One minute review
If you’re a runner on a budget, you’ll likely use your road running shoes at the gym rather than investing in a separate set of indoor shoes. As long as they’re not muddy, what’s the harm? Hoka has recognized this fact with the Kawana, which is designed to allow you to comfortably switch between pavement and treadmill – and it finds a (very) comfortable middle ground.
It is an exceptionally soft shoe. Not only do you get acres of spongy foam in the midsole, there’s also a lot more padding in the tongue and collar than we’ve come to expect from most Hoka running shoes. The overall result is an extremely comfortable fit, with an upper that can be laced up and snug without bothersome chafing. The high heel tab is particularly gentle on the Achilles area, and we can see this being a great shoe if you’re recovering from an injury.
It works well for training runs of any distance and is surprisingly well ventilated despite its relatively tight jacquard mesh. As promised, he also feels at home in the gym; all that foam means it’s not weightlifting, but it cushions the impact of treadmill running really well and is great for bodyweight HIIT classes. The oversized sole provides good grip on all surfaces, including smooth wood and wet asphalt.
We’re not sure if the SwallowTail design heel is really necessary for a general purpose shoe. That means we’re inclined to keep the Kawana for workouts rather than occasional use, and it doesn’t sit well with some cardio machines.
Price and release date
The Hoka Kawana was released in January 2022, priced at $140 / £125 (around AU$190). This makes it one of Hoka’s most affordable entry-level running shoes; for comparison, the Bondi X was $200 / £180 / AU$349.95 at launch, and the Carbon X3 is $180 / £160 (about $250).
It’s definitely not a cheap shoe, which might put off some new runners, but it’s good value if you’re going to be using it both indoors and outdoors.
- extremely soft
- Swallowtail for stability
- Early Stage Metarocker
When you lace up the Kawana, the first thing you will notice is how soft it is. That’s not just down to masses of foam in the oversized sole unit, but also a surprisingly generous amount of cushioning.
The tongue is much more generously padded than we’d expect from Hoka, and there’s plenty of padding in the collar too, with a nice long heel pull. The result is a shoe that fits comfortably and can be laced nice and tight without putting excessive pressure on your metatarsals or ankle.
Hoka explains that the Kawana is a hybrid of the casual all-around shoe Hupana, which debuted in 2017, and the popular Clifton. It has a more radical design than the Hupana – not least due to the SwallowTail design in the heel (like that of the Hoka Bondi X) which is meant to improve stability. It’s a nice addition for running and working out in the gym, but we think it works best for the more performance-oriented Bondi X and reduces the Kawana’s appeal as a casual shoe. everyday.
The shoe has a 5mm heel drop, but it feels taller thanks to the early stage Metarocker design inherited from the Clifton, which helps provide forward propulsion.
The upper is a jacquard knit material made from a proportion of recycled plastic, which is always a bonus, although we’d love to see Hoka expand its sustainability policy to include guidance on recycling old shoes that have lost their usefulness.
Hoka’s designers have a penchant for neon hues, but they’ve kept Kawana’s colorways relatively understated. There’s the grayscale option we tested here, and a white version with a hint of pale blue or soft yellow.
- Reliable for long and short training runs
- Works well for indoor training (but not weights)
- Good traction and stability on wet pavement
We put the Hoka Kawana through its paces over varying distances, from 5K to 10 miles on the road, well-groomed trails and the treadmill – and for a HIIT class at our local gym. We wouldn’t recommend this shoe for weightlifting; there is way too much cushioning.
The foam is bouncy and responsive, as you’d expect from Hoka, but the ride isn’t as snappy as expected. It’s extremely comfortable when you’re putting in serious miles, though, and we particularly liked the well-padded collar and Achilles support during hard exertion.
It’s not a shoe for setting new personal bests, but a reliable workhorse for longer training runs, and we haven’t yet seen any noticeable signs of wear on the upper or outsole. . That durability comes at a price though, and this is a moderately heavy shoe at 283g for a US men’s size 9, or 238g for a US women’s size 7.
Despite the generous padding and relatively dense knit in the upper, the Kawana is much more breathable than expected, and we never felt uncomfortable even for a 10-mile run on a particularly hot day (indoors or outside). The denser weave also prevents small splashes and the sole retains its grip in wet conditions.
This grip has also proven useful in our HIIT classes, allowing us to spin safely during commutes. We also liked the stability and cushioning of the oversized sole when jumping and balancing. It’s best on firm, level surfaces, though; when we ventured onto unpaved roads, the large sole was bulky and lacked agility. It’s definitely best saved for sidewalks, even in dry weather when there’s no risk of mud.
However, we’re not entirely convinced that the SwallowTail design works in the Kawana’s favor. It’s a nice feature, and we understand the idea behind it, but for a versatile shoe, we can’t help but think it might be an unnecessary addition that actually makes the Kawana less versatile. . That makes sense for the snappier Bondi X, but less so for a shoe you’ll also be wearing indoors – and if your gym routine involves equipment that rests against your heel (like a rowing machine), you’ll need something more conventional. shaped.