If you've been suspicious of HOKA shoes as an option for serious trail running in the past, the HOKA Torrent 2 may have you questioning those preconceived notions. Like other top Trail Running Shoes in our review, this specialty trail runner seems chock-full of contradictions: an ultra-running platform that is highly protective but weighs less than 19 ounces per pair; a midsole that is soft and cushy, yet responsive and energetic; a comfortable, wide last that can nimbly front-point through technical terrain. Even though the Torrent 2 has a lower profile than most other HOKAs on the market, its balance of support and agility earns our top choice for a maximum cushion shoe.Editor's Note: We added this review for the HOKA Torrent 2 to our lineup on May 11, 2022, and have included an unbiased take on who should buy this shoe, as well as suggestions for other directly comparable products that may better suit your needs or budget.
HOKA Torrent 2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Ultralight, supportive, uncharacteristically agile
Cons: Loose-fitting heel pocket, lack of trail feeling
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Don't be surprised if the HOKA Torrent 2 changes your mind about a brand that is often associated with overly-stuffed road runners. With an average stack height of 20.5mm, this specialty trail shoe has a lower profile, lower volume, and a more symmetrical platform than most other HOKAs. The proprietary PROFLY midsole tapers dual-density foam from firmer in the forefoot to softer in the heel. But beyond that, the Torrent 2 does not include any other "prescriptive technologies" that HOKA so commonly uses in their designs.
Maximum cushioning has practically become a prescription for success in the running market over the past decade. Brands like HOKA have led this charge, but it seems like we have come to a point when even the frontrunner recognizes that underfoot protection isn't everything. The HOKA Torrent 2 is a well-balanced blend of foot protection and support required by ultra-runners with the sleek profile and lightweight performance expected of an everyday trainer. The Torrent 2 has a reasonable stack height of 23mm in the heel, tapering to18 mm in the forefoot. HOKA measures the volume of foam in the midsole to gauge the level of cushioning in a shoe. At 395cm3, the midsole is nearly half the volume of other shoes in their trail running lineup.
A proprietary, dual-density PROFLY midsole design varies the stiffness of foam from stiffer in the forefoot to more supple in the heels. As a result, this shoe still provides the right balance of support and responsiveness. We have read reports of durability issues –--particularly from folks who run regularly in tough, tight, and technical terrain — with either the upper separating from the midsole or the outsole quickly tearing apart. Although our testing period is limited in scope, we only noticed the type of rubbing and scarring typical of running any lugged shoe over rough and rocky trails.
The Torrent 2 utilizes its lower-profile toe box to engage the natural grip of your toes for enhanced traction. Although this shoe is, overall, one of the more cushioned options in our review, the 18mm stack height is on the narrower end of the spectrum. Combined with deep, 5mm lugs, this shoe is a capable climber in almost any trail condition.
HOKA designers may benefit from changing the source of their outsole rubber in terms of durability. Still, the simple rubber compound is firm enough for dry hardpack trails and tacky enough to tackle rock slabs. The rubber is particularly stiff, which allows the deep lugs to dig into the ground and rebound with an energy that had us bounding up hillsides.
Unlike other HOKA shoes we've tested, the relatively low profile of the Torrent 2 helps us feel more in tune with the ground beneath our feet. That's not to say that this shoe is sensitive or offers any sense of natural ground feel — it's just that we don't feel quite as far removed as we have running in other similar shoes. This is a nice change of pace for a shoe that easily qualifies as an ultra-runner. The balance of support and agility allows this shoe to tackle the many different conditions one can expect to come up against throughout a long running route.
Without a rock plate, the Torrent 2 is much more flexible laterally and torsionally compared to other ultra-running options. This design allows the outsole to mold and adapts to the slight changes underfoot. Your feet then sense these changes, and your overall dexterity and agility improve through the power of proprioception. As much of a role as it plays in terms of foot protection, the dual-density PROFLY midsole also plays an equally important role in terms of sensitivity. The lower stack height and stiffer foam under the forefoot allow for a faster reaction and, thus, a more responsive feel as you navigate technical terrain.
The Torrent 2 has a variable profile: a pointed toe widens to an ample toe box that tapers back into a snug midfoot and a forgiving heel cup. Depending on the terrain and your gait, this allows your foot to adapt within the shoe to terrain variability, tapping into the natural stabilizers that are your own two feet. Even though stiffer shoes tend to be more stable, the Torrent 2 instead has a progressive flex that allows for quick adjustments as the terrain changes underfoot.
Those who toe strike will find that this shoe can nimbly front-point through rock gardens and other technical terrain. Midfoot striders have plenty of room for toe splay, and a lower-profile, symmetrical platform allows for even pressure across the ball of the foot. Runners with a heel strike have a well-cushioned pad and a small amount of rocker to transfer energy into the next push-off. Our biggest issue with the stability of the Torrent 2 is in the heel cup. Although our feet don't slip within the shoe while running through off-camber terrain, we also didn't feel locked into the heel pocket, which compromises ankle stability.
The Torrent 2 is a beautifully balanced trail running shoe, evidenced by the fact that particular characteristics blend seamlessly from one aspect to another. We recognize that comfort is often a matter of personal preference. Still, we would argue that nearly every aspect of the Torrent 2 combines to make this, objectively, a very comfortable option.
For long-distance runs, ample cushioning allows you to rely on the support and stability of the platform, even as your form falls apart. These shoes are lightweight and responsive enough to allow you to push the speed limit on shorter training runs. Even the last and profile seem like they should be able to accommodate practically any foot shape. While the Torrent 2 is designed as a trail-specific shoe, it is just as comfortable running over pavement, only adding to its versatility for those who can run from their doorstep to the trailhead.
A stiff and supportive platform should come at the cost of weight savings. But remember, the Torrent 2 is a shoe that can be summed up as a walking contradiction. Even though it performs like an over-stuffed ultra-runner, the stack height and midsole volume place it in the company of other deft, alpine-specific models.
Tipping the scales at just over 18 ounces per pair for a men's 9.5 US, the Torrent 2 is easily one of the lightest shoes in our review. While some of this weight savings can be attributed to the proprietary design of the midsole, much of it has to do with the ultralight upper. The engineered mesh is made from Unifi REPREVE — a yarn spun from post-consumer waste plastic — and backed up by a thin TPU film only where it counts. This gives the Torrent 2 a light footprint, both literally and figuratively.
Should You Buy the HOKA Torrent 2?
The Torrent 2 is one of those special unicorn shoes that seems like it shouldn't exist. It is supportive and protective enough to run ultra-marathons, yet nimble and quick enough to use as an everyday trainer. The low-profile platform couples with an effective lug pattern to comfortably transition from pavement to the most technical alpine trails. This shoe is a maximum-cushion model that can do it all with a style and grace that should appeal to the diehard trail crew. And yet, it's offered at a price point that makes it approachable for the entry-level runner too.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
As one of the highest-scoring models in our lineup, the HOKA Torrent 2 should be on the radar of ultra-runners and casual trail runners alike. Only a few shoes, like the award-winning Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 and ever-popular La Sportiva Bushido II, offer a similar level of foot protection and traction while also improving upon sensitivity.
— Aaron Rice
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