Gear Review: Hoka One One Sky Toa Boot
I tested the Hoka One One Sky Toa from April to June and discovered a nostalgia and new appreciation for the hiking boot. I always wear trail runners when I hike, so wearing boots on trail felt new and different. Years ago I had trouble getting my feet into boots (in the same way it’s hard to get your feet into ski boots) and so I stopped trying to wear them.
This was my second time wearing Hokas—my first pair of Hokas were Speedgoat 3s—and the Sky Toa surprised me by being able to function and feel as good as its “low-top,” ankle-height counterparts. Like any low-top trail runner, the Sky Toa is a fast, lightweight, stable option. They are a piece of cake to get on and off.
Hoka One One (pronounced “Ho-Kah Own-ay Own-ay,” which in Māori means “to fly over the earth”) is a French company with roots in the French Alps. The founders made shoes first for themselves and later shared their shoes, whose full names is often shortened to “Hokas,” with friends and beyond. Initially envisioned to be minimalist running shoes, they evolved into maximalist, yet still lightweight, shoes with generous cushioning, a metarocker, and superior stability.
Designed for mobility, speed, stability, and plenty of cushion, the Sky Toa is one of five boot-model options from Hoka. This boot proves hiking boots have come a long way since the days of clunky, heavy leather boots. The Sky Toa moves with agility, precision, and dependability over rugged, rocky, gnarly, or uneven terrain just like a trail runner. Keeping feet and ankles cushioned, padded, and water out, these aren’t the heavy, stiff, or uncomfortable hiking boots of past decades.
Hoka One One Sky Toa At-a-Glance
Weight: 13.26 ounces (size 7)
Heel-toe drop: 4.00 mm
Anyone familiar with Hoka trail runners will notice a similar fit in the Sky Toa. They look, feel and move like a “low-top,” below the ankle trail runner, compared to more traditional hiking boot that comes up and around the ankle.
The Sky Toa is a great option for anyone looking for a boot but still with the superior design and features of a Hoka trail runner—agility from a lightweight shoe, stability from a Vibram® Megagrip hi-traction sole, comfort of Rangi sole and efficient movement.
It’s been about 20 years since I’ve worn or owned a pair of hiking boots or high-tops (we’re talking middle school), so trying out a pair was new and nostalgic at the same time. Technically, the Sky Toa is a boot, but feels more like a “high-top” trail runner.
The Sky Toa is designed to hike fast and stay agile, something not usually associated with hiking boots. The plush cushion and sole is less thick than other Hokas, like the Speedgoats, but still extremely generous and heavenly for feet.
I found the performance, speed, and feel of the Sky Toa equal to that of the Speedgoat 3, with only slightly less “rocking” motion. The main difference is the extra inch of material and laces that come up to protect and surround the ankle and Achilles. That extra material means your foot might run a bit warmer than a trail runner where the ankle is bare, but the footbed breathes well to make up for this. Footing feels sure, stable, and grippy (yes, grippy) with multidirectional lugs (lugs are the teeth or tread of the sole) of a Vibram® Megagrip high-traction sole.
Circumstances of Review
I tested the women’s Sky Toas for two months of weekend hikes and backpacking on Virginia and West Virginia sections of the Appalachian Trail, including the infamous (or famous for those who love repetitive hills) Roller Coaster, Annapolis Rocks, Weverton Cliffs, and Harpers Ferry. This meant I hiked on rocks, boulders, roots, mud, wet ground, some grass, and lots of elevation change.
It’s one thing to walk on even, clear, or flat terrain; it’s another to walk on uneven, jagged rock and repeating ascents and descents. The former usually means your feet are less fazed by the terrain; the latter means your feet and knees can be punished by terrain or undulating elevation changes to a point of discomfort. After four consecutive weekends of hiking the Roller Coaster, my feet and knees never ached (like I know is possible in a wrong-fitting shoe). Most days on trail, I even ran down hills to really pound them and bounced across rocks to see how they would hold up.
The SKYSHELL™ waterproof membrane of the Sky Toa keeps the inside of the boot dry. It also allows them to dry easily after a downpour or a misstep in a creek. For a trail that will be entirely wet or with constant knee-deep river crossings (that require feet to get wet), it’s worth noting that waterproof boots (or trail runners) aren’t always first choice as opposed to those that are not waterproof. However, for occasional or periodic bouts of rain or water, the Sky Toa will dry out well enough to avoid blisters from waterproof shoes that are known to sometimes let in water and fail to dry.
The only drawback of the Sky Toa is my feet ran slightly warmer than in a trail runner due to the extra coverage around the ankle and lower shin. But on a comfortable or cool day, a trail with thick brush that may irritate ankles, the extra protection of the Sky Toa is welcome.
Hoka One One Sky Toa Features
- eVent Waterproof bootie keeps your feet comfortable and dry
- Technical synthetic upper offers durability, breathability, and light weight
- Rangi™ midsole foam offers durable cushioning and a responsive feel
- Vibram® Megagrip high-traction outsole
- Multidirectional lugs for supreme grip on varied terrain
Comfort: The technical design of the Sky Toa makes it comfortable and smooth, even while moving over rugged or wet terrain. My feet were comfortable hiking or running all day long in them—even on repeated inclines and declines; and at the end of the day, my feet never ache or scream like is possible in a pair of without sufficient shock absorption or cushion.
Lightweight: Boots get a bad reputation for extra weight compared to a shoe or trail runner; but the Sky Toas are a mere four ounces more than the Speedgoat 3s. That’s only two ounces per foot or the weight of two pieces of bread (virtually unnoticeable by the foot). Don’t believe me? Tape a slice of bread to your foot for a mile and see if you notice the weight. It’s too light to notice.
Stability: On Hoka’s stability scale (neutral/moderate/stable), the Sky Toa is ranked “neutral.” I tend to roll my ankles but these boots ensured my steps and strides were stable, even while pushing it to run across rocks, boulders and uneven terrain. I never once rolled an ankle and even better didn’t feel nervous I would in them.
Cushion: Hoka ranks the Sky Toa as “responsive,” on its cushioning scale of “responsive-balanced-plush.” A generous cushion provides heel support even though Hoka says it is “minimal cushion for a connected feel.” The Hoka standard of cushion is more plush than most brands, but the Sky Toa stays true to its promise for feeling the close to the ground.
Vibram® Megagrip High-Traction Sole: The Sky Toa’s sole allows for increased traction with each step on different terrain including mud, rock, snow, dirt or rugged trail.
CMEVA foam midsole: The foam absorbs shock and has impact points for added stability. Hoka calls the cushioned midsole as “marshmallow soft” which I found to be a perfect description of the soft, plush feel they provide—no matter how tough or technical the terrain.
Waterproof: No water is getting into these boots without it coming in over the top.
Toe box: The roomy toe box is great for trail walking and hiking on flat or uphill ground; but if moving downhill my toes slid slightly more forward than in a smaller toe box. This didn’t bother me, though. For those with very narrow feet or other who prefer a very snug fit around your toes, the Sky Toa’s roomy toe box may frustrate you on a downhill.
Extra Material: With the extra couple of inches of material and laces of a boot, ankles are more insulated and may feel warmer than a low-top trail runner, but I found it barely noticeable. The Sky Toas do breathe –unlike the impenetrable casing of leather boots–and the tongue and upper laces can easily be loosened for more air flow in. But still if you’re feet run hot, this boot may frustrate you but another Hoka trail runner won’t.
Not Best for Thru-Hiking: Unless you’re a diehard boot person, thru-hikers opt for a low-top trail runner. There is no reason the Sky Toa can’t be used for a long distance thru-hike, but the Sky Toa may be more ideal for hikes in temperatures where extra warmth around the feet would be nice. If certain you want to thru-hike in boots, these would be a great choice.
Price: As hiking boots go, the Sky Toa is in the mid to high range at $170/pair. If you’ve got a few extra bucks or are ready to invest in an awesome boot, this is it. If you’re watching your budget, these will go on sale or may show up an REI garage sale for a bit cheaper.
Overall / Value
New hiking boots or trail runners usually run anywhere from $100-200. Hoka One One’s Sky Toa is on the upper end; however, these boots could last a long time or could be a go-to pair of trail shoes in cool, snowy, or rugged terrain. I wouldn’t wear on them for an extended hike of 500+ miles, simply because I prefer the less restrictive fit of a trail runner for long-distance hikes. But for diehard boot people (even among long distance section or thru-hikers), Sky Toas are a go-to.
Good footwear is a major investment in comfort and the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other with a smile. Boots that are stable, sure-footed, comfortable and easy to slip your feet into and out of like the Sky Toa translate into happy feet and knees, or more simply put “happy hiking.”
A Few Comparable Items
Comparable versions of boots include Salomon X Ultra Mid II GTXs or North Face Ultra Fastpack Mid GTX Boots, or Oboz Bridger (for cooler weather). While none of these have the same amount of plushness of the Sky Toa or the Vibram soles, they are similar in price, comfort, functionality and popularity among hikers.
Disclaimer: This product was donated for the purposes of review.
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