HOKA ONE ONE Torrent 2 shoe review by American Trail Running Association (ATRA) advisory board member and Wisconsin trail runner Susan Kendrick. Susan is the Director of Sponsorship for the American Birkebeiner® Ski Foundation and was featured in our View from the Pack series of articles. Shoes provided free of charge by HOKA ONE ONE.
If there is one running shoe that turns heads, it’s HOKA. There have always been those runners, especially early on, sporting SO much cushion. Yet there is a method to this seeming midsole madness. To watch and to wear HOKA ONE ONE over time is to witness a company that keeps carving away everything that doesn’t match its ideal for both comfort and performance. HOKA is always on it, mastering the ultimate paradox—cushion and agility.
Enter the HOKA Torrent 2, another round of innovation for the company’s already popular Torrent 1 trail running shoe. The Torrent 2 was launched in May of this year.
I had a chance to ask some questions and get feedback from Jared Smith, HOKA’s Product Line Manager and someone who heavily influenced the development of the Torrent 2. According to Smith, “From version 1, which performed well within the HOKA Trail Run line-up, as well as on the trail by our consumers, we found some opportunities to further refine and improve upon the style.”
He outlined the improvements this way:
- Agility: Confidence underfoot with the adjustment and positioning of some of the lugs on the outsole to ensure there is good traction, ascending and descending on technical terrain.
- Comfort: Small adjustments within the upper to refine how the shoe fits, feels and rides on the foot while maintaining a fast and streamlined look and feel.
- HOKA comfort and cushioning: It needs to feel and ride like HOKA is known to feel with the ProFLY construction; softer in the heel for a cushioned landing and firmer in the forefoot for a more propulsive toe-off.
- Integration of recycled materials In the construction of the upper: The upper mesh utilizes recycled yarn from Reprieve™ which is one of the two styles (Stinson ATR 6, being the other) in Fall 2020 that we’ve begun the “marathon,” as it were, to work toward using and implementing more sustainable materials and construction processes in our footwear.”
The big question. If you have seen or worn previous HOKA models, you may wonder how all that cushioning and often wider heel and toe base can possibly handle a labyrinth of roots and rocks on trail. Even tight spaces between boulders and underwater structure in stream crossings may be a concern.
Open the box. One look and you have the answer. The HOKA Torrent 2 has cushion, no doubt about it. From the side you can see it’s all there, that plush base plus HOKA’s signature profile that provides its “rocking” ride.
Don’t look down? The view from the top is a whole different story. HOKA Torrent 2 is streamlined, with a noticeably trim profile from toe to heel. The Torrent 2 jumps right out of the gate as nimble and articulate, ready to take on any line you pick—through roots, rocks and more.
Like (gasp) a road shoe. The interior of the shoe is also well thought-out, with a glove-like feel and still room in the toe box. And, while the HOKA Torrent 2 is designed to handle tough trail, it carries none of the burliness of a typical trail shoe. The upper looks and feels more like a road shoe.
Securing every detail. Even the laces stand out as a thoughtful component. At first look they seem unwieldy, thick and cordlike—perfect for learning to tie your shoes? But, they are one more part of that secure ride, enhancing that wrap around your upper foot. Plus, they tie well and stay put. Period.
Don’t let the cushion fool you. Underneath, the HOKA Torrent 2 is all business. I counted at least three ways the shoe takes on terrain like the seasoned pro it is:
- The lugs are sizable—deep and aggressive and also well-spaced to make the most of their 360 design.
- There is the addition of “reverse lugs” which I do not see on other shoes. These concave “ports” are there to capture technical trail so that you are not just gripping but navigating through every surface for an articulated flow.
- Even the micro tread on the sole of the shoe that backs up these lugs has a back-facing grip.
The total result is a multi-dimensional shoe surface that engages everything the trail throws your way. HOKA has put all this in place so you can just run.
Making running easier. There’s a lot of intention build into this shoe, but the proof as always is in the running. On trail the HOKA Torrent 2 holds up to its promise of “momentum from stride to stride.” Outings feel smooth, fast, and fun.
Finally, every shoe should have a good story to tell, and HOKA does. Founders Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard started carving and gluing shoes for themselves in the French Alps and word got out. Check out this video to see why—and watch out for the road crossings!