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Waterproof, grippy, elevated, Hoka and boots – are these the shoes you’ve been looking for? I bought these with the specific reason of being able to run through the snow in Finland but it turns out they might be good for lots more than that.

 
What do Hoka say about them? Named after the Tor Des Geants, a 330km mountain race across the Italian Alps with 3 Everests-worth of ascent, the Men’s Hoka Tor Speed WP is the lightest trail running shoe to offer ankle stability with aggressive Vibram grip.

  • Weight: 349g
  • Offset: 5mm
  • Heel: 33.5mm
  • Forefoot: 28.5mm
  • Standard laces 
  • Anatomic ankle glove
  • Closed mesh
  • Waterproof membrane
  • Seamless synthetic overlay support
  • Vibram Grip
  • 4mm lugs

The first thing you’ll notice is how light they are considering the size – the boot gives them a look of bulk that they don’t deserve because the Tor Speed when on your feet are a good close fitting shoe that you feel nicely locked into. As a fan of the oversized shoe (see my general love of all things Altra) I knew what I was getting when I bought these – it was not going to be a minimalist shoe. On the visual end of things the Tor Speed is okay, black and red aren’t really daring enough for me – I’d rather that if you’re going to make a ridiculous running shoe then make it properly ridiculous – no messing around. However, that said they’ve grown on me much more than the Stinson ‘white’ ever did.

 
Testing Before they went to Finland I gave them about 40 miles of testing to bed them in. I’ve generally found with Hoka that my feet need a little bit of time to adjust to them but the Tor Speed were comfortable from the moment we hit the trails together. We banged up and down some muddy hills and I was happy to note that I had good grip on the ground, very little slipping – my foot was stable in the shoe and importantly my feet were dry despite the conditions being rainy. I took them into the city and did a few short urban trail runs and these too were comfortable affairs.

Bootiness Let’s not beat around the bush – these runners are boots and not running shoes, you’d think they have more in common with hiking boots but they really don’t. They simply feel like a properly bombproof runner. They won’t be for everyone but Hoka (and soon Altra) have a boot based running footwear option that will appeal to a certain market. 

Finland Testing I put another 60km (ish) on the Tor Speed during my visit to Luosto in Finland. I decided that I wasn’t going to go snow-shoeing, I was going to see how the Hoka handled smooth, deep, icy, slushy, hilly, flat, etc, etc, trails and I quickly got my answer.

 
On the XC ski trails the Hoka performed well, the grip held well and I could race around pretty much as I wanted. My feet were never cold and the combination with drymax socks was a winner, even when they dug into the deeper snow the Hoka retained their ability to get me out of trouble and unlike other Hoka I’ve used my ankles never felt at risk of going over. On the icier and slushier road they reacted the same as on normal Tarmac – they ate it up but it was when I hit the trail and decided to go ‘wild’ that they would have a real test.

Thicker and thicker snow greeted my feet, legs getting trapped in the thigh height snow and much colder as you went higher and higher but never once did they fail and my feet remained dry. Yes I dusted off excessive snow after I’d dug myself out of various holes but ultimately my Tor Speed were a great choice of footwear. Uphills and downhills I expected to be a little less comfortable than say my Altra Lone Peak 2.5 but actually they were fine for undulating trails and once you gotten used to the feeling of them you’ll simply forget you’ve got boots on at all.

So what are they for? I’ll be using them for the first sections (and possibly the whole) of the Skye Ultra Trail in May – so I’m happy that you can use them for ultra running but things like fast packing, hiking and geocaching will be right at the heart of the type of activity they were built for.

Would I recommend these? The answer is, of course, yes but with the caveat that they aren’t for everyone and they aren’t for every activity. Plus as Hoka they’re quite expensive usually retailing for over £100 but if you find them on sale they might be worth a punt as an option for a waterproof shoe where sprinting isn’t going to play a large part in the day. Would I buy them again I suppose I’d the litmus test? And yes I would, I’ll be looking for a second pair for my winter running but despite really getting into the groove with them they won’t replace the Altra as my shoe of choice for racing. 

For a proper Hoka hiking boot you could look at the Tor Ultra which is a more traditional boot.

 
So yesterday I turned 38, not a particularly momentous day but the weeks between the end of August and my September 20th are uninspiring and make me far too contemplative. That rather internal monologue I have during this period is quite negative and I often need something to snap me out of it because my running always suffers.

Enter: The GingaNinja with a pair of freshly imported Altra Lone Peak 2.5 – say goodbye biscuits and over-eating, say hello ‘back in training’

Thanks GingaNinja.

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I was told yesterday that words love and hate should be used sparingly however, I have a different feeling, I argued that you should use these terms when it is appropriate. Therefore let me start by saying I 100% love my Skora Phase running shoe. This review is based on my recent purchase of Skora Phase and I have no affiliation with them, I write this because I use them, so let’s start off with what the company say

PHASE is constructed using the latest lamination techniques, with a minimal single-layer mesh upper and laminated reflective details. With an asymmetric lacing system and unique IBR outsole, PHASE provides maximum performance with minimum weight and interference. Zero-drop, 11mm stack height outsole (8mm without insole).

PHASE is built on our revolutionary IBR (Injection Blown Rubber) platform. R02 pushes the boundaries of material technology. IBR offers better abrasion resistance, grip and compression-set than injected EVA with lower density and weight than rubber. This provides a runner with incredible ground feel and running comfort in an amazingly durable, flexible and lightweight complete package.

FEATURES
– REALFIT™ last
– Airmesh upper
– Laminated reflective overlays (no-sew)
– Asymmetrical lacing
– Anti-slip microfibre heelpad
– No-tongue design
– Reflective details
– IBR (Injected Blown Rubber) outsole
– Rubber toe bumper
– Zero-drop construction
– Stitch-down construction
– 8mm Forefoot/heel stack height
– 3mm Antimicrobial insole

What does any of that mean? Very little if you think about it, when you buy a pair of shoes you buy them because you think they might offer you something in the ride or because you like the colour or because you trust the brand named for me with Skora none of these applied, I was actually looking for a lightweight replacement work shoes to cover the job previously done by my Dunlop Green Flash, which I’ll be honest are not a great shoe anymore. I had seen some reviews for Skora running shoes via some of the American tweeters that I follow and given the zero drop and barefoot style feel, combined with a colour way suited to the workplace that these might be for me. So I started looking for them on the internet but finding a stockist, who also have a physical shop is near impossible – a bit like the early days of Vibram Fivefingers. At the point of giving up I happened upon a Sports pursuit sale and there I found the Skora Phase and without a moments hesitation I was ordering my first pair – an absolute bargain at just £46 inc delivery. The trouble was this was early August and they didn’t arrive until the middle of September so I was left waiting what felt like an age, still upon arrival I was rather pleased with the packaging – always a good sign. A nicely branded and well constructed box contained my new shoes and as I lifted out the first one I couldn’t believe how light it was. As a big advocate of the barefoot style I own several pairs of VFFs and Merrell glove and in the weight department these felt lighter! they also felt more flexible and without a shadow of a doubt they had a uniquely delightful styling.

Changing into my Skora was a pleasant experience and the slightly to the side of arch for the foot lacing system meant less stress across my arch, but they also pulled nice and snug for a good fit. I wiggled my toes a little bit and noted that the toe box fulsome with room to breathe but without ever feeling loose. The airmesh was suitably breathable and the heel – a place that I find rubs on me was nice and soft to the touch, but it was as I stood up that I felt the really great support and the grip, you get the feeling of the little dots gently pushing through and I knew that as I ran I’d be well connected to the ground below me. And then it hit me, I must have worn Skora before and memories of being a six year old boy flooded into my brain and there it was … Skora reminded me of those little black pumps that UK kids used to have to wear rather than real trainers, now this is no bad thing as recent research suggests that there is nothing wrong with these at all, but that memory spike meant the Skora earned a place in my heart long before I’d run in them.

On the road?
My first run in them was a slow 10km, followed each of the following days with either a fast 5km or a 7km trot, not much but best to break them in slowly – but the reality is there was no need, these were a great pair of runners. The Skora Phase are fast and light but with a great connection to the ground just like the Merrells and Vibrams but offer a little more protection certainly than the VFFs and probably as much as the Merrell. I also feel slightly more sure footed in these than I do in the Merrell which I find a little more difficult to keep under control but no such issue here. In water they take the liquid on board and release it nice and quickly but with added benefit is that in the rain they tend not to absorb as much as the Vibrams therefore my feet have been staying drier as I’ve been running – another bonus as my feet seem to blister at the first sign of rain.

On the trail?
I did one 15km run on the trail and the Skora Phase were fine in dry conditions, moving nicely over the rough terrain but I think they would struggle in more challenging conditions but then I’m not convinced they were designed for the trail, these feel like a decent road and gym shoe.

In the office?
There have been a number of admiring glances at my Skora Phase and they are the perfect show for working in, I commute in them, I work in them and I run in them. I would pay the full price for these and will be when I next need a pair and I’ll be buying in bulk and in even more dramatic colour ways.

In conclusion
If you already are a barefoot runner and enjoy your Vibrams, Vivo or Merrells then you’ll probably enjoy these too, a little different from the ones mentioned but retaining all the great features that a barefoot shoe should have – I suppose for me these are the most versatile of running shoes I own and perhaps that is there downfall – I wouldn’t consider these for running the Snowdonia marathon in a couple of weeks time! but I would certainly be looking to pound out some faster 10km races in them and certainly they make a great training shoe. If you can find them then they will be a great addition to your shoe rotation and may even replace several old pairs of barefoots. Good running chaps and if you invest in some of these you will not regret it.

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