Hoka Kawana review: a responsive everyday trainer for running and cardio workouts

The Hoka Kawana is a hybrid trainer featuring a new CMEVA foam which is said to be more responsive but is it any good?

Close up shot of the Hoka Kawana running shoes
(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
T3 Verdict

Although the Hoka Kawana is advertised as a hybrid fitness shoe, it's still very much a running trainer. There is nothing wrong with that, especially since the Kawana can actually be used for cardio workouts if that's what you want. To make the most of the responsive foam and the Swallowtail geometry, you might want to primarily run in the shoes, though.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Brilliant everyday trainer

  • +

    Responsive foam

  • +

    Reduced stack height might make the shoes more appealing to non-diehard Hoka fans

  • +

    Versatile (can be used for running and fitness)

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Some might find it too tight

  • -

    SwallowTail works fine but it's not a mind-blowing innovation

Hoka Kawana TL;DR: Hoka's new moderately-tall everyday trainer will please fans of the brand and also make it more appealing to runners who aren't particularly fond of Hoka's high-stack running shoes. Not to mention, it looks good enough to be worn as a sneaker.

I am a big fan of Hoka; I always liked the brand but I really fell in love with its shoes after testing the Hoka Carbon X. I love pretty much all of Hoka's shoes as they are tall, somewhat tight-fitting and feature the signature early-stage Meta-rocker which makes running in Hoka shoes easy and fun.

The Hoka Kawana is the latest addition to the ever-increasing Hoka lineup. It fits in nicely among other Hoka franchises like the Bondi and Rincon lines. But unlike those running shoes, the Kawana is said to be a hybrid shoe, just like the On Cloud X, which means it can be used for both running and workouts.

The big question is: does the Kawana belong to the best running shoes or best workout shoes? Let's find out.

Hoka Kawana review: Price and availanility

The Hoka Kawana was launched on 1 January 2022 and is available to buy now directly from Hoka US (opens in new tab), Hoka UK (opens in new tab) and Hoka AU (opens in new tab) for a recommended retail price of $140/£125/AU$259.99.

Close up shot of the Hoka Kawana running shoes

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Kawana review: Tech

The Hoka Kawana features a new CMEVA foam that is said to provide a "lively and responsive experience" that makes the shoe ideal for running and general fitness purposes. That said, I wouldn't recommend the Kawana for heavy lifting as it still very much is a running shoe in its heart. For plyo exercises and aerobic workouts, the Kawana works well.

Another new feature is the Swallowtail heel geometry which will also benefit runners the most, just like the CMEVA foam, as it is said to enable smoother landings. It's not dissimilar to the extended heel of the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38. The Swallowtail is yet another effort from a running shoe manufacturer to reduce the heft without sacrificing running dynamics.

Other than these two features, you find the usual Hoka suspects on the spec sheet, including the engineered jacquard mesh upper, the early-stage Meta-rocker geometry at the front and the anatomical Achilles construction at the back. Luckily, all these work well together and make the Kawana an excellent running shoe for everyday training.

Close up shot of the Hoka Kawana running shoes

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Kawana review: Ergonomics

I enjoyed running in the Hoka Kawana. It's not a fast trainer such as the Hoka Mach 4 but not a terribly slow shoe either. A UK size 10 Kawana weighs 323 grams which is far from being the lightest shoe on the market, but interestingly enough, I didn't find them too heavy to run in.

If anything, the Kawana made my legs feel fresher, which is probably something to do with the CMEWA foam (this needs to be renamed at some point, Hoka) and the 5mm drop of the shoes. The Kawana is not as bouncy as the ASICS Novablast 2 or the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit, but the shoes certainly return a fair amount of energy.

The snug fit of the jacquard mesh upper is something I'm used to, but I wonder if it could be just a tad bit looser, considering the Kawana is not meant for racing or tempo running (at least as far as I'm concerned). We don't need Brooks Glycerin 19 levels of softness, but if the upper had a bit more give, that'd be great.

I appreciate the reduced stack height of the Kawana; not everyone is a fan of the tall Hoka shoes (I am). The Kawana feels more manageable than even the Bondi X and especially the Hoka Carbon X 2, as it pushes you forward less aggressively than those shoes.

This doesn't mean wearing the Kawana will slow you down. The heel-to-toe transition is excellent thanks to the Swallowtail heel constructions and the Meta-rocker geometry. Combine these with the responsive CWEMA foam, and BOOM! You've got yourself a keeper of a training shoe.

Close up shot of the Hoka Kawana running shoes

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Kawana review: Aesthetics

Hoka makes sexy shoes. The company started leaning more heavily on aesthetics in the last few years, and the Kawana is a good example of the tinkering that's going on at the Hoka HQ.

I can see people sporting the Kawana as part of their best athleisure setup with some running shorts and a workout t-shirt. The default Blanc de Blanc/Butterfly colourway looks just interesting enough not to take centre stage but not dull enough to make it look like you're wearing "dad shoes".

There are a few nice touches, including the high contrast HOKA branding on the lateral side of the heel, but my favourite little detail is the smaller Hoka logo just under that little stitched area at the top of the toe box. You have a larger version of the logo at the back on the medial side, but this smaller one is definitely my favourite.

So is the light orange stripe on the sole; it mixes well with the base pale green colour. Excellent.

Close up shot of the Hoka Kawana running shoes

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Kawana review: Verdict

Who should buy the Hoka Kawana? Is it a good hybrid fitness shoe? Is it worth the price?

Thanks to its responsive foam and snug fit, the Kawana is an ideal shoe for light cardio training. It's even better suited for running training, whether it's jogging or something a bit faster.

Considering the shape of the shoes and the technology involved, the Hoka Kawana is still very much a running shoe that can also be used for other types of exercise. In this sense, it's not all that different from other everyday trainers on the market that can also be used for cardio training.

The main differentiator of the Kawana is that it's easier on the eyes than some other running trainers. If you don't mind not looking super stylish, feel free to choose the trainers recommended below.

Hoka Kawana review: Also consider

The Saucony Kinvara 12 looks less flashy than the Kawana but it's one of the fastest running trainers on the market still. It's responsive, snappy and offers sublime ground contact without sacrificing comfort or cushioning.

Also not the sexiest but a wonderful shoe nevertheless is the Brooks Hyperion Tempo. It's the lightest, fastest and most capable running trainer from Brooks two years after its release. The new Run Visible colourway makes the shoes perfect for winter running sessions in the dark.

Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab).