Help me decide: Hoka Speedgoat 2 or Salomon Sense Ultra for UTMB?

The Speedgoat 2 and Salomon Sense Ultra, and BFF Oden. They are entirely different shoes, but worthy in their own right. The plush Speedgoat barrels over trails, whereas the Sense Ultra dances through them.

On Friday I leave for France and UTMB, so much of this week is dedicated to race preparation. One decision with which I’m struggling is my footwear. I have narrowed it to:

  • Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 (read my review; buy now), and
  • Salomon Sense Ultra (read my review; buy now).

Ultimately, I may be obsessing over a detail that matters little. Other factors (e.g. training, race strategy, nutrition/hydration) will play a much greater role in my performance. But, still, if one shoe will be a few minutes faster than the other, I’ll gladly take that advantage.

My current plan is to fly over with both pairs, and make a last-minute decision based on course reconnaissance. But I’m sharing this internal debate in the hopes of hearing your thoughts and insights.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 v. Salomon Sense Ultra

The Speedgoat 2 and Sense Ultra differ primarily in their cushion and stability, or lack thereof.

The Speedgoat is classic Hoka, with a generous 32/27.5-mm stack height (heel/toe). On technically easy and moderate trails, I can barrel forward with near reckless abandon. But they’re inherently top-heavy, and are therefore clumsy when the footing is loose, off-camber, or talus-y.

The Sense Ultra is lower to the ground (26/18 mm heel/toe), so it’s more stable and agile. On technically moderate and difficult trails, I can nimbly dance through. But they’re much less forgiving on, say, gravel beds or pounding downhills.

I have run fast and far in both shoes. I wore the Sense Ultra for Bighorn 100, and was on course record pace until the trail degraded into a slip-and-slide. More recently, I wore the Speedgoat 2 on a new FKT for the 27-mile Pawnee-Buchanan Loop.

Fit, traction, and durability are generally equal, at least within the context of a 100-mile race and within their much larger differences. Both weigh 11.0 oz in my size 11.5.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 2, developed with superstar Karl Meltzler, is classic Hoka: it’s lightweight and generously cushioned, and offers a smooth ride. For its height, it’s remarkably stable.

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra is a form-fitting all-purpose trail shoe, with precision fit, reliable outsole grip, and a happy-medium balance between cushioning and feel.

Have thoughts or insights on what shoe would be best for UTMB? Please leave a comment.

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