Colour: black/grey/blue/yellow; black/grey/red/orange; green/olive
Weight: 1,004g/pair (size 10)
Construction: leather/fabric uppers
Waterproofing: eVent membrane
Country of manufacture: China
Crampon rating: B0 (not crampon compatible)
Sole stiffness: 3
Sizes: men’s 6½-13½ (40-49⅓); women’s 3½-9½ (36-44)
The French brand’s running shoes have been described as a mixture of minimalism and ‘maximalism’: minimum weight but maximum underfoot cushioning with a very thick mid-sole absorbing impact for the wearer.
The Tor Ultra Hi WP is the first foray into a mountain boot, and looks very striking, with its bold colours and chunky sole.
The uppers are a combination of soft full-grain leather and textiles, with a padded ankle cuff which is comfortable. There’s a tougher insert on the sides of the back section and the heel cup is stiffened.
An added rubber rand section gives extra protection at the toe box, and the front of the midsole rises slightly to add to this protection. The lacing goes right to the toe and the uppers also have cut-aways in the leather elements – flex grooves in Hoka’s parlance – to stop the material pushing into the upper foot where the boot flexes at the point where toes and forefoot meet: a nice touch.
It took us a while to get the lacing tension right with what are fairly soft uppers, but once achieved, the boots hugged the feet nicely and there was no heel lift. There is a second lace-hole in the important area where tension is applied with the laces to keep the heel in place on uphill sections. You can rethread the laces through this pair of holes if your foot is lower volume or you need extra hold in this area. The top two pairs of lace hooks are sturdy-feeling metal ones.
The boots benefit from eVent waterproof membrane which worked well, though our feet did warm up a little when the temperature was milder. One thing to note is that the tongue bellows end about the area of the second lace hook and, in torrential rain, the water did manage to get in the top of the boot via this route. In really heavy rain, it’s worth trying to make sure your overtrousers come down to cover this area adequately, or you could try a pair of gaiters if you want to be sure of keeping the rain out here.
In use, the very noticeable cushioning underfoot is marked as soon as you put the Tor Ultra Hi WPs on. I was worried that the very thick soles might lead to tripping as you walk, but these fears were unfounded. I did find that these boots seem to make you use a slightly different set of muscles when walking in them compared to conventional mountain boots.
The Hoka One One boots have the brand’s rocker sole which, combined with the very noticeable cushioning, make for a relaxed walking gait. The midsole, the bit between the bottom outsole and the insole, is a complex construction with what looks like three different materials including soft EVA and Hoka’s RMAT, a blend of rubber and EVA, to provide support.
The outsole, the bit in contact with the ground, is Vibram’s MegaGrip Hi-Traction version, with 5mm lugs. This has soft, blue sections which also help in the overall cushioning, combined with harder black parts around the outside and a bar across the ball of the foot.
Apart from the fact I found the sole slightly narrow for my wide feet on the outer edge of the forefoot, the Hoka One One soles are the most comfortable I’ve encountered for a long time. Impact on the sole of the foot is greatly reduced in these boots and, combined with their light weight, this makes them ideal for long hikes or multi-day walks.
Grip from the Vibram sole was also among the best we’ve found. Traction on rock, mud, wet grass and gravel was very good, as was the braking performance on these terrains. I even used them on a snow-covered Alpine walking trail and, though we wouldn’t recommend packing these for serious winter excursions – they won’t take a pair of crampons – they gripped admirably both uphill and downhill on the snow. Performance downhill on wet rock, often where other boots have slipped, was very assured.
Hoka One One’s first stab at creating a walking boot is a success. The comfort of the sole is pretty much unbeatable, but I was even more impressed by its grip, which approached that achieved by some fellrunning shoes. The uppers aren’t quite as comfortable and there is that niggle over rain being able to sneak in around the top of the tongue bellow, but if I was to choose a pair of boots for happy long-distance walking, it would be the Tor Ultra Hi WP.
Value for money 15/20
Total score: 80/100
The boots were supplied to grough by Hoka One One.