Hoka One One Sky Toa Hiking Shoes Review

HOKA ONE ONE’s Sky Toa Hiking Shoes are waterproof, ventilated, rugged and lightweight above-the-ankle shoes, that are ideal for hikers and backpackers who prefer a bit more support than what is provided by a trail running shoe.

Hoka One One Sky Toa Hiking Shoes

Foot Protection
Traction
Stability
Sensitivity
Comfort
Weight
Durabiility

Super Comfortable

The HOKA ONE ONE Sky Toa is a lightweight, above the ankle hiking shoe that is warmer and slightly more supportive than a trail runner with a lower profile sole than a heavier duty mid-style hiking boot.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Best use: Hiking
  • Height: Over the ankle
  • Closure: Lace Up
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Midsole: Foam
  • Outsole: Vibram Megagrip rubber

In-Between Season Hiking Footwear

My feet are happiest in lightweight footwear, and so I tend to stay in my Salomon X-Mission 3 Trail Running Shoes until winter gets so cold that I’m forced into wearing my winter hiking boots. To make fall and spring hiking more comfortable, I have tried multiple above-the-ankle hiking shoes but had yet to find something that felt responsive and was lightweight.

The extra cushioning puts a little bounce into your step.
The extra cushioning puts a little bounce into your step.

A planned trip to the UK this past fall, with anticipated muddy and wet trail conditions, forced me to take another look at something more along the line of a hiking “boot.” HOKA’s were getting some “buzz” within my hiking community and so I thought I’d check them out. While I was at the footwear store, I tried on the HOKAs and it was love at first sight. The HOKA’s were immediately comfortable – as if I had already broken them in. Lightweight, above-the-ankle footwear, responsive traction and waterproof… It felt almost too good to be true.

These Hokas have a roomy toe box and there is a bit of extra protection around the toe, which is terrific for when I hike in rocky terrain.  They are lightweight and constructed with a waterproof insert to keep your feet comfortable and dry. To complement this, the shoes are constructed with a durable and breathable upper fabric. They employ a traditional lacing system but are slightly less cushioned than regular hiking boots so you can still feel the trail beneath your feet. Plus,  the Vibram lugs on the sole provide excellent traction in mud and on wet rock.

Are the Sky Toa’s Mids?

The Sky Toa’s a cross between a hiking shoe and a lightweight mid-height boot. While HOKA ONE ONE classifies them as hiking shoes, they are for all practical purposes mids, since they run up over your ankle and provide extra support compared to a low hiker. Where they differ from most hiking mids is in terms of weight and the fact that they have soles like running shoes, without huge lugs. Think of them as lightweight mid hiking shoes as opposed to mid hiking boots.

Vibram soles provide excellent traction in mud and on wet rock
Vibram soles provide excellent traction in mud and on wet rock

On the Trail

I ended up purchasing a pair and within a few days was off to the UK for a week’s worth of hiking on trails that traveled over rugged limestone and muddy moors. The HOKAs did not require any break-in and I never developed any hot spots or blisters. The low drop and lightweight nature of the shoe meant I felt “one” with the trail, and I easily scrambled up wet rock and skipped over limestone crevices. The other hikers in my group with more traditional leather hiking boots had to be more cautious with foot placement since they did not have the same responsive feel or degree of traction.

Not Quite Waterproof

The shoes are advertised as waterproof, but after a week of hiking in wet conditions and mud, it was clear that these shoes are better described as “water-resistant.” My feet stayed dry walking through dewy or damp grass, but if I had to traipse through muddy trails, my feet would be damp and a tiny bit dirty by the end of the day. That said, the rugged upper mesh material meant I could scrub them each day and dry them overnight in the boot room. My friends who were wearing leather boots were also getting wet but were unable to dry their footwear completely each night.

While it would be great if the Sky Toa were completely waterproof, that’s never been my experience with waterproof hiking footwear, which quickly breaks down and leaks with use. The main reason I chose these shoes was primarily for the added warmth that often goes hand-in-hand with waterproof construction. I’m well satisfied with their performance in this respect, in addition to the comfort and traction they provide.

The Sky Toa is a very stable mid with a slightly flared heel
The Sky Toa is a very stable mid with a slightly flared heel

Heel Drop

Before trying the Sky Toas, I had never worn a lower drop shoe before and wasn’t certain what that would be like after hiking with them for many consecutive days. My current trail runners have a 10 mm drop and my Hokas have a 4 mm drop. Basically, “heel drop” is the difference between the forefront height and the heel height of the shoe.

Shoes with heel drop of 8 mm or less are often considered as low drop running shoes. Many runners and hikers feel that lower heel drop shoes promote a more natural and efficient stride. But I didn’t really notice any huge difference in my stride, nor did I have to make any adjustments. Instead, I found the shoes to be super cushioned, almost bouncy, and I enjoyed the way my feet felt as I hiked throughout the full week of hiking.

Comparable Lightweight Mid Trail Shoes

Make/ModelWeightPrice
HOKA ONE ONE Sky Toa1 lb 10.6 oz$170
HOKA ONE ONE Speed Goat 2 Mid GTX1 lb 6.7 oz$170
KEEN Explore WP1 lb 1.4 oz$140
Salomon OUTline Mid GTX1 lb 8.6 oz$150
Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh1 lb 4 oz$130
Arc'teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX1 lb 6.6 oz$185

Recommendation

The HOKA ONE ONE Sky Toa is a lightweight, above the ankle hiking shoe that is warmer and slightly more supportive than a trail runner with a lower profile sole than a heavier duty mid-style hiking boot. It’s a good option for late fall and early spring when you want to still wear your trail runners, but you want a little more insulation and waterproofing for your feet. If you find heavier mids or hiking boots to be too restrictive but are hesitant to give up the ankle support and added protection they provide, I recommend you try the Sky Toas. The comfort of these trail shoes will blow you away.

Note on Sizing:

I found that Hoka’s Sky Toa Hiking Shoes ran true to size. Both my husband and my friend also bought Men’s Sky Toa Hiking Shoes, and they too found that the Hokas ran true to size. Men’s sizes come in 7 – 14 in regular widths (size 9 weighing 15.1 oz.); women’s sizes come in 5 – 11, in regular widths (size 7 weighing 12.6 oz.).

Disclosure: The author purchased these shoes.

About the author

Beth Zimmer is an expert backpacker who's backpacked all over New England and Eastern Canada, with a long list of hiking accomplishments to her name. She's section hiked the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail, climbed the New England Hundred Highest and the New Hampshire 500 highest (mostly bushwhacks), redlined the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles), and climbed the White Mountain 4000 footers several times over. Beth also teaches GPS and off-trail navigation classes as a volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club and is co-chair of the New Hampshire Excursions Committee, which oversees all volunteer hiking and leadership training activities. When she's not hiking and backpacking, Beth resides in New Hampshire where she can usually be found sipping coffee and planning her next adventure.

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2 comments

  1. CAPT Gary Andres USN ret

    Nice review. But I am curious….as I am looking at some Hokas for my next long distance AT section hike…..which will include all of PA and hopefully into NJ. So, these with some ankle support, intrigue me. One feature though, that is a “must have” and I didn’t see you mention—–at least important for me—- is a wide toe box. Can you comment on that?

    • These shoes had a very roomy toe box! I too, need a shoe that allows for some toe room and ‘spread’ at the end of the day. Give them a try… I think you’ll be impressed.

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