Elevon 2: HOKA's Best Lightweight Trainer Debut in Years

HOKA’s lightweight trainers provide stability without resorting to gimmicks. That was and is a narrative point I've made in favor of this brand from the beginning, for almost a decade. No contrived medial posts. No hard plastic girdles. The bucket seat architecture – the Active Footframe – gets it done.

So, when the Elevon debuted a couple of years ago, with its hard plastic girdle, I facepalmed. I literally held the shoe in one hand and dropped my forehead in the other. On HOKA’s site the original Elevon was listed as “plush” and if you ran in this shoe “plush” is not the descriptor you’d have used. Nor did any other user of this shoe, if judging by the comments appending to the Elevon page on the HOKA site.

However, the Elevon was a terrific shoe otherwise. The fit was fabulous, the upper quite comfortable, and I ran in this shoe a lot. Just, I was doing a lot of offroad hill runs then, straight up for maybe 1,500 vertical feet, turn around, straight down. I ran down the same speed as I ran up, so, I didn’t need a lot of cush either up or down. The shoe fit the purpose. But, for a straight and level run? The landing was too hard for my taste.

Today I’m writing about the Elevon 2, just out, and there’s no hard heel counter in this shoe. (In the images above are the old and the new Elevon, and that yellow wrap around the heel on the original Elevon was the hard plastic piece.) Really, the new Elevon is a lot like the Vanquish, a shoe HOKA made a few years back only to discontinue the shoe, which was a real let-down for me because I liked that shoe a lot. The shoes I run in most these days are the original Bondi B, available as a reissue and only online; and then if it’s a race, the Carbon X. This shoe, the Elevon 2, borrows a lot from both these shoes and the old Vanquish.

I wrote about the Vanquish 2 back in 2016. Here is that shoe above next to the Elevon 2. I don’t know what you think, but structurally this new Elevon looks like the Vanquish 2 to my eye, and when I lace them up and run in them, it feels like the Vanquish 2. Except, the Elevon 2 has that great upper! This is the big difference between HOKA today and the HOKA of, say, 6 or 7 years ago. Shoes were and are great, but the shoe from the waist up got a lot better in recent years. More comfortable. Fit really well. Great sockless, which is something you and I tend to need to do, at least in races. In fact, this new Elevon feels a lot like the Carbon X in the toe box, and for me that’s a good thing.

When I say it runs like the Vanquish, here’s what I mean: It’s got plenty of rearfoot cushion, but not quite as much forefoot cushion as the Bondi. I wish it had a little more cushion in the forefoot. But it’s not sufficiently devoid of forefoot cushion for it to come out of my shoe rotation. It’s a lightweight shoe, more than a half-ounce lighter than the current Bondi 6, almost halfway in weight between the Clifton 6 and the Bondi 6.

The Clifton has always been a great shoe but for me, an over-pronator, it just hasn’t ever had quite enough midsole wrap to keep me in that bucket seat. The Vanquish, back during its day, was really the only shoe other than the Bondi that held me in place when used as an everyday trainer. I was orphaned when the Vanquish went away because the Bondi kept growing. Like a tumor. Every Bondi from B to the 5 got bigger, wider, heavier. I felt like I was running in galoshes.

Then the Bondi B reissue came out and I was back dating my old flame. That shoe has held me over until now, and I do believe the Elevon 2 is my new shoe for a lot of what I've been using the Bondi B for. I’ve got it in this color, above, which I prefer. If you look at this pic above see an eyestay that felt overengineered when I first put the shoes on. Like I was stepping into my astronaut boots, for a spacewalk. But after the third or fourth run I got the hang of it and, honestly, by luck or skill whoever thought up this lacing scheme did a pretty good job. The shoe just feels right on my foot.

I’ve been a critic of the width of the outsole on some of HOKA’s shoes, the recent Bondi editions in particular, both in the heel and in the forefoot. But danged if this Elevon 2 isn’t closer to the Bondi 6 in width than it is to the Bondi B reissue. In fact, I’m using the Elevon pretty much exclusively on trails and I find it very stable as a trail shoe. I’m sure there are trail features it doesn’t have but whatever they are I don’t miss them.

As is typical, HOKA considers this a “neutral” shoe in the gradient from Neutral => Moderate => Stable and I think this is a very confusing way to categorize shoes. This is an admirably stable shoe but, weirdly, saying a shoe is stable is considered a disparagement these days. Phrases I thought were positive, like “I am guided by science” and “this shoe is stable” are apparently not any longer considered such in certain circles. Mind, among this shoe’s features, according to HOKA, the Elevon 2 “features a deeper Active Foot Frame in the midsole for added support.” Yes! exactly! It adds support? But not stability? Okay.

As it now is, my road training shoe is still the Bondi B reissue, with a flat shoelace bought aftermarket to replace the truly horrible lace that comes with the Bondi B. My trail shoe, and my treadmill shoe, is now this one I’m reviewing here, and “trail” for me just means not pavement (I’m not an obstacle racer, a mudder, a scrambler, I just prefer to not run on pavement). My race shoe remains the Carbon X on the road, and if I do any offroad footraces I’ll have to see what I’ll use. If the Elevon 2 had more forefoot cushion it would be my training flat for road surfaces as well, but the Bondi B has that forefoot cushion the Elevon 2 doesn’t have quite as much of.

The Elevon 2 is made in 3 colorways, it’s $160. The shoe features a 5mm drop from heel to forefoot. Mens models come in half-sizes from 7 to 13 and then a size 14 and 15. The women’s version comes in half-sizes from 5 thru 11.