Hoka One One continues to produce excellent, lightweight and comfortable hiking shoes.
Last year we reviewed the excellent Hoka Sky Arkali which turned out to be a great hiking shoe that we felt was perfect for scrambling and technical climbing approaches. Hoka One One continued to improve the range with the addition of the Sky Toa. They are light, super comfortable and responsive for all day hikes on all types of terrain.
The first thing you notice about Sky Toa is that they are light, very light. You would be hard pressed to notice that this is not a pair of sneakers. They weigh 428g per shoe (our pair of UK8.5s weighed 420g per shoe on the trusty CGR scales) and you will hardly know you have them on your feet, they are so light. Light enough to run and well suited for mountain running as they are lined with Gore-Tex.
Hoka bought all of their trail running expertise into the design of the Sky Toa shoes. I'll call them boots because that's what they look like, a mid-rise running shoe. They are well designed and performed brilliantly in any situation I have tested them in, mainly in UK mountain conditions in a variety of weather conditions from early spring / late winter. But more than anything, it's the comfort that sets these boots apart from others that I have used.
Any runner, from the casual Parkrun enthusiast to the serious Ultra Runner, will have noticed how many runners are now wearing the Hoka One One shoes with their brightly colored upper and oversized cushioning soles. Many other manufacturers now offer highly cushioned shoes from the ultra-running community, but it was Hoka who led the way. The company has expanded its line to a nice set of hiking boots that should suit any type of hiker - from day hikes to hikes.
When it comes to form, the Hoka Sky Toa are generous with a wide toe box. My normal running shoe size can vary between a UK8 and a UK8.5 and I have tested the UK 8.5 as I am more likely to wear hiking shoes longer than a run so having that extra space may be useful. especially on the descent after a long day on the hill. Plus, the extra space allows for thicker socks in colder weather which is when I'm more likely to wear them as opposed to hiking with running shoes during the dry summer months.
One of the issues I had with the Sky Arkali boots was that they weren't waterproof, the Sky Toa solves this by having a Gore-Tex membrane. This makes the boot waterproof and, with the raised sole and printed carbon heel and edging lamination, means you should have reasonably dry feet in wet conditions. As always, there is a trade-off when wearing boots with a waterproof and breathable membrane in that the membrane struggles to withstand high temperatures and can make your feet feel wet in these conditions. However, this is not a problem here in the UK so for the majority of your hikes you should be fine, dry and comfortable in the Sky Toa. It's good to see that Hoka has used Gore-Tex, they are the world leader for a reason - it works! The toe area is finished off with a nice thick, rubberized toe cap which gave some protection, but not much! If you crush your toes at the end of the day (which seems to happen to me all the time) it will be smart.
The tongue is blown and the inside of the boot has a knitted mesh lining. The Sky Toa strapped in nicely, with no pressure points I could feel while hiking. Once I tightened them up I didn't have to readjust them and the semi-flattened laces worked a treat and never came loose during testing. The ankle padding was stiff enough to offer a small amount of support while still being flexible enough to help the running shoe feel when it moved quickly. There are also pull tabs on the tongue and heel to help put the boots on and adjust the fit properly for you.
Finally to the very important sole. Like I said earlier, the Hoka One One are legendary for their shoe cushioning. The Sky Arkali boots were the most comfortable hiking shoes I have ever worn and the Sky Toa GTX were exactly the same. Ultra comfortable, all day, every day - in fact, I could wear them forever! The heel cushioning was just great as I was just diagnosed with arthritic knees (after over 30 years of mountain adventures) and the descents can be quite painful at times, especially if it's been a long day. If you suffer from knee issues, it is worth trying a pair. Hoka Eu has a great 30 days no fuss so give it a try there is nothing to lose. The forefoot is stiff enough to provide some security on steeper ground and they have suited my Grivel Ran well so I'll be happy to use them in winter walking conditions. Hoka used a Vibram Megagrip sole which is well tested and known to perform well, super grip in dry conditions. Multi-directional studs are suitable for both rocky ground and wet grass and easy to clean after use.
In conclusion, the Hoka One One Sky Toa GTX are a great lightweight hiking shoe that is well suited to a wide variety of mountain terrain. The Gore-Tex sockliner will keep your feet warm and dry and the legendary cushioning is a boon for the knees.
The Hoka Sky Toa GTX is available in three colors: a blue and a purple and a more subdued black. They come in UK sizes 6.5 to 13.5 in half sizes. There is also a specific ladies version available, also in three colors and sizes UK3.5 to UK 9.5.
The SRP is £ 160 and they are available direct from Hoka One One Europe and specialty retailers.
Disclaimer - CGR reviewers and writers are never paid to provide a review, and the website does not take advertising or linking to affiliate sales. We are a group of avid climbers and travelers who accept product samples and offer an honest, independent review of the item. The examiner will often keep the sample after examining it for health and safety reasons and more often than not he is in a position to return it!
Rock climbing is everywhere these days. From the Dawn Wall to your Instagram feed to the new gym going up in town, climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Kids are starting to climb almost before they can walk, and now more than ever, there’s no reason for you not to give it a try as well. However, climbing can be one of those intimidating hobbies to begin. Many ask, “How do I get started ? ” citing fear and feeling overwhelmed with gear and safety as huge barriers to entry. We get it, and so what follows is everything you need to know to get out on the rock.
The term “rock climbing” encompasses a great number of techniques, from bouldering to big wall climbing, to mountain climbing and mountaineering. Before you begin, it might be important to first identify what style of climbing you are interested in, or perhaps to ask, “Why do I want to climb ? ” Do you want to summit peaks, boulder at your local gym, or perhaps learn to lead climb at the local crag ? Do you want to make friends, be outdoors, or get in shape ( or all three ) ? Once these questions are answered, you can work out the potential steps you’ll need to take to get there. Below ( in the Sport vs. trad vs. bouldering section ) we attempt to inform this decision by breaking down the various styles of climbing; each has its own specific culture, gear, and learning curve.
Climbing is a complex sport : it’s potentially expensive to get into, difficult to find mentors, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the evolution of climbing gyms, however, it’s easier than ever to give climbing a try : just grab a friend and head to the nearest gym, rent a pair of shoes and a harness, and jump on the bouldering wall. However, if and when your progression leads you to climbing on ropes and outside, technical skills become essential to safety. Many choose to learn from friends; however, safety is so important that we recommend enrolling in a formal class. The easiest and best way to learn the essential skills, which include belaying and tying proper knots, is by taking an introductory course at your local gym. Or, if you’re interested in climbing outside or even more specifically climbing in the mountains, seek out a class either through your gym or a local guide.
The first indoor climbing gym opened in Seattle in 1987. Now just 30 years later, there are 430 gyms across the nation, with over 50 more in construction at the time of writing. Areas like the Denver metropolis have as many as 10 gyms, all stuffed to capacity each day. Whereas climbers used to be a tiny community of mostly adult men with access to the wilderness, the climbing gym revolution has brought climbing to the masses. It’s safe to say that more people now climb indoors than outdoors. The climbing gym has developed its own culture, and climbing inside - “pulling on plastic, ” as climbers often say - is vastly different from climbing outdoors. It is arguably safer, much more convenient to access, and far more social; for these reasons, the gym is an excellent place to begin climbing. Gym passes cost anywhere from $6 to $30/day, with monthly memberships being the best option for those who go regularly. Outdoor climbing takes place on boulders, on cliff bands, and in mountains - anywhere where there is solid rock'n'roll, climbers can be found. Some of the most popular variétés of rock to climb include granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and conglomerate blends. Each of these kinds of rock'n'roll has its own style of climbing, from overhanging jugs much like gym climbs, to technical slabs, to splitter cracks. Climbing outdoors demands a higher level of expertise than climbing in the gym, as there are more variables and risques on real rock'n'roll. Weather can be a factor, as well as rock'n'roll fall. Climbers will also need to possess a great deal more gear to climb outside, including their own rope and harness, quickdraws or other protection, a personal anchor and locking carabiner, and a helmet. Although many climbers begin in the gym, some learn to climb immediately outside, most commonly with the help of a guide or an instructional course.
Rock climbing is generally broken down into three categories : sport climbing, traditional ( trad ) climbing, and bouldering. Climbers tend to specialize in or prefer one discipline over the others, though many climbers participate in all three. Sport climbing is a style of climbing where the leader attaches quickdraws to pre-existing bolts, looping the rope through the quickdraws for protection while ascending the cliff. Sport climbs are often one-pitch climbs where the leader then comes back to the ground after fixing the rope to the anchor, though in some cases these climbs might continue up larger faces for multiple pitches. As a discipline, sport climbing focuses on difficult movement, endurance, learning to face fears, and risking a fall ( and being caught by the rope, bien sûr ! ). Trad climbing is the most rootsy and historical form of climbing, in which the leader climbs weaknesses in the rock ( generally, cracks ) and places gear in these weaknesses that will hold the rope in the case of a fall. Although trad climbs can be single-pitch routes like the majority of sport climbs, they often ascend features that are more than one rope length and end at a summit ( these are called “multi-pitch climbs” ). Trad climbers generally love long and adventurous days of climbing in wilderness areas, focusing on movement, logistics, technical rope and gear skills, and partnership. Bouldering is perhaps the most modern form of climbing, and certainly the fastest-growing. Boulderers ascend boulders or short cliffs ( generally 20 feet and under ), using pads and spotters at the base for protection instead of ropes. Bouldering is a form of climbing that focuses on difficult movement and problem solving, and is more social than the other disciplines. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other forms of climbing : aid climbing, alpine rock climbing, speed climbing, and deep water soloing. Pick your poison ( or shall we say passion ) : each has its own set of joys and défis !
One of the first things you’ll learn when starting to climb is how to choose a route that suits your ability level. In the gym, climbs generally are labeled with a difficulty rating; outside, climbers use guidebooks and often a phone application called Mountain Project to identify the difficulty of climbs. In the U. S., climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System; in short, 5. 3 is a very beginner climb, and 5. 15 is an expert-level route. These ratings do not denote danger, only difficulty. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be choosing routes 5. 7 and under, and often routes that can be top-roped. Top-roping means that the climber establishes an anchor from the top of the climb so that the rope is already in place, rather than leading the route from the bottom. Many routes in the gym are set up with top ropes; outside, climbers can often hike to the top of the cliff or feature to drop a rope down over the climb.
Each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all variétés of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes ( don’t be persuaded by the salesperson at your local gear shop to purchase painfully tight shoes ). Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag and chalk as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground ( sometimes the case while bouldering ). Climbers dip their hands into chalk to dry off sweat and keep them from slipping off the rock. Boulderers will need the above two pieces of gear, in addition to a bouldering pad ( and friends with bouldering pads ! ). Bouldering pads are placed in the fall zone of a boulder problem, and the more the merrier ( and safer ! ). to climb on ropes both in a gym or outside, climbers will need a climbing harness. Climbing harnesses come in a range of weights and specifications - some for sport climbing in particular, some with larger gear loops or more padding for trad climbing. Harnesses need to be replaced every few years for safety reasons, so we again recommend purchasing an affordable harness and replacing it when you have a better understanding of your needs. Along with a climbing harness, it is essential to own a belay device and locking carabiner. This equipment will enable you to belay your partner in the gym or outside, and rappel if needed. If climbing outside, a helmet is extremely important in case of rock'n'roll fall. The above-mentioned gear provides the basics for personal gear needed for a day of climbing or bouldering, either in the gym or with an experienced and well-equipped partner. If you are looking to buy gear so that you can be fully self-sufficient ( and not need a partner or a group with shared gear ) you’ll want to also purchase a climbing-specific rope ( 60-70 meters, 9-10mm in diameter, dynamic ), a personal anchor ( PAC ) or daisy chain, extra locking carabiners, cams, nuts, quickdraws, and slings. It is extremely important to buy new gear or to know the history and age of the gear if acquiring used. Both soft materials and metals degrade over time and with wear and should be carefully assessed before using.
We wholeheartedly recommend taking a course taught by professionals before attempting to climb or belay on your own. Climbing is inherently dangerous, though when done correctly can be very safe. After all of the proper skills have been learned, it is still incredibly important to stay on top of safety at every moment. Before leaving the ground, or transitioning from climbing to lowering/rappelling, there are a number of safety checks that must be completed.