Hiking and Backpacking Boots
Hoka One One TenNine Hike Gore-Tex
$275, 2 lbs. 2 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: US men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11, standard and wide sizes
Lacing up the Hoka One One TenNine Hike Gore-Tex boots for the first time felt a little like suiting up for a moon walk—if moon boots feel exceptionally cushy, light, supportive, and surprisingly stable, given their oversized platform. Although I’ll probably never walk on the moon, after wearing these boots on a four-day, 45-mile backpacking trip in Yosemite, I’ll definitely hike many more miles of trails in them.
Most distinctively, the TenNine Hike sports a conspicuously extended heel geometry—a broad, compression-molded, EVA foam midsole platform projecting farther outward behind and to each side of the heel than has yet (to my knowledge) been used in any hiking footwear—even more so than Hoka’s signature oversized, lightweight foam midsole, used in the brand’s other models. Hoka says the extended heel creates a more efficient heel-to-toe transition.
Carrying 25 to 35 pounds in a backpack for four days in Yosemite—and briefly around 45 pounds, including some 12 pounds of water, for a bit over a mile uphill to a waterless campsite—I immediately noticed the enhanced softness of each step taken in these boots, an effect that persisted even through days hiking up to 14 miles and over multiple days of backpacking.
Hiking in them also quickly disabused me of my primary concern before trying them out: That the elevated platform would feel unsteady or awkward. That wasn’t the case. While I wouldn’t use or recommend these boots for scrambling or hiking very rugged off-trail terrain—both because of the wide platform and because, like other lightweight shoes, they’re not really built for that level of hard use—walking a trail in the neutral-stability TenNine Hike feels largely no less steady than traditional, narrower-platform hiking shoes.
Even with its higher bed of cushion, the TenNine Hike has a mere 4mm heel-to-toe drop, the same as found in Hoka’s Speedgoat 4 and Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX and other models. That’s somewhat minimal but has always felt good for me, as a hiker and runner who has never found that zero-drop active footwear suit my feet.
Like other Hoka shoes I’ve worn and liked, the TenNine Hike’s medium-volume, over-the-ankle fit feels comfortably snug in the heel and midfoot and provides decent room for the toes; the boots also come in wide sizes for men and women. Three pairs of lace hooks on each boot help prevent them loosening up over miles of hiking.
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The Gore-Tex membrane keeps feet dry in rain showers and when splashing through puddles, but it’s my experience with lightweight footwear that the membrane can get overwhelmed by hiking long distances through wet snow, a sustained downpour, or constantly brushing against dripping vegetation overhanging a trail.
Like other boots in this weight class, the TenNine breathes reasonably well, aided by the mesh tongue and perforated patches on either side of the ankle: In temps that ranged from the 40s into the 70s Fahrenheit under a hot alpine afternoon sun, my feet stayed mostly dry and comfortable, although they got sweaty enough one afternoon that I developed a minor hot spot (which I taped immediately to prevent it developing into a blister; see my “8 Pro Tips for Preventing Blisters When Hiking”). The Gore-Tex fabric is also made with recycled ripstop textile and recycled polyester throughout the collar, laces, heel pull tab, and vamp webbing.
I found the Vibram Megagrip outsole with 5mm lugs and a Litebase compound—which Hoka says reduces weight without compromising durability—delivered very good traction on dry trails that ranged from loose gravel and rocks to solid granite slabs and packed dirt.
The ripstop textile uppers, metal lacing hardware, and rubber toecap provide good durability for on-trail use. The weakness in the TenNine—as is common in lightweight shoes—lies where the midsole foam projects over the outsole on the lateral, forward side of each boot, subjecting it to more abrasion than other areas of the boot. Still, I’d expect these to have a similar life as other hiking footwear in its weight class, upwards of 400 miles, varying depending on the rockiness of trails you usually hike, how wet and muddy they get, and whether you clean muck off them after each hike.
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For dayhikers and backpackers who carry moderate or light loads, stick to trails, and prefer lightweight hiking footwear, the Hoka One One TenNine Hike boots deliver one-of-a-kind cushion and comfort.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and expert buying tips.