The Sky Arkali from HOKA ONE ONE is a shoe like no other. Velcro ankle straps, grippy rubber, and HOKA’s signature plush foam combine in one of the most futuristic trail shoes we’ve seen.
HOKA ONE ONE’s DNA is in running shoes. The Goleta, Calif.,-based brand made a name for itself with ample midsoles and massive stack heights. And over the years, the company has expanded from running shoes to trail running and hiking. And with the brand’s latest offering — the Arkali — approach, too.
The Sky Arkali launched last week as HOKA ONE ONE’s first and only approach-minded hiking shoe. At first glance, it may look like an odd hybrid shoe. But compared to other approach shoes on the market, what excited us the most were the features it shares with other HOKA ONE ONE shoes.
HOKA ONE ONE placed its running technology into the Arkali, and the result is a shoe that, according to the brand, feels like a trail running shoe yet climbs like an approach shoe.
“The Arkali is a beautiful distillation of a runner, hiker, and approach or climbing shoe, all in one,” said Jared Smith, product manager for HOKA ONE ONE. “This is definitely something you can run in and feel super secure, comfortable, and cushioned that lauds on HOKA’s recognition in the marketplace.”
Sure, brands may say you can log big miles in an approach shoe, but almost every approach shoe stems from either a climbing- or a hiking-brand mentality. The Arkali sticks out for this reason — it carries running-brand DNA.
Yet it’s not just HOKA that’s attempting this blend of running, hiking, and climbing. Brands across the industry are throwing crazy ideas into hiking shoes now, and the result is futuristic hikers much like the Arkali.
HOKA ONE ONE Arkali ‘Approach-Running’ Shoe
Hiking shoes are in the midst of a design revolution right now. Beefy, overbuilt leather hiking boots are old news as brands place just about every blend of footwear technology in hiking shoes.
Last year, it seemed every hiking brand came out with a “light hiker.” Whether it was the Merrell MQM FLEX or the Salomon OUTline, one thing was clear: Hikers wanted something lighter, comfy out of the box, and more versatile.
In July 2018, The North Face unveiled its cutting-edge EXTS outsole system — an outsole it claimed was grippier than any other outsole on the market. The North Face sought to create hiking shoes that looked stylish yet performed on the trail and emphasized grip.
And just this February, Adidas launched its first hiking shoe with its famed Boost Midsole. One of the “6 Unlikely ‘Boosts’ to Outdoor Innovation,” Boost gives runners a responsive ride with incredible energy return. The result, the Terrex Free Hiker, is a lightweight hiking shoe made for comfort.
It seems everyone wants a slice of the hiking pie. But brands are still experimenting in this “new age” of hiking shoes. This has resulted in countless hiking shoes developed for every season and built for just about any trail imaginable.
And now enters HOKA, in the same vein as other outdoor brands, taking a novel “approach” to hiking with a focus on the vertical.
Arkali Hiking Shoe: What You Get
The Arkali is not exactly a hiking shoe, but not a strict approach shoe, either. HOKA borrows elements to perform both on trail runs and near-vertical rock.
The shoe weighs 15.24 ounces, uses the PROFLY Midsole (the same midsole used in the Torrent, a trail runner we love), and Vibram Megagrip high-traction outsole with 5mm multidirectional lugs.
Yet HOKA introduces technology it’s never put in shoes with the Arkali.
The Vibram rubber wraps around the toe box, and the laces extend to the toes — both features found in climbing and approach shoes. The toe-box rubber provides grip in cracks and is exceptionally durable.
Around the upper cuff are a heel strap and an ankle strap to tighten down during use on uneven terrain. HOKA also places Kevlar strands within the upper for even more durability and strength.
At a glance, the feature set is bizarre. Who needs a rubberized toe box with a running midsole? But then again, there really isn’t anything else like this on the market.
And to reiterate its running DNA, HOKA places a midsole made for cushioned landing and propulsive toe-off, an EVA top midsole for running shoe cushion and low weight, and a responsive Rangi bottom foam.
In all, the Arkali is quite unique. And its creation signals yet another trend among hikers and trail enthusiasts: grip on the way up.
As part of the Sky Collection, HOKA ONE ONE additionally launches the Sky Kaha for long-distance hiking and the Sky Toa for fast hiking.
GearJunkie is testing the Arkali this spring on Boulder’s Flatirons and Colorado’s hiking trails. Stay tuned for more coverage on HOKA’s new Sky Collection.