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Hands-on Gear Review
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP Review
Cons: Rocker takes getting used to, 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.
Boot Type: Lightweight Hiker/Day Hiker
Width options?: None
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
The freshest addition to our stockpile of hiking boots is the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP, and boy are we glad we bought it. As we've come to expect from this company, the substantially cushioned sole and pliant upper grants an eruption of comfort. What astonished us was that this fabulous ride was supplemented by critical stability in its high-cut collar - all while remaining lightweight. Other competitors that provided similar ankle protection weighed loads more and just weren't as delightful to wear. We awarded this model our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures, as it combines exceptional comfort for days on end.
While this model is the winner of our Top Pick award, we'd also recommend the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX when a high level of comfort is necessary, but less stability is fancied. Despite their differences, these models are quite comparable, though the Tor Ultra Hi is more robust and offers a higher level of performance (along with a higher price tag). If you favor extraordinary performance across the board, with an emphasis and increase in water resistance, durability, and traction, our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX, might be the ticket.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Hiking Boots for Men of 2018
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. New out of the box, our lead tester took them on a 59-mile fastpack along the John Muir Trail over three days and had zero blister issues or foot pain. 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. With a heel to toe drop of 4mm (Hoka One One is known for its zero drop shoes, which we do not recommend for backpacking), these shoes employ rocker, which might take some time getting used to. The rocker does make you feel like you are in the backseat when hiking uphill on moderate grades.
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 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 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 Quest 4D 2 GTX.
We hiked long days in both hot and rainy 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 Merrell Moab 2 Vent Mid 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 falls somewhere in the middle of our test, but HOKA achieves its stability 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 most extensive 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, Scarpa, and Adidas Terrex Scope High models. We did determine that stability was lacking when it came to edging; this was due to the width of the sole, making off trail talus travel, snow travel and rock scrambling less secure.
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 slabs of the Sierras, conforming to and gripping the bumps and large grains in the rock. These boots performed well on wet and muddy rock, 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 the soft earth. If your hikes bring you to sloppy ground, check out the Quest 4D 2 GTX or Asolo Power Matic 200 GV.
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 Scarpa Zodiac GTX, 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 pair to weigh 2.3 lbs, making them the 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 than its lightweight counterparts. We were surprised that while it is less than an ounce lighter than the X Ultra Mid 2 and provides much more stability. Comparing it across the field, there is no comparison when it comes to the combination of light weight and support.
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.
Hiking through shallow streams, well below the flood level provided by the eVent material stitched inside, we found wet feet to be a problem. Luckily, our wet socks dried out quickly while hiking. The eVent material may be more breathable than waterproof, while most other models are the other way around. If you hike in wet climates or conditions, the most water resistant boots included in our review are the Salomon Quest and Scarpa Zodiac 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 Asolo Power Matic, 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 Scarpa 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 no 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.
— Ryan Huetter and Ross Robinson
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