Over the past few years, Hoka One One has earned itself a loyal following amongst trail runners looking for a comfortable, well-cushioned shoe for use on their backcountry workouts.
As we head into the spring of 2019, the company is introducing a completely new kind of shoe that is a departure from anything we’ve seen from them in the past. In fact, the new Sky Arkali light hiker is unlike anything we’ve seen from any other footwear manufacturer as well, and I mean that in the best way possible.
At first glance, the Arkali looks a bit like a hightop trail running shoe, with an aggressive sole, bold colors, and a unique design that truly sets it apart from the crowd. Hoka’s heritage is on full display here, with the shoe offering an impressive stack height.
Although nothing quite so high as some of its more popular trail running shoes. Still, there is no denying that the brand’s fingerprints are all over this eye-catching and oddly compelling boot/running shoe hybrid.
I suspect the Arkali’s looks will be one of those love/hate kind of things. Some of us are probably going to love them, while others will likely think they are hideous. I think they look great, blending athleticism and agility, with a shoe built for outdoor adventure.
In some ways, they look more like a basketball shoe built for the trail, with the hightop design providing some extra support for the ankle. The bright, vibrant colors help the shoe to stand out even further, and once again, you’ll either love it or hate it.
If you prefer something subtle on your feet, the Arkali isn’t for you. This is definitely a shoe that draws attention no matter where you wear it.
Hoka’s trademark comfort and support are evident when you slip your feet into the Arkali for the very first time. But unlike their sometimes too-soft trail running shoes, these light hikers provide a stiffer ride compared to the company’s other models.
One of my main complaints about the Hoka Speedgoat 3 is that I found them almost too well-cushioned. In fact, I never quite felt connected with the trail, and the shoes made me feel slower, even if I wasn’t running slower.
However, that isn’t the case with the Arkali as the Vibram outsole helps to maintain that connection with the ground, which is just as important for a hiker as it as a trail runner.
Speaking of the outsole, Hoka outfitted the Arkali with a Vibram Megagrip sole that provides excellent traction on various terrains. The shoe performs equally well on pavement and smooth ground as it does on mud, slick rocks, and even snow and ice.
As you would expect, it isn’t as adept in those conditions as a dedicated backpacking or alpine boot, but in terms of versatility and all-around comfort, it more than holds its own. This is especially true if you’re looking to move fast and light, as the Arkali clocks in at just 15.4 ounces (436 grams), which slots it in nicely between a full-blown boot and a lightweight trail runner.
Having worn the Arkali on several adventures, as well as just out walking the dog, I can safely say that I think this shoe will be a popular one with thru-hikers and fast packers this season.
It’s a combination of speed, comfort, support, and durability that are impressive and have the potential to really open up a new category for Hoka. That said, the Arkali also makes a great approach shoe, particularly for those heading to base camp in the mountains.
The same qualities that make it a good choice for long-distance hikers will allow it to be popular with climbers, too, offering an athletic new option that deftly blends all of the qualities you’re looking for in active outdoor footwear.
The Hoka One One Sky Arkali is a shoe that sits somewhere between a light hiking shoe for casual outdoor enthusiasts and backpacking boots designed for longer-distance adventures.
After testing the shoes, I feel like it can fit the role of either of those categories nicely, although more causal hikers are likely to find them a bit on the pricey side. Alternatively, the serious trekkers will find them to be a great bargain, offering versatility and levels of comfort that are impressive, to say the least.
If you’re in the market for a hiker/approach shoe that is lightweight, nimble, and quick, then you’ll definitely want to have Hoka’s new model on your shortlist. It is a unique shoe, to say the least, but one that you’ll be happy to have in your gear closet.
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