Review: Hoka One One’s New Release Is Redefining the Hiking Boot
Hoka's latest boot combines balanced cushioning and over-the-ankle support
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Back in 2009, the running community found itself in the midst of a minimalist frenzy. Featherlight shoes, which lacked even basic cushioning, were being touted by magazines and pundits alike, while Christopher McDougall’s best-selling novel Born to Run heralded the benefits of barefoot running. For all intents and purposes, “thick” running shoes were dead.
But all the hype didn’t stop French-based Hoka One One from sprinting brashly in the opposite direction. Its 2011 line of ‘maximal’ running shoes embraced plump, mega-fat cushioning that defied every ostensible claim made by the more restrained running community. And though many were perplexed by the newcomer’s hamburger-looking shoes, the company somehow found success and set off a lightweight, “maximalist” footwear movement that saw the company’s sales spike over 400 percent in the following years.
Since its victory in tackling the running world, Hoka One One has since put more stock in its line of hiking footwear — hoping to energize the hiking world in the same way. And the Anacapa Mid GTX is its best effort to date. Unlike traditional hiking boots that tend to read bulky and cumbersome, the Anacapa Mid combines a lightweight ride with the same cushioning that made Hoka famous. Its over-the-ankle protection is well-suited for the trail, the toe box is decently roomy and while the outsole has some durability concerns, Hoka’s latest hiker breathes new life into the traditional hiking boot.
Design and Materials
Let’s not mince words. These Hoka One One hiking shoes are seriously comfortable. I may have had high expectations after running in Hoka’s Clifton line for years, but the Anacapa impressed me even further. The shoe delivered immediate comfort through the heel, midfoot and forefoot the moment I tried it on, promoting dynamic movement on the trail between grueling uphills and downhill sprints. The only other boot I’ve found to offer instantaneous comfort is the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid, but Hoka’s advanced cushioning also reduces foot fatigue mile after mile.
That same respect for comfort extends to the shoe’s lacing system, which dial in a proper trail-ready fit with three sets of eyelets — though they can also make lacing up a little more tedious (don’t worry, you’ll adapt over time). Additionally, the snug heel cup is tougher to slide into but it’s made easier by the durable heel tab, especially if you loosen the laces. The design is rounded out by a wide toe box that lets you spread out, similar to Altra’s Lone Peak 5 shoe, and generous padding through the ankle and tongue which will save your feet on high-mileage days.
Hoka’s earlier efforts to improve waterproofing weren’t up to snuff, but this time the brand went with a Gore-Tex liner, known for its reliability. To wit: I wasn’t surprised when my feet stayed dry through creeks, wet grass or puddles, and Hoka applied a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating to the leather upper that keeps the boot from absorbing moisture. My feet were sweaty and warm after long days of backpacking through Yosemite National Park in high heat, but I attribute this to the Gore-Tex liner; it seals out external moisture but it also traps unwanted moisture created by your feet. That said, breathability was never a major concern, and if we’re lucky, Hoka will release a non-waterproof option that caters to warm weather.
The Anacapa Mid GTX, are a departure from the classic hiking boot, which could take miles to break in. Similar in many ways to a running shoe, I only had to pull them from the box, lace them up and go. Though comfort was certainly a dominating theme, I also found the Vibram Megagrip compound to be sufficient over slippery rocks and scree. There were times when I couldn’t fully trust the boot through steep scrambles with a loaded pack, but I attribute that to the outsole’s rubber pads which don’t offer a lot of grip. Similar to Hoka’s polarizing TenNine shoe, the Anacapa also features an extra inch of mid and outsole behind the heel that looks as if it will get caught between rocks, but didn’t occur during testing. If anything, it provided more stability over technical sections of rocks and roots.
My only concern with the Anacapa Mid GTX is its durability. While the boot held up nicely over thirty miles of testing, the upper and sole showed a few signs of wear. A toe cap on the middle of the boot resists scraping, but it doesn’t wrap around the toe box like you see on other popular hiking boots. This leads me to wonder if parts of the upper are overexposed. Additionally, those rubber pads on the outsole showed signs of wear, though I predict they’ll go flat over time rather than fail all at once. If Hoka provided the Anacapa with a full rubber outsole, it would be nearly indestructible.
What We Like
- Comfort. Hoka embraces its running heritage to deliver impressive comfort and support. The Anacapa may look like a boot but it fits like a cushy shoe.
- Superior fit. The snug heel, lacing system and roomy toe box supply a well-rounded fit that hugs your foot without suffocating it along the way.
- Styling. Not interested in the Anacapa Mid GTX? It also comes in the Anacapa Low GTX, though I recommend the Mid for its superior ankle protection and support.
What We Don’t
- Durability. These boots are made with Hoka’s well-known quality and care, but reinforcements through the toe box and outsole would improve durability.
- Traction. The Anacapa is designed as an all-rounder that’s capable from gravel to grasslands, but improved traction might make it more adaptable on steep, loose hills.
- Breathability. We only need Hoka to release the Anacapa in a non-waterproof model for those of us hiking in warm weather. As it stands, the Gore-Tex liner limits breathability.
Should You Buy It?
You may know Hoka One One for its lineup of nonconforming running shoes, but the brand continues to expand into the outdoor footwear scene with major success. Its latest boot, the Anacapa Mid GTX, delivers unrivaled support that lasts for miles and adds not only a secure fit, but waterproofing and styling too. Perfect for day hikers and lightweight backpackers, it’s a remarkable value that puts a premium on comfort when you need it most. Buy it now and your feet will thank you later.
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