Maximalist shoes feature ridiculous amounts of super-cushy foam underfoot. Pioneered by the shoe company Hoka One One in 2010, it’s a genre of running footwear that has expanded dramatically over the past few years. These days most major running shoe manufacturers offer at least one maximalist style.
It’s a remarkable swing to the opposite extreme from minimalist footwear, which were all the rage just a few years ago. (Remember when Vibram’s distinctive ‘toe shoes’—its Five Fingers product line—were the buzz of the industry?)
And now this trend is beginning to hit the hiking trails, as exemplified by the Tor Ultra Hi WP from Hoka One One ($230)—a striking hybrid between a maximalist trail running shoe and a hiking boot. Featuring a thick layer of cushion underfoot, fully waterproof eVent liner, and lugged Vibram sole, they weigh in at a scant 38 ounces per pair (men’s size 9).
These maximalist hiking boots has been receiving rave reviews online, including at REI.com and Amazon, and may well help reduce the pain and pounding that hiking imparts to the lower body, especially the knees. Or it may not…the boots are simply too new to fully evaluate their long-term effect. (What’s more, the scientific jury is still completely out on whether maximalist shoes help reduce injury or not—no sufficiently large or rigorous study has yet been done.)
My take? I suspect that this style of hiking boot almost certainly helps reduce the shock and pounding to your lower body…but only for a while. Over time and use, the squishy foam underfoot is essentially guaranteed to become permanently compressed and lose some, if not most, of its cushioning ability. How long it takes to happen for these boots remains to be seem, but it’s almost certainly a question of when, not if.
If you’re only occasionally on the trails, however, or hike extensively and are willing to shell out $200-plus for new hiking footwear every season or so, then this new genre of hiking boot may well be for you.