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Hands-on Gear Review
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP Review
Cons: Average traction in loose sediment, Low durability, questionable water resistance
Bottom line: This boot provides incredible performance in some of the most essential areas for hiking boots -- Comfort, Stability, and Weight.
The latest addition to our arsenal of hiking boots is the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP, and we are sure glad we bought it. As expected from this manufacturer, the fatty sole and supple upper provides an explosion of comfort. What surprised us, though, was that this cushy ride was accompanied by significant stability in its high-cut collar while remaining lightweight. All other models this ankle-protective in our review weighed much more and weren't as much of a pleasure to wear. We love this model for keeping backpacking trips comfy on trails for days and days, winning our Top Pick Award for Lightweight Hiker.
While this is our Top Pick Award winner, the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit Mid WP is an excellent choice for high comfort when less stability is needed. Despite a few differences, these boots are quite similar, with the Tor Ultra Hi being the beefed up, higher performing, more expensive model. If you prefer better performance across the board, with increases in traction, durability, and water resistance, check out the Editors' Choice Award winner, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hiking Boots of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP wins our Top Pick for folks needing a lightweight hiking boot. Costing $230, the high price equals high performance on long-distance backpacking trips due to its light-weightedness, high-cut ankle protection, and supreme comfort. The upper consists of nubuck leather, mesh, and rubber around an eVent waterproof, breathable lining. The midsole is a blend of EVA and RMAT on top of a Vibram MegaGrip and RMAT outsole.
The Tor Ultra Hi WP shines in this metric. Our lead author found no need to break in this model. He developed no hot spots on a five-mile hike straight after unpacking them from the box. Like its shorter sibling, the Tor Summit Mid, the thick soles on this pair provide incredible cushioning on all surfaces. Our toes had space in the toe box to wiggle around, remaining comfortable on long descents. Even under the weight of a heavy pack, these shoes kept our feet happy for miles on end as the moderate rocker of the sole pushed us forward.
We preferred the lacing system of this pair of HOKA's to the mid-cut Tor Summit. It consists of a leather cutout eyelet at the start of the laces, followed by four metal eyelets. In the middle of the lacing system, two eyelets are located side by side. Choosing the eyelets further forward makes the lacing system tighter across the top. Opting for the eyelets located further back make the heel box feel more snug. We liked the adjustability to accommodate for personal preference. Two hooks at the top of the upper allow the user to tighten the collar around the ankle with ease. The heel box felt great to the feet of our reviewers, with no slippage reported. We like this lacing system, but missed the lace-locking feature found on models like the Quest 4D 2 GTX and the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid.
We hiked several miles in 75 degrees Fahrenheit weather without having our feet sweat profusely, which we appreciate from a high-cut boot. The eVent lining under the leather upper breathes well enough for our liking. The Vasque Inhaler was the most breathable boot reviewed if you're looking for hot weather hikers.
This boot combines a high ankle shaft and collar (6.125 inches from footbed to highest ankle point) with a wide base (4.625 inches across the forefoot of the sole) to provide above-average stability. Our ankles felt safe and secure, especially when laced tight. The torsional rigidity of this model is second in this review only to the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX, which has a mega-stiff sole. HOKA achieves this through the uber-thick rubber mid and outsoles, while most other hiking boots have an internal shank. The Tor Ultra Hi WP is stiff in the midsection, yet mesh cutouts in the leather upper at the forefoot allow for flexibility in the forefoot. This shoe is one of our favorites for a stiff middle and flexible front, making long distance hauls stable and comfortable.
This boot also has the widest heel in the review, adding stability at the back of the foot at the price of bulkiness and less agility. If you do start to tip or twist sharply, the ankle collar is not as supportive as the stiffer ones found on the Salomon, Lowa Renegade, and Arc'teryx Bora2 Mid models.
The outsole of the Tor Ultra Hi WP consists of textured lugs made from two types of rubber, one soft and pliable and one more dense and stiff. The soft rubber was a great match for hiking across granite boulders of the Sierras, conforming to and gripping the bumps and large grains in the rock. These boots performed well on wet granite, too. Our testers were able to cross rocky mountain streams without any slippage.
This boot's traction in loose sediment is where its performance in this metric falters. In scree and mud, our footing wasn't always trustworthy. The lugs are not aggressive enough to excel in this type of terrain, unable to bite into soft earth. If your hikes bring you to sloppy terrain, check out the Quest 4D 2 GTX or St. Elias GTX.
Lastly, the soft rubber underfoot allows for decent smearing ability, yet the oversized and extra wide sole makes edging and traversing across rocks next to impossible in this model. If you like moving across rock slabs and edges as much as you do trails, our Top Pick for Scrambling, the Asolo Jumla GV, is for you.
Judging by appearances, this boot looks like it should fall into the midweight hiker category with the other high-cut, leather boots. On our scales and our feet, however, this pair tells a different story. We measured a size 11.5 pair to weigh 2.24 lbs, making them the fourth-lightest model among the competition. By comparison, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX weighs a full pound heavier. The low-density rubber found in the soles and the mixture of lightweight synthetics with the nubuck leather in the upper contributed to this model's impressive weight-to-stability ratio.
The Tor Ultra Hi WP is much more stable that its lightweight counterparts. We were surprised that it tipped the scale just 0.8 ounces more than the mid-cut Tor Summit while providing much more stability. And compared to the lightest model reviewed, the Columbia North Plains 2 Mid, this boot's ankle protection, torsional rigidity, and overall stability is not even on the same playing field.
The flood height is above average at 5.5 inches, yet this model didn't excel in this metric. We received mixed results in our waterproof test. The first model we ordered leaked at its mesh cutouts in the forefoot after being submerged for less than one minute, wetting our socks and gifting us a soggy mile hike out.
Not wanting to judge this model solely on a potential manufacturers' defect, we bought a second pair and put them through our five-minute water-wading test. This time, our socks stayed bone dry when moving around, despite our tester constantly crouching down to flex the forefoot to induce a leak. So, one pair leaked and the other didn't, resulting in a low water resistance score. None of the other models leaked during our field experiences or waterproof tests. If you hike in wet climates or conditions, the most water resistant boots included in our review are the Salomon Quest and Lowa Renegade pairs.
Looking at user reviews across multiple online retailers, this pair has many complaints concerning its lack of legit waterproofing. This leads us to consider that our experience with the first pair wasn't unique, and that waterproofing in this model could be problematic.
The Tor Ultra Hi WP's durability doesn't compare to the beefier midweight models in this review. In our experience, full leather uppers, like that of the St. Elias GTX, tend to last longer than mixes of nubuck leather, mesh, and rubber, as found on this model. Additionally, we expect the soft RMAT rubber found throughout the outsole will wear out faster than more dense rubber soles like the Asolo Jumla or Salomon Quest. As with any boot with a large area of exposed, soft rubber in the midsole, expect it to get roughed up in rocky terrain, but not to affect performance. Online reviews mention the tendency for this boot to delaminate quickly, but in our testing period, we saw now signs of this.
This is an excellent boot for backpacking trips lasting several days and lots of mileage without encountering technical terrain. They will keep you comfortable from mile one to one hundred and offer stability at a low weight to keep you that much fresher with each step. We also think this is a great boot for folks who have a history of knee, hip, or back injuries and pain, as the thick layer of cushioning in the soles provide a low-impact ride. This is not our first choice for technical trails where nimble footing is key, though, as the thickness and width of the soles are too clumsy.
While $230 isn't cheap, this model offers decent value. It's tough to find a pair of high-cut hikers that perform on the same level for less than $200. And, compared to several other models that cost the same or more but fared worse in our tests, the price doesn't seem so high.
We became fans of the Tor Ultra Hi WP on day one. Lacing them up for the first time, these shoes feel fast, lightweight, and surprisingly stable. Most of all, HOKA ONE ONE turned up comfort to 11 with this boot, reducing foot fatigue and soreness better than any other model tested. Comfy feet make for great backpacking trips, and this pair nails it.
— Ross Robinson
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