If you think about Hoka running shoes, you probably think right away: gigantic, pillowy soft midsoles. The brand is synonymous with tremendous amounts of beneath-foot cushioning, courting a love-em-or-hate-em following, probably with lots more love ‘em.

But their new Torrent shoe bucks the Hoka trend of massive cushioning, in favor of a more streamlined, quick, and athletic build. That’s not to say they aren’t well-padded; with a 26mm stack in the heel running to 21mm at the forefoot, they’re still boasting plenty of cushioning support.

For non-minimalist trail runners, these feel light and quick right out of the box. Hoka says a men’s size 9 (barely) tips the scales at 9 ounces.

The toe box is wide and roomy, allowing for plenty of toe splay, with the rest of the shoe sporting a contoured, streamlined shape. A strong cap up front protects against kicking roots and rocks, and a stiffer than you might expect heel, for a shoe this light, gives lots of backfoot and ankle support.

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The perimeter of the shoe, just above the EVA midsole, is wrapped with a rubbery-feeling compound that adds a bit of protection, and keeps moisture out when running through shallow puddles or wet grass. The shoe’s mesh liner is attached to the base of a short tongue, keeping the tongue from sliding to the shoe’s side.

So then, how’s the performance? Outstanding.

Now, I don’t race and I’m not training for an ultra; I’m just a guy who likes trail running for excercise and as training for long distance hikes. I’ve been wearing these for months on rutted-out dirt trails, single tracks full of rocks, soft and sandy paths, and loamy soil mixed with sections of bare granite. At each step the Torrents feel lively, light, and extremely responsive. No trail runner I’ve ever worn made running more fun than these bright, tennis-ball yellow puppies.

The mesh uppers breathe very well, the wide toe box allows for some movement up front but not so much that my toes were slamming the cap on descents, and armed with what Hoka calls a PROFLY midsole, there’s a ton of rebound that makes it feel like you’re accelerating with each step. But you still get a nice sense of groundfeel with the Torrent, even despite a lot of cushion and liveliness from the midsole.

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Finally, the grip is incredible. Slick granite, wet tree roots, even an icy section on an early spring trail run—not a problem for these. Big multi-directional lugs bite with authority in loose dirt and stick to polished rock.

I’ve even used these as a backpacking shoe on a lightweight trip, and they performed great. You could toss these shoes in your bag for just about any hike or run you could imagine and you’d be well sorted.

I usually find something to nitpick with just about any piece of gear I’m using, but these shoes are well-designed, feel great on the trail, and, at least it seems to this amateur trail runner, even boost performance. Highly recommended.

$120 • BUY