Hoka One One Sky Toa
Weight per pair: 1 lb. 12 oz. (women's size 8.5)
Waterproof: Yes (eVent)
What we like: Extremely comfortable thanks to the thick cushioning and flexible construction.
What we don’t: Lacks the support, stiffness, and durability needed for carrying a heavy pack or traversing challenging terrain.
See the Women's Hoka Sky Toa See the Men's Hoka Sky Toa
Hoka One One has dabbled in hiking footwear in the past, but they’ve truly jumped into the fray with their new Sky lineup. Eager to test the boots against long-time favorites, we took the new speed-focused Sky Toa into the Palisades Backcountry of eastern Idaho. All told, the lightweight build can’t match the protection and stability of a burlier backpacking boot, but we were nevertheless pleased by the shoe’s comfort, traction, and support on easy-to-moderate trails. Below we break down the Sky Toa’s comfort, weight, traction, stability and support, durability, sizing and fit, and more. To see how it stacks up, see our article on the best hiking boots.
Hoka One One is known for their max-cushioned, comfort-first running shoes, and the new hiking-oriented Sky Toa carries the torch. Because of its lightweight build and emphasis on a responsive and flexible feel, the Sky Toa is notably less stiff and supportive than heavier backpacking boots (like the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX, for example). However, the result is an ultra-comfortable and supremely plush hiker straight out of the box. I wore the Sky Toa for the first time on an overnight backpacking trip in the backcountry of eastern Idaho and didn’t experience any blisters, hotspots, or soreness in general—high praise for a new shoe.
At 1 pound 12 ounces per pair for a women’s size 8.5 (the listed weight is 1 pound 10.5 ounces), the Sky Toa is one of the lightest hiking boots on the market. In fact, my legs still felt fresh after wearing the shoes for two long days on the trail with a full, 25-pound pack. For comparison, the Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM (1 pound 5.4 ounces) is one of few competitors that weigh less, although the shoe makes notable sacrifices in both stability and durability. Arc’teryx’s new-for-2019 Aerios FL Mid GTX (1 pound 6.6 ounces) also slightly undercuts the Sky Toa, albeit with less cushioning. Other popular lightweight boots—including Salomon’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX (1 pound 13.4 ounces), Merrell’s Moab 2 Mid WP (2 pounds), and Hoka’s own Sky Kaha (1 pound 14 ounces)—all come in heavier, but they are stiffer and more supportive for covering long distances.
The Sky Toa's Vibram MegaGrip outsole and multidirectional lugs confidently gripped dusty trails with brief rocky sections and even slippery log bridges. However, I would be hesitant to take the shoe off-trail or onto steep rock slabs or snow. In short, the tread on the toe and heel lands between a low-profile trail-running shoe and a full-on hiking boot, but the lack of stiffness along the edges means it falls short over truly technical terrain (it doesn't hold securely and is prone to slipping in these situations). In addition, I felt lucky that Idaho’s late spring snow had finally melted—the sole simply isn’t rigid or aggressive enough for kicking steps. But for an overnight trip on a well-maintained trail, the Sky Toa was a good match.
The Hoka One One Sky Toa’s generous cushioning had me initially concerned about losing balance on rough sections of trail, but I’m happy to report that stability wasn’t an issue. In fact, the thick (26mm) sole was a welcome relief after pounding over 13 miles, and I found that the modest 4-millimeter drop promoted a very natural heel-to-toe gait. I also love that the shoe has a responsive sneaker-like feel, and I was happy with the amount of support offered by the mid-height cut. Whenever I felt a bit squirrely on uneven ground, I’d simply tighten the laces around my foot and ankle, which effectively gave me the confidence I needed.
In many ways, the Sky Toa blends the performance of a trail runner with the added support of a hiking boot. However, the shoe still falls significantly short of a true backpacking design. I traveled light for my one-night trip (my pack weighed around 25 pounds), and the Sky Toa performed well under the weight. That said, if you plan to carry more than around 40 pounds or will be traversing challenging terrain, I would recommend upgrading to a more supportive and stiffer option like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX or Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (even the sub-2-pound Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid offers more stability).
The Sky Toa’s waterproof eVent bootie did an admirable job of protecting my feet from light moisture. Although Gore-Tex is more common in hiking shoes and boots, we’ve found that eVent offers similar levels of protection without sacrificing much in the way of breathability (more on this below). All told, the Sky Toa was a great match for the mostly warm and dry weather of eastern Idaho, and it capably sealed out moisture during a rain storm and a couple shallow stream crossings we encountered.
As I touched on above, the Sky Toa’s waterproof eVent membrane was surprisingly breathable. Even during the hot and dry hike to our alpine campsite in the Palisades, I didn’t experience any overheating or swampiness in the shoe. A non-waterproof option (like Hoka’s own Sky Arkali) will offer a bump in ventilation, but I didn’t mind the Sky Toa's tradeoff for wet-weather assurance. That said, for those who frequent mostly dry and warm climates, the added protection, cost, and weight of a waterproof membrane might not be worth it.
Hoka One One is a relative newcomer to the world of hiking footwear, and it’s simply too soon for me to make a conclusion about the Sky Toa’s long-term durability. My biggest concern thus far is the midsole: although extremely soft and comfortable, I fear that it will pack out and wear down quickly. The upper, on the other hand, features a combination of mesh and burly synthetic materials, which I expect to stand the test of time. That said, as with any lightweight-focused gear, the Hoka One One Sky Toa is no match for the durability of a more robust hiking boot like the Asolo Falcon GV, Oboz Sawtooth II Mid, or Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX. Overall, expect a much more limited lifespan, especially if you plan to use the Sky Toa on rugged terrain or while carrying a heavy load.
As someone with decidedly narrow feet, the Hoka One One Sky Toa fit me perfectly. The shoe kept my foot securely in place, thanks to the durable and secure lacing system. Further, it took almost no time at all to feel comfortable on the trail. However, I was surprised by the amount of space at the front of the shoe (Hoka advertises it has a “medium” toe box). This design has become increasingly popular among lightweight hiking shoes and trail runners (Altra being the obvious example), and allows room for toes to expand and swell throughout the day (a normal occurrence after long mileage). Hoka unfortunately does not offer the Sky Toa in a "wide" model, although there seems to be enough room in the toe box to accommodate most foot shapes.
Men’s Version of the Hoka One One Sky Toa
We put the women’s Sky Toa through its paces for this review, and Hoka One One makes the boot in a men’s version for the same price. The men’s Sky Toa is 3.5 ounces heavier than the women’s at 1 pound 14 ounces per pair and is offered in three different colorways (compared to the women’s two). However, the rest of the design remains the same with a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, eVent waterproof bootie, and 4-millimeter heel-to-doe drop. Notably, Hoka doesn’t make the Sky Toa in a non-waterproof model, but we found that the eVent membrane was reasonably breathable even in warm, dry conditions.
What We Like
- Impressive comfort and generous cushioning we’ve come to expect from Hoka One One.
- Waterproof eVent membrane offers good overall protection and breathability.
- Running shoe-like feel with added ankle and foot support for trail use.
What We Don’t
- Lacks the support and stiffness needed for carrying a heavy pack or traversing challenging terrain.
- Long-term durability will be significantly less than a robust hiking boot.
- The toe box is a bit wide, although I appreciated this to account for natural foot swelling.
- Not available in a non-waterproof option.
|Hoka One One Sky Toa||$170||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 10.5 oz.||Yes (eVent)||Synthetic/mesh|
|Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX||$185||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 6.6 oz.||Yes (Gore-Tex)||Cordura|
|Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM||$160||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 5.4 oz.||Yes (eVent)||Synthetic/mesh|
|Hoka One One Sky Arkali||$200||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 10.5 oz.||No||Synthetic|
|Hoka One One Sky Kaha||$220||Hiking boot||1 lb. 14 oz.||Yes (eVent)||Leather|
Hoka One One’s Sky Toa joins a competitive field of increasingly lightweight hiking boots. In the same category and also new for 2019, Arc’teryx’s Aerios FL Mid GTX is a formidable competitor. Similarities include price ($185 for the Aerios vs. $170 for the Sky Toa), Vibram MegaGrip outsole, waterproof construction, and mid-height cut that works well for minimalist backpacking and lightweight hiking. The most notable difference is in trail feel: the Aerios has a stiffer, more supportive construction that is at home on rugged terrain. Its materials also have a premium and more durable feel (and our experience thus far backs that up). On the other hand, the Toa is more comfortable out of the box and over well-maintained trails due to its extra cushioning and more flexible construction. In the end, we give the lighter Aerios the edge as the better-built boot.
Altra’s Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM is another popular choice among weight-conscious hikers. The Altra features similar waterproofing and breathability thanks to its eVent membrane but undercuts the Sky Toa in weight by a significant 5.1 ounces per pair. However, we had major durability issues with the Lone Peak: after just one hike, one of our toe caps began to separate. Neither shoe is particularly supportive or stable for backpacking or rough terrain, but both are a good match for those who like to cover ground quickly. It’s a close call, but we think the $10-pricier Sky Toa pulls ahead slightly in the end.
Rounding out Hoka One One’s new hiking lineup are the Sky Arkali and Sky Kaha. The Arkali (1 pound 10.5 ounces) aims to be a do-everything shoe, with a similar mid-height cut but more aggressive outsole and lacing design for improved traction over rough terrain (its midsole is also noticeably thinner). Moving up in support and protection, the leather, eVent-equipped Sky Kaha (1 pound 14 ounces) is most similar to a traditional backpacking boot and designed for covering big mileage with a pack. The Sky Toa reviewed here is the cushiest and most flexible of the bunch and works best as a day hiker or for fast-and-light trips. All have their respective places in the market, and a final decision should come down to hiking objectives and expected terrain.
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