Hoka Tor Ultra Review

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The Hoka Tor Ultra is a hiking boot from a company made famous by its massively cushioned running shoes. I was impressed and surprised by how good the Hoka Mafate provided grip on a wide variety of trails, even gripping slick, wet rock surfaces, so I was keen to try this hiking boot. While the Tor has a few shortcomings, it is a huge improvement over every other hiking boot I've tried. If Hoka would only design their footwear so that it would fit a human foot, the Tor would be nearly perfect. It provides a level of cushioning that I think is perfect for a hiking boot. It's much firmer than the best of the Hoka running shoe range, but I believe that's appropriate in a hiking boot. The RMAT foam that is used in the Tor should also provide good longevity, which is just as well given the price tag. The waterproofing is as good as any boot I've tried, but you should expect to have sweaty feet in warmer weather. I wouldn't try to run far in this, or any other boot, mostly because it will limit the natural movement of the ankle. I'm impressed enough with the Tor to give it my "Best of the Best" rating as a Hiking Boot.

Hoka Tor Ultra top
Hoka Tor Ultra outside
Hoka Tor Ultra bottom
Hoka Tor Ultra inside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Tor is well cushioned for a hiking boot, but it's more like the firm Hoka Conquest than the soft Hoka Clifton.
  • Drop. The Tor has only 4mm of drop, which is a huge improvement over most hiking boots that have high heels.
  • Structure. The Tor uses both RMAT and EVA foam, but I didn't notice any interference with my walking stride.
  • Flexibility. The Tor has a little more flexibility than most hiking boots, which is not saying much. However, the thick foam midsole has some give that allows the foot to bend reasonably naturally.
  • Outsole. The Tor has both RMAT and Vibram Megagrip on the outsole. Both materials provide remarkably good traction on a wide variety of services. I found remarkable levels of grip even on wet rocks. Rather like the Hoka Mafate the Tor inspires more confidence in the available attraction than any other footwear I've tried.
  • Shape. The Tor is not as bad as many Hoka running shoes, but it's clearly not designed to fit the human foot. This is a particular pain in a waterproof hiking boot, as you don't want to cut it open for fit. I didn't have as many problems as I would in a running shoe, mostly because I typically wear to relatively thick pairs of hiking socks which gives a little more flexibility in terms of fit.
  • Upper. Most of the upper is covered in leather, and I found it took a few hours of hiking for it to break in and mold to the shape of my foot. The upper is broadly comparable to other hiking boots, but is obviously much thicker than you'd expect from a running shoe. I found the upper reasonably comfortable, with no seams to rub, though the very top edge of the boot can bite in a little. I suspect this is an attempt to improve waterproofing by creating a seal against your legs. I think this would probably rub rather badly if you had socks that were short enough to allow contact between the top of your boot and your skin. Like most hikers I tend to wear longer socks, and rely on waterproof trousers coming down over the top of my boot to ensure they don't get filled with water. The waterproof membrane on the Tor is eVent, and it seems to work reasonably well. No waterproof, breathable material is going to breathe enough to prevent your feet getting wet with sweat in warmer weather, but to the eVent is comparable with other materials I've tried like a Gore-Tex.
  • Tongue. The Tor is a tongueless, booty style upper for most of its length, dividing out into a traditional tongue just above the crook of the ankle. This means it's waterproof to around 5 inches.
  • Lacing. The laces are rounded, and are less than ideal, so you have to pay a little more attention when tying them to prevent them coming loose.
  • Heel Counter. As is typical for a hiking boot, the heel area has a rather firm Heel Counter, but I have not had any problems with it.
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Hiking in the North Carolina mountains with the Hoka Tor.

2 200 Mile Update

After 200 miles of hiking (measured by MilestonePod) I still love the Tor Ultra. There are few signs of wear on the upper, though it has stretched very slightly and flex is better with my foot, so it's marginally more comfortable than when I first started wearing it. I've worn the Tor Ultra on a wide variety of surfaces, including asphalt, rocky trails, slick muddy trails, and a few stream crossings. It's proved remarkably comfortable and confidence inspiring on all surfaces. The event waterproof membrane is obviously waterproof, and breathability is not bad, but hiking in hot weather in a boot will leave you with soggy feet regardless of how breathable it is. There is no noticeable compression of the midsole over 200 miles, but there is some wear on the outsole. Mostly this is on the outside edge of the heel, so overall traction is not noticeably impaired. This outsole wear likely to be the limiting factor on the lifespan of these boots, and they are wearing far quicker than other hiking boots I've tried that have a harder rubber outsole. Personally, I'm okay with the trade-off of a reduced lifespan in order to get good comfort and the confidence that comes from outstanding traction.

The heal of the Hoka Tor Ultra after 200 miles. This is the right foot, and the image has been enhanced to make the shapes more obvious. You can see the knobs on the outside edge are virtually gone.
The forefoot is showing far less wear, and is not likely to be the limiting factor.

3 400 Mile Final Update

The Tor Ultra didn't quite make it to 400 miles and is being retired at 387. It was probably at the end of its life nearer 300 miles, but the degradation is slow and so it's easy to overlook how bad things are. At this point the lugs under the middle of the forefoot are virtually gone, as are the lugs on the rear outside edge of the heel. The other lugs are quite worn down, though it's only when comparing them to a new pair that the reduction is obvious. This degrades the grip somewhat, though the material is sticky enough that it's not caused me a problem. The main issue is that along with the worn lugs, the midsole has compressed quite a lot. This means that my foot is twisting more than it should, with the ball of my foot significantly lower than the outside of my forefoot, something my knees do not appreciate. The upper is in perfect condition, and if you're not worried about knee problems or other injury concerns then you could probably get quite a few more miles. So the Tor Ultra has many benefits over a more traditional hiking boot, but other boots are likely to last far, far longer. That makes the Tor Ultra rather a pricy boot, but one that I think is worth it.

An enhanced image showing the worn and new versions of the Tor Ultra.

4 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

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If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 8.3 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 7.2 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.