I’ve never owned a pair of “traditional” hiking boots – you know the ones featured on the cover of Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Wild”? My feet have never been inside a pair of those or anything similar. Even backpacking, I’m just in my trail shoes. In fact, many through hikers you’ll see are similar, swearing by their high-mileage runners. Keeping my feet happy is priority #1 for distance so of course I want my trusty, comfortable-right-out-of-the-box, these-don’t-give-me-blisters, flexible-yet-supportive, long-term-relationship adventure buddies. Luckily for me, I already know and trust Hoka, so when their Arkali line debuted, I thought: “I gotta try those”.
Let’s admit it up front: they look badass. Looking like an 80’s-inspired basketball shoe with a taste for adventure, they are described as an “all mountain scrambler”. They are an approach / trail running / hiking boot hybrid with tread you can see from the profile view and the bright yellow Vibram brand reminding you that these are quality lugs, with laces to the toes, and adjustable heel and ankle straps for some extra customizing throughout your excursion. They’re new, they’re loud, and they’re…well…comfortable.
The Arkalis have a MATRYX® upper that is a lightweight weave and incorporates Kevlar for durability, so the shoe is hardy and resistant, without being weighty and bulky, while also allowing for breathability. Winning all around already!
If you’ve ever worn straight climbing shoes, you know they fit like a rigid sock, so these shoes incorporate some of the “fits like a glove” traits without feeling restrictive. Again, like climbing shoes, the heel has a bit of a cushioned cup to it to prevent slipping, but does not impede comfortable movement like an aggressive climbing shoe would. The sole is flexible given the considerate placement and direction of the lugs, so the wearer still feels a connection to the ground without sacrificing grip. Going over rocks, and indeed even sticking them into a tree for these photos, these shoes aren’t slipping even a little!
The midsole has a cushy EVA top layer with a second layer of foam, with the idea that it will retain its structure and hold up against repeated wear. An Active Foot Frame prevents the foot from just floating on top of the foam, while also adding support and stability, and, as Hoka is known for, efficient and rolling strides are found easily. Rounding out the features are a toe cap and ankle and heel strap for additional / adjustable reinforcement. These shoes will truly excel with technical terrain, which makes them perfect for Gorge hikes with scrambles, boulder-hopping around Mt. St. Helens, or ridge running at Smith Rock.
As always, they are not a substitute for proper mountaineering / alpine boots, but they are a solid 3-in-1 shoe for for your hybrid activities. Comfort for hiking, flexibility for running, and rigid for climbing, I don’t know how Hoka combined all three into one shoe, but they did. And I’m looking forward to spending my summer in them.
Product: Arkali – MSRP $200
Specs from the website:
- Stability: Neutral
- Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm
- Women’s US Size 7: 13.26 oz
- Men’s US Size 9: 15.24 oz
- Cushion: Responsive (minimal cushion for a connected feel)
- Color options:
- Women’s: Dragonfly/Aqua Haze or Black Reflective
- Men’s: Black/Cyan/Citrus or Black Reflective
Features from the website:
- MATRYX® upper featuring high-tensile synthetic fiber strands across the midfoot for unparalleled strength and durability at minimal weight
- High-abrasion rubber toe cap extends to the midfoot for increased protection
- Ankle and heel straps offer structural and proprioceptive support on uneven terrain
- PROFLY™ midsole for a cushioned landing and propulsive toe-off
- EVA top midsole for running shoe cushion at an incredibly light weight
- Rangi™ bottom foam offers durable cushioning and a responsive feel
- Vibram® Megagrip hi-traction outsole with 5mm lugs
- Multidirectional lugs for supreme grip
More about HOKA:
HOKA ONE ONE was created with one goal in mind — make running easier. We do things differently, from the look of our shoes all the way to the technologies that make them possible. If you’ve ever worn a pair, you know what the HOKA difference feels like, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
“Radical change often comes about in trying to solve a simple problem. Our original goal was to improve endurance race times by designing a shoe to go downhill faster. In doing so, we inadvertently reinvented the running shoe.” HOKA ONE ONE® Co-Founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud
Thank you to HOKA for providing us with a sample pair. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.