Gear Review: HOKA ONE ONE Torrent

The Torrent is HOKA ONE ONE’s foray into their version of minimalist footwear, and its introduction in 2018 showcased a shoe unlike any of HOKA’s maximalist, heavily cushioned trail runners. The Torrent is light—9 ounces each for a men’s size 9—and skips a rock plate in an effort to shave weight. The stack height is 23/18mm for the men’s Torrent, compared with 32/28 mm for HOKA’s flagship Speedgoat 4. The result is a pared-down trail runner with excellent stability and a feel for the trail, but still with enough cushion for rocks. Since I received the Torrent for review, HOKA released the Torrent 2, with recycled materials for the upper mesh and more multidirectional lugs on the outsole. The men’s Torrent 2 is .3 ounces heavier for one shoe, and .2 ounces heavier for the women’s. Most of the other changes are cosmetic.

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent At-a-Glance

MSRP: $120 (Serious discounts available)
Size tested: 12
Weight: 9 ounces, men’s size 9 (for one); 7.4 ounces for the women’s
Heel to toe drop: 5mm; 23mm/18mm men’s; 21mm/16mm women’s
Stack height: 23mm men’s; 21mm women’s
Cushion: Minimal
Rock plate: None
Support: Neutral
Materials: 100% vegan

The wider toe box in the Torrent gave my toes plenty of room.

Best Use

This is a shoe for any trail. The midsole is firm under the forefoot, giving a responsive push off on rocks and while trucking uphill. The outsole grips rocks well, providing confidence while rock-hopping across streams or navigating steep rock faces. The minimal cushion, the antithesis of HOKA’s stable of heavily cushioned trail runners, gives a good feel for the trail while not making you wince at every rock and bump. And did I say light? At 9 ounces for a men’s size 9—18 ounces for a pair—the weight rivals popular trail runners for long-distance hiking.

Circumstance of Use

Spring and early summer in New England are a great time to test trail runners. It rains, sometimes snows, and trails are muddy, even filled with spring runoff. As spring turns to summer the air heats up and becomes humid. I wore the Torrents for three months in all those conditions. I was impressed with the grip on wet rocks and muddy trails. They were comfortable on day hikes—with a day pack or while wearing a 22-pound backpack I was testing—and while doing trail work on the local trail I maintain. The shoes breathed well on humid day hikes. They also drained well after I intentionally stepped in a stream to test how they handled water. (Because of COVID restrictions in my state I was limited to day hikes during the review period.)

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent Features

Fit: I wear a size 12, so that’s what I got for my review pair. The fit was good, with extra space at the toes so they weren’t cramped. Despite my spot-on fit, the rule of thumb for HOKAs seems to be go down a half size so you might want to try them on in a store.

Midsole: Hoka’s trademark Profly midsole is soft in the heel and firmer in the forefoot, providing a cushioned landing and more padding for pushing off with your forefoot. The shoes have minimal cushioning overall, a departure from the generous cushioning that Hoka is known for. I could definitely feel the response of the firmer midsole in the forefoot when rock-hopping or ascending trails.

Outsole: High-traction rubber and multidirectional 5 centimeter lugs provide aggressive traction. The Torrent gave me firm footing up and down rocks, and didn’t slip in the mud.

Uppers: Engineered mesh that’s designed to be breathable and protective, and it is. My feet stayed cool inside. A thermoplastic urethrane (TPU) overlay wrapped around the shoe just above the midsole is intended to increase stability and overall durability. It also provides extra water protection.

Sure footing on a rocky stream crossing.

Stack height: 23mm. This is a low stack height, and gave me an excellent feel for the trail underneath my feet.

Rock plate: None. Typically placed between the outsole and midsole for protection against stones. I didn’t notice the lack of one on rocky trails.

Stability: Good. My feet transitioned easily from flat to rocky to steep trail, without rolling on uneven surfaces.

Support: Neutral. The landing was comfortable and stable.

No kidding. A highly unusual May snow in Connecticut gave me the ultimate weather conditions for testing.

Heel to toe drop: Five millimeters is a lot of drop in a world dominated by zero-drop shoes. I walk by striking my heels to the ground first, which is the opposite of the forefoot first to the ground gait that low-drop shoes are geared toward. I always thought that because of my gait and flat feet that low-drop shoes would not be for me. Wrong. The on-trail adjustment to a lower drop was smooth, and I found the Torrent comfortable on soft trails, rock-hopping, and uphills/downhills.

Toe box: Wide for a HOKA, and enough room to keep toes from jamming on descents and elsewhere on trail.

What I liked best: Lightweight yet firm enough to withstand long days on trail.

Corporate responsibility: Deckers Outdoor Corporation, the parent company of Hoka, UGG, Teva, Sanuk, and Koolaburra, says it is committed to human rights, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. Deckers says it is also committed to reducing energy consumption and integrating climate change measures into its policies and planning, including the installation of solar panels at all the company’s California non-retail facilities

Warranty: HOKA will give a refund or exchange within 30 days of purchase if you don’t like their shoes.

Point of manufacture: HOKA footwear is made in Vietnam.

A Quick Look at Shoe Terminology

Put simply, heel-to-toe drop measures the difference between the shoe’s height at the heel and height at the forefoot. My current shoe, a 30mm (heel) and 20 mm (forefoot), with a 10 mm drop, would be a high-drop shoe. A zero-drop shoe might be 25mm (heel) and 25mm (forefoot).

Shoe cushioning, which is measured by stack height, can vary. Lower stack heights, like the Torrent’s 23mm at the forefoot, provide a firmer feel for the trail, while higher stack heights are softer and can give less feel for the trail. The men’s Hoka Speedgoat 4, considered a maximum cushion shoe, has a stack height of 32mm at the forefoot.

The other thing to consider is how your foot lands on the ground: Do your forefeet strike first, or do you land on your heels? A low-drop shoe is geared toward a midfoot or forefoot strike. The result is a more stable landing and better balance. But if your heel strikes first, low-drop shoes might not be comfortable, and you might want to consider a higher drop shoe. Do not expect a low-drop shoe to change your gait from heel first to forefoot first.

Whatever shoe you choose, put on a heavy pack and walk, walk, walk to be sure this is the shoe that will be comfortable for long trail miles.

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent Pros

Bonus points: Early spring colors that matched the Torrent laces.

Lightweight: Nine ounces for a size nine shoe. That’s compared with 10.5 ounces for the popular Altra Lone Peak 4.5.

Stack height: 23mm. That’s considered minimal cushioning, but for me it was still enough so that I didn’t wince at every rock or bump on trail. Again, compare that with the Lone Peak 4.5’s moderate cushioning 25mm stack height.

Toe box: Wide for a HOKA. My toes never felt cramped, whether on a steep descent or uneven trail.

100% vegan: I didn’t know that some trail runners use animal byproducts. 100% vegan is a plus for me.

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent Cons

No rock plate: Some people might miss this extra protection on rugged trails. I didn’t.

Runs large: HOKA has a reputation for running a bit large, so be sure to try on the shoes in a store.

Minimal cushion: It worked for me, but it might not be your thing. Take them for a test run or hike.

Final Thoughts

The Torrent defies everything I thought I knew about HOKA trail runners’ reputation for high cushion, and too much detachment from the trail. Despite the Torrent’s minimal cushioning, I walked with comfort on trail. I could feel what was underfoot, but in a good way that gave me assurance of my grip in mud or on rocks. The toe box was wide enough to give my toes room to spread, not jam into too tight a space. The Torrent is a capable performer in the world of low-drop, minimal cushion trail runners.

Torrent vs. Torrent 2: The Torrent 2 maintains the Torrent’s nimble feel on trail, according to early reviews. The lug pattern has been changed to make the lugs more multidirectional. The weight for the men’s and women’s Torrent 2 is slightly more than the Torrent. Most other changes are cosmetic. So if you don’t need the newest model with only slight changes, save some big money on the discontinued Torrent at steep discounts.

Overall Value

The Torrent, at $120 MSRP, is comparably priced to other trail runners in its category. Look for sales, because right now there are some serious discounts for the Torrent to make way for the Torrent 2. The Torrent has held up for three months of trail use, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t hold up for many more.

Shop the HOKA ONE ONE Torrent Here

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This product was donated for purpose of review.

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