La Sportiva Unika vs. Hoka Evo Mafate

I coach and I run. Lots. I run in a lot of shoes. The tubs in my basement reflect this and Goodwill loves me. So thank you shoemakers and my wallet thanks you too.

I live in North Idaho where It is steep and rocky with teasers of single track and enough Forest Service roads to get lost on.

I am currently in a battle of wills. Will I use the new LaSportiva Unika or the new Hoka Evo Mafate today…..Let me break them down for you in layman’s terms. All too often too much technical gibberish is presented and it leaves me wondering exactly what was said.

So let’s get to it.

La Sportiva Unika

The Unika hit the market in the last couple of months claiming to be the first mountain shoe made completely in Europe. Uh o.k. You can have that one. Initially out of the box I felt a little constricted on the fit but not bad. It was secure and solid and wrapped my foot like a sock. I loved the lacing system which consisted of a black and yellow lace that cross over the foot. On my first run I found the laces irritating me in the front of my ankle so I tied them on the side and have had no discomfort since. La Sportiva’s new insole comes back to its original form after impact so hypothetically once could see close to 1000 miles on a pair. The insoles are NON-REMOVABLE.

Odd. I like a Sole insert but could not use one.

With a grandma hugging fit on my feet I headed out for a 15 miler on the crappiest crud I could find. The Unika provided exceptional cushioning and it was evident as I sat at home drinking a beer that my legs were not sore or stiff. Even the next day.

I could easily do 200 miles in these if I could do 200 miles. The traction is outstanding even on rocks and in the rain. Probably the best of any shoe I have worn. Comfort Grade A!!

Drop? Who cares as long as it ain’t zero, but that’s me.

How were my toes? Happy pups, lots of room.

The Good:

  • Fit: Secure throughout and roomie in the toe box.
  • Comfort: As soft as the pillow I put my head on but not over the top. It’s best feature.
  • Durability: 1000 miles? Justifies the price.
  • Great tread and grip: A fantastic long-distance shoe over technical terrain as long as you don’t want to rip the downhills.

Now the downside:

  • SLOW….on technical downhills I never felt like I could just let em’rip and this carried over to smooth single track where I felt I really had to work to get moving.
  • Insole: There is a thin material over the insole and after less than 50 miles it had worn through exposing the stitching on the bottom and sides which gave me hotspots. I remedied this with some old factory inserts. My guess is LaSportiva will address this problem in the future.
  • After initial break in I felt the shoe get squirrely and somewhat stretched out which resulted in some unpleasant foot positions when descending rubbage.

The Bottom Line:

The Unika is a great date but leaves you wondering “Should I ask her to Prom?”

La Sportiva Unika vs. Hoka Evo Mafate (Top)
La Sportiva Unika vs. Hoka Evo Mafate (Outsole)

Hoka Evo Mafate

Part 2 of this Battle of Wills is the Hoka Evo Mafate.

Typically I give a shoe the benefit of the doubt over a break in period and have no problem racing right out of the box as I did with these at the Smokechaser 30k in Priest Lake, ID 2 weeks ago.

The Good:

  • Fit: Typically the toe box is a bitch. To narrow for many of us but they nailed this one for me. Somewhere somebody listened to us.
  • Durability: Great material with Kevlar woven in to give you that secure midfoot fit. Love it and it breathes well keeping my dogs cool on a hot day. Vibram lugs on the sole. Nothing more to be said, VIBRAM.
  • Security: My ankles are fused. I’m a lucky guy. Hoka’s still can put me in precarious off camber positions where my foot is swimming on rocks. With the Evo’s they have addressed this through strategic placement of their kevlar material. They fit securely and snug so I feel as if my shoe is actually an extension of my leg. Loved it. Think beer can in a cozy.
  • Ride: Let em’ rip. On a technical (very rocky) downhill of 5 miles these absolutely flew. Okay I confess my ass is slow but I FELT like I was flying with no hesitation on foot placement and the grip was fantastic.


I would be lying if I said I had one.

The Bottom Line:

Take this shoe to Prom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *