"For your next run and the workout after" – this marketing description of the new Kawana can be found on the Hoka website. The shoe, which has been on the market since mid-January 2022, is supposed to be suitable for strength training and everyday life in addition to running – but isn’t that basically every running shoe?
Upper material and fit
When you slip the shoe on for the first time, you immediately notice that it’s not as wide as the solid look might initially suggest. The sole is significantly wider than the upper, so the shoe is also something for runners with narrow feet. This is also due to the comfortable jacquard mesh upper, which is partly made from recycled plastic. It wraps comfortably around the foot and provides a secure hold. "When I put it on, my foot literally melts into the shoe," says a test runner with rather narrow feet. But also those test runners with wider feet praised the fit.
In general, the upper of the shoe is built very comfortably. The tongue is pleasantly padded and also the shoe collar offers a lot of material. Another striking feature is the construction of the anatomically curved back area around the Achilles tendon. There is no pressure on the Achilles tendon, which noticeably relieves it. At the same time, the heel is held securely by two beads in the inner area of the rear foot.
In general, our various test runners were very taken with the upper material. No one noted any problems with the fit or any pressure points in the test sheet.
Midsole and running performance
Typical for Hoka, the Kawana also has a rather high midsole. This is made of "CMEVA" foam. What sounds complicated is actually just a combination of the technical manufacturing method ("CM" = compression molded) and the midsole material ("EVA"). The women’s model has 27 millimeters of this foam under the heel, while the men’s model delivers 30 millimeters of material. The background is the higher average weight of men, so that they need a thicker midsole for a comparable cushioning comfort.
In practice, the Kawana does not run as softly as many other Hoka models. The Clifton and Bondi, for example, offer softer yet more reactive midsole cushioning. But this is not a negative point: The overall rolling comfort of the Kawana is quite pleasing. A rather heavier runner who touches down with his midfoot finds, "Here Hoka has hit exactly the sweet spot between the different models."
Looking from above, you notice how expansive the shoe is all around. The Kawana indeed offers an enormous footprint, which provides a lot of security during the rolling process. Thus, the shoe provides a lot of stability without any support elements at all. This is also due to the rather firm midsole, which is a good option especially for heavier runners. By the way, the midsole has a slightly curved rocker geometry, which makes the shoe roll harmoniously.
The most striking element of the Hoka Kawana is the bulge in the heel area on the outside of the shoe. Hoka calls this bulge "SwallowTail". It is designed to initiate and soften the rollover of heel runners. Midfoot runners notice almost nothing about it, as this part of the sole does not touch the ground (first). Among those runners who run over the heel, opinions on the "SwallowTail" were divided: "The heel spoiler is too pronounced for me, brakes the foot too early and then provides too much pronation acceleration," was the verdict of one tester. Another test runner likes the gentle guidance provided by the Element. Matter of taste.
At this point, let’s take a look at Hoka’s marketing promise mentioned at the beginning, i.e., the suitability of the Kawana for activities outside running. When walking, one usually rolls heavily over the heel, which is why the "SwallowTail" is clearly noticeable here at first. It doesn’t really bother, but it is noticeable. The Kawana can be used for strength training, which is partly due to the secure hold of the foot in the shoe, but also due to the secure hold of the shoe on the ground. The midsole offers a lot of stability thanks to the wide platform and firm cushioning, so that you don’t have a wobbly feeling or even sink into the shoe during training with weights (deadlifts, squats), but also during activities with dynamics (bodyweight exercises, plyometric exercises).
Conclusion: Hoka Kawana scores with stable cushioning
The Hoka Kawana definitely has a high everyday suitability, but we still see it primarily as a running shoe. It keeps up with calm speeds well, but also rolls off quickly thanks to the rocker geometry, so that brisker speeds are also no problem. However, it is not a shoe for speed units or competitions, as the midsole material is not very reactive. Its strength is cushioning, which provides a lot of stability over longer distances, and should be a good choice especially for heavy runners.
Hoka Kawana in numbers
Weight: 237 grams (women), 283 grams (men)
Blast: 5 millimeters (women: 27/22 millimeters, men: 30/25 mm millimeters)
EIA: 140 euros