Hoka One One Kaha Gore-Tex - Women's Review
Cons: Expensive, take some time to break in, can be warm on hot days
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
Our Analysis and Test Results
Like every other boot we've tested from Hoka, the Kaha are designed with comfort as the number one priority. These boots have a thick, cushioned sole, with almost two inches of foam underfoot. This foam sole protects the bottom of the foot from rocks and roots while adding extra protection to knee and hip joints.
We found that the Kaha was a bit more difficult to break in than we expected (in comparison to previous Hoka models that tend to feel great the minute we hit the trail). This is the first time we've run into this issue with a Hoka boot, and we believe it is because of the added durability and stiffness that the leather upper provides. So, for a bit of added durability and support, a bit of comfort was sacrificed in the Kaha's design. That said, these boots are still undeniably comfortable after the break-in period.
According to Hoka, these boots are named for the Maori word for strength and support. So, with that in mind, it makes sense that these were some of the most supportive and stable hiking boots in this review.
As mentioned above, the Kaha has a thick layer of foam underfoot, which, at first glance, looks like it could cause some lateral instability. During our testing period, we were hyper-aware of this due to a recent ankle sprain and were wary of accidentally re-rolling our ankle in these towering boots. But, we were pleasantly surprised by the Kaha's performance in this metric. Though the foam soles are tall, they are also wide at the bottom, kind of like an elephant's foot, which provides a stable base. However, this makes them less nimble than several other boots we tested.
The leather uppers also provide some rigidity in the ankle that added to the overall stability of these boots. Their design shows that the Kaha is made for burly missions and heavy loads.
Hoka also tends to shine in this metric, as most of their models use Vibram MegaGrip rubber with fairly aggressive lug patterns. The Kaha is no exception, and these boots definitely hold their own in terms of traction on rocky terrain.
Though the rubber is sticky and the lugs dig into rocky terrain, the height of the ankle still had us a bit concerned when hopping through talus and in between boulders. Perhaps this just takes some getting used to, but the outsoles were confidence-inspiring on loose gravel and kitty litter descents commonly found around the East side of the Sierra.
It was not surprising that the Kaha Gore-Tex does well in this metric. The height of the boot prevents water from entering through the top, plus the Gore-Tex waterproof membrane combined with a waterproof leather upper made these boots basically sealed off to water in our water resistance tests.
Recently, Hoka switched over to a Gore-Tex membrane from their previous designs with an eVent waterproof liner. Though the boots we tested in the past did okay in this metric, the updated Gore-Tex liner proved to have more long-term water-resistant qualities. Even after a few minutes wading in a shallow stream, our feet were completely dry in the Kaha's. Also, their fairly high ankle-shaft height (measured at 140 mm, or over 5 inches) keeps water from getting into the boot through the top. We found that the high shaft height and the seal created by tightening the laces down kept water out effectively.
A boot that provides as much support and stability as the Kaha while still weighing under two pounds is astounding! The Hoka One One Kaha weighs in at 1.91 pounds, which is impressive compared to their performance in other metrics.
Boots with comparable weights typically do not provide the same level of stability as the Kaha. These boots compare to some of the burlier leather models in this review but have a much lower weight overall. Impressive.
Again, one can almost tell from looking at them that the Kaha received high scores in this metric. Their all-leather uppers, reinforced eyelets, and slightly firmer foam compounds used in the soles make them a durable boot with plenty of wear-resistant measures considered during their design.
These boots seem built to last, and neither in our testing period nor in other online reviews have we seen or heard of any major complaints regarding durability.
The soft and thick midsole is exposed on this boot, which in a short time can lead to some cosmetic chipping away of this material. This is a common issue with Hoka footwear, but it's a really minor one. After years of wearing several different Hoka models, we haven't found that the nicks in the midsoles of Hoka shoes or boots affect performance, except in the looks department.
Should You Buy the Hoka One One Kaha Gore-Tex?
The Hoka One One Kaha are impressively comfortable (after the break-in period), stable, and supportive in the ankle. The all-leather, waterproof uppers make them durable and water-resistant. If you need ample support and comfort, especially on long hikes with heavy loads, these are a great option.
What Other Hiking Boots Should You Consider?
With a fairly hefty price tag, these boots are definitely an investment. That said, if comfort and support are non-negotiable, they have good value. If you need something a little easier on the wallet but still comfortable underfoot, check out out Editors' Choice, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid Gore-Tex. For the ultra lightweight folks out there, check out the featherweight Vasque Breeze LT GTX.
— Jane Jackson
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