Our verdict

We think the Hoka Kawana 2 is a strong sequel to Hoka's versatile shoe, ideal for walking, running, and gym workouts. It offers ample cushioning with a plush, durable upper, though we still found it a bit heavy. Despite the same EVA midsole lacking energy return, we think it's enough for casual runners. For us, this update is a great choice for those seeking a do-it-all shoe at a fair price.

Pros

  • Versatile for various activities
  • Reduced weight from v1
  • Comfortable fit
  • Breathable, plush upper
  • Secure lockdown with gusseted tongue
  • Well-cushioned
  • Fairly priced
  • Super stable

Cons

  • Limited energy return
  • Traction could be better
  • Bulky heel

Audience verdict

84
Good!
  • Top 25% most popular running shoes

Who should buy

We think the Hoka Kawana 2 is a superb choice for:

  • Runners seeking a versatile shoe for walks, weekend getaways, and maybe even gym sessions.
  • Newcomers to the sport who want a multi-use shoe in case they decide against pursuing running as a primary activity.
  • Enthusiasts of the original Kawana, looking for the same reliable package with enhanced features that improve on its predecessor.

Hoka Kawana 2

Who should NOT buy

We think the Hoka Kawana 2 might disappoint serious runners—it's a bit clunky and lacks the engaging ride of more specialized running shoes.

That's why we do not recommend it for any performance use, as there are way better options at similar price points. For instance, we believe the Hoka Clifton 9 or the ASICS Novablast 4 offer a superior running experience.

Hoka Kawana 2 parts

Furthermore, we've observed that while the Kawana 2 is stable for neutral runners, it's not suitable for those with real stability issues. Instead, we suggest the Hoka Gaviota 5, which is designed to provide the additional support needed by these runners and can double occasionally as a walking and gym shoe too.

Breathability

Upon our initial inspection of the Kawana right out of the box, we immediately noticed numerous ventilation holes that should deliver good breathability. But instead of speculating further, we jumped right into the lab tests.

First up, we filled the shoe with smoke to check if those ventilation holes were functional, especially since they appeared to have a white layer underneath that might obstruct airflow. That didn't happened, earning the Kawana 2 a solid 4/5 rating from us.

Using a light, we discovered that excellent ventilation isn't confined to the toebox—it extends to the midfoot area as well. This is especially good news for those warm summer walks or runs.

Hoka Kawana 2 microscope

After these initial tests, we zoomed in on those ventilation holes with a microscope to get a closer look.

Hoka Kawana 2 micro 2

Under the microscope, we uncovered the secret to the Kawana's good performance. Despite the presence of a second layer, it includes thousands of microperforations—a small but significant detail that makes a huge difference in breathability. Simply awesome.

Finally, we examined the dual-layer engineered mesh and found that it's not very stretchy. We also noted a remarkably thick tongue and heel padding, which we'll delve into more deeply later in this lab review.

Test results
Kawana 2 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 227 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

Off to a strong start, we were keen to see how the upper of the Kawana 2 would hold up against our Dremel test, knowing that airy uppers typically face challenges in this area.

Surprisingly, the outcome was impressive. The top layer of the Kawana 2 resisted remarkably well, and the bottom layer remained completely intact, ready to offer additional protection if needed. This performance earned the Kawana 2 a solid 3/5 on our durability scale.

Hoka Kawana 2 Toebox durability
Test results
Kawana 2 3
Average 2.4
Compared to 161 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Our second Dremel test put the heel padding to the same rigorous challenge as before: running at 5K RPM under a force of 3.2N.

The results were even more impressive, earning a strong 4/5 from our lab team. This test clearly demonstrated that we can be confident about the heel's resistance to wear in this critical area. The durability here should alleviate any concerns about potential wear and tear.

Hoka Kawana 2 Heel padding durability
Test results
Kawana 2 4
Average 3.1
Compared to 157 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Next, we turned our attention to the outsole, which is mostly consistent with last year's model, featuring only subtle changes.

Hoka Kawana 2 outsole

We discovered rubber exclusively in areas most vulnerable to wear and tear.

Our testing of the "Gum rubber" outsole revealed that it now registers an average hardness of 80.6 HC on our Shore C durometer.

Hoka Kawana 2 Outsole hardness
Test results
Kawana 2 80.6 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 278 running shoes
Number of shoes
54.9 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole durability

How durable is the rubber compound used by Hoka? To find out, we fired up the Dremel to twice the RPM for our third and final test with it.

The results were impressive. After completing the test, we observed that the indentation left by the tool was merely 0.6 mm—this performance surpasses that of most running shoes we've tested, showcasing exceptional durability.

Hoka Kawana 2 Outsole durability
Test results
Kawana 2 0.6 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 139 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

The Kawana 2 features a streamlined, 2.5-mm thick rubber outsole, which helps reduce the shoe's overall weight.

Hoka Kawana 2 Outsole thickness
Test results
Kawana 2 2.5 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

The outsole and midsole have remained largely the same, but the redesigned upper has helped keep the Kawana 2 just under 11 oz and slightly below the 300g mark. While it's not exceptionally lightweight and is undeniably on the heavier side, we recognize that this shoe is designed for occasional runs and everyday wear, where comfort is prioritized over lightness.

That said, we believe that Hoka has the potential to further reduce the weight of the Kawana. We are hopeful that they will aim to bring it below 10 ounces in future iterations. That would be amazing for running!

Hoka Kawana 2 Weight
Test results
Kawana 2 10.51 oz (298g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 298 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The Kawana 2 packs a substantial amount of foam, with our digital calipers measuring 33.2 mm.

This thickness is more than sufficient to support even the heaviest heel strikers, especially since the foam isn't overly compressive. Nonetheless, we'll delve deeper into this in a moment.

Hoka Kawana 2 Heel stack
Test results
Kawana 2 33.2 mm
Average 33.6 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot measures 28.0 mm, providing a cushioned ride that completely isolates you from feeling the ground. It truly embodies the generous, maximalist comfort Hoka is known for.

Hoka Kawana 2 Forefoot stack
Test results
Kawana 2 28.0 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
35.8 mm

Drop

The difference between the previous two measurements reveals a real 5.2-mm drop, closely aligning with the official 5.0-mm offset stated by the brand.

Hoka Kawana 2 Drop
Test results
Kawana 2 5.2 mm
Average 8.6 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole is made from comfortable EVA foam and boasts a significant thickness of 5.0 mm, enhancing the comfort noticeably during our runs and walks.

Hoka Kawana 2 Insole thickness
Test results
Kawana 2 5.0 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 293 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

Moving to the midsole, we found the standard, regular CMEVA foam found in the previous version. It's not the supercritical EVA found in other Hokas.

While it doesn’t offer exceptional energy return, nor is it particularly soft or bouncy, it provides reliable performance with a softness score of 21.1 HA.

This level of softness is actually ideal for a shoe used not only for running but also for walking and gym activities, where an overly plush midsole is not ideal.

Hoka Kawana 2 Midsole softness
Test results
Kawana 2 21.1 HA
Average 21.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 225 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

Given that it's just EVA, we didn't expect stellar performance in cold temperatures.

To verify this, we placed the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes and then retested it with our durometer. The result showed a 29.6% increase to 27.4 HA, which is quite decent!

Hoka Kawana 2 Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Kawana 2 29.6%
Average 25.6%
Compared to 224 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

Thanks to its well-balanced midsole geometry and a 5-mm drop, the Kawana 2 provides stability that exceeded our expectations for a shoe designed for neutral runners.

We found that the large midsole sidewalls, especially in the midfoot area, and the robust lateral support contributed significantly to a stable ride during our runs.

Torsional rigidity

In terms of rigidity, the shoe strikes a balance, feeling neither too stiff nor too flexible. This is ideal because the Kawana 2 is designed to perform well across a variety of activities.

From our manual assessment, we rated its rigidity at a solid 3/5.

Test results
Kawana 2 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 276 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

And what about the heel counter? It plays a significant role in the nice stability we experienced, earning a 4/5 in our tests—a slight change from last model's 3/5 rating. Although for a shoe aimed at versatility, we generally prefer a softer heel...

However, there's a twist. Hoka has cleverly added a looot of padding to the heel counter, and despite its stiffness, it's incredibly comfortable. This was a smart move!

Test results
Kawana 2 4
Average 2.8
Compared to 260 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Returning to the midsole, we shifted our focus to its dimensions. In the forefoot, the Kawana 2 maintains a fairly standard width (115.2 mm) with no sole flare or distinctive features to note.

Hoka Kawana 2 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Kawana 2 115.2 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 298 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

However, the heel stands out significantly from the average shoe with its notably wider 98.9 mm width.

This feature significantly enhances the shoe's stability, although it does come with the tradeoff of added bulkiness, making the shoe feel somewhat cumbersome for those accustomed to narrower shoes. If you're one of those, a more versatile option for walking and running, such as the Adidas Ultraboost, might be a better choice.

Hoka Kawana 2 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Kawana 2 98.9 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 298 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Continuing with the generally balanced approach that characterizes many aspects of the Kawana's design, our 90-degree bend test yielded similar results.

With a measurement of just 24.7N, it qualifies as a comfy shoe, and this flexibility is essential for everyday use.

Test results
Kawana 2 24.7N
Average 29.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 280 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

During our second testing in low temperatures, we evaluated the increase in stiffness, which rose by 36.4%. This performance is good, particularly considering its $140 price point and EVA foam.

Test results
Kawana 2 36.4%
Average 36.2%
Compared to 280 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

In our measurements of the toebox, we began at the widest part of the upper and recorded a 97.2 mm width with our digital calipers. This provides a generally average fit, though it tends to favor those with narrower feet—a characteristic that's quite Hokaesque.

Hoka Kawana 2 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Kawana 2 97.2 mm
Average 98.4 mm
Compared to 298 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We always take a second measurement in the big toe area to get a clearer understanding and comparison of the fit.

Hoka Kawana 2 fit

With a measurement of 75.9 mm, the toebox features a notable taper. Based on this, we wouldn't recommend this model for those with wide feet.

Hoka Kawana 2 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Kawana 2 75.9 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 172 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The tongue is now fully gusseted, a notable shift from the previous Kawana's semi-gusseted design. We've found that both styles are fantastic as they effectively prevent the tongue from shifting sideways, ensuring a stable and snug fit.

Hoka Kawana 2 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Kawana 2 Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue padding at 13.9 mm blew our minds. We've encountered some ultra-cushy tongues in our lab across these years, but this one surpasses all expectations—it's a DREAM for anyone who appreciates a soft pressure on the instep.

Hoka Kawana 2 tongue

However, more padding isn't always a plus. The thicker tongue does add some weight to the shoe, and for those with larger feet overall, it can lead to excessive pressure. From our perspective, a padding around 8 mm or 10 mm might offer a more balanced, universal approach.

Hoka Kawana 2 Tongue padding
Test results
Kawana 2 13.9 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 295 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

The heel of the shoe features a finger-loop, horizontal heel tab that is seamlessly integrated into its design.

Hoka Kawana 2 finger loop

It's a welcome bonus, especially since the original Kawana lacked this feature. We found that this tab not only enhances the shoe's aesthetics but also makes it more functional, providing an easier grip for slipping the shoe on and off effortlessly.

Hoka Kawana 2 Heel tab
Test results
Kawana 2 Finger loop

Removable insole

The insole is removable since it's not glued down, offering flexibility for those who prefer custom footbeds. However, it's designed with contoured edges from the midfoot to the heel, enhancing foot lockdown. Swapping it out might result in a downgrade for some.

Hoka Kawana 2 Removable insole
Test results
Kawana 2 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

We always appreciate it when shoes include hi-vis stuff, and we found that the Kawana 2 delivers on that!

Test results
Kawana 2 Yes