Tell us about the Zinal (weight, stack height, unique design elements, etc.)
What are you most proud of in the Zinal?
The Zinal came together to be one of our lightest and fastest trail shoes to date. With a 22mm/18mm stack height its one of the lowest stack heights in our line. Our goal on this project was to strip back as much as possible without losing the HOKA experience. While you won’t find the super plush ride of the Speedgoat, it’s still a very well cushioned ride featuring our popular Profly midsole setup that offers a more capability on technical terrain. Another area we really focused on simplifying which was the upper. It became a nice balance of performance and sustainability which is something I’m most proud of on this shoe. By using less (processes, overlays, materials etc.) it gives us a lighter product and is more responsible design wise by reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ on a shoe and only focusing on what we need. For instance, we use an engineered mesh that is comprised of recycled yarns and TPU that was heat pressed in areas that gives protection while avoiding the need for additional processes such as film overlays.
Where did the inspiration for the Zinal come from?
I took a lot of inspiration for this project from spending time outside and on trails. I don’t do much trail running, so getting outside and getting immersed in the environment for which the end product will be designed in is always big help from a functional standpoint. For the overall design direction for the project, we wanted the Zinal to look and feel fast, so I referenced a lot of dynamic forms but also incorporated more nature-inspired organic details.
Who is the shoe for?
While this shoe is designed to provide a fast-moving HOKA experience for shorter distances on technical terrain, you don’t need to be an elite trail runner to enjoy the Zinal. The goal in everything we do is to encourage all athletes to move and get outside, and the Zinal helps expand our offering by providing an option that isn’t as maximally-cushioned as some of our others, which can be appealing to more athletes. It’s a fun shoe that is designed to combine the right amount of HOKA cushioning and support for someone competing in a trail race, but is also a great option for anyone who is looking for a lower-to-the-ground experience.
This project has a been a great learning opportunity, and a big thanks to Matt Head for the guidance and insights throughout the design process. I also really appreciate working with our particular triad – it was a very collaborative project between us and can’t thank them enough: Jared Smith, the PLM for this project who is a top notch trail runner and brings a ton of insight from that space; and Mark Tran on development, who really got down to the details, encouraging new materials and processes while still making sure the shoe worked!