The old adage about New England weather is that, "well, if you don't like the conditions, just wait 5 minutes." Although this winter hasn't quite held up to that end of the bargain, it has been more variable; we've had extended thaw cycles, some deep freezes, and a couple of giant snowstorms all mixed in. It's only been recently that we've settled into a truly seasonable pattern of sticking below freezing and keeping our snow cover.
This makes footwear choice really difficult around these parts. I don't have much an option when it comes to my running routes around here. It's either hilly trails, hilly gravel roads, or hilly and heavily trafficked paved roads. And given that this is small-town New Hampshire, our small but mighty team of three snow plows has its work cut out for it to clear out our roads. More often than not, if the storm is leaving under three inches of snow, they're throwing some sand on the road and leaving you to your own devices. Priorities for running, then, are being able to balance grip, cushioning, stack height, and stability in a single package.
Meet HOKA's challenger into this arena, the Torrent 2. It's technically a trail running shoe, with a somewhat beefy outsole. HOKA claims that "the Torrent 2’s streamlined silhouette incorporates a seemingly contradictory combination of cushioning and agility." It utilizes post-consumer waste recycled plastic in its yarns, with minimal overlays. In a size 9, this shoe comes in at a svelte 9.3 ounces; of course, your results will vary based on shoe size. In my size 13, we're well into the double digits of ounces per shoe.
So, how do they run?
In a single word: fabulously.
The Torrent is a shoe I'd classify as being great at anything that isn't pavement. In firmer gravel conditions, the combination of the soft rubber outsole and the midsole gives a good amount of cushioning without being overly plush. In softer conditions, this combination doesn't get squirrelly under foot. And in snow, it's damn near perfect. It reminds me a lot of older models of the Brooks Cascadia, before that shoe really bulked up.
Niggles are minor. The arch height underfoot isn't as high as I would prefer, which is a trend across the most recent HOKA models. The laces are a vast improvement over prior iterations, but they're too long. And the color ways are all obnoxious. Even the navy-red (dubbed Moonlit Ocean / High Risk Red in HOKA speak) is...loud. There isn't a single truly neutral color option to be found.
But these are, in the grand scheme of things, minor complaints. For a shoe that can handle everything but the firmest of surfaces, and at a relatively low price point (for shoes these days, anyways), HOKA's got another hit on its hands.