For the start of 2022, HOKA is kicking it off with the release of the Kawana and they are clearly targeting an area of their lineup that has been lacking. The area they are tackling is that space between the Clifton and the Bondi, but this also introduces a shoe with a bit more durability. The majority of HOKA shoes tend to be very light and use materials that skew towards balancing responsiveness and cushion, but the Kawana doesn’t follow this recipe and even introduces some new materials to the HOKA build process. It is not going to be a shoe that everyone enjoys, but it does create a niche for HOKA it will allow them to onboard even more runners to the brand.
Quick Details, Specs, and Availability
- This is not your typical HOKA, expect a firmer and less flexible ride with higher durability.
- Weighs in at 10oz or 283g for a US Men’s 9, 8.4oz or 238g for a US Women’s 7.
- Features 30mm of cushion for men and 27mm for women, and has a 5mm heel/toe drop.
- Retails at $140.00 USD and comes in 5 colors for Men and Women.
HOKA classifies the Kawana as a daily trainer that fits in between the Clifton and the Bondi within their lineup. If we are only looking at specs then that is a fair assessment, but we see it as a little side step because this is a different beast. The Kawana looks a lot like the Clifton visually, that upper is almost a clone of the Clifton 8, but that new midsole formulation brings a pretty dramatic change. The Kawana is also 2 ounces heavier than the Clifton making it one of the heavier shoes in the HOKA lineup and there’s a good reason for it, increased durability.
The first time you put them on your foot it’s a bit misleading because if you have worn a Clifton 8, that upper is going to feel incredibly similar. When you start to actually run in these shoes that is when you truly notice the difference. This new midsole is firmer and stiffer than anything you’ll have felt from HOKA prior and sure it maintains a lot of the geometry you might find in other HOKA shoes, it just runs a touch differently because of that new EVA midsole. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing and in fact for many people who use a single shoe as their daily trainer and expect a degree of durability, then it will function nicely.
Additionally, the midsole platform is nice and wide which leads to some level of inherent stability and while there are no structural support elements in the shoe, that wider stance allows for better ground contact and control. That wide stance coupled with their increased durability and stiffness makes it suitable for other things like cross-training, something we probably would’ve never recommended in a prior HOKA so definitely something to consider.
As for what we like about the shoe and who it’s for… the Kawana is definitely designed for someone who likes a firmer ride and while HOKA tried to make it seem like a low stack Bondi that is simply not the case. People who like the Bondi would expect this shoe to be softer. The swallowtail design makes it an amazing choice for heel strikers because like the March 4 and the Bondi X, it really helps with the transition from heel to toe during your stride. So if you have felt HOKA in the past has been too soft for you, then this will be an excellent choice, but with it, you do gain some weight and that would be our other complaint. So if you were someone who wants to run a few miles and then maybe cross-train a bit, then the Kawana will work really well. If not, then we would probably still push you towards the Clifton 8 for the Mach 4 as a better-performing shoe that feels more traditionally HOKA.
The upper on here is almost a mirror of the Clifton 8 as we mentioned and is constructed of a vegan recycled mesh that moves and breathes well. HOKA also makes use of the elf heel design which decreases any impact on the Achilles while also helping to ease on and off. The toebox has decent width and the mesh stretches well making it a good choice for a variety of foot shapes.
The midsole provides 30mm of cushion and uses a new compound from HOKA, CMEVA, which is stiffer and firmer than the EVA you will find in other HOKA models. They are still using their rocker design along with the swallowtail design from the Mach 4. The midsole is also wider than normal and this all leads to a wider overall running surface and increased stability.
Like so many other HOKA’s, the outsole uses a rubberized EVA that helps with long term durability and traction without adding too much additional weight.
Style and Aesthetics
Styling on the Kawana is great, we love the variations of color within the midsole and if you like the look of the Clifton, then the upper is almost identical. They have given themselves a nice layout to work with here Tt come up with a lot of interesting color combinations.
The big takeaway from the Kawana is that it is not a traditional HOKA and will not be for everyone. It is also not the shoe HOKA is billing itself as which is the bridge between the Clifton and Bondi, but is instead something different. It will be best utilized by shorter distance runners who also like to cross-train and prefer a firmer and stiffer ride. If you really like the traditional HOKA feel, then you will not love the Kawana. If you like the HOKA on-foot experience and want something to train in, then the Kawana can be a perfect choice. If you are new to HOKA and were put off by their softer cushions shoes, then this could be a great entry into their lineup.
These shoes were provided by the manufacturer or its partners for the sole use of review. No implied or explicit guarantees were provided as it relates to the provision of these products and all editorial commentary is strictly the property of Running Northwest. In short, the fact they allowed us to test these shoes does not mean we are required to give it a favorable review… every product must earn it. We appreciate our manufacturer partnerships and if you have any questions, you can read our Disclosure Policy in further detail.
Check Out Other Reviewers Thoughts
As always, we gather together some of our favorite reviewers so you can get a well-rounded view of the shoe. Here are our favorites.