A rugged and technical hiking boot from the masters of cushioning.
I’ve been doing less running and a little more hiking lately as I’ve had a knee injury, 30+ years of mountain abuse is finally beginning to catch up with me. I was, therefore, keen to try a pair of the latest hiking boots from the legendary masters of cushioning HOKA ONE ONE (pronounced Hoe-Ka- On-ay – On-ay). I’ve been a fan of the HOKA trail running shoes for a while and we reviewed a pair of HOKA shoes back in 2017 and I have used their Speedgoat trail shoes so I was used to and enjoyed the cushioning. They are extremely popular amongst the Ultra Trail running community and you will see the running shoes on plenty of runners feet.
The HOKA Sky Arkali are the non waterproof boots in the HOKA Sky range – there are three models in the range. The Arkali have a more technical approach shoe feel than the other two models and so are most suited to technical, fast paced hiking and scrambling. It definitely screams technical in its styling and will appeal to those who like to add some rock into their hiking adventures – so think Tryfan North Ridge and even Cnieffon Arete or long days out on Scottish and Alpine ridges.
At first I thought the HOKA Sky Arkali looked a little over the top – but they do fit in with the HOKA styling. Very technical looking with the oversized sole unit and quite colourful – but then the oversized cushioning is what your buying HOKAS for (isn’t it?). Once I’d got over the overt stying and technical look you really start to appreciate them on longer trails. You will even find them perfectly fine for running if the opportunity arises. They were good, really good – comfortable, the climbing shoe lacing keeps the boot in place and helps with precision when you need it. Extra stability is provided for by the velcro strap that locks the boots across the top of the foot and acts as a sort of power strap as well as tidying up the laces. You will find this really useful for keeping the Sky Arkali firmly in place when descending and making sure there is no foot movement inside the boot, it also helps tidy the laces away once you have stowed them in the tongue pouch – really good feature of this boot.
Further stabilisation is provided by the achilles strap. You’ll just need to adjust this once when the boot is first used. Then it should lock the boot solidly in place with zero heel lift and you shouldn’t need to readjust unless you are switching to .
The inner uses perforated neoprene so isn’t waterproof even when you are hiking through wet bracken or undergrowth – in those conditions I would suggest you wear some waterproof socks (although in my experience with the boots in really wet conditions you will still get wet feet). So the Sky Arkali are better suited to cool dry conditions as they also run quite hot because of the neoprene. They have, however, been fine and comfortable in these late season cooler conditions with a thinner pair of socks. You can wear thicker socks as the toe box is a wider fit than the Speedgoats I’ve used in the past.
HOKA is all about cushioning and comfort in endurance events – you only need to see how popular they are with the ultra running community to endorse that. The HOKA Profly midsole offers a dual density foam cushioning which sits on an EVA midsole is a great combination. This then has more cushioning with the Rangi from that sits on the bottom means you’re getting the same level of premium cushioning that the ultra running shoes have. This still gives the boots a fairly firm ride though as that means it’s better at navigating through scree, gravel and loose dirt. This level of cushioning has meant that you can run in the boots quite comfortably for extended periods when out hiking, which I often do. They are very light too weighing in at 450g (for a single book sized UK8.5) on the trusty CGR scales. I have some approach shoes that are heavier than these – the only problem for climbing approach is that they have no heel tab.
HOKA have decided to go with a Vibram Megagrip sole which offers good durability and is tried and tested in mountain environments, a good move. The sole was very grippy on dry rock and surprisingly good on wet rock too. The lug patterning was great on loose gravel and scree and the whole boot is tough for this type of terrain as the Matryx upper has a Kevlar weave and nothing has made a dent in it yet. The toe rand is also made from a burly abrasion resistant rubber so it works well if you ever have to thrutch up a boot width crack – the heel is also covered in the same material.
In conclusion; yes the HOKA Sky Arkali are a brash design with an oversized sole and heel in bold colours. They are, however, brilliantly designed for long days covering technical terrain and have been the best scrambling boot I have used for years. The boot is not waterproof and you may find them hot on warmer days, but on cooler days they should be fine. Wear them with Seal Skinz and they are fine for damp ground and the sole unit is an absolute godsend on the end of day descent. The addition of a heel tab would also be useful for attaching to a harness if you wanted to use them as a technical approach shoe.
The HOKA Sky Arkali come in two colour schemes Blue (the test colour) and Black. They come in men’s sizes UK 6.5 to 12.5.
There are also two colour options for women and size ranges from UK 4.5 to 9.5.
The SRP is £170 GBP and they are available direct from HOKA ONE ONE EU and specialist retailers.
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers and writers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising or link to affiliate sales. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene and safety reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!
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