HOKA Skyflow Review: Blurring the Lines

The HOKA Skyflow.

All shoes are reviewed by the Fleet Feet tester team, which represents a wide variety of goals, foot shapes, running locations and terrains. Reviewers pound the pavement, climb the hills, tackle the trails, then come together to compare notes. Debates ensue over the feel of the cushioning, the purpose of the shoe, and how it compares to last year’s model. While each reviewer has their own individual preferences, we hope that capturing our debates will help you make an informed decision.

A runner’s shoes are a bit like a worker’s tools–each one serves a different purpose. Just like you might reach for your Phillips screwdriver to tighten up that annoyingly loose cabinet knob, you’ll likely reach for your softest, most cushioned shoes for a recovery run.

With so many new categories of shoes emerging, from super trainers to super racers and everything in between, there are more options than ever to add to your runner’s toolbox. But does every shoe have to fit in a neat, box-sized category?

When testing the new HOKA Skyflow, reviewers were left wondering just where it stands. Is it a super trainer, designed for both racking up the miles and whittling down the pace? Is it a daily trainer, meant for simple, everyday runs? Maybe it's a speedwork shoe, built to cruise at top speeds while keeping you light on your toes? Or perhaps it's blurred the lines between all categories entirely.

We also chatted with run coach and shoe guru Amanda Brooks to get her thoughts on the new HOKA Skyflow.

"The Skyflow really surprised me, I wasn't sure where it would fit in to the HOKA line up," she says. "After taking it for a number of road runs of up to 6 miles, I found that the cushion felt great, but wasn't so plush that I started to sink in to the shoe. For anyone who has been running in the Bondi or the Clifton, I actually think is is going to be an upgraded experience!"

Did our reviewers agree? Read on to find out.

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Tech Specs

HOKA Skyflow

Weight 8.6 oz (W), 10 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot) 38 mm/33 mm (W), 40 mm/35 mm (M)
Heel-to-toe drop 5 mm
Category Neutral
Surface Road/track
Price $160
Comparable to… Brooks Ghost Max, New Balance Balos

Ride

Cushioning

Energy

Supercritical EVA midsole receives mixed reviews

The men's HOKA Skyflow, a brand-new offering from HOKA.

The HOKA Skyflow’s main characteristic that sets it apart from other daily trainers is its midsole, specifically the supercritical EVA foam used to create it. Supercritical foams are composed of many little cells, so they offer more responsiveness at a lighter weight than traditional midsole compounds–just imagine running on millions of small air bubbles. This type of foam isn’t used in HOKA’s classic daily trainers like the Clifton 9 or the Bondi 8. However, it is used in the Mach 6, which you’ll likely find us mentioning a lot in this review.

The Skyflow has a higher stack height and a softer feel than the Mach, which is HOKA’s snappy, uptempo trainer, and reviewers agreed it feels firmer and more responsive than the Clifton. I like to think of this shoe as a hybrid between the two. However, I don’t think it excels in any one area, unlike how the Clifton excels at easy, recovery miles and the Mach performs at high speeds.

“I took the Skyflow out for a few easy miles and enjoyed my experience,” says Brandon, who’s ramping up his mileage to prepare for another marathon build. “It’s one of those shoes where I can just set it and forget it. It’s a reliable daily trainer with no fuss included. It's slightly faster than the Clifton and I can feel the extra pop and sensation from the supercritical foam. The Skyflow is fun and playful while still maintaining a very stable ride due to its wide base. And if you’re worried about traction, don’t be. The Skyflow has tons of rubber for extra grip.”

Mandy enjoyed the ride of the midsole, too, saying, “The Skyflow feels firmer than a lot of HOKA shoes, which I prefer because it makes running a bit easier thanks to the added propulsion and stability. I took the shoes out on a four mile run after a long week of meetings, in 10000% humidity since it’s summertime in the south. Despite the weather, I felt my stride turn over automatically as the shoes pushed me forward and made the miles fly by.”

Travis, however, wasn’t so impressed.

“The supercritical foam that makes up the midsole just doesn’t pop for me because of the weight of the shoe,” he says. “I think that same supercritical foam was better executed in the Mach 6 because of its simplicity and lightness. The best type of run I had in the Skyflow was easier paces. Once I started to pick up the pace, it didn’t really respond well for me. However, like most HOKA shoes, the Skyflow has a solid base of support. Even with the higher stack height I felt connected to the ground.”

HOKA Skyflow uses a classic, comfy upper

The HOKA Skyflow.

The HOKA Skyflow uses a creel jacquard upper to provide a secure fit. It’s the same material used in the HOKA Mach X, a super shoe that combines elements of the Mach 6 with a rigid Pebax® plate. However, the upper feels much thicker and more heavily padded in the Skyflow, drawing an invisible line between super trainer and daily trainer.

I’m sometimes in between sizes, so I always go down a half size in HOKA shoes. The 6 fits me perfectly in the Skyflow. I have about a thumbnail’s width of room in the toe box, and the midfoot and heel feels locked down. The shoe offers a plush tongue which helps hold my foot in place, and I don’t need to use the extra eyelets to tie the marathon loop.

HOKA has been using a tapered heel collar in a lot of their shoes and, as someone who frequently suffers from blisters on the backs of my heels, I really appreciate it. All in all, this is a pretty standard upper for a daily trainer. It doesn’t have anything luxurious in the way of padding and cushion, but it’s not super sleek and lightweight either. So, I’d say this is definitely a “Goldilocks” shoe.

While most of the reviewers and I found the Skyflow to fit true to size, Brandon dissented.

“It seems like I was one of the lone few to feel that the Skyflow fit a little big,” he says. “This would have worked perfectly a half size down. Note to self–next time go a half size down like Caroline. Otherwise, the upper felt great. I appreciated the layer of reflective film that borders the lacing system. In the dark or when you push a flash to it, that area of the shoe brightens up and adds more visibility when out on the run. It’s a small detail, but it’s nice to have if you plan on running in the dark.”

HOKA Skyflow vs HOKA Clifton 9 vs HOKA Mach 6

Since I described the Skyflow as a hybrid between the Clifton and the Mach, it’s only fair that I compare the three shoes:

Tech Specs

HOKA Skyflow

HOKA Clifton 9

HOKA Mach 6

Weight

8.6 oz (W), 10 oz (M)

7.3 oz (W), 8.7 oz (M)

6.7 oz (W), 8.2 oz (M)

Stack height

38 mm/33 mm (W), 40 mm/35 mm (M)

29 mm/24 mm (W),

32 mm/27 mm (M)

35 mm/30 mm (W), 37 mm/32 mm (M)

Heel-to-toe drop

5 mm

5 mm

5 mm

Midsole foam

Supercritical compression-molded EVA

Compression-molded EVA

Supercritical compression-molded EVA

Price

$160

$145

$140

The HOKA Skyflow has the highest stack height out of all three shoes, and it’s also the heaviest. It offers the same supercritical midsole foam as the Mach, but most of the reviewers didn’t find it as responsive due to the higher weight.

“The Skyflow is faster and more responsive than the Clifton 9 but softer and more cushioned than the Mach 6. So, if you’re looking for a shoe in between the Clifton and the Mach, this would be a great choice for you,” says Brandon.

A man and a woman run together, both wearing the HOKA Skyflow.

How does the HOKA Skyflow compare?

We took a look at some comparable models to see how they stack up against the HOKA Skyflow. Here’s what we found:

Tech Specs

HOKA Skyflow

Brooks Ghost Max

New Balance Balos

Weight

8.6 oz (W), 10 oz (M)

9 oz (W), 10 oz (M)

7.3 oz (W), 9.2 oz (M)

Stack height

38 mm/33 mm (W), 40 mm/35 mm (M)

39 mm/33 mm

38.5 mm/32.5 mm

Heel-to-toe drop

5 mm

6 mm

6 mm

Price

$160

$150

$200

What do the HOKA Skyflow, Brooks Ghost Max and New Balance Balos all have in common? Besides similar stack heights and heel drops, they’re all brand new models that don’t align with traditional shoe categories. I can only describe them as “elevated daily trainers.”

The HOKA Skyflow is much firmer than the Balos, and a little bit lighter than the Ghost Max. If I had a speed or tempo session on the calendar, the Skyflow would probably be my second pick after the Balos. However, many runners prefer a firmer underfoot feel, in which case the Skyflow would likely take the top spot.

The women's HOKA Skyflow.

Who is the HOKA Skyflow best for?

If you’re looking for one shoe that can do it all, look no further than the Skyflow. It’s cushioned enough to handle long distances, and firm enough to pick up the pace with ease.

“I think this is just a solid, everyday trainer shoe,” Mandy says. “ It works for going fast, recovery runs or even running errands.”

However, if you’re looking for one shoe that excels at either long, slow runs or uptempo paces, you’ll be better off with one of HOKA’s more specialized shoes like the Clifton 9 or Mach 6.

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