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HOKA Kawana 2 Review – Are These The Best HOKA Gym Shoes?

HOKA KAWANA 2 the best gym shoe no face

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Are all HOKA shoes the same? They all kinda look the same don’t they?

I know they specialise in running shoes, but I’m trying to find a HOKA shoe that I can workout in.

By that I mean, every major shoe brand has its gym shoe, Nike has the Metcon, Reebok has the Nano and Adidas has the Dropset.

Watch the Full Video Review Below

But HOKA I’ve noticed are getting more and more popular, I’m seeing them around a lot more with their unmistakably thick, squidgy-looking soles. 

But do they have a shoe in their range that actually works well for gym workouts?

I was lucky enough to get a 20% discount on the Kawana 2s at the time I bought them for this review, so check the latest price if you do decide to buy.

I bought a pair of the new Kawana 2s by HOKA which HOKA themselves mention are a “training and gym shoe”, so I’m gonna try them out and see if they do a good job in the gym or not. 

HIIT Kings
The Best HOKA Gym Shoe?

HOKA Kawana 2 - My Verdict

  • Very comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
  • Sole is very springy and bouncy. Using them for cardio and HIIT sessions was a good experience.
  • Not the best choice for workouts involving lots of squats and deadlifts.
  • Slight concern about their longevity, especially the sole.

Hoka Kawana 2 Review Are These The Best Hoka Shoes for Gym Workouts 2

Why Did I Choose the HOKA Kawana 2?

This is actually my first time trying out a pair of HOKAs, as you’ll probably know I’ve tried quite a few different brands to date.

So the first thing I did was of course go to the HOKA website to see which pair to go for.

One thing I noticed is that on the HOKA website, you do of course have a lot of shoes to choose from, I would say a lot of their shoes do look similar, that distinctively thick sole, but the firmness of their soles does actually differ from model to model.

Hoka Kawana 2 Review Are These The Best Hoka Shoes for Gym Workouts 4

Some people think they’re ugly, some people love them. Joe Biden was actually seen recently wearing a pair, I don’t know if that will make their sales go up or not, but HOKA are definitely growing in popularity and a lot of people mention how good they are for comfort and wearing for long periods of time.

Hey before I go on, if you like and comment on the video, I really appreciate it,  it really helps  with the algorithm and helps the channel. Back to the video

So to begin with, I wasnt sure which shoe to actually buy. 

But when i saw that they actually have a “training and gym” shoe section, I decided to give them a browse.

This is as good a time as any to let you know that HOKA did not pay me to try out these shoes, I chose to buy the Kawana 2’s with my own, hard earned money! Which I’m sure you’re considering doing too. 

The Kawana 2 at the time were the latest shoes that came up in the training and gym category, so I got my credit card out and bought them there and then. 

12 and a half, added to basket!  

Hoka Kawana 2 Review Are These The Best Hoka Shoes for Gym Workouts 10 edited scaled

Let’s Look At The Shoe / Initial Thoughts

As I mentioned HOKA shoes have this distinct appearance and do follow the style of a modern running shoe.

You’ve got the thick sole. Which will of course absorb a lot of shock if your spending a lot of time running

  • Sock-like innards – a lot of brands are doing the sock thing- HOKA do describe this shoe as having a “sock-like bootie”, but I honestly don’t know what theyre talking about.

    The upper doesn’t feel or look anything like it has an inner sock feature to me. I mean there is a double layer inside but it doesn’t come outside of the mouth of the shoe, compared to a shoe like these Vivos where you can actually see clearly that it has an internal sock, these don’t really have that same kind of construction. 

    Some have mentioned that you can wear them without socks, but I personally like to always wear socks with my shoes. It just keeps the shoe cleaner for longer.
  • The lightweight mesh upper – Just gives all round better breathability for the feet and that is due to this upper material being so lightweight and thin.

I imagine this thick sole will lend itself well to certain activities, mainly running, but I’ll be honest, initially I didnt think these shoes would perform very well for my kind of gym activities. 

What Were The HOKA Kawana 2s Like In The Gym?

Hoka Kawana 2 Review Are These The Best Hoka Shoes for Gym Workouts 7

First things first, these shoes will give you more height, a lot more height. I’m quite tall to begin with so anything extra is really noticeable. I was at least an inch taller in these.  

When it comes to the kind of gym workouts that I do, my initial concern was that the compressible and thick nature of the sole not making them very useful for squats or deadlifts.

“The sole is made of EVA foam which does compress quite a bit.” 

I was able to do my deadlifts and squats in them, but I don’t think these are the best shoe for those types of exercises. I think a flat non-compressible sole is a much  better choice and something I prefer a lot more. 

You can probably get away with it a couple of times, but if you’re seriously and consistently planning to push big numbers in these kinds of exercises, I wouldn’t go for a shoe like this. 

They actually felt more suited to aerobic or HIIT based workouts, involving things like plyometrics, machine based cardio, box jumps, burpees, that kind of thing

Hoka Kawana 2 Review Are These The Best Hoka Shoes for Gym Workouts 3

If your gym workouts are like that then I think these Kawana 2s will be just fine for you. 

Let me just say, wearing them for plyo box jumps, you’ll feel a little bit of a spring with every jump and landing will feel soft, they absorb shock better than any cross trainer I’ve tried to date.

Definitely a night and day difference to a pair of barefoot shoes that have little to no cushioning. It does feel like an unfair advantage if you’re doing anything that requires jumping. 

Walking and Running in the Kawana 2

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Walking in them was really nice, I must say. Very cushioned and smooth feeling mainly because of that sole and that slightly slanted heel. Your heel isn’t striking the ground on a sharp 90 degree angle. The angle of the heel on the sole just adds to the overall cushioned feeling. This is especially true when using them for running. 

Whether you’re a heel first runner who runs by slamming your  heel on the ground first or you run more on the balls of your feet i think the sole of this shoe does a really good job of just keeping any ground shock to a minimum. 

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I would say that they worked really well for running. And as I suspected, this is where i’d say they perform the best. Surprisingly, theyre comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Very good grip. Quite firm feeling on the ground though, not as soft as I thought. 

The shoe itself feels lightweight to me. I wouldnt put them up against a marathon running shoe at all, because I think a marathon running shoe would be more refined in certain areas. But just for general running I thnk you’ll be more than OK with these. I wouldnt have these as a long distance running shoe though.

I will put a couple of recommendations in the description for anyone who needs them, one pair that come to mind from HOKA for longer distance running is the Clifton, that has had some really good reviews among hardcore marathon runners.

I’m Starting a Discount Club

I’ll be regularly sending out an email with a bunch of discount codes for products just like this. So if you are thinking about getting a new pair of shoes, clothing, headphones, whatever it may be do consider signing up you might be able to get a nice bit of money off.
Link to the Discount Club.

My Opinion on the HOKA Kawana 2s as a Gym Shoe

Hoka Kawana 2 Review Are These The Best Hoka Shoes for Gym Workouts

I think these make a decent enough shoe for someone who does a little bit of everything but more on the side of cardio based fitness.

As I thought before I even tried them on, these of course arent a zero drop or barefoot shoe so my initial concern is that for moves like deadlifts and squats they wouldnt be the best shoes for those kinds of activities and they just arent. Even though they are labelled as being good for training and gym on the HOKA website

Caring for Your Hoka Gym Shoes

When I talk about Hoka gym shoes, I focus on two critical aspects to ensure they stand the test of time: proper maintenance and knowing when it’s time for an upgrade. It’s not just about having a durable shoe; it’s also about taking good care of it.

Maintenance Tips for Durability

Daily Cleaning: I make it a point to wipe my Hoka gym shoes with a damp cloth after each workout to remove dirt and sweat, as this can break down the materials over time.

Proper Storage: To maintain the structure of the cushioned shoe, I stuff the shoes with newspaper to absorb moisture and help maintain their shape when not in use.

  • Avoid Machine Washing: I’ve learnt that throwing gym shoes into the washer can damage the materials, so I stick to hand cleaning.
  • Odor Control: I sprinkle baking soda inside my shoes occasionally to neutralize odors.

When to Consider an Upgrade

Mileage Track: For my daily trainers, I keep an eye on the mileage. If I’ve logged over 300-500 miles in my Hokas, I start considering a new pair, since the cushioning may have compressed.

Wear and Tear: I inspect for signs of wear in the outsole and midsole. When they start to smooth out or if the cushioning isn’t as responsive, it’s time for me to hit the sale section for an upgrade.

Fit and Comfort: The best Hoka shoe is one that fits well. I pay attention to changes in my foot or the fit over time. If there’s discomfort that wasn’t there before, it’s a clear sign for a new pair.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, I’ll offer answers to common queries about Hoka gym shoes, focusing on performance, suitability for various activities, and recommendations tailored for men and women.

What are the top features to look for in Hoka shoes for gym workouts?

When searching for Hoka gym shoes, key features include cushioning, stability, and a supportive fit.

The Meta-Rocker technology in many Hoka shoes also enhances the natural gait cycle, making them great for varied gym activities.

How do Hoka Clifton models perform as gym shoes?

The Hoka Clifton models are recognized for their comfortable cushioning and lightweight design, which serve well for gym usage.
Their balanced cushioning offers a responsive feel during workouts, making them versatile for both running on the treadmill and strength training. But not for ALL types of strength training, much like the Kawanas, their sole makes them a bad choice for heavy compound moves.

Who should consider the HOKA Bondi over the Clifton for gym use?

Individuals who prioritize maximum cushioning might prefer the HOKA Bondi. It’s an ideal shoe for someone who requires extra shock absorption during high-impact gym activities or prolonged standing.

What makes a Hoka shoe suitable for cross training activities?

A Hoka shoe is ideal for cross training due to its combination of ample cushioning, breathability, and durable outsoles that can withstand various movements. The layout often includes reinforced areas that offer additional support for lateral movements.

What are the preferred Hoka gym shoes for women?

Women may prefer the Hoka Cavu or the Hoka Mach, as these models offer a sleeker fit with responsive cushioning that’s well-suited for a variety of gym workouts, from cardio to strength-focused routines.


Avatar of Stuart Patrick
Stuart Patrick
Stuart Patrick is a health and fitness lifestyle journalist who writes for ListedFit.com.

“I've spent a lot of time trying to get in shape and change my body and I realised there are so many untruths in the health and fitness industry that can slow down or stop your progress, so I share my knowledge and experience to help others to cut through the BS.”

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