Gear Review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP

Thoughts on the maximalist hikers after a 25 mile test on the Pacific Crest Trail

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TF Editors

We love technology and innovation and all that good stuff as much as the next outdoors-focused publication does, but when it goes to footwear we’re often drawn to more classic designs. We’ve hiked hundreds of miles across multiple continents in Danners, and never regretted it. But recently curiosity got the better of us, and we went the opposite direction when gearing up for a recent backpacking trip in Washington’s rugged Goat Rocks Wilderness. The complete opposite direction.

Hoka One One makes super crazy looking, extremely high performing running shoes. Our resident running expert runs marathons in them, and couldn’t be happier about it. And now, the brand with a name as funny as their its designs, makes hiking boots. So now you see how we wound up here—or rather, there, in remote PNW, wearing the Tor Ultra Hi (aka Assassins),

After a lace swap to ever so slightly tone down the loud color way, we hit the trail more or less straight out of the box. Hoka’s signature midsole and Meta-Rocker geometry make for an ultra-cushioned boot that promotes a natural stride on both smooth and uneven terrain. Throughout the initial 25 or so mile test hike we encountered everything from soft packed pine needles and talcum powder-like dirt to sharp rock shards and variable gravel, and hardly felt a difference, even under the weight of a 30 lb pack. The Vibram MegaGrip outsole helped here too, as well as with log crossings and creek fordings, which also offered a few opportunities to test the eVent waterproofing (it worked).

As it goes when wearing new boots, finding the right sock and lacing combination is key—a classic Goldilocks situation. Though thicker socks felt more secure, after some experimentation thinner socks proved the better route. The extra room allowed for a more comfortable fit and stable feel created in part by a toe box built for full natural toe splay. The combination of leather and tough nylon mesh provided support around the forefoot and ankle—key for elevation gains and loses.

Weight-wise, the boot comes in at 17oz—14.7 oz for women's sample size—making it not the lightest on the market by any means, but considerably less than what we're used to. A fair trade-off for all the added cushion, we suppose.

Stylistically, like most all Hoka products, the Tor Ultra Hi is absolutely an acquired taste. For us it’s so ugly it’s beautiful. So long as your boots are the most striking piece of your otherwise subdued kit, you’ll be fine. Swapping out the laces or taking a sharpie to some bits makes sense too, and won’t negatively impact the performance.

The maximalist boot is designed to get you where you need to go, rain or shine, across most any terrain, and comfortably at that. When you’re hiking double-digit mileage days one after another, your dogs will be barking, no doubt. But with the Tor Ultra Hi, they’ll likely whine a bit less so.

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Published 09-20-2017

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