Throughout a specifically unpleasant trip to my podiatrist a couple of months back, I winced as he deciphered x-rays of my jacked up feet. I’d struggled with plantar fasciitis for months (here’s a story about how to banish that injury to the dust bin) but this was confirmation the situation had an equally painful bedfellow: degenerative arthritis.
As a quite active (and, ahem, relatively young) particular person, the news was upsetting, but there was a slice of hope, if bittersweet—I could continue all of my favored outside pursuits as lengthy as I switched to orthopedic footwear. Keyed in to the reality that I was busy envisioning amorphous, beige, velcro-strapped frankenshoes, my foot doc uttered what turned out to be a saving grace: “You could like Hokas.”
I had by no means worn a pair of Hoka A single A single footwear just before, but I was familiar with their famously fluffy frame, a sort of luxury foot hotel comprehensive with a wide toe box, soft sole, and a slight rocker shape meant to enable your stride ease on via with a bit significantly less work. As it turns out, my guy was right—with a pair of Hoka Speedgoats laced to my feet, I was substantially far more comfy in the course of trail runs and day hikes. A single challenge solved, then, but what was I going to put on for backpacks and peakbagging trips?
Effectively, my podiatrist would be pleased, due to the fact earlier this year, Hoka A single A single debuted a collection of hiking boots. Regardless of my practical experience with the Speedgoats, on the other hand, I was skeptical—would the brand’s iconic rocker shape and mega-cushion translate to efficiently (and painlessly) covering large miles, carrying a heavy pack, and traveling across unforgiving terrain exactly where underfoot sensitivity is crucial? I grabbed two extremely distinctive pairs and hit the trails (and, um, the not-trails) to obtain out.
I eased into the Hoka hiking celebration with the Toa, a lightweight, waterproof, mid-top rated day hiker that tries to straddle the line amongst minimalist boot and maximalist runner. The brand positions this as a fastpacking shoe of sorts, the sort of factor you put on when you are carrying just a tiny weight and want to move via the landscape with ease and speed.
Normally I’d put on a trail runner for these kinds of outings—something light, breathable, and nimble. But honestly, I’d almost certainly ruin my Speedgoats if I did so—they just are not created for hauling weight. To my surprise, the Toas felt like a not-so-distant cousin. They had been light adequate (13.two oz), comfy straight from the box (the outcome of a thickly cushioned sole and heel wrap), and the moderately lugged Vibram Megagrip sole held across a range of terrain, which includes gravel, sand, dirt, and mud. Even even though the Toas do not present the similar bouncy responsiveness as the Speedgoat (they’re hikers, soon after all—they’re not going to present fairly the similar toe-off as a runner would), I nonetheless felt comfy breaking into a quick jog in the course of a single Sierra outing.
Honestly, the Toas would have develop into my new quantity a single if not for a single feature—they’re waterproof. This would be a notch in the plus column for a lot of people, but a single of the major causes I hike and backpack in trail runners is that I’m a prolific sweater and want a shoe that dries promptly when wet. Confident, the Toa does a stellar job of stopping water from obtaining inside, thanks to a waterproof Occasion bootie liner (trust me, I tramped about in various water sources attempting to break the seal), but I did obtain that my socks had been slightly damp (and my toes slightly wrinkled) each and every time I removed my footwear following any hike more than a couple of miles.
Enter the Hoka Arkali, a non-waterproof hiking and scrambling shoe. To be sincere, I nonetheless haven’t come about to the aesthetics, one thing amongst an method shoe and a basketball shoe, but the match and functionality far more than make up for any misgivings more than style. A great deal like the Toa, the Arkali felt comfy from the 1st lace-up. It is the similar weight and functions the similar drop (only 4mm), but presents a far more customizable match with two velcro (velcro!) straps, a single at the heel, and a fatter a single at the ankle. Coupled with a stretchy tongue, the footwear hugged my feet and held their ground with zero slippage, even when crossing jagged talus and descending steep slabs.
Like the Toa, the Arkali is outfitted with a Vibram sole, even though a far more aggressive version, excellent for chewing via uneven terrain—I felt surefooted moving off-trail across downed logs, wet granite, steep gravelly slopes, and boulder-filled stream crossings. What’s far more, the ankle strap functions a stretchy pocket that hides the knot of your laces, which prevents them from becoming undone or obtaining tangled up in underbrush. And fortunately, so extremely fortunately, they are not waterproof. My feet had been soaked via a couple of occasions when fighting via dewy brush, but they dried out promptly as I hiked.
As with most footwear that are not explicitly orthopedic, foot discomfort sufferers may well want to look at replacing the insoles with one thing far more therapeutic (I regretted leaving my favored pair behind in the course of a single gnarly off-trail adventure). And even though the brand touts the burliness of the Arkali’s toe cap, I stubbed the bejeezus out of my large toe in the course of a single rocky descent, given that the actual cap does not rise higher adequate on the underlying rubber rand to present protection for something other than a fully horizontal hit. But actually, my gripes are minimal.
Now if you will excuse me, I’ve got some peakbagging to do, arthritis be damned.
Additional comfy hikers we adore
Altras either operate for your feet or they do not but if you like a large wide toebox and no drop, you can not beat the comfort. Thousands of thru-hikers can not all be incorrect. The Lone Peak are Altra’s rugged runner, with a rock plate and lots of grip. $120
For a far more standard shape, which includes an 8mm drop, the Salomon Sense Ride two present a lightweight shoe that can deal with operating and backpacking. $120
The Brooks Cascadia is a hugely common trail shoe for a purpose. Challenging and light, they comfortably log large miles. You can get them now for about $100.