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HOKA ONE ONE Sky Kaha Review

Feels like you are wearing pillows on your feet. With cushy soles and hi-cut protection, they are a great choice for those who value comfort on the trail.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $220 List | $219.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Amazing comfort, stable, great traction
Cons:  Not as capable in off-trail terrain, rockered sole feels unnatural at first
Manufacturer:   HOKA ONE ONE
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 30, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 15
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Stability - 20% 8
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The HOKA ONE ONE Sky Kaha is the most luxuriously comfortable hiking boot that we have had the pleasure of testing. While they may not resemble anything close to a classic hiking boot made of full-grain leather and a heavy Vibram sole, these unique boots are not only super comfy but also bring high-performance capability to the trail. After getting over our initial impression of jaw-dropping comfort, we were also pleased to discover just how much stability the high collar offers, making them a great choice for longer hikes with heavy packs as well as for adventures closer to home. We awarded the Sky Kaha our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures thanks to its stability and support, crazy comfort, and low weight.

Although this model won a top award, we tended to choose a lighter model that had a shorter collar like the Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX when we didn't need as much support, as on a short day hike. For those hikers who need the ultimate in traction, support, and durability and don't mind an extra bit of weight then the Editors' Choice award-winning Salomon Quest 4D 3 is sure to impress.


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Pros Amazing comfort, stable, great tractionComfortable out of the box, fast and nimble, great stability, support, and water resistanceBest choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes wellComfort of a trail runner with more support and stability, good all around performanceComfortable collar, great support and stability, lightweight for its class
Cons Not as capable in off-trail terrain, rockered sole feels unnatural at firstPotential durability issues with many seams, not as good for warm or hot environmentsWider fit, not the best lace locking systemNot as breathable in warm conditions, not great traction on smooth rockNot our favorite lacing system, lots of upper seams
Bottom Line Feels like you are wearing pillows on your feet. With cushy soles and hi-cut protection, they are a great choice for those who value comfort on the trail.Our Editors' Choice Award winner blends comfort, stability and traction in a boot that fits well right out of the box and provides top-notch performance.For rock scrambling, alpine approaches and moderate snow travel, the Zodiac GTX is a light weight mountain boot disguised as a hiking boot.This boot brings the comfort of a trail running shoe but adds in the support you would expect from a hiking boot, resulting in a capable performer in all trail conditions.This boot is a midweight hiker that weighs just under 3 lbs, while its high collar provides excellent stability and water resistance.
Rating Categories HOKA ONE ONE Sky Kaha Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Comfort (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Stability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
Traction (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
7
Weight (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
4
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
5
Water Resistance (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
Durability (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
Specs HOKA ONE ONE Sky... Salomon Quest 4D 3... Scarpa Zodiac Plus... Salomon X Ultra... Lowa Renegade GTX...
Weight per Pair (size 11) 2.5 lbs 3.3 lbs 2.66 lbs 2.28lbs 2.90 lbs
Boot Type Midweight/Lightweight hiker Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Narrow, Regular, and Wide
Waterproof Lining eVent Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Gore-Tex Gore-Tex Waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX
Upper Waterproof leather Nubuck leather and textile 1.8mm Suede Perwanger Waterproof PU coated leather Nubuck leather
Last Board/Shank None 4D Advanced Chassis BZ last Molded shank Full length nylon shank
Midsole EVA Dual density EVA PU + 3D EVA-MP Injected EVA DuraPU Monowrap Frame
Sole Vibram MegaGrip ContaGrip Vibram Drumlin / Mont Non-marking ContaGrip Vibram Evo
Warranty 45 days 2 year 1 year 2 year 1 year
Sizes Available 7 - 14 7 - 13 37 - 48 EU 7 - 13 7.5-15 US
Color Options Yes Yes No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Hoka Sky Kaha almost defies a being placed in a category. Is it a high-top trail running shoe, a lightweight backpacking boot, or something in between? Whatever designation you choose to label the Sky Kaha with, it is a phenomenally comfortable shoe that is not just a one trick pony. This boot does well in almost all of our review metrics, making it an easy decision to award it the Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures.

Performance Comparison


The Sky Kaha adds a lot of comfort to a day on the trail.
The Sky Kaha adds a lot of comfort to a day on the trail.

Comfort


The Hoka Sky Kaha boots blew us away with their extraordinary comfort. Seriously, these boots don't even give other models a fair fight trying to compete against it in this metric! Thanks to a blend of proprietary foam layers as the basis for its midsole construction, the one word to best describe the feeling of walking around in the Kaha is plush. Straight out of the box these boots delivered excellent all-day comfort, allowing our feet to move around without being loose, and our feet did not feel nearly as fatigued at the end of a long hiking day as with more minimal midsole constructions such as found in the La Sportiva Trango TRK.


We preferred the lacing system of this pair of HOKA's to the mid-cut Moab 2 Vent. 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 snugger. We liked the adjustability to accommodate personal preferences. Two hooks at the top of the upper allow the user to tighten the collar around the ankle with ease. The heel box felt excellent 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 Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX.

The midsole of these boots give a lot of cushioning  making hiking downhill a lot nicer on the knees.
The midsole of these boots give a lot of cushioning, making hiking downhill a lot nicer on the knees.

Our reviewers hit the high desert trails and while we did not need the additional waterproof eVent barrier at all times, appreciated how breathable it was. If your hikes don't take you into wet weather conditions, consider the most breathable boot in our test, the Moab 2 Mid.

Lacing is easy with comfortable lacing hooks.
Lacing is easy with comfortable lacing hooks.

Stability


The Hoka Sky Kaha has dimensions that make it one of the most stable boots for its weight that we tested. The forefoot width clocks in at 4.75 inches wide, giving it a wide platform that resists rolling, making this one of the safer boots to protect against rolled ankles. Its collar height is a towering 6.2 inches when measured from the footbed to the top of the collar, allowing it to be securely laced up above the ankle, providing the security of an ankle wrap with a lot more comfort and mobility.


The torsional rigidity of this boot is impressive, considering its lack of a shank. It has decidedly more rigidity than the Asolo Falcon GV or the Keen Venture despite a similar weight, and it is hard to detect this rigidity thanks to the rockered sole that promotes more of a rolling motion without the need to articulate as much at the ball of the foot as other boots.

For how plush the midsole feels  they have a surprising amount of rigidity to them  making them feel quite stable.
For how plush the midsole feels, they have a surprising amount of rigidity to them, making them feel quite stable.

While we want to emphasize the stability underfoot in the Sky Kaha, it is worth noting that the material that the collar is made of it lighter and softer than that of a more dedicated hiking boot like the Asolo Powermatic or the Salomon Quest 4D 3. Those boots have more rigid material around the ankle.

Running down hills felt super stable thanks to the high top support in the Kahas.
Running down hills felt super stable thanks to the high top support in the Kahas.

Traction


Featuring a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, the Sky Kaha is a top-tier boot when it comes to on-trail traction and grip. Other boots, such as the Asolo Falcon GV also use the MegaGrip rubber compound on their soles, but the tread pattern is not nearly as effective as the one found on the Hokas. These boots have a surprising amount of grip given their shallow lug pattern and excel in dry trail conditions as well as in wet and slippery situations.

The lugs are low-profile  but there is a lot of surface area contact with the trail  making these very grippy boots.
The lugs are low-profile, but there is a lot of surface area contact with the trail, making these very grippy boots.

They may not do nearly as well in loose terrain as boots with deeper set lugs like the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX, but in the majority of on-trail scenarios we encountered, we felt that the wearing the Sky Kaha was similar to riding a fat tire bike - there is so much sole surface area contacting the ground that you can't help but have amazing traction.


The shallow lugs do great in drier terrain  but are not as capable in wet and mucky conditions.
The shallow lugs do great in drier terrain, but are not as capable in wet and mucky conditions.

Weight


The Hoka Sky Kaha weighs in at a respectable 2.5 pounds per pair in a size 11. Sure, other boots weigh less, though for the height of the cuff and the amount of sole cushioning you get, this is an incredible boot for its weight. For a slight weight increase, you can gain top-tier traction in all mountain conditions with the Zodiac Plus or Trango TRK, though neither of these has the plush comfort found in the Sky Kaha. The Hoka Speedgoat Mid is light as a feather, weighing nearly a pound less, though does not have the same protection and stability. Simply said, the Sky Kaha has a comfort-to-weight ratio that is unmatched by any boot in this review, and for those who have aching knees and are looking for a way to increase their longevity on the trails, this boot is a perfect choice.


Water Resistance


These boots have a flood height of 5.5 inches, as measured from the bottom of the sole to the top of the waterproof/breathable eVent brand membrane. This liner provides an adequate barrier to incoming water, and we had no issue while testing this in our simulated 5-minute underwater test or testing during daily use in the backcountry.

The eVent liner extends all the way up to the collar  giving lots of protection from water getting inside.
The eVent liner extends all the way up to the collar, giving lots of protection from water getting inside.

The eVent material proved to be slightly better than other membranes at allowing foot perspiration to breathe, so our feet never felt hot or clammy. The upper material is made from full-grain leather, which is treated with a waterproofing agent and sheds water well on its own while new, but care should be taken to treat this leather with aftermarket products to keep it beading water off.


These boots passed the five-minute stream test without a problem.
These boots passed the five-minute stream test without a problem.

Durability


During our test period, we did not experience any durability concerns with the Sky Kaha, and they are new enough that not many other users have been able to report on long-term issues. This model has full-grain leather comprising it's upper and has beefed up its sole with firmer rubber compounds that should resist wear better than softer foam. The eyelets are for the most part protected with metal, and the traditional lacing system is easy to change out if a lace breaks in the field.


The leather upper makes this a more durable boot than those with synthetic uppers.
The leather upper makes this a more durable boot than those with synthetic uppers.

Best Applications


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.

Value


No one can argue the $220 for a pair of hiking boots is cheap, but these boots do offer good value, as they provide outstanding comfort, and if you desire a plush ride on the trail, then these are worth every penny.

Conclusion


We became fans of the Hoka Sky Kaha 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.


Ryan Huetter