We don’t play favorites here around the office very often, but some of our staff definitely have their loyalties and Hoka One One always seems to end up high on that list. I have spent time with numerous members of the Hoka family and have had the chance to spend the last couple months with their new Vanquish 2. This shoe definitely fits right into their maximum cushioned roots and really takes it up a notch from all other Hokas to date.
Construction: The Upper
The upper is an air mesh and uses something Hoka refers to as Zonal 3D Printing which should increase breathability and support. I do find some credence to the support aspect as I think the diamond pattern “zones” do give you some real structure. I do think breathability suffers a bit however within this given the amount of structure attached. The Vanquish 2 also features a new padding tongue and a molded EVA insole. The padded tongue is more than welcome.
The mid is composed of double layer EVA foam which improves the cushioning and the rebounding of the shoe. It also has a rocker design that helps push you forward in your stride by titling your entire frame over your toes, forcing you into forward motion.
The outsole features a consistent full ground contact design so when your foot hits, the sole is structured in a way that your entire foot is in contact all at once. It also features hi-abrasion rubber pads on the sole which increase the durability and in theory, should help the sole last longer.
Style and Aesthetics
The Vanquish 2 comes in three color combos including a black, blue, and a grey. All the colorways are easy on the eyes, but our personal favorite is the black/acid version. The stack height visual is probably the most apparent visual change, but other than that the only noticeable visual is the diamond patterned upper. There is a noticeable lack of large mesh pieces from their other shoes in favor of the smaller pieces within the patterned area.
I have now logged a hundred plus miles on the Vanquish 2 and conquered distances from short and quick 5 to 10 milers as well as numerous runs in the high teens and even some organized races. My first runs were definitely an experience and by this I mean the Vanquish 2 is definitely different from something like the Clifton 2. The increased level of cushioning is highly noticeable as is the rebound you get throughout your run. The next big noticeable difference aside from the Clifton was the toebox. The Vanquish 2 definitely runs a narrower than other Hokas, it maintains its width throughout the mid right up to where your toes begin and then comes in a little tighter. So you still get width where you need it, I think I just prefer the actual front toebox of the Clifton 2 a bit more. This feels a little narrow upfront although it never caused difficulty and I never felt any pain from it, but not sure my toes ever felt as relaxed as they do in the Clifton.
The place where the Vanquish 2 sun shine is really in the cushioning. This to me is what really draws people to Hoka in the first place and even then, the Vanquish takes it up a notch. The stack on this shoe is a few millimeters taller than the Clifton and even a larger jump from something like the older Huaka. This is not a bad thing in anyway if you love cushion. I do think in this case that cushion transfers well into comfort at distance which is really why I’ve always been excited by shoes with very normal dropst but additional cushion throughout. A lot of manufactures Try to add cushioning in the heel, but depending on your gate and footfall, you really want a consistent level of it throughout the entire shoe.
The drop on the shoe is 5mm which is fairly normal for most neutral running shoes. I get a lot of questions around the feel of the high cushioned shoe and I think the important thing to mention is you never feel like you are elevated in anyway. The additional height is transferred throughout your foot and after you are accustomed to it, it feels like a natural extension of your foot. There is some stride adjustment for people, but I find shoes like Hoka and Altra are really in the prime spot to help correct gait and foot strike problems which plague many runners.
My most recent race on the Vanquish 2 was the Portland Shamrock Half Marathon and they performed really well. The one thing I did notice was how they handled the weather because the entire race was plagued by rain. While they did a good job keeping me out of puddles, the upper did get quite saturated with water which turned into a bit of increased weight. A minor nitpick overall though, because even then there was quite a bit of elevation I found the shoes help me maintain a consistent pace on both uphill and downhill. The other note I will make is the increased awareness and appearance of Hoka within the race community. I spend most of my organized run staring at people’s feet, seeing what they’re wearing and the days of single brands or 3 to 4 main brands has turned into a melting pot of various manufacturers. Hoka definitely seems to be one that’s making inroads in a big way and people are being more accepting of what they used to feel were “funny looking shoes”.
The Vanquish 2 are really for those looking for a little extra cushioning and they excel in this department. Its the highest cushion Hoka to date and my only minor complaint was the slightly narrow toebox compared to the Clifton 2 and the slight lack of drainage during wet conditions. The high level of comfort and rebound that this new sole provides definitely outweighs those issues in my mind making this a very solid performer from Hoka. It is a great shoe for distance runners and those looking for a little more padding which transfers well into knee and shin ground impact absorption. Definitely pay attention to the width of the Vanquish 2 as this is the game changer for most as it definitely skews narrower than other Hokas.
Technical Stats, Pricing & Availability
- Weight: 9.8oz (size 9)
- Drop: 5mm heel/toe
- MSRP: $170.00
- Available: Now