I’ll be honest, I really didn’t like these quirky boots when they first came in for review. They’re so completely different an experience from wearing traditional hiking boots that my feet and ankles just proved to be useless at wearing them. I rolled off the sides a couple of times, and I stubbed my toes. But, after a good few months’ of perseverence I finally ‘get’ the crazy Tor Speed boots, and I quite enjoy wearing them. In fact, for a wet night-hike yesterday evening, they were my boot of choice from a shelf-full of exotic technology.
First and foremost I like these boots because they make me taller. And that’s a good thing.
But asides from that height, the enormous soles which are Hoka’s trademark serve a purpose. There’s about 2.5x the depth of sole on a normal trail-running shoe, and it’s a very, very squishy material that is a little like stepping on a molehill. It’s incredibly disconcerting at first, but at the end of a long hike you realise that your feet are still nice and cosy. In my case I can certainly walk further in comfort in these than in a stiffer boot.
However, there’s a caveat with the squishy sole, and that is that you can feel the trail. Step on a sharp stone and you’ll know it. If you like that, that’s fine. If you don’t like to be connected to the trail, these aren’t the boots for you.
The big, fat, wide sole allows your foot to sink in to it and Hoka reckons this gives you more support. I’m not sure I agree because the sole is so squishy it is possible to just compress it and roll off the side of the boot. The uppers are very soft and don’t offer much in the way of ankle support. However, the longer-term effect of this has been that I think I’m walking a little more straight up and with less lazy-feet. If the Hoka Tor is your main boot, you adapt to this difference. I find it to be more of an issue when I’ve been wearing stiffer boots regularly.
That upper is completely waterproof, despite looking like a mesh. And it feels very breathable too. In fact, I’ve been extremely impressed by the waterproofing as I’ve stomped through miles of soggy bogland – they’ve held up better than many leather boots I’ve owned. The flip-side is that they’re not a warm boot, so are best suited to faster hikes where you’re creating lots of heat.
The sole is a particularly aggressive affair and has proven to be capable on most surfaces. I’ve had a couple of slips on wet rock, and very sticky mud, but nothing major.
The lacing system is good, and allows you to get the supple upper to snug down on your foot well. It fits like a running shoe, rather than a hiker, and the fit is nice and wide.
All in all, I’m pleasantly surprised by the Hoka Tor Speed. It wasn’t an immediate love affair, but I’ve grown an understanding and respect for them, and they’re now one of two boots that I’ll wear out for a hike. Sure, they’re not the prettiest thing in the world, but when on your feet nobody seems to notice them anyway.