The new Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP is a lightweight, modern take on the classic hiking boot design, but it’s really quite an agile mountain running fiend too. When company founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nico Mermoud were first tinkering with the concept of maximally cushioned mountain running shoes in 2009, they quickly realized a hi-top shoe would have great appeal for certain trail running and mountaineering applications. They actually had a prototype of a mountain boot ready in 2010 when they began showing off its initial trail running shoe line to U.S. retailers—it was essentially an early Mafete with a hi-top closure—but it wasn’t quite as technically complete so it never made it past the preliminary phase, Diard says.

Eventually, though, the original hi-top concept evolved into the Tor Ultra Hi WP. It’s been built with some of the same materials and technology used in Hoka trail running shoes (and yes, it’s maximally cushioned), plus it has a Vibram outsole and a flexible above-the-ankle closure that provides support while still moving dynamically on the run. A reinforced toe bumper and synthetic overlays offer great front-end and sidewall protection. It all adds up to an ideal shoe for running rocky trails up and down mountain peaks, where off-camber balance, relentless traction and all-over protection are crucial.

We tested it running the rugged trails of several Colorado 14ers and steep routes in the French Alps, and give it high marks for comfort, cushion, support and outsole grip. It has a waterproof eVent liner, which keeps feet dry through shallow stream crossings and in rainy conditions. (It also leaves them a little bit toasty in hot temperatures, but it’s not an issue in cool to mild weather.) It might be a bit too much for running on mellow to moderate trails, but it can be for great backpacking and hiking at a more pedestrian pace. Ultimately, the Tor Ultra Hi is unique tool for a specific kind of hardcore running on technical terrain, and its combination of agility and protection make it a real game-changer.  

Price: $230
Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm; (35mm heel, 31mm forefoot)
Weights: 17.0 oz. (men’s size 9.0), 14.7 oz. (women’s size 7.0)