Over the past few years, Hoke One One has developed quite a passionate group of dedicated fans. The company’s “maximalist” approach to running shoes has resulted in some of the most well-cushioned footwear on the market, which has been a godsend for those who suffer from chronic knee or hip issues.
Having tested several pairs of those shoes myself, I came to understand why many people loved them, even if I wasn’t always a fan of the feel of the shoes on my feet. The thickly padded soles let me feeling detached from the road or trail and left me feeling like I was running slower, even if I actually wasn’t.
So with those thoughts in my mind, I approached Hoka’s Kaha hiking boot with a bit of trepidation. While I liked the shoe’s feel in my hands and appreciated how lightweight they are, I was afraid that I’d experience that same detached feeling while hiking too. As it turns out, the boots ended up being much better than I expected, helping to dispel some of my fears.
Straight out of the box, Hoka’s thick, trademark sole is immediately recognizable. This provides the added padding that allows the Kaha to stand out in a crowded field and helps to make these boots feel great on your feet. That padding serves as a shock absorber on the trail, allowing hikers and backpackers to walk further and faster with less wear and tear on their bodies.
In fact, the extra cushioning makes it feel like you’re floating on air at times and keeps your leg muscles from getting overly fatigued. And yes, it did make me feel like I was less connected to the trail, too, although it didn’t bother me quite so much as when I was running.
That same Vibram Megagrip sole brings a few added side benefits in addition to extra comfort. For instance, because it is more like something you’d find on a running shoe, the boot is lighter than similar footwear in this market segment.
A pair of Kahas weighs in at just 17.92 ounces (508 grams), which is pretty svelte for a decent, athletic feeling hiking boot. The fact that these shoes aren’t particularly heavy helps cut down on fatigue and keep the legs feeling fresh.
Good for climbing and sand
On the trail, the Kaha provides good traction and makes it easy to climb and descend with confidence, even on mud and sand. As you would expect, these boots perform a bit like a pair of trail running shoes in that regard, providing a solid level of stability.
However, venture off-trail on to more rugged terrain, and I didn’t always feel quite so confident. Add in a bit of moisture to the mix, and scrambling over rocks and hiking uphill requires a bit more effort. I never fell fully on my face, but the shift in approach was definitely noticeable.
Great ankle support
Hoka incorporated a high-top design when creating the Kaha, which adds a bit of extra ankle support. That said, this support once again feels like it is more effective on the trail rather than off.
If you’re hiking on a well-worn route, the amount of ankle support offered will feel just right. But if you’re looking for something a bit more rugged and capable of off-trail pursuits, you may not find that this delivers everything you need.
The Kaha boots do use an eVent bootie to provide a bit of extra protection from the elements. This gives the shoe a waterproof rating that proved quite good in my testing.
In fact, I never ran into any issues with moisture making its way into the interior, even when crossing streams or getting caught in heavy rain. That bodes well for keeping your feet dry, warm, and blister-free on longer excursions.
Pricing and value
The Hoka One One Kaha isn’t an inexpensive shoe. That said, there are plenty of others out there that are more expensive, though. Whether or not you like this one somewhat depends on how much you’ve enjoyed Hoka’s other shoes.
If you’re like me and feel the maximalist approach is a bit over the top, you may not find these boots to your liking either.
However, if you’re already a convert to the Hoka approach, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll love what they’ve done with the Kaha. The trademark cushioning and Hoka design is on full display here, and there is no denying that these boots are comfortable.
However, as I always say in any footwear review, how nicely they feel on your feet often comes down to personal preference. This is especially true in running shoes, which are an important part of the Kaha’s heritage.
If you’re looking for a super-comfy, lightweight, and stable hiking boot, the Hoka Kaha should at the very least be on your shortlist to try on. There is a great chance you’ll really like how they feel on your feet.
That said, if you are the kind of person who wanders off-trail regularly, I might recommend that you look at some other models to fit your needs. On-trail performance for the Kaha is outstanding, but traction and stability weren’t quite as good when you left the trail behind. Keep that in mind when considering these boots as well.
Reading through this review, you probably get the sense that I have some mixed feelings about these boots, which is true to a degree. However, in the grand scheme of things, I like them a lot and feel like most people will too. If you’re the kind of outdoor enthusiast who needs more capable shoes for use in your exploration, I’d say look elsewhere.
Otherwise, give the Kaha a good look, especially if you’re already a Hoka fan.
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