The Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX has caused a kerfuffle among hiking traditionalists with a daring and unique heel design paired with lightweight construction. Sitting somewhere in between a trail running shoe and a lightweight hiker, it's designed for comfort, speed and day-long ease of use. How does this unorthodox design compare to the rest of the market's best hiking boots? Read on for our full Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX review.
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Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX review: Design
The design of the Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX is the biggest standout element of the boot, a relatively standard sock-fit upper with a mid-height ankle, a compact toe box and a gigantic heel unit overhanging the back of the boot.
‘Part hovercraft, part hiking boot' claims Hoka One One, and indeed there is something of the hovercraft about them, as well as echoes of the firm's more outrageously-deeply soled trail shoes. That heritage is very much evident throughout, with a running-shoe fit confirming that this is no ordinary hiking boot (Top tip: size for runners, not hiking boots – go up a size, that is).
The most obvious design feature – that jutting heel overhang – looks enormous on the shelf, but actually on the foot it's surprisingly minimised, due to the angle that your ankle sits in the boot. Although Hoka One One recommends not driving vehicles or encountering stairs due to this heel – dubbed a 'Hubble heel geometry', in testing we found that stairs are perfectly doable with care, although – Barnard Castle jokes aside – we didn't dare try driving in them. On a more sustainable note, there is recycled polyester deployed through the collar, laces, heel pull and vamp webbing upper.
Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX review: Performance and comfort
Once you're past the visual impact, however, the heel is easy to forget about on relatively flat terrain, encouraging the mother of all heel-strikes as it soaks up the impact. The unusually-vast Vibram Megagrip sole area adds to a sure-footed impression on flat terrain, and the Hoka One One 'rocker' sole combines with the Hubble heel to feel as if it is propelling you forwards.
On rockier, more mountainous terrain you'd expect the heel to get in the way, but it does so less than you might expect, partly due to the ‘squishiness' of it, partly due to the angle of the foot. That said, this isn't really intended to be a stiff, high mountain boot for a host of reasons, rather a boot for a smooth ride and maximum cushioning, which it certainly delivers on. The comfort is emphasised by the broad toe-box, and the ankle support is just right for a high speed shoe. Meanwhile, the Gore-Tex liner does the usual job of keeping toes dry even in torrential conditions, and breathes well on longer hikes too.
On the downside, launch pricing is on the steeper side of the lightweight hiker market (the UK RRP is £220). This does open the Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX up to competition from most traditional hiking boots, especially if you're looking for a boot that offers more flexibility in use. One final hidden benefit of that huge heel – it makes levering boots off tired feet super-fast too. Speed is everything with the Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX.
Should I buy the Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX?
The Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX is certainly eye catching, and really does deliver on long-haul comfort, making it a great choice for a wide range of outdoor activities, especially more social low-level walks, Nordic walking, or going fast and light on well-built trails. However, in more rugged situations that large contact area creates a lack of precision that's not always welcome, so means you'll want to pick and choose your routes with care.