Like all Hoka footwear, the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX walking shoes are recognizable from 100m away on a mist-shrouded trail, and they will always provoke a response of one form or another – ranging from curiosity and admiration to downright derision. But regardless of what other people might think, these shoes offer unrivalled levels of cushioning in the midsole, the rocker promotes a positive walking style and they are very comfortable to wear. The extra suspension they provide means your knees will thank you for wearing them at the end of a long day on the trails.
Rocker to improve stride efficiency
Lots of cushioning in the midsole
Top-quality components used (Gore-Tex / Vibram)
Recycled polyester used in the collar, mesh and laces
No trail feel
Chunky look and rocker not for everyone
They run a little warm in mid summer
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Hoka Anacapa Low GTX: first impressions
Chances are you’ll have have made a snap judgment on the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX on hearing the name alone. People have a visceral reaction to the look and feel of Hoka shoes – they’re like Marmite and Crocs, you either love them or you hate them, and there’s very little middle ground.
• List price: $155 (US) / £135 (UK)
• Materials: Nubuck leather and Gore-Tex upper, molded PU sockliner (50% soybean oil), compression-molded EVA midsole, Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole with 5mm lugs
• Drop: 6mm
• Weight (per shoe): 14oz / 397g
• Colors: Men’s Black / Tiger’s Eye & Black; Women’s Black / Cherry Mahogany & Hot Sauce / Tiger’s Eye & Black
• Compatibility: Three-season hiking on a wide variety of landscapes and terrain types
However, in recent years other brands have started to mimic Hoka’s distinctive maxi-style chunky running shoes, with their super-sized midsoles and pronounced rocker, so perhaps the lovers are starting to outnumber the haters…
Personally, I’ve been on a bit of a journey with Hoka footwear. I first wore the brand 10 years ago, during an expedition in New Zealand during which I joined two other fools in attempting to complete all nine of NZ’s Great Walks in nine consecutive days, running (and paddling) 545km in the process, across some of the most savagely beautiful terrain on the planet. We knew our knees were in for a terrible test during that ill-advised odyssey, and people who know about these things recommended Hoka running shoes as the best way to mitigate against damage. I still ended up with a right knee the size of a football after that escapade, but largely they were right, and I think without the extra midsole cushioning supplied by the Hokas, my leg may have exploded altogether.
So, when I got the chance to try a pair of Hoka’s hiking hoofs – the Anacapa Low Gore-Tex walking shoe – I bounced at the chance. Like the brand’s running shoes, the signature feature of these hikers is the oversize midsole, and the fact that the bottom of the shoe is not flat, but rounded, so your foot rolls with each step. Would they be good enough warrant inclusion in our best hiking shoes guide? I put them to an extended test to find out.
Hoka Anacapa Low GTX: on the trails
I’ve been testing the Hoka Anacapa Lows on all kinds of trails and in a range of conditions for around 18 months now, and the first thing to say is that the build quality is good, and they are showing no visible signs of wear and tear.
I tend to reach for these shoes when I’m doing longer day hikes across rugged and technical terrain, because their big plus point is the protection and cushioning provided by the thick midsoles, which really help prevent joint soreness. The unavoidable downside of all this padding is that there’s zero trail feel – you could be walking on marshmallows for all you know, and this won’t suit everyone.
Despite the large size of the maxi midsoles, the heel-to-toe drop is a modest – minimalist even – at 6mm, but the Anacapa also feature a rocker, meaning the bottom of the shoe is shaped slightly like the hull of boat or a very elongated “U”, so all the heel strikers out there can still efficiently push off on each new stride from the front of the foot. This is great, but can take some getting used to, especially if you usually run or walk with a front foot strike.
The uppers are very robust, being made with nubuck leather with a Gore-Tex membrane, to supply effective waterproofing. This means they can run a little hot mid summer, but they’re excellent throughout most of the year. There’s an extra lace hole (for use in deep mud, to avoid losing a shoe) and the integrated heel cup and pull loop is both practical and comfortable.
Obviously, being a low-cut shoe rather than a hiking boot, the model I’ve been testing doesn’t supply any ankle support and I wouldn’t recommend them for multi-day backpacking adventures when you’re carrying a heavy pack. (You can get the Hoka Anacapa in a midcut style, which does offer ankle support… but looks even weirder than the shoe.) The outsole is excellent, however, on both the shoes and the boots, and the 5mm lugs provide good grip and control.
They won’t suit everyone – either because of the way they look, or how the rocker affects your walking cadence – but if you’re looking for great levels of cushioning and excellent joint protection during long, rugged day walks, it’s really worth trying the Hoka Anacapa Low GTXs.
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.