Recommended price: £160
Weight: 720g (pair, women’s size 5.5)
French company Hoka One One (the name comes from Maori meaning “to fly over the earth”) is well known for it’s running shoes, often favoured by ultra distance competitors and characterised by the outsize midsole and deep layered cushioning. Hoka have now added 5 walking boots to their stock as a lightweight alternative to lower profile trail shoes. I’ve been testing out the women’s Sky Toa since late summer and through the autumn.
First thing to mention is the bulky outline – the large midsole gives Hoka’s a distinctive bulbous look. The look is forgotten as soon as the boot is on,; they are instantly comfortable. The thick cushioning combined with the very low weight means they are a delight to wear, more akin to wearing a running shoe than walking boot. I found them surprisingly supportive, especially with the ankle cuff laced up tightly and the pronounced 4mm heel to toe drop rocker motion was not obtrusive. Hoka says that this design promotes a more-natural gait, and I’ve certainly found them very comfortable over long distances.
Made from a synthetic upper the cut is mid height and provides plenty of cushioning over the achillies. Having wide feet the fit was great for me – they have a fairly wide toe-box, though if you have narrower feet this may lead to movement within the shoe when heading downhill. The laces could be a bit longer and unlike many of Hoka’s running shoes there is no specific wide version. Lined with eVent, the shoes have proved very waterproof so far, good for stream crossings, wet undergrowth and showers. Whilst I haven’t worn them in very warm conditions, I do have hot feet, and they’ve felt reasonably breathable although the sheer amount of material around the ankle compared to a lower trail shoe does make them warmer.
The Vibram sole provides adequate traction but the lugs are not deep enough to give confidence in very slippy conditions; I’d prefer heavier boots for pathless terrain. A reasonably tough rand protects the toe and there’s been no abrasion visible so far. The main fabric of the upper has started to wear slightly at the traditional weak point where it bends as my foot flexes, so I doubt that these are going to be hugely long lasting.
In summary I think these are a great option for long day walks and multi-days where weight (and speed – these are comfy enough to run in) is a factor, or when there’s a fair bit of harder surface walking. I’d certainly wear them for the West Highland Way and similar. However I’d worry about them getting wet and not being able to dry out in prolonged wet conditions and would prefer the option of a non-lined version. The Hokas are well made and offer more support and comfort than many traditional trail shoes.
Women’s version available in half sizes and two colours (dark blue and turquoise). The men’s version is the same design and price, slightly heavier and comes in 3 different colours.