too tapered in the toe box I think and could cause serious toe issues over the long haul.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 24, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Not enough test time, but I’m interested in trying those out.

  19. Will Thomas on August 24, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I started UTMB in Speedgoats assuming that I would switch out at Cormayuer. They ended up being the perfect shoe for me on that course, so I stuck with them. 95% of the trail is smooth buffed out singletrack or mixed road that is free of rocks and roots, but most of the descents are steep and long. The Speedgoat cushioning will play to your favor during the last 4 big descents that can all be bombed down. Having the ability to be reckless on those downhills and not worrying about quad damage is what will make or break your overall finishing position. Too many people blow their quads out on this course. Being a mid packer, I was able to chase down 15% of the field on just the last 2 descents only. I can only think of about 1-2 miles of trail descents that required “dancing”. Save the Salomons for the dance floor.

  20. Patrick on August 24, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Speedgoat 2. Agree with Will T above – forgiving on downhills & they provide more ‘rebound’ in general…

  21. Jay on August 25, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I was going to say stick with the Salomons for the groundfeel/stability/etc. But I just did a little runaround in a pair of Hokas (had never tried them before and always have been skeptical) and holy cow they feel like running on clouds. A little top heavy but a lot less so than I expected.

    Still: go with familiarity here. No need to experiment. And good luck, man!

  22. Hunter G Hall on August 29, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Can you wear moon shoes?!?!!?!


  23. Pedro on September 26, 2018 at 8:08 am

    And between Salomon Ultra Pro and Hoka Mafate speed 2. For ultratrail. Which one would you choose?

    • Andrew Skurka on September 28, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      Have not used the Mafate or the Ultra Pro.

    • David on January 27, 2019 at 7:07 am

      Mafate speed 2 has one of the roomiest but secure fitting toe boxes of all the Hokas,at least to me. Its is my long run shoe although a little heavy. fantastic traction and cushion and roomy toe box,but a little heavy

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