Hoka One One Sky Arkali - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sky Arkali has a unique style that is part approach shoe and part hiking shoe. The upper is lined with padded, stretchy mesh and covered with rubber and more rigid mesh. The midsole is oversized EVA, while the sole is Vibram rubber.
There is a reason that the comfort rating of our top-ranked women's hiking shoes counts as 25% of the overall score. You want good traction and a stable ride, weather resistance is a plus, and durability is valuable. But if your shoes aren't comfortable to wear, you won't have a good day out on the trail. The Sky Arkali delivers comfort all day long, with an oversized, cushioned midsole that we found to be plush and responsive.
Last year's Top Pick for Comfort is, not coincidentally, also made by Hoka One One. But with the Sky Arkali, we get slightly more bounce in the midsole, which left our feet feeling relatively fresh after pounding up and down lava trails. Additionally, the upper is lined with cushioned and flexible mesh that feels like a little pillow on the top of the foot. Lacking a waterproof liner, the Sky Arkali is also more breathable than other shoes we tested, leading to less sweaty feet and hands-down more comfortable!
The height of the upper provides extra protection from debris and vegetation, and it also feels soft for a little extra comfort around the ankle. At first glance, we thought the velcro straps were solving a problem that didn't exist, but when we used them hiking, we appreciated how functional they were! We could tighten the heel strap when we wanted our heels a little more locked down or loosen the top strap when we needed more flex. We made quick adjustments that ensured the Sky Arkali always fit like a glove.
Like our other highly rated shoes in this metric, these shoes withstood the additional weight of a heavy pack without compressing underfoot.
The Sky Arkali provides a good amount of arch support, even though the insole is relatively thin. They have wide midsoles, and rubber heel supports that provide excellent stability on uneven and steep slopes. The Arkali has one of the highest uppers we tested, and it closes softly and securely to keep out pebbles and sand.
The toe cap is covered with a very tough, high-abrasion rubber that withstood our challenging testing ground and protected our toes from bumps and scrapes.
There are a lot of eyelets for the laces, and they start far forward on the toe, allowing for a lot of adjustabilities. Because the Sky Arkali has a very roomy toe box and a lot of flex in the fabric, ladies with a very narrow foot may not be able to adjust the shoe for maximum lateral support. If you're looking for a stiffer shoe, there are better choices.
The traction on the Hoka One One Sky Arkali comprises a Vibram sole and multi-directional lugs. We had total confidence in them on loose scree and up and down slopes. They also shined on rock scrambles, where the lug pattern was noticeably more secure than others we tested. You might want a shoe with a stickier rubber sole for extended slab climbing.
No question, this shoe looks beefy! Surprisingly, it weighs in at 1 pound 11 ounces for the pair, the same as other shoes that look much lighter while being much more protective and comfortable. Hoka One One is primarily known for making running shoes, and we assume their lightweight know-how is being used on their hiking shoes.
The Sky Arkali does not claim to be waterproof, and it is not. While we hiked in light rain and puddles without getting wet feet, they leaked thoroughly when dunked in the bucket test. So while these shoes have the stability to hike for multiple days, we probably wouldn't choose them for an overnight trip when the weather can be unpredictable.
If you are a fan of this brand and find yourself in wet conditions, you should consider their other offerings or one of the other waterproof shoes in our test that are about the same weight.
Despite the massive amounts of exposed EVA midsole on the Sky Arkali, we didn't experience any durability issues during our test. EVA is soft and can be easily scraped and scratched with exposure to rocks and prickly vegetation. We are cautiously optimistic that this shoe will prove durable, as it has held up well in our tough testing ground. The high-abrasion rubber toe cap performed flawlessly and is double-stitched in place. The mesh upper is rugged and remains unsnagged.
However, our experience tells us that a shoe with more rubber and leather will likely prove more durable over time. If that is of big concern, then look at the leather shoes in our test, including the Editor's Choice.
Should You Buy the Hoka One One Sky Arkali?
If you're looking for maximum comfort in your hiking shoes, the Hoka One One Sky Arkali are at eleven on the comfort dial. The thick midsoles provide a responsive cushion, and the flexible upper is padded and easily dialed to a perfect fit. The look is not for everyone, and the lack of waterproofness limits its use. This pair was the most expensive shoe we tested and is a lot of money for a shoe that is not waterproof! The Sky Arkali has a unique style, and we loved hiking in it, but the price is certainly steep. If hiking and scrambling tricky terrain is your thing, however, and you like the wild style of the Sky Arkali, the comfort and protection will not let you down.
What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?
If finding the absolute most comfortable shoe is not the priority and you are ready to put traction or support ahead in your expectations, then the La Sportiva Spire GTX - Women's is a better option. This shoe is cheaper, one of the highest-scoring options in the review, and it only suffers slightly in the comfort metric with a score just below the Hoka. It also offers more than the Hoka for support, traction, weight, and water resistance. Overall, it is simply the better shoe; the lower price is just a perk.
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