Gear Review: Hoka One One Speedgoat and Tor Ultra Hi
The Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi is part of their debut lineup of shoes that transition the brand from running into the world of hiking and backpacking. They offer a full-grain leather upper for durability, and an e-vent bootie for full waterproof protection.
Specs and First Impressions
The Tor Ultra Hi boots lace all the way up to the toes, which Hoka says, and I definitely agree, “Offers control and comfort”. They also feature a rubber toe cap and Vibram sole. All of this is built around that classic Hoka look- the thick midsole. A pair of these weigh in around 17 ounces, which is incredibly light. The heel sits up at 32mm while the forefoot drops down to 28mm for a total drop of 4mm.
Unboxing them, the first thing that hit me was how light they were. It’s a lot of boot, so it’s funny how quick they fly up. It’s like you overcompensate for how heavy you think they will be, all of a sudden you’re throwing boots around your place. Seriously, these things look like they should be big and clunky, but they’re light as a feather for leather boots.
Slipping into them and lacing them up, they feel great. Now I must admit as a runner, I’ve run in a few different pairs of Hoka’s, and I like them. The boots feel very similar to the shoe. They feel like your foot is sitting a bit down into the midsole, and the rest of the shoe wraps around your foot.
The main things I look for in a shoe or boot for hiking are comfort, flexibility, durability, and stability. Slipping on the boot, the first thing I noticed was the width of the toe box. Compared to other Hoka’s that I’ve worn, the Tor has a lot more room than most of their running shoes. This is allows for a wider foot, thicker socks, and just a bit more wiggle room in general; perfect for those days when the feet start to swell (like every day on a long hike!).
The lacing system, going all the way to the front of the foot, seems to lend a little more adaptability to the shoe as well. It’s tough to describe the feel of the Hoka midsole unless you’ve tried them, but these hikers manage to have the same feel as the runners. The best way that I can describe the feeling is like a pair of lightweight moon boots. Somehow though, this feeling of padding and lightness still manages to convey the feeling of the ground beneath your feet as well.
Once I put them on, I was just a little bit nervous and bashful by how much the yellow really pops out! After I wore them a couple times though, I realized I didn’t give a hoot! It’s nice to have a little bling on the trail!
On the Trail
Next, I grabbed my keys and got on the road. Living in Salt Lake City, the trails are never more than 20 minutes away. My wife and I headed out for a 10-miler on a beautiful day through dirt, rock, wet, and dry terrain. I threw about 20 lbs. on my back before the hike to slightly imitate the burdens a thru-hiker has to deal with.
Traction: The traction was great. I felt solid on rocks, roots, and dirt. On wet-rock, traction still head up. This was the first time that I’d shouldered a pack with Hokas on and I must say it was great.
Cushioning: The cushioning sole seems to eat up all the jarring impact and you’re left with more time to ponder the wonders of the outdoors.
Waterproof: The E-vent waterproof bootie worked great as well. I crashed through and stood around in streams trying to see if I could get any wetness in on my socks…not a drop!
Comfortable toe-box: We gained about 1,000ft of elevation in the first part of this hike, so the second part allowed me to the Tor’s downhill ability. At the beginning I had a little bit of slippage, and my toes were pushing up into the toe-box on the way down. But after a quick stop to adjust/tighten the lacing, those issues were solved. I didn’t have the top half of the shoe tightened as much as I should have. I don’t often wear high, over the ankle boots because I like mobility and light shoes, but the Tor’s were so light that I didn’t notice carrying around any extra baggage. In fact, these boots are so nimble I’m certain I could run in them, which makes me really excited about snowshoe season!
Ankle support: The last thing I wanted to test was what kind of protection the above ankle support gave a clumsy hiker like myself. It’s hard to truly test rolling your ankle, but I gave it a good shot and noticed that they did indeed seem to create a nice buffer, effectively slowing down the process of a hard roll. It seems like it would be good protection for the trip-prone hiker like myself.
Breathability: Breathability or waterproofing: with footwear, you get to choose one. The first hike, and subsequent hikes in the Tor took place in the late summer for me. Each time my feet got hot, not uncomfortably hot, but hot nonetheless. They weren’t hot enough that I would choose a different boot over them, but I’m definitely hoping for a non-waterproof version in the near future. The thing about thru-hiking/distance hiking/back-packing, especially on the AT during the summer, is that it’s just hot most of the time. So while when it is raining the shoes are able to keep the water out, they also hold heat in much more than a non-waterproof shoe. This leads to sweaty feet all day long. I found on my thru-hike that when I switched to a non-waterproof shoe I was much happier. Sure, when it’s raining your feet get wet, but they dry out surprisingly fast after the rain abates. On the other hand with waterproof boots, I found my feet in a constant state of clammy, oftentimes sliding a moist boot onto my foot in the morning because the lack of breathability hadn’t allowed them to dry.
Now I know E-Vent breathes fairly well for being waterproof, but it doesn’t come close to comparing to a nicely vented shoe. In a non-waterproof shoe, they’re only wet when it’s very wet (i.e. you can’t avoid big mud pits), and dry the rest of the time. The climate I feel that an e-vent shoe shines in is winter. This is why I’m so pumped to use the Tor for winter hiking.
Adjustment to cushioning: The other thing that may be considered a negative to some is the small amount of time it takes getting used to hiking in such a cushioned shoe. At first I noticed myself scraping the tops of rocks and roots a little more often than I normally do. I think just because of the thickness of the shoe. But after a mile or two I assimilated and the boot became a part of me.
Hoka One One Speedgoat
Specs and First Impressions
The other pair of shoes that Hoka One One was kind enough to ship me was their new runner, the Speedgoat. This shoe is built like a more traditional runner, which a lot of thru-hikers are wearing these days. Hoka’s Speedgoat though, is luggy, built for gnarly trail with 5mm lugs on a Vibram sole. They’ve got a heel height of 33mm that drops down to a forefoot height of 28mm for an overall drop of 5mm. All that technical garb means you can have a heavy pack on, be walking downhill, and not fall on your ass! The brightly colored uppers, are super breathable and minimal, yet tough. A pair of Speedgoats weight in at only 9.7 ounces.
Out of the box this shoe is super light for the protection and thick sole that it offers up. Slipping into it, I notice right away that it feels like it has a bit narrower last than the Tor. A narrower fit really isn’t too big of an issue with me though, as I like the shoe to be snug, but something to consider for wider-foot hikers. The cushioning feels nice and the treads are super aggressive. This shoe is built for trail, not concrete. So if you need something that will work hiking just as well as road walking, probably look elsewhere as I can see the tread wearing down pretty quickly.
Agility: Taking this shoe out on hikes, the first thing you notice is how nimble it is. I mean you really have control of all different types of terrain; from climbs to descents, smooth buffed out trail to technical rocky and rooty trail(think Pennsylvania on the AT), and everything in-between. This shoe feels like the quintessential hiking shoe. The thing Hoka manages to do so well is give you great maximal cushioning and comfort, but also allow your foot to feel the trail. It’s that balance that works so well. I’ve been in big bulky boots that have protected you from everything out there, but you literally can’t feel where you’re stepping, so unless you are watching every step, you’re falling all over the place. To be able to sense the terrain beneath you through your feet while still having the shock absorbed and protection from rocks and roots is a wonderful thing.
Breathability: The breathability of this shoe is another added benefit. My feet never get hot in this shoe. On the flipside of that, I do get dust, grit, and that Utah sandstone coming in through the venting and leaving a rust colored lining on my socks. The pores in the breathable upper aren’t big enough to let in grit big enough to disrupt your hiking though.
Overall, these shoes have a very similar feel between them. The main difference being that the Speedgoat is a little narrower than the Tor, and the Tor is both waterproof and has the full hiking boot upper. If you’re used to having the added protection that a full hiking boot offers, the Tor would be a great fit for you. The increased mobility and feel that you gain from having a lighter boot like Hoka’s Tor Ultra Hi is something I haven’t seen matched by anyone except Salomon and their Quest 4d GTX boot, but Hoka’s Tor is still much lighter than the Salomon.
As for Durability, I now have almost a couple hundred miles on both the Tor and the Speedgoat and their both still holding up wonderfully. Neither have developed any holes in the upper along where it meets the midsole (something quite typical for running shoes). And both still feel like they have hundreds of miles left in them, I wouldn’t be surprised to get 1,000+ miles out of the Tor Ultra Hi’s! If you haven’t tried Hoka One One shoes for running, I would urge you to try a pair for hiking. It’s a unique, comfortable feel that just might work for you!
Have fun out there, and Happy Trails!
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