With a thick and exaggerated sole that juts inches behind the shoe’s heel, the TenNine Hike GTX is a radical rethinking of the hiking shoe. And that makes sense for a shoe made by HOKA, the disruptive brand that singlehandedly turned running-shoe design on its head a decade ago by challenging assumptions about cushioning and performance. You probably have (at least) two questions: What is HOKA thinking? And how does it perform? We rang up the product team to find out.
Stability in All Conditions
The TenNine’s most immediately apparent design feature, its aft-protruding sole, is also its most important. “With hiking, we are where we were with running back in 2009,” says Thibaut Poupard, senior manager of product innovation at HOKA. “New chemistry and technology are allowing us to go wider and longer for more stability.” The theory is simple: with more connection to the earth comes more stability—something the TenNine’s elongated Hubble® heel and midsole geometry offer in spades. The shoe’s increased ground contact also provides best-in-class traction, particularly on downhills.
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Comfort for Lasting Performance
Like HOKA running shoes, the TenNine Hike GTX relies on an ample serving of the company’s proprietary midsole EVA foam cushioning, which when combined with the Hubble® heel produces a cloudlike experience for hikers. “To further increase flex,” says Matt Head, HOKA design director, “we added the swallowtail cutout in the rear of the heel.” On the trail, this works almost like independent suspension. The right side of the shoe can deal with a rock, while the left side stays more planted on the trail, reducing strain on the wearer’s ankle. The exaggerated heel and wedge of the foam midsole further reduce impact on the hiker’s joints by pushing the leg into a natural bend, transferring impact forces off the knee joint and onto muscles.
Added bonus: the TenNine Hike GTX was designed to reduce environmental impact, too. Recycled materials and textiles are used everywhere possible, from the integrated waterproof membrane (71 percent post-consumer recycled materials; more on that below) to the shoe's lining, laces, and even the heel pull (100 percent recycled polyester).
Your eyes may be drawn first to the TenNine’s unique lowers, but your feet will immediately notice its running-shoe fit. “The uppers instantly adapt to a variety of feet,” says Head. Compared to traditional hiking-boot leather, the TenNine’s mesh uppers virtually eliminate the standard break-in period. But that benefit extends past your first few hikes in these shoes to include seasonal adaptability: whether you’re wearing lightweight summer socks or heavy winter socks, just lace them up and go.
All-Weather Protection and Traction
The TenNine foot protection isn’t limited to its cushioned, super-stable midsole. HOKA designers kept variable weather and trail conditions in mind too, employing Gore-Tex Leaf bootie construction to wrap hikers’ feet in a waterproof-breathable membrane that keeps moisture out and lets perspiration escape. Additionally, hearty Vibram Megagrip lugs, spread across the shoe’s vast contact patch, ensure traction across wet, dry, frozen, and muddy trails.
A Superior Strength-to-Weight Ratio
“Our goal was to change the hiking experience by bringing what we’ve learned from ten years in the running category to the trail,” Head says. The result is a shoe that provides the protection, fit, and durability of a hiking boot with the flexibility and lightweight feel of a trail runner. The combination means less fatigue on the trail—and the prospect of more energy to cover more ground. “A hiker is on their feet all day, encountering different terrain with every step,” Head says. “It’s not about speed. It’s about hiking forever.”
HOKA ONE ONE® produces premium performance footwear and apparel for athletes of all types. Born in the mountains, HOKA shoes are designed to make movement feel easier and provide a one-of-a-kind experience with enhanced cushioning and a uniquely smooth ride; today, HOKA’s footwear and apparel lines have grown to meet the running, walking, fitness and outdoor needs of a wide variety of users. With a bold and unexpected approach, HOKA empowers athletes of all levels to feel like they can fly. For more information, visit hokaoneone.com or follow @hokaoneone #TimeToFly.