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Hands-on Gear Review
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra HI - Women's Review
Cons: Expensive, oversized sole can appear bulky
Bottom line: The revolutionary design was definitely a risk on the part of the manufacturers, but it proved to be a success, as the Hokas took the cake for the most comfortable boots in our review.
From their first moments out of the box, we could tell that the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras were a revolutionary boot. They do not look like an ordinary hiking boot whatsoever. They are HUGE, brightly colored, and could even be confused with clown shoes. Lets just say we were skeptical. Until we put these boots on and realized that they were different than any other hiking boot we have tried.
These boots have taken six years of HOKA's running shoe technological developments and implemented them to create the most comfortable hiking boot out there. They are the only boot that scored a 10 in comfort on our metrics ratings — no boot compared to them in that category. A hike in Grand Teton National Park proved that the HOKAs are making their way into the minds of local outdoor enthusiasts. Many of the mountain guides that work in the Tetons swear by these boots — their job entails a 14-mile round trip commute from the valley floor at 6,800 ft to a base camp at 10,500 ft. On the trail, we were surprised to see HOKAs on the feet of nearly every one of the guides. Their prevalence spurred us to try them out…we were not disappointed.
The HOKAs didn't slack in other departments either, scoring highest overall in our metrics ratings. For these reasons, the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra receives our Editors' Choice Award this year. They are exceptional in comfort and support while still managing to hold up well on uneven, wet, difficult terrain with the best of the more traditional hiking boots we tested.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Women's Hiking Boots of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The comfort and stability that the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra provides makes this boot a top pick for long distance hiking or backpacking, while the lightweight running shoe-inspired design makes them a great option for day hiking. This revolutionary boot is the top pick for any hiking objective.
Unlike most other hiking boots, the HOKAs have very thick, soft soles. The three components that make HOKAs different is what they call the "marshmallow, the rocking chair, and the bucket seat." The marshmallow is the midsole that is oversized, both in height and width, providing lots of cushion for the foot. The rocking chair is the rocker that is added to the sole, turning both the toe and the heel up a bit, to help maintain an even gait. Finally, the bucket seat is the deep heel cup that keeps the heel in place and adds comfort.
We were skeptical of this newfangled running technology implemented into hiking boots, but the HOKAs proved to be comfortable all day long, even on off-trail hikes on rugged, steep terrain. There was little break-in period and no sign of discomfort, even after hours on our feet. The only boots that came close to the HOKAs in terms of comfort were the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 - Womens, the Vasque Monolith - Womens, and the Keen Targhee II Mid - Women's, but the HOKAs really took the cake in this category.
The same aspects that added to the incredible comfort of these boots contribute to their supportive and stable nature. At first, there was concern that the height of the midsoles would make these boots feel unstable, but this ended up not being an issue at all. The height of the ankle shaft added support and prevented rolling.
We wore these boots on steep, technical descents in creek beds and drainages where loose rock, log crossings, and bushwhacking were inevitable, and the HOKAs stood up to the challenge. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's also provides plenty of support, but in a more traditional way — stiff sides and a sturdy sole, rather than a lightweight upper and an oversized sole like the HOKA has.
Incredibly, the HOKAs weigh only 1 lb 13 oz, though they are the largest boots we tried. They provide the support, comfort, and water resistance that is comparable to an all-leather, traditional hiking boot, but weigh almost 8 oz less than the Lowa Renegade and 3 oz less than the Oboz Bridger Mid - Womens. It was this aspect that won us over in the end. The boots never felt heavy, even after a full day of hiking.
The HOKAs have 5 mm lug depths and a thoughtful, aggressive tread pattern that kept us on our feet on the steepest, most rugged terrain. The lugs are well-positioned along the outside of the sole, which adds stability overall. Beyond the tread pattern, it is the rubber that is outstanding on the Tor Ultras. HOKA uses a rubber compound that rivals some of the stickiest boots out there. The Vibram MegaGrip outsoles felt incredibly grippy on boulders, while the tread pattern kept us on track in dirt and gravel.
Boots that came close in comparison in terms of tread were the Lowa Renegade GTX and the Ahnu Montara. The Oboz Bridger Mid BDry also received high praise in traction, but more due to the aggressive tread pattern that provided unbeatable stability.
Made with HOKA's eVent waterproof and breathable technology, the Tor Ultra proved to be as water-resistant as its competitors. The uppers are nubuck leather and mesh and appear thin, which allows the foot to breathe, but they are waterproof enough to endure creek crossings and perform in rain. The height of the sole also helped keep water out in small puddles and streams; the water didn't even reach the fabric of the upper. Using the same eVent technology as the HOKAs, both of the Ahnu boots proved that they are also incredibly waterproof and breathable.
The eVent liners on the Ahnu boots proved that they are also incredibly waterproof and breathable. The Salomon X Ultra GTX 2 - Womens was the closest competitor to the HOKA in terms of water resistance. The Salomon X Ultra were the HOKA's closest competitors in water resistance, as both boots kept our feet dry after being submerged for over 3 minutes in moving water. The GoreTex uppers of the Salomon protected our feet, but the height of the ankle shaft was lower than that of the HOKA, allowing water to get in from the top in deeper crossings. The HOKAs have not only a water resistant coating, but they also have super thick soles and a higher ankle height that kept us above the water for most of the creek crossings we encountered.
During the testing period, the Tor Ultras showed very little signs of wear. The nubuck and suede leather upper held up on the trail and are what sets these boots apart from HOKA's other running shoes and lighter weight hiking boots. This leather upper overlays on top of an eVent membrane, giving the boots a feel of durability throughout. We were concerned about wear on the super-sized sole, but during our testing period, the sole showed little sign of wear. Because of their simpler design with fewer seams, and certainly thinner soles, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's, Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX, and Oboz Bridger Mid BDry - Womens offered a touch more durability, scoring 9 out of 10s for this metric.
In general, boots with a simpler design seemed to be more durable, as long as they were constructed well. The HOKAs are very well made, despite having a complicated design, and you get what you pay for in terms of durability for these boots. Similar to the HOKA, the Lowa Renegade falls into the more expensive category, but the boots are very well made and will certainly last a number of years of steady use.
The final reason the Tor Ultra is our Editors' Choice is the boots' versatility. From running to long distance backpacking, the Tor Ultra performs exceptionally well. The ankle collar keeps water and debris out while stabilizing the foot, making them a good option for snowy, wet, rough terrain. The added cushion and stability from the oversized midsole makes them the most comfortable boot we tried. And, they are lightweight enough to work as a running shoe for long distance or adventure running. These boots work best on long distance hikes, either multi or single day trips. They handle well on rugged terrain, so they are great for trips above tree line.
The HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras cost around $230 online, making them the most expensive boots that we tested, along with the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid. With boots, though, you really do get what you pay for. If you have struggled with pain and discomfort while hiking, the Tor Ultras might be able to fix some of those woes. If that is the case, then these boots are definitely worth the extra few dollars. These boots are durable and versatile as well, which allows them to be used in numerous settings. With comfort, ingenuity, and craftsmanship in mind, the Tor Ultras are worth every penny.
As the company's first stab at making a boot specifically for hiking, HOKA ONE ONE did an amazing job when they created the Tor Ultra. These boots are amazingly comfortable, require no break-in period, and have so much cushion underfoot that knees and hips feel supported all day. The leather and eVent inner membrane provides support along the top of the foot and around the ankle and also keeps water out. The lacing system was well thought out and adds adjustability and support, especially around the lower ankle area. The Tor Ultras held up on rocky, off-trail adventures in the Yosemite backcountry with their grippy rubber soles and smart lug placement. Overall, the Tor Ultras were hard to beat in all of our metric ratings, but their comfortable design was what really took the cake.
— Jane Jackson
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