If I had to choose a running shoe company that my visual taste aligns with most, HOKA would most likely be at or near the top of the list. I am a pretty quiet and introverted when people first meet me, but once we are comfortable with each other – my colorful side comes out. It’s probably why I have an inordinant amount of bright pink colors in my closet, and why I typically prefer a little “sumptin sumptin” in my running shoes. I prefer shoes that have unique colorways and/or designs to them – just a little flair will do.
Obviously then, I find the Kawana’s great to look at. The upper is great and is actually made from recycled materials – a plus in my book. The Blanc de Blanc/Butterfly colorway has subdued pop on the upper (and even more on the outsole), but isn’t overpowering either. The Swallowtail design on the back of the heel is probably going to garner a lot of conversation – though it goes beyond a unique visual styling and has a reason (see more below). Honestly, I love the look of these – though could see those who have more of a tried-and-true preference may find it a little too out there. There is, however, a black and white colorway for men and women and an light blue offering for women as well – so don’t immediately cut and run looking at my pictures!
As mentioned above, the primary construction item that people will wonder about is the “Swallowtail” heel (which has been in other offerings as well). According to HOKA, this extended heel is designed to reduce impact. It is described as:
The SwallowTail™ Construction in the heel provides a smoother landing through the gait cycle whether you’re on a recovery run or picking up the pace.
The tail, combined with the meta-rocker, do well during transitions – which is no real surprise.
The upper, beyond just the cool visuals, is really nice. My foot has stayed snug, yet I don’t feel cramped at the same time. I think the toe box is a little wider than some options out there, so coupling this upper with a wider base could be a nice option for those with wider foot needs. Basically, multiple foot widths will likely be pleased with this fit. The outsole is sparingly significantly grooved – with individual pods (one of my kids said they look like Tide pods) gracing the bottom. I initially worried a little bit about traction, but ultimately have had no real issues in this realm.
When I, as well as probably most runners, think of HOKA – your mind goes more towards the max cushioning side of things. Phrases like “plush”, “springy”, and “thic(c)k” may even come to mind. On the Kawana webpage, HOKA even lists this shoe as on the “plush” end of the cushion. However, I have found that the Kawana’s sort of haven’t fallen in line with those terms. I was surprised to find that these seemed to have more road feel and rigidity to them – perhaps due to their new “CMEVA midsole foam”. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the feeling underneath while running is just not what I think of, when I think of HOKA.
Perhaps that is by design as these are, even on their website, marketed as a multi-functional shoe that can tackle activities other than straight up running. Shoot, the video on the site highlights runners bounding up stadium steps as opposed to putting in miles upon miles on pavement. Having a max-cushioned base in a cross-platform shoe probably doesn’t make the most sense. I found the Kawanas to be quite light compared to many other trainers/crossovers on the market, and this was definitely noticeable – in a good way – when I was using these in multiple activities.
Honestly, I may the perfect person to review these shoes for Run Oregon because of my affinity for items that can span multiple activities. I love it when running jackets can also look good as a casual jacket. It’s wonderful when a running shirt or baselayer can easily transfer between a day out in the community AND a day out on the trails. And, if a shoe can span multiple activities – I am all for it. Thus, for what the Kawana seems to be aiming to do – provide enough support and function fan immediate transfer between running and cross training – they hit the mark.
That being said, these may not be for everyone depending on what you are looking to get out of them. I tried these in a few longer runs (say 6-10 miles) and really felt more fatigued in them then I normally would in others from HOKA.
I think the Kawana’s may be hit and miss for many runners out there. As strictly a running shoe, which is how most of us view HOKA options, you may feel a little unsatisfied with this shoe. HOWEVER, it really hits the sweet spot, and thus are a great addition to your closet, for those of us who are seeking something that is not solely for “just” running.
In the past few years, I have continued to ramp up my fitness more outside of just logging miles. Long story short, my pre-COVID, run-only regimen seemed to lead to a lot of injuries and mental fatigue. 2020 forced me to reconcile with this fact and so adding other options like yoga, cycling, and lifting/cross-training to the mix has been helpful for me on a variety of fronts. Most running shoes are not really designed to tackle other options (which, duh), so it is nice to feel like you have a pair that can handle both. Thus – these are fantastic in this lane and I would stack them up against any other crossover shoes out there.
If you know what you are looking for, the HOKA Kawana’s may fit the bill just right.
Products & Price:
- HOKA Kawana | Released on February 1, 2022 for $140
- Weight: Men 10oz; Women 8.4oz
- Offset: 5mm
- Stack Height: 30mm / 25mm
Thank you to HOKA for providing us with test shoes. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.