Our verdict

In an attempt to merge the world of road running shoes with fitness trainers, we found the Hoka Kawana to be versatile enough for gym workouts, CrossFit sessions, and daily short runs. It provides a lot of comfort, durability, and a stable ride to both experienced and beginner runners alike.

Pros

  • Exceptionally comfortable
  • Secure fit
  • Smooth and stable ride
  • Protection hits the sweet spot
  • Above average durability
  • Versatile: running and gym
  • Best-looking Hoka so far

Cons

  • Not particularly lively
  • Firmer than other Hokas
  • Needs some breaking in
  • Average-at-best grip

Audience verdict

85
Good!
  • Top 10% most popular running shoes

Who should buy

We highly recommend the Hoka Kawana if you are looking for a reliable, comfortable, and durable shoe to wear on your next workout, whether it be a road run or a gym session.

In our opinion, versatility is one of the main reasons to buy the Kawana. You can take this shoe practically anywhere!

hoka-kawana-feet-side.JPG

It is also perfect if you are a heel striker and for runners who need a touch more stability on their short easy runs.

Who should NOT buy

The Hoka Kawana is not ideal if you:

hoka-kawana-hands.JPG

Breathability

Hoka consistently leans toward lower drops, and the Kawana is no exception. According to the brand, it comes with a 5 mm drop.

But based on our own difference in stack measurements, it turns out to be 5.7 mm. Not too far off, luckily!

Hoka Kawana drop

Breathability

We were happy to find out that this Hoka shoe is very well-ventilated!

Following our breathability test, we can confirm that the shoe proved our experience. It scored a 4 out of 5 in our assessment, which is better than the average shoe and surpasses nearly all other daily trainers on the market. And the video speaks for itself!

This shoe serves as a prime example of how to achieve excellent ventilation with a thick upper, demonstrating how a shoe can effectively handle both cold and hot weather conditions. As you can see, light doesn't pass through the upper material, so it will be warm in winter.

hoka-kawana-upper-holes.JPG

The mini-holes in the upper are strategically placed to promote airflow. 

hoka-kawana-holes-close.JPG

We loved this approach for a daily trainer. In contrast, this is Nike Streakfly's upper, which is also super-ventilated, but not great for winter runs.

Test results
Kawana 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 221 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

The shoe's breathable and adequately padded upper made a very nice first impression. And what made it even better was the fact that Hoka achieved this level of comfort using recycled materials!

Unfortunately, this upper material failed to show wear resistance in our standardized Dremel test.

hoka-kawana-dremel.jpg

Hoka Kawana vs. Hoka Transport

Disclaimer: We apply the same force and RPM to every shoe for 4 seconds.

The results reveal that the Kawana's upper gives up and tears quite easily under the Dremel. That's why we rated it with the lowest score of 1/5 on our toebox durability test.

Test results
Kawana 1
Average 2.3
Compared to 155 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Outsole hardness

Despite its exposed foam, the Hoka Kawana proved to be fairly durable in the outsole.

hoka-kawana-durometer-heel.JPG

Measuring the shoe's rubber hardness with a durometer, we got 86.6 HC. That's some sturdy rubber! In comparison, it is 7% harder than the average road running shoe's rubber. And harder rubbers make for longer lives!

Test results
Kawana 86.6 HC
Average 80.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 272 running shoes
Number of shoes
54.9 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole thickness

In an effort to reduce weight, the Kawana's outsole features a modest 2.9 mm height. Though it's 0.5 mm less than the average shoe, there's no cause for concern, thanks to the remarkable sturdiness of the rubber used in this shoe.

hoka-kawana-rubber.JPG

Test results
Kawana 2.9 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

This is not the lightest shoe in the Hoka line, but it doesn't feel heavy when picking up the pace and it provides a good amount of protection underfoot. 

hoka-kawana-logo.JPG

Weighing 10.7 oz (303g), we can confirm that this is not a light shoe. In fact, it's heavier than most of its competitors in the daily trainer category (by almost an ounce!). For instance, the uber-popular Pegasus 40 is a whole ounce lighter!

Test results
Kawana 10.69 oz (303g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

The official specs from Hoka say that the shoe's stack comes at 30 mm in the heel.

We carefully measured this shoe and discovered some discrepancies from the official specifications. Our caliper shows a 2.8 mm taller heel, which is 32.8 mm!

hoka-kawana-heel-stack.JPG

Test results
Kawana 32.8 mm
Average 33.6 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

Our forefoot stack measurement also deviates from the official one - by 2.1 mm. Our caliper showed 27.1 mm instead of 25 mm.

hoka-kawana-front-stack.JPG

Test results
Kawana 27.1 mm
Average 24.9 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
35.8 mm

Drop

Hoka consistently leans toward lower drops, and the Kawana is no exception. According to the brand, it comes with a 5 mm drop.

But based on our own difference in stack measurements, it turns out to be 5.7 mm. Not too far off, luckily!

Hoka Kawana drop

Test results
Kawana 5.7 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole used in the Kawana is pretty standard though. With a heel thickness of 4.5 mm, it is exactly the same as the average.

Hoka Kawana insole

Test results
Kawana 4.5 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 287 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.

Based on our perception only, the Kawana feels firmer than almost any other Hoka shoe. This is not your typical Hoka.

hoka-kawana-durometer-rubber.JPG

Measuring the shoe's midsole softness at 21.4 HA, we actually found that the Kawana sits at the average of Hoka running shoes. It is a touch firmer than the Bondi and the Clifton but it IS softer than the stability-oriented Arahi and Gaviota.

Also, keep in mind that this shoe took us a while to break in and offered its best only after a few runs. Just give it time, but remember it won't ever feel as soft as other Hokas.

Test results
Kawana 21.4 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 219 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

This shoe is great for winter running and it was a surprise, given that most Hoka running shoes tend to harden up too much under freezing temperatures. 

hoka-kawana-freezer.JPG

The Hoka Kawana's midsole hardens by only 26.7% after our freezer test. That's a favorable result for an EVA-based midsole in a Hoka shoe. For comparison, the Hoka Bondi 8 becomes 49.3% firmer, while the Hoka Mach 5 experiences a crazy 60.0% increase in firmness.

Test results
Kawana 26.7%
Average 25.6%
Compared to 218 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Ride

The shoe didn't offer much energy return or assistance in propelling us forward. This is understandable though since it's a hybrid road/gym shoe suitable for everyday training rather than long runs.

Stability

Lateral stability test

We love Hoka's unique swallowtail design which made the shoe's ride incredibly smooth and seamless.

We also found the benefit in its stiffness and stability, which makes the Kawana a good option for those who need a little more guidance.

Torsional rigidity

A moderate amount of stiffness in the shoe's platform is very helpful in making it feel more stable. In our manual assessment, we rated it as 3 out of 5 (where 5 is the stiffest).

Test results
Kawana 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 270 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The Kawana's heel counter adheres to the signature Hoka style. As a result, it is firmer than the typical daily running shoe, while still providing gentle and comfortable support for your heel. Additionally, it boasts a unique curvature that alleviates pressure on your Achilles tendon.

In our manual test, we rated the shoe's heel counter stiffness as 3 out of 5.

Test results
Kawana 3
Average 2.8
Compared to 254 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Hoka is renowned for its maximalist approach and its super-wide platforms to promote stability. Although the Kawana is not massive, it still offers a lot of real estate in its outsole—especially in the heel.

hoka-kawana-measurement-front.JPG

We measured 112.8 mm in the forefoot which is pretty average for a road shoe. But it is in the heel where the Kawana makes a difference.

Test results
Kawana 112.8 mm
Average 113.6 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The Kawana's sole is impressively wide in the heel! At 95.6 mm in its widest part, this Hoka shoe is 5.5 mm wider than average!

With its firm midsole and wide heel, the Kawana is a great shoe for any heel striker.

hoka-kawana-measurement-heel.JPG

It is also 12.9% wider than a Pegasus 39 or 9.6% wider than a Nike Zoom Fly 5.

Test results
Kawana 95.6 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

This shoe is a versatile all-rounder, which means it simply can't be too stiff. And the Hoka Kawana did not disappoint.

It only took a force of 21.4N to bend the Kawana to a 90º angle. That's 25.7% less than what was needed to bend a Clifton 9 and 42% less than it takes a road shoe on average!

So, it's confirmed: this is indeed a flexible shoe!

Test results
Kawana 21.4N
Average 29.3N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

When it comes to flexibility and cold weather, the Kawana truly embodies the essence of a daily trainer, showcasing an average performance.

In fact, after putting it through our flex test in cold temperatures, its flexibility decreased by 42.3%, which is strikingly close to the average shoe tested in our lab at 43.6%. Talk about a close call!

Test results
Kawana 69.8%
Average 36.3%
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Grip / Traction

We found the shoe's outsole to be efficiently grippy in most conditions, even though there is not much rubber at the bottom.

hoka-kawana-outsole-back.JPG

However, as the ground got wetter and more slippery, the Kawana proved to be less grippy than other Hokas like the also-versatile Rincon 3.

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

The Hoka Kawana may not be the best shoe for runners with wide feet. It is better suited for those with narrow feet, and it can also work well for regular-width feet if a snug fit is preferred.

hoka-kawana-toebox.jpg

With a maximum width of 93.9 mm in the forefoot, this shoe is quite narrow compared to the average

Test results
Kawana 93.9 mm
Average 98.3 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We also measured the Kawana to be narrow around the big toe. With a caliper reading of 68.0 mm, it is almost a centimeter narrower than average which shows its tapered shape.

Test results
Kawana 68.0 mm
Average 78.0 mm
Compared to 166 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

This heavily padded tongue is also semi-gusseted which brings the shoe's lockdown to the next level. Not to mention that it makes the in-shoe experience feel premium!

hoka-kawana-tongue.JPG

Test results
Kawana Both sides (semi)

Comfort

Tongue padding

From the shoe's generously padded tongue to its pronounced Achilles pillows, the Kawana just screams comfort!

Upon closer examination in our lab, we can verify that the shoe's tongue is among the thickest we've encountered, measuring 11.6 mm!

hoka-kawana-tongue-thick.JPG

Test results
Kawana 11.6 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 289 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Misc

Reflective elements

In keeping with the overall theme of this running shoe, the reflective material is fairly average. While it doesn't provide visibility from great distances like the On shoe (right), it does have some reflective elements, unlike many shoes that lack this feature entirely.

hoka-kawana-reflective.jpg

Test results
Kawana Yes