Thursday, October 17, 2019

Hoka ONE ONE Sky Kaha Trekking Boot Review: Long Marching Days Max Cushion and Comfort

Article by Sam Winebaum

Hoka One One Sky Kaha ($220)


Hoka One One launched a collection of two hiking boots and a hybrid approach shoe hiker in 2019. We extensively tested the Sky Kaha a trekking boot and Sky Toa (RTR Review), a mid-height fast hiker this spring and summer. Both bring Hoka's signature maximal cushion,  Vibram MegaGrip outsoles, and 4-6mm heel to toe drop  all as found in their trail runners to hiking boots.
We hiked the Toa on a 200 mile trek over moderate terrain and lots of asphalt this spring across Switzerland (Review and Trip Report) and  will make some comparisons in this review.

We took the Kaha, Marori word for strength and support on rough rocky New Hampshire White Mountains terrain for several hikes this early fall.

Kaha Stats
Weight: 18.2 oz / 518g men's
Stack Height: 33mm heel / 27 mm forefoot, 6mm drop
$220

First Impressions and Fit
Gigantic in appearance, surprisingly light in hand the Kaha fits me true to size but just and depending on terrain and sock choice. It is a high volume fit for sure. The fit is very generous with lots of toe box height and mid foot volume with that high cuff actually quite soft and not the more rigid stiff material of a backpacking or mountaineering boot.

If easier terrain with medium thickness socks the fit is spot on. In rougher more technical terrain I needed a heavier sock to fill some of the volume and fit was just right. With thinner socks I had to resort to top lace up tricks to lock the foot on rougher White Mountains terrain. If you have a low volume foot and wear thin socks as a rule and your terrain is rocky and rough one might consider sizing down half a size here.

Upper
The upper is made of a soft almost buttery, fairly thin(for a boot) and pliable leather. Other than the  laminated front toe bumper we have stitched classic construction here. Inside Kaha is "lined" with a soft eVent breathable waterproof bootie. My feet were comfortable in all more moderate early fall conditions I tested in. The eVent bootie was  excellent. My feet were never over warm or wet. 2020 Sky boots and the Speedgoat trail runner will get Gore-Tex waterproof breathable construction.
The toe bumper is high and somewhat pliable yet the front of the foot is always impeccably held and protected even on rough off camber terrain.

The high pliable rear cuff protects from debris but is not as stout as appearances may suggest. The Kaha cuff and soft pliable leather is clearly focused on long miles "marching" comfort and not as much on off angle mountaineering or backpacking with a heavy pack on highly technical terrain. The high stack of the midsole outsole and soft pliable upper together are not ideal for the roughest of terrain but with adjustment to sock thickness and the adjustable lacing system I got a good hold. On the other hand the pliability and softness of  the upper and high cuff makes fast hiking hour hour after hour supremely comfortable and I never a blister or any irritation which was not the case with the Toa.

The long lacing throat similar to an approach shoe really locks down the front of the foot in that high toe box. 
It is after all called out as a trekking boot. And it succeeds  brilliantly in upper comfort and support for that use and as a rugged terrain long miles day hiker.  I

Midsole
The midsole feel is unlike any hiking or trekking boot or shoe I have ever used. It is cushioned and soft enough to truly keep long days on the trail fatigue at bay yet stable as the foot sits down in the midsole at the rear (Hoka's bucket seat found on their trail runners). It clearly does not have a hard underfoot feel as most boots do, the feel is more like a Hoka trail shoe but slightly denser.

The stack height at 33 mm heel /27 mm is clearly higher than the typical hiking boot and is almost identical to Hoka's Stinson ATR 5 and is considerably higher than the Toa at 22mm /  26mm. As a result  of the high stack height the Kaha is a stiff but not completely rigid flexing boot whereas the Toa flexes like a running shoe,

The midsole is dual density with an EVA top layer for plush comfort (check!) with below rubberized foam for resilient durability and responsive feel (check!)

Outsole

Vibram MegaGrip is a staple of many top trail running shoes from Hoka for its all conditions grip, great durability, and podular design which reduces weight. I have had zero wear to date on the outsole after over 40 miles of often very rugged rocky New Hampshire terrain
Hiking Ride
On the summit of West Peak, Bigelow Range Maine during an 18 mile day
These boots are made for "marching" long daily miles in great comfort and that is exactly what I have experienced. While not run able due to their stiffness and weight their relatively light weight makes them move right along. My legs have been remarkably fresh at the end of every day.  They would make a great work boot if you were on your feet on hard surfaces all day, The soft relatively pliable ( or a boot) upper has more than adequate support in all terrain but combined with the high stack make the ideal terrain for Kaha of  smoother variety especially with a heavy pack.
I wore the Toa (RTR Review) for 200 miles across Switzerland on moderate trails and lots of road after I erroneously concluded the Kaha were to roomy. The Toa proved roomier yet at a half size down and stretched quite a bit with the lower stack and with  less cushion  felt.  At 15 oz the Toa was for sure lighter by 3 oz. and run able for fast packing but the Kaha would have been a better choice for his superior cushion and support.

Conclusions
Hoka's first trekking boot is supreme in max cushioning, upper and under foot comfort and is shod with confidence inspiring MegGrip. Relatively light for such a boot it is a great choice for yes "trekking" on smoother to moderate terrain. It is also a fine choice for day long day hikes on more technical terrain. At  $220 the Sky Kaha is a "premium" trekking option but one well worth it.

Tester Profile
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is a lifelong hiker, runner, and nordic skier. Sam is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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1 comment:

Σπύρος said...

2 questions:
1) How wide is the toebox compared to the Speedgoat?
2) Does it have a gusseted tongue that goes high until the end of the collar?
Thanks.