Torrent on Trail : TRM Editor Chris Ord trail tests the Hoka One One Torrent
Everybody loves a mongrel. But nobody likes marketing bollocks.
Which is why, when researching the Hoka One One Torrent, I had a giggle. Check out The Ginger Runner’s review of the Torrent and you’ll notice a bad overdubbing – like a kung fu classic with English voice over – whenever he says (obviously in the original filming) “One One”, it’s been overdubbed to “Ohnay Ohnay”. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s brands either CAPITALISING things (despite not being an acronym – even Qantas, which is an acronym gave up capitalising yonks ago) or, as in this instance, stupid pronunciations that directly defy their English spelling presentation. You want to be known as Ohnay, Ohnay, then spell it as such (yeah, I know it’s derived from a Māori phrase that means “to fly over the earth”, but the majority of your market aren’t indigenous linguistic professors attuned to these things).
Luckily, ‘strategic branding’ bollocks doesn’t always spoil the goods being sold. So back to the mongrel. Hoke One One’s (how did you say it in your head just then?) Torrent is a magic mix in that it has been bred with the better elements of Hoka’s other trail shoe models, and the result is a resilient, run-anything singletrack beast that thanks to its mixed blood is a better all-round performer than any of its parentage. More importantly it’s better tuned to suit a broader range of trailites.
To paraphrase the Ginger Runner, who knows his midsole from his upper: “the Torrent features the grip of Hoka’s Speedgoat 2 combined with the low profile of the Speed Instinct 2, add that to a more responsive midsole, plus a lightweight mesh upper and you have yourself a fast trail beast.”
And here’s the hammer drop that may get this shoe stocked even on a traditionally non-Hoka shoe rack: “These are the most un-Hoka of Hokas.”
Ginger means that in a good way, in that they deliver in the measurable that Hoka is most famous for – comfort – but unlike other Hokas, they run much lighter, faster and without the clunky-ness that those who don’t wear the brand accuse them of being. That’s because they aren’t overbuilt. The Torrent is simply not as beefy, rather they have been slicked down somewhat to be simple, responsive, with a ‘tight’ run action that builds off a very responsive midsole. For a traditional-shoe runner like me, who likes to bond a bit with the earth below, the Torrent could be a perfect ‘blooding’ to the Hoka brand.
The secret sauce here is foam called Profly that while squishy up back, has a forefoot zone that has been firmed up a notch or two for a snappier response on toe off and a better foot on ground feel. Of course, you can’t please every runner, all the time and those seeking a truly plush, marshmellow ride across the stepping action will find these perhaps too harsh for a Hoka. But compare them to any other brand with a tending-to-maxi offering (i.e. Salomon Sense Pro Max) and they remain some of the most comfortable on market.
The stack height is 23mm/18mm with a 5mm drop, which still gives adequate real estate for cushioning.Runners who want more plush will still go for the Stinson ATR 5, which features an added 14mm of pillow (37mm/32mm). For my liking the Torrent sits a better and more preferred proprioception rating, while still giving enough comfort on longer runs. The slimmed down profile also positions your foot closer to the ground giving them a racier feel, one that suits shorter, faster efforts as well as longer ones.
There is no integrated rock plate, but the sheer thickness of the midsole and the robust grip outer means your foot is protected from any pinchy, rocky incursions and so still suited to bitey terrain.
Speaking of grip, this is where the Torrent really nails it. The outsole has nearly without exception been lauded by reviewers. The aggressive design pairs square pegs at the heel with a slanted, angular tread at the forefoot to help you dig in. Technical terrain, rocky, muddy, slippery – the lugs latch onto everything like a good all-rounder trail shoe should. Better yet, they also handle more buffed fire trail, flatter surfaces and even road with aplomb.
Up top, the Torrent benefits from a high sided TPU rubber overlay, that keeps the lower parts of the lightweight mesh upper protected, reinforcing durability (a Hoka weak point in the past). The mesh is super lightweight, breathable and wicks well keeping the foot comfy inside. Although not experienced by me to date, other reviewers found the upper to stretch some after longer wear periods, so keep your sizing choice out of the box on the cosier side, knowing there will be some give as you wear them in. This adds to the front toe box being on the roomier side anyway, preventing toe jamming on steep descents and allowing toe splay – good for foot swelling ultra distances.
The Torrent is the ideal transition to a mini-maxi style shoe where the benefits of super-cushioning are apparent but not overpowering, the trail feedback remains to a degree, and the plush factor is ideal for longer runs. For those already well-blooded to to Hoka’s maximal cushion, you may find these a harsher ride where harshness is relative (I still find them super silky). The shoes further benefit Hoka newbies, as the sponge dampens a bit after a period (again, this actually suits someone who wants at least a tickle of ground feel).
Yep, this is onay Hoka that could be for everyohnay.
THE LOW DOWN
GREAT FOR:pure comfort on trails, grip, mid to long distances, mountains, bitey terrain, first time Hoka wearers, racing.
NOT SO GREAT FOR:super maxi-runners used to Hoka’s beefier models; proper minimalists; people who don’t want to keep saying ‘Ohnay, Ohnay’.
TEST CONDITIONS:varied terrain, mostly mountain singletrack with mid-thigh level of technicality; approx. 110km.
TESTER:Chris Ord, Editor
TESTER MECHANICS:Midfoot striker, prefers tending to minimal drop but getting softer in old age when it comes to cushioning
CONDITIONS:Shoes provided for testing by Hoka One One
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